If you’ve been actively following WordPress’s development over the last 18 months, you’ll know that Gutenberg is a big deal. For those not familiar, Gutenberg is the new editing system for WordPress posts and pages. In fact, in their own words, “Gutenberg is more than just an editor”. The initial release in 5.0 (released today) will essentially lay the foundations for a whole new content creation and publishing experience.
“While the editor is the focus right now, the project will ultimately impact the entire publishing experience including customisation (the next focus area).”
As a hosting company who oversees thousands of WordPress websites, we think this is an overwhelmingly positive move. Gutenberg may take a little while to get every bell and whistle precisely tuned and available, but we’ve seen it in use on a number of production sites already.
This is certainly a good thing for the long term future of WordPress, especially since content these days isn’t just one image and a few paragraphs of text (unless it’s our blog!). Moving to a system which is more compatible and more extensible with complex content will improve both the developer and end user experience.
So what’s different?
From the moment you start using Gutenberg, you’ll instantly see the differences. Whereas the old editor treated everything as one big text field, Gutenberg breaks this down into blocks. Prior to this, it meant systems which tried to add complex functionality had to use confusing shortcodes everywhere or to use WordPress in a way which is wasn't designed. This would cause issues with upgrades or when plugins were disabled, leaving sites in semi-broken states.
It’s also very extendable as well, with hundreds of plugins already available offering additional functionality. This will increase very rapidly over the next 12+ months, as plugin and theme developers adjust to the new system.
What’s with the name?
The system is named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. Like the original printing press, Gutenberg aims to redevelop and enhance your editing experience.
What do I need to do?
Gutenberg will be fully integrated in version 5.0 and simply known as “the editor". If you don’t want anything to change WordPress have released a Classic Editor plugin, which will be supported by WordPress themselves until 2022.
We would strongly encourage you to create a staging copy of your WordPress site and simply give Gutenberg a go. For simple sites, there may not be any work required, simply the learning curve to get you used to the new editor.
You can start playing now with a demo editor, available here: https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/
For sites where you've already tested Gutenberg and have it installed on your site, 5.0 will continue to work as normal.
If you haven't tried Gutenberg to test compatibility with your site yet, we recommend waiting until 5.0.2 and creating a staging copy now to test.
Note: WordPress 5.0.2 with 45 bug fixes and performance updates for the block editor has now been released: https://wordpress.org/news/2018/12/wordpress-5-0-2-maintenance-release/
What about if I’m already using a visual editor?
We expect that over time, many of the visual editors for WordPress will align themselves with the new Gutenberg block based system. There’s still a mountain of work they need to complete in order to do this, but longer term it should also offer the visual builder developers a much more comprehensive system to base their enhancements on.
Is everything compatible?
What if I don’t like Gutenberg or it’s not compatible with my site?
WordPress has included the Classic Editor as a plugin, which means you can retain backwards compatibility with the original editor. This will be supported out to 2022, so you have years of support for doing things the old way.
If you simply don’t like Gutenberg, we’d strongly encourage you to keep using it on a development site to see if any of the issues you had have been resolved. The progress and rate of change up until the 4.9.8 release have been quite rapid, with many bugs being resolved each week.
I’d like to use it on blogs only…
Good news! You can use the Gutenberg Ramp plugin to selectively enable Gutenberg on specific post types. This means you could enable Gutenberg for blog posts only and the plugin will leave the classic editor for all other posts. If you have a lot of custom development, this is also a great way to get the features of Gutenberg for the more generic parts of WordPress without affecting other areas.
But I’ve only heard bad things about Gutenberg?
As a hosting provider, we don’t have any monetary interest in the new system whatsoever (we don’t do any WordPress development). What we do see is a lot of confusion when it comes to something as simple as adding a gallery to a WordPress change, so a system where this is fixed (along with 50+ other scenarios) will result in happier customers.
Some people are also very resistant to change too, which in the case of any negativity means they can be quite vocal about it. It doesn’t make them wrong nor their opinion invalid, but it simply needs to be considered in balance with everything else.
Many of the points these articles have raised are also valid, but as Gutenberg has evolved rapidly they may already have been addressed. If the article was written even a month ago, you need to check the points raised to see if they’ve already been addressed.
You can do so by following the Gutenberg Development Blog: https://make.wordpress.org/core/tag/gutenberg/
As you’ll see by the changes and bugs fixed each version, things are being addressed as quickly as possible. There are (and always will be) a number of outstanding bugs. Some of these may never affect you, but simply due to the fact that WordPress is used by millions and millions of sites.
Can Conetix assist with the transition?
Like this article, we will of course be providing support articles on any issues we see in common across our WordPress customers to help quickly resolve any problems.
If you’d like someone to evaluate your site to ensure compatibility we can refer you to one of the WordPress developers who hosts with us (but don't directly work for us). These developers have been working with Gutenberg for more than 12 months and already have extensive experience in the updated platform. Please just contact us if you'd like us to refer you to one of these developers.
Detailed user documentation is unfortunately very scarce at the moment, especially at an official level. Unfortunately, WordPress is launching this new editor without any help documentation. However, Easy WP Guide will have their version updated very soon so it's worth signing up to their mailing list to be notified once it's done.
We have found one recent YouTube clip which gives a great overview of the new features and also helps highlight the differences to get you started: