2018 is going to be a very exciting year for the WordPress project and a big change for many people with the introduction of a new editor – Gutenberg. This is a massive change that is designed to make building posts and pages more simple and make writing content more intuitive. It’s also coming hopefully in April with launch of WordPress 5.0.
So what is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg is the name of the new editor tool that replaces the existing tool you use to write posts, pages and custom post types. In many ways it looks similar to the way the widgets screen looks under the Appearances tab. However it’s more then simply a new look – it’s a change in the way you write and build your site.
Gutenberg introduces the concept of a block. A post can be made up from lots of blocks together. So what is a block under Gutenberg? Well, it could be a paragraph, a heading, an image, a gallery or just about anything really. Blocks can be defined by WordPress, your theme or plugins. They are designed to replace shortcodes, metaboxes and perhaps eventually widgets themselves.
This might sound all very complicated but the ultimate plan is to make things even simpler than they are now; indeed most of this happens behind the scenes and nine times out of ten it’s just a case of selecting the block you want to use and it appears as part of the post. “I want to add an image here, drop in a paragraph of text there”. Point, click, drag, drop.
What should I do?
The new editor is coming in WordPress 5.0 with an expected release date around April. You can get a head start however and start to use the editor today, by installing Gutenberg as a plugin to your current sites. If you are using our WordPress Hosting we suggest you create a staging site and run Gutenberg on that staging site first. Remember – making sweeping changes on a live WordPress website is never a good idea.
When moving to Gutenberg from the current editor, your existing content will automatically be converted to blocks for you. Paragraphs, headers, images and pull quotes all being magically converted over to blocks. Once you activate Gutenberg you will also see the new interface right away. Keep in mind the project is still in active development, so make sure you keep the plugin up to date to see the changes that will likely come thick and fast over the coming weeks and months.
Using the new editor is a very different experience, more akin to using a site builder tool like Beaver Builder or Visual Composer, but without the performance overheads. Unlike site builders the new editor will be built into WordPress as default (Version 5.0 and beyond) so will be far more readily supported by plugins and themes.
If you make websites for people for a living, you might want to let your clients know what is happening now – you can use the next few months to see how this new editor is going to affect them and their interactions with their sites. For people who design WordPress themes and plugins, checking how your themes and plugins work with Gutenberg is going to be essential – we recommend getting a head start on this as soon as possible.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in the transition to Gutenberg will be compatibility. For most people, switching to the new editor will be painless other then being surprised at how different it feels. For older more complex sites, especially ones with heavy use of shortcodes and or large amount of custom fields then things get more problematic. Again, spinning up a staging site to test Gutenberg sooner than later is going to help you in the long run.
As a last ditch fail safe, for sites where Gutenberg is simply a no go at present, there is already a “classic editor” plugin available; this free plugin is written by the WordPress team and once enabled it returns the editor to the legacy editor. While this might give some struggling sites some extra time to adjust, we don’t rely falling back on this as a permanent solution. Gutenberg is the future of WordPress, so some pain adapting now will help sites for years to come.
So going forward
- Get the “Gutenberg” plugin running on your staging sites today
- Start using it, find out what plugins or themes you use might have issues and start asking their developers about how and when they plan fixes
- If you use a site builder plugin, consider turning it off on staging and seeing if the site still works
- If you have other users on your site, tell them about the new editor
- Remember April is when WordPress 5.0 is due to hit
What will we be doing at 34SP.com to help? The new editor is going to be a huge change for many of our clients. Over the next few months expect to see us ramping up coverage here on the blog and newsletter. For people on our WordPress Hosting plans we will be strongly encouraging deploying the “Gutenberg” plugin on your staging sites. We are also discussing internally the best way to handle the WordPress 5.0 deployment – more news on that to come soon.
The new editor’s code name is Gutenberg in part because the team behind it want to make it so revolutionary that it will change every WordPress user’s site for the better. It’s an incredibly noble ambition. While what’s coming is a big change for WordPress, for many it is a much needed change; the WordPress editor has been left almost unchanged since the project started.
2018 is going to be a very exciting year for WordPress.