The “version 1.0” launch of block patterns in WordPress 5.5 was overall successful. However, it was easy to overlook the problems while waiting for this feature to land after months of anticipation. Now that we have had a couple of months of seeing the block pattern system baked into core WordPress, it is time to address issues that are becoming more evident.
As much as I love block patterns as a feature, I cannot say the same for the user interface and overall experience. The pattern category dropdown added in Gutenberg 9.1 was a marked improvement over the endless list of patterns. However, it did not go far enough in presenting them in a user-friendly way.
WordPress has long had a habit of sticking too much into a tiny panel — many theme authors never felt like the customizer panel offered enough space, for example. The same seems to be the case for the block editor’s inserter panel. It is good enough for allowing end-users to pick and choose blocks. However, patterns are much larger than the smaller block icons. When users start scrolling through dozens of patterns at a time in the coming months and years, it will become a usability nightmare.
Paal Joachim Romdahl is proposing an alternative. His idea is to add an “expander” icon/button that would allow users to view more patterns at once via an overlay. At least this would be the case for larger screen sizes, such as desktop users.
“Viewing a lot of patterns in the small inserter panel does not work too well,” he wrote in the GitHub ticket. “It gets tiring needing to scroll one pattern at a time. Having a larger view will help the user to compare multiple patterns at once.”
Current pattern overlay proposal.
Romdahl has also created a