Is Gutenberg a new beginning for WordPress?

Is Gutenberg a new beginning for WordPress?

The new word in the WordPress universe is Gutenberg.

Over the last couple of months you may have noticed a banner on your WordPress dashboard with regards to Gutenberg, this is the new incarnation of the built in editor / page builder.

News of the imminent release of WordPress 5.0 has been coming for months, only now are we starting to find out the changes this milestone update will be bringing with it & how it is going to affect 31% of all websites.

What is Gutenberg?

For those who don’t know, Gutenberg is the new way to edit content in WordPress.  It will be replacing the tired TinyMCE content editor which has been a stable part of WordPress since the beginning.  Gutenberg is a client side interface that uses a block based system to build up content.

Currently Gutenberg is available as a feature plugin which can be installed inside of WordPress.  This will enable you to have a play around and use the new feature before its debut with WordPress version 5.

Gutenberg is an important step forward for publishers, reducing the different between creating content and what is looks like on the frontend.  It also opens up the possibility of unifying all of the various parts of the site building process.

Impact on content creation

When WordPress 5 launches, there will be significant changes to the way users create content.  Anyone who has used third-party plugins from developers like Elegant Themes or installed page builders/visual composer plugins will be familiar with the new process.  Others however may have to undertake a bit of learning to get used to the new way of things.

That said, the rewards promise to be worth it.  The use of blocks means that code-shy users will be able to create better designed pages without the need to mess with the actual theme files.  Gutenberg also introduces pre-coded block templates for various elements which users can use on posts & pages.  They simply drag a block to where they want it positioned, then click on the block to add content.

Aside from improved functionality, Gutenberg simplifies the process of page design, removing the need to constantly save changes and look at previews.

The one drawback for content creators, however is that it can slow down the flow of writing for those who are accustom to rattling off drafts of posts at speed.  With TinyMCE, you write your title and move immediately on to the next paragraph. With blocks its a completely different ball game, you’ll need to drag blocks in to position and then add in your content.

How to prepare

The best way to prevent your sites from breaking when Gutenberg lands, is to enable the Classic Editor plugin now and configure it to revert to the old editor.  This will mean when v5.0 launches things will work as they are, this will be the approach i will be taking for now.

If you have a site with custom post types (CPT) or develop a plugin with them registered, you can stop Gutenberg hijacking the usual UI with a couple of things.  Either ensure you edit the registration arguments to explicity set show_in_reset to false, or if you need to use the REST API for your CPT, then you can use the following filter to turn off Gutenberg for your CPTs:


add_filter('gutenberg_can_edit_post_type', 'my_gutenberg_can_edit_post_types');
function my_gutenberg_can_edit_post_types($can_edit, $post_type){
    if(in_array($post_type, array('a_post_type', 'another_post_type')){
        return false;
    }
    return $can_edit;
}

A more drastic measure is not updating to v5.0 and only update to any security releases of v 4.9.x

The future of WordPress

This is undoubtedly going to be a powerful feature for WordPress and could very well elevate it above its competitors even further and drive the market share of the platform higher in the coming year.  In essence, it could be a rejuvenation of WordPress, one that the team hopes will see it through for another 10 years.  But the impact of Gutenberg could potentially be a negative one with a far reaching effect.

What does this mean for WordPress in the long run?  The steps take above to disable Gutenberg will lead to two different WordPress admins, creating a fractured experience which could have little hope for any future convergence.

For me however, Gutenberg highlights a larger problem with WordPress.  The platform needs to evolve and grow.  It wants to create a new way of doing things.  But you can’t do that and carry the legacy of almost 15 years worth of code and technical debt.  Is Gutenberg papering over the cracks or is this the start of a major overhaul which could be coming to the platform soon?

For many, especially in the enterprise WordPress space, Gutenberg is just another nail in the coffin for the platform.  People have spent years using WordPress with plugins to turn it into the CMS they really need.  In their eyes Gutenberg is taking away all of that work and ultimately making WordPress no longer fit for purpose.

Conclusion

Only time will tell if Gutenberg is a success.  It certainly is a powerful piece of software and could be a real game changer.  It is necessary to grow and push forward, however there is a feeling that his may not have been thought out thoroughly and initiated for the right reasons.

The Gutenberg team have accomplished a great deal so far and i personally look forward to seeing it improve.  However i can’t help but feel that other parts of WordPress are going to suffer because of the drive to implement it.

Get in touch

  • matt@mwn-design.co.uk
  • matt@mwn-design.co.uk
  • www.mwn-design.co.uk