Beginner WordPress Developer

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An introduction to developing WordPress blocks

Static vs dynamic blocks

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When developing WordPress blocks, you’ll need to consider the functionality of your block, and whether it needs to change based on external factors.

Fortunately, it is possible to create blocks that are either static or dynamic, depending on your requirements.

Let’s look at what the difference is between static and dynamic blocks, how to determine which is right for your needs, and the different approaches for development.

Static blocks

If you’ve been following the lessons in this module to build the Copyright Date Block, you have been building a static block.

As the static block’s content is fixed, once it’s added to the editor, the save function is triggered, and the post or page is saved, the block’s content will not change.

Static blocks are useful for content that doesn’t need to change, like a quote, or a testimonial.

Dynamic blocks

However, if you consider the real-world requirements of a Copyright Date Block, it would actually be ideal that if the physical year changes, the rendered content of the block should also update.

Otherwise, you’ll need to edit anywhere that you’ve added the block, to trigger the save function and update the year.

This is where dynamic blocks come in.

Dynamic blocks do not render their content via the save function, and instead use PHP to render their content when a front-end request is made for a post or page that includes the block.

Let’s look at what it would take to turn the Copyright Date Block into a dynamic block.

Making the Copyright Date Block dynamic

To make the Copyright Date Block dynamic, you need to specify a PHP file or function that contains the block’s rendering logic.

This can be done in a few ways, but the easiest is to use the render property in the block’s metadata in the block.json file.

Open the block.json file in the src directory, and add the following code to the bottom of that file:

"render": "file:./render.php"

This tells WordPress to use a file with the filename render.php file to render the block’s content on the front end.

You can then create a render.php file in the src directory, and add your rendering logic to that file.:

<?php
    $block_props = get_block_wrapper_attributes();
    $starting_year = $attributes['startingYear'];
    $current_year = date( 'Y' );
?>
<p <?php echo $block_props?>>
    Copyright © <?php echo $starting_year?> - <?php echo $current_year; ?>
</p>

You can use the get_block_wrapper_attributes function to get the block’s wrapper attributes. This is similar to calling useBlockProps in JavaScript.

Then you can get the startingYear value from the PHP $attributes array. This $attributes variable is one of three that are exposed to the file you set for your block’s render metadata property, and contains any attributes that have been set up for your block.

Then you can create the $current_year variable, which uses the PHP date() function to always get the current year. This way, when the block is rendered, it always gets the current year.

Last but not least, output the paragraph tag, including all the relevant properties and content.

Once you’ve set up your render.php file, you can remove any code related to the block’s save process in the editor, as you don’t need to save any content to the post.

To do that, you can delete the save.js file.

You can also delete the save property passed to registerBlockType, as well as the import that imports the save function.

Once you’ve made these changes, you can run the build process, and then create a post, and add the block to the post.

You’ll see that the block still renders as expected in the editor. However, if you view the block in the code editor, you’ll see it the saved version does not include any output.

When you preview it, the content is rendered.

However, if you simulate the year change, say by changing the value of the variable in PHP, the front end rendering of the block will update accordingly.

Additional resources

For more information on the difference between developing static vs dynamic blocks, you can read the Static or Dynamic rendering of a block section of the Fundamentals of Block Development.