Based on discussions I’ve seen on the Genesis Facebook group and in GenesisWP Slack, there’s some confusion and maybe I can help clear things up as well as share how you can use these two plugins to take greater advantage of the WordPress block editor.
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You may or may not know that these two plugins existed previously under different names. Knowing this can help avoid some confusion!
In 2018, WP Engine acquired StudioPress, creator of the Genesis Framework. Later that year, WP Engine acquired Atomic Blocks. Atomic Blocks was one of the first block library plugins on the scene when the block editor was introduced in WordPress 5.0.
Fast forward to April 2020 and the Block Lab team announced they were joining WP Engine. Whereas Atomic Blocks is a block library, Block Lab is a templating system for building custom blocks.
These partnerships and acquisitions were a strategic move by WP Engine to be on the bleeding edge of development for the block editor. They’ve continued to invest heavily in the development of these products (and even contributed to the development of the core block editor).
To sum up, we’ve got these products:
- Genesis Framework (original theme Framework from StudioPress)
- Genesis Blocks (formerly Atomic Blocks, a block library)
- Genesis Custom Blocks (formerly Block Lab, an interface for building custom blocks)
While the similarity in names might initially be confusing, standardizing these products under the “Genesis” brand makes a lot of sense and helps folks identify these products as being from the same development family.
What exactly do they do??
Now that we’ve gotten the name thing out of the way, let’s talk about the difference between Genesis Blocks and Genesis Custom Blocks. Similar names, different purposes!
What does Genesis Blocks do?
As I mentioned earlier, Genesis Blocks is a block library. If you’ve used the block editor, then you’re familiar with the concept of blocks. It’s the “new” way of creating and laying out content in WordPress.
By default, WordPress comes with a number of core blocks to help you do things like add images, headings, buttons, rich media, etc. to posts and pages. While this is a great jumping off point, you’ll most likely find yourself wanting additional types of blocks. For instance, maybe you want a post grid or a pricing table, you can either go create them yourself OR find a plugin that adds the specific blocks you need.
Enter: Genesis Blocks. There are certainly other block libraries out there, but I’m focusing on Genesis Blocks for this post. 🙂
As of this writing, the following blocks come with the free version:
- Section & Layout Block
- Advanced Columns Block
- Newsletter Block
- Pricing Block
- Post Grid Block
- Container Block
- Testimonial Block
- Inline Notice Block
- Accordion Block
- Share Icons Block
- Call-To-Action Block
- Customizable Button Block
- Spacer & Divider Block
- Author Profile Block
- Drop Cap Block
Need one of those blocks? Download the plugin and you’ll be off and running. In addition to these individual blocks, the plugin also includes some ready-made sections and layouts. These are collections of blocks (also known as block patterns) you can use to quickly lay out a page with a nice design.
If you want to see a demo of Genesis Blocks, check out the video about halfway down the page. (Note: I think you’ll find the narrator quite charming!)
What does Genesis Custom Blocks do?
What if you want a block, but can’t find an existing plugin? Well, if you know React.js, there’s a Block API you can use to create custom blocks. If you’re like me and haven’t learned React yet, but are already familiar with PHP, that’s where Genesis Custom Blocks comes in.
I like to think of Genesis Custom Blocks as these three components:
- Add a block: A familiar interface in /wp-admin where you create the block and specify what all is in your block (i.e. some text, a button, a link, etc.)
- Code a block: Custom code (PHP/HTML/CSS) you write to display the block
- Use a block: Inserting your custom block into a post or page
Want to see a demo of Genesis Custom Blocks? Scroll about half-way down this page to see the video. I think you’ll like the narrator of this one, too. 😉
Are these plugins free or paid?
Excellent question and I’m glad you asked. Both plugins are available for free at WordPress.org. There are, however, paid upgrades for both.
Let’s talk about the Genesis family of products again… There’s a premium subscription called Genesis Pro that includes the following products (among other things):
- Genesis Framework
- Genesis Blocks Pro
- Genesis Custom Blocks Pro
You already know (and maybe love) the Genesis Framework. Nothing new there. But the “pro” versions of these two plugins include additional features.
For instance, earlier I listed the blocks included with Genesis Blocks. The pro version includes a bunch of additional blocks, layouts, and pre-built sections. Genesis Custom Block pro includes additional block field types and block export/import controls (this is nice if you want to re-use custom blocks across multiple sites).
Not everyone has the budget (or the need) for the pro versions. Start with the free plugins and see what you think.
It’s worth noting that the free plugins are not limited in any way — you get a fully-functional plugin with access to all of its features. Going back to the origins of these plugins, they are excellent products on their own. The pro versions just layer on additional features.
I hope this helps you better understand the difference between Genesis Blocks and Genesis Custom Blocks as well the free vs paid options. If you still have questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.
p.s. If you need hosting to go along with your WordPress site, you can get 3 months free on WP Engine using coupon code WPE3FREE.