Decoding WordPress: New Theme Configuration Options with Theme.JSON File

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WordPress’s new theme configuration options make it simpler than ever to customize the look of your site to suit your individual requirements. Additionally, block themes can be created from classic themes, which increases their user-friendliness.

Whether you have beginner or intermediate WordPress development skills, this blog post will discuss both of these developments as part of the “Decoding WordPress” series, including what they are and how they can help you have a beautiful, customized site.

WordPress Themes and Templates: A Quick Overview

We’ll get familiar with what it means to configure a theme before discussing the most recent options for configuring your theme using the most recent options made possible by a file called theme.json. Let’s first define the distinction between a theme and a template in WordPress in order to better understand that, as there is frequently some misunderstanding about it, particularly if you’re a novice.

A theme serves as the overall framework and design for the consistent look and feel of your website. It consists of elements like color schemes, typography, page layouts, margins, line spacing, headers and footers, sidebar placement, and others. All of these components are also installed automatically when you select and set up a theme. The number of available themes, both free and paid, is practically infinite.

However, a template is a single-page design within a site-wide theme. Although a template can be modified, changes only affect the pages that use that template, not the entire website. You can accomplish things with templates, such as altering the layout of your blog, creating landing pages, and giving other content a distinctive appearance.

What Theme Configuration Options Are There, Then?

Some WordPress themes include admin pages with theme configuration options. You can alter the settings of your installed theme using these admin pages without having to change any theme files or spend a lot of time changing the code. There may be a few options available on some of these admin pages, while there may be many, many more. An admin page’s relative simplicity compared to the more difficult route can save you time and your sanity if you’re a beginner.

Installing a plugin rather than changing the configuration of the entire theme can greatly simplify things if your objective is to only improve or modify functionalities within a theme. However, you’ll need to reconfigure things through customizing if you want to change the theme styles and block settings for your entire site.

What the Heck is JSON?

To change the WordPress theme You must make and include a theme.json configuration file when the theme lacks an admin page. What, though, is JSON? The term refers to JavaScript Object Notation, an open text-based data interchange format that is independent of any particular programming language and can be read by both humans and machines. Data transmission in web applications is its most popular application.

Theme.json support was added to WordPress in version 5.8, and unless the Gutenberg plugin is activated, it is incompatible with earlier versions of WordPress. (WordPress 5.0 and the Gutenberg editor were both formally released in 2018).

You can select from a few customization options within the theme. JSON contains:

  • Enabling or disabling options for custom line heights, block padding, drop caps, and margins.
  • Adding duotone, gradient, and multiple color palettes to photos.
  • Changing the font sizes.
  • Adding default content widths.
  • Custom CSS (cascading style sheet) property management. HTML documents’ visual style and formatting are specified using CSS.
  • To template part areas, assign template parts.

As Gutenberg development moves fast, the choices that are accessible with theme.json in WordPress vary between adaptation 5.8 (where form 1 of theme.json is utilized) to form 5.9+ (where variant 2 of theme.json is utilized) as well as the Gutenberg module.

Options Explained

Let’s discuss both what they are and why they might be useful to you now that beginner and intermediate WordPress developers can access these more granular customization options.

Empowering or impairing highlights like drop caps, block padding, margins, and custom line heights

Depending on how you manage to style your pages, elements like drop caps (a style technique where the first letter of a paragraph has a larger font size), block padding (the space inside the block that lies between the element’s content and the block’s border, and that surrounds the element on all sides), margins, and custom line heights can give your pages a more distinctive, formal appearance.

Adding duotone, gradient, and multiple color palettes to photos

Gradients (backgrounds of two colors that flow into one another) can give your site a more dynamic identity than using only solid colors for the pages on it. The right color palette – or multiple palettes – can help define and enhance the marketable identity of both your brand and your site. Duotone filters can be used to reduce the number of colors in photos you’ve uploaded to your site to just two – one for the dark parts of the photo and another for the light parts. Your site’s overall color schemes can be formal, moderate, or avant-garde using these resources within your WordPress theme’s settings; your only restriction is your creativity.

Modifying font sizes

The fonts in your chosen theme may occasionally fit the precise identity, tone, or attitude you’re trying to convey, but the available fixed font sizes may not. There’s a chance they’re out of proportion. You can customize every aspect of the copy’s appearance on your website to reflect the image of your brand by having the option to change the sizes.

Adding default widths for content

You can set the default or maximum width (size) for any content in the theme, including embeds and images added to posts, using the content width theme feature. Setting default widths allows WordPress to insert large images without compromising the main content area and scale embed codes to specific sizes on the front end.

Managing custom CSS (cascading style sheet) properties.

If you’ve worked with CSS before, you might be wondering why you’d want to write your unique CSS in a vastly different JSON format. Simply put adaptability.

Imagine you’ve chosen the color forest green for your website because you really like it. If you wanted to use that color in CSS, you would have to go through and add the color code to each location you wanted to use it. Nothing major, right?

Let’s say, however, that a few weeks later you discover a slightly darker shade of forest green that you would much prefer to use. You must go back and find every instance of the “old” forest green color code in CSS and replace it with the new one.

However, if you were to use theme.json, you would only need to make one change to the JSON file’s color definition to affect the entire site.

Assign template parts to template part areas

Using page templates, you can apply specific page layouts to various pages on your website. Page templates are files that control how a particular page appears. There are also template parts in WordPress, which serve as more compact structural chunks of a page template.

The files for your theme usually contain template elements for elements like headers or footers. The three available placement areas within a template—General, Header, and Footer—can be assigned template parts using theme.json.

To Convert or Not to Convert – That is the Question

Since block themes in WordPress were created to increase scalability and performance, they have a number of advantages.

  • By only loading the styles for the blocks that have been added to a page, block themes improve the speed of page loading.
  • It is not necessary for block themes to manually enqueue stylesheets for the editors’ front end.
  • Since theme.json handles every aspect of adding theme support(), PHP tinkering is minimized.
  • Keyboard navigation, landmarks, and other accessibility features are generated automatically without the need for additional coding.
  • An end user can edit every aspect of their website using a block theme without touching any code.
  • Users can change the website’s colors and typography as well as any blocks they may use by using the Styles interface.

However, there are some risks involved in changing a classic theme to a block theme.

  • Switching an exemplary theme over completely to a block theme might influence kid themes that anticipate an exemplary theme. Think about the likely effects — or making another task with another theme name — prior to changing over.
  • WordPress 5.8 or newer is required for theme.json to work. As a result, when WordPress 5.8 was released, support for Internet Explorer 11 was removed. Therefore, switching to a block theme may have an impact on your visitors’ experience if your classic theme supports IE11 or you have visitors who use IE11.


Although you might be able to reasonably customize your WordPress themes with options through a theme.json file if you’re a beginner or intermediate WordPress developer, you might not be completely sure it’s a step you’re comfortable taking on your own just yet.

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