Wowmall: A Free Experimental WooCommerce Block Theme
Two weeks ago, a reader sent in a question for the Ask the Bartender column. He wanted to know where the WooCommerce block themes were. Literally one day after publishing that post, Wowmall was submitted to the WordPress theme review system. Maybe it was fate or just luck, but I had no choice but to give it a test run.
The theme adds an admin-side welcome and notice page. The author makes it clear that the project is not currently intended for use on production sites. It is in an experimental state at the moment. It is unclear who is actually behind the Wowmall project. The associated Twitter account has been suspended, and its other social profiles are devoid of information. And, the Wowmall website currently offers scant details.
I will not pretend that Wowmall is one of my favorite themes. The design is far too busy for my tastes. I prefer something scaled back that focuses on content, but I do not fit into this theme’s primary audience.
For an eCommerce theme, it is much cleaner than others I have seen, and it leverages almost every piece of the block system. It ships over 30 block patterns. Six of those are headers, and another three are footers. However, the rest are for general use in the content, including call-to-action layouts and hero sections.
It also ships several custom block styles. Some of them offer design variations that make up for things like missing border controls for some blocks. Others, such as the Social Icon’s “Dark” style, would be better left to the existing color options.
The question most people likely want to be answered is how well it works with WooCommerce. From what I have seen, it works like any other run-of-the-mill WooCommerce theme. You know the look, the default design as seen by 90% of the themes built for the eCommerce plugin. Maybe there is a custom color palette or simple stylistic changes. However, at the end of the day, you know it is a WooCommerce shop.
If it works, do not mess with the formula. The most egregious issue I saw with the WooCommerce part of the theme was the output of a comments section on the main Shop page and product category archives. I did not see specific block templates for these pages, so I am taking a wild stab and assuming everything is falling back to a single product or page template that would normally output comments.
Wowmall does not work well as a pure blogging theme. It handles the basics well enough, but it has far too many characters per line for comfortably reading long-form content. A strict 18px font size, a variable-width content area (989px at full-width on my laptop), and a medium-gray text color make it hard to read anything other than short blurbs.
However, this theme is not touted as a blogging theme. It is hyper-focused on presenting an online shop.
Where the theme flexes the most is its selection of block patterns. They are designed primarily for building out a unique storefront. Users can get a lot of mileage out of them.
The breadcrumb trail in the theme is not really a breadcrumb trail at all. It just masquerades as one. Under the hood, it is a Navigation block with a homepage link followed by the current post/page title. At no point does it show the crumbs (e.g., parent pages) that lead back to the site root. Themes have notoriously offered sub-par breadcrumb navigation in the classic era. Perhaps, developers will leave this to plugin authors in their block themes.
As far as I know, there are no breadcrumb navigation plugins on WordPress.org to integrate with. However, there is a proposal to add a block for it in core. And, for transparency, I have such a plugin under development and intend to release it on .ORG.
Wowmall is not claiming this is a finished, production-ready WordPress theme. It is an ongoing project that is expected to improve over time. Plus, we are still waiting for WooCommerce to expand its support of the block system.
What I like more than anything is seeing theme shops push the envelope with blocks. What I see from Wowmall and recent block themes is that many of the limitations of the past year or so are simply no longer there.