Where it all began

Back in early 2018 I was working on a website and recognised that it was about time I started taking Gutenberg seriously. I needed to move away from the page templates I was using to offer some of the more complex layouts of the site.

Now I’m not an amazing WordPress developer, but … I get by. However, when I went to look at building custom blocks in Gutenberg, I very quickly found myself out of my depth.

I work with some pretty amazing WordPress engineers, a number who have contributed in significant ways to WordPress Core and other projects in the space, so I messaged a couple of them and asked if I could have a bit of dummies intro to building custom blocks. A couple of them, looking into it for the first time, came back and said that they could certainly help but were surprised by how complex it was and that I was going to have to seriously level-up my dev skills. Levelling-up sounded great, but I put it on the shelf for a little while as I didn’t have the time to invest right then.

Fast forward to WordCamp Sydney in July and Luke (co-conspirator here at Block Lab) was giving the keynote presentation and talked the audience through Gutenberg. The talk was great and everyone loved it. During Q&A time at the end, someone piped up and said…

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was an Advanced Custom Fields like solution geared towards building Custom Blocks.”

Bloke in the crowd

Huh… Yeah, that would be great. It would certainly help me personally with my custom block needs. And if I need it, chances are lots of other people would as well.

The next day Luke and I talked it over and decided we were going to build it.

The next day we called our friend Rheinard and asked if he wanted to help out.

The next week we built out a prototype.

With some really really cool feedback from peers and friends in the WordPress community we decided we were going to do a proper good job of this. 2 months on and we released v1.0 of Block Lab to the WordPress plugin repo.

Since then we’ve added new features and received some pretty cool kudos from the community including a mention from Matt Mullenweg in his 2018 State of the Word at WordCamp US in Nashville.

We’ve got some solid plans for Block Lab and are excited about being the solution for all those people like me back in early 2018 who just “wanted a custom block to do X”, but didn’t know where to start.