Despite the terrible reviews, Gutenberg is on its way inside WordPress 5.0 and beyond.
What exactly is Gutenberg? According to official WordPress sources, it is not just a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. It has the potential to utterly transform the way we create, and interact with our WordPress Websites. Sounds painful. Let’s play along though…
Welcome to the new kid on the ‘blocks’
“Gutenberg which is expected to be officially released in WordPress 5.0 is the first step in a long and ambitious development schedule. The first part, which is available right now as a plugin download, replaces the standard page or post editor. In the next phase of the release, you’ll be able to create templates that can be used (and reused) throughout your WordPress website. Until ultimately the final of the first three phases will see Gutenberg managing everything to do with your website”.
Why is Gutenberg needed?
There has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a lot of resistance to the introduction of Gutenberg. Largely because eventually, it won’t be optional. Supporters insist that it will ultimately future-proof WordPress and make the world a better place. However, detractors point to a number of very successful and easy-to-use page and post builders currently available to WordPress users.
It’s all about Blocks
You’ll hear this term a lot over the course of this post. We’d agree the nomenclature seems appropriate. These blocks can hold any type of available content. They’re incredibly flexible, fast and simple. For example, if you create a block that has text in it., you can easily change it to a blockquote, or a different type of blockquote. Hey! Wait a minute. We can do that already with Visual Composer. So, why bother to create a new system? Well, as we said at the beginning. The editor is just the beginning. And, we think it’s a great way to get started. It will no doubt be the easiest element [errrr. block] to get your head around initially.
So what do blocks and the editor really give you that you don’t already have?
That’s easy. A single point of page design and manipulation that doesn’t require stylised add-ons. For example, in Gutenberg, if you want to create an image, with text overlaid on top, and add a background overlay. Yep, you’ve guessed it, you can! And, in only 20 seconds. All of you that are already using other tools, know you’d have to pick that option from your list of widgets, or elements, configure it, experiment with the overlay opacity options, test it, preview it, and finally publish it. That takes a hell of a lot longer to do. And, if you rarely use a particular element, it takes even longer. One of the reasons the new editor is ‘better’ is because it really is: WYSIWYG
A Clean White page on which to work!
The Gutenberg interface is completely uncluttered making it easy to work without any distractions. You can easily style any block so that it looks ‘exactly‘ how you want it to look. Add or remove columns, include shortcodes and buttons, embed youtube videos and even add widgets.
When you hover over any block, further options appear. Including being able to order the block by moving it up-or-down using arrows? Yeah, that is a bit naff. Drag and drop would be much better.
Now, this is one of the coolest features. The ability to make a block reusable so that it can be used on other pages and posts is a big time saver. When you create one of these, if you edit any of them to add or edit content, on any page, all the other blocks (in that reusable family) also change. That’s brilliant for when you have for example contact information scattered around the site and you want to change a phone number. Job done! 10 seconds flat.
The block has options via 3-little-dots that you see at the top right when you hover over any block. From here you can edit as HTML, duplicate the block, or save it as a reusable block.
All sounds fab. Unless you’re using an iPad to make changes to your WordPress website under Gutenberg. Yeah, it “sort of works” but not in a convenient, or ultimately, useful way. You’d have to use a mouse. No, wait. You can’t. And, check out the editor in ‘Safari’ well it’s PANTS – the layout doesn’t work at all. So is it now, already, truly mobile friendly? This could end up being an issue with Google Mobile First index directive.
The next development phases
Furthermore, as with any new development, there will be issues. As a result, the editor is not at all popular. We understand why. However, it has to start somewhere. The idea that in the future the editor develops in such a way as to fast-track ‘templates’ that can be reused is pretty interesting. And, the ultimate goal. Controlling ‘everything’ will be a game-changer? And, what about plugin developers. Or for that matter, theme creators? Are we all going to be a one-stop-WordPress-solution-shop? doubtful.
This development though has too much authority. Consequently, it’s not going away. And, the sooner we embrace it, the better. Perhaps we can even contribute to the discussion in a useful and empowered way.
Interestingly, if you test your site at Pingdom or GTMetrix, one of the things that slow down your website can be WordPress plugins. We’ve made use of plugins for years. They’re great. They’re not going away. But it would be nice if Gutenberg eliminated some that are a little resource hungry. Or those that mean our website performance value is somewhat lower than we would like.
Here is a great video by Morten Rand-Hendriksen (an expert on WordPress) discussing Gutenberg at WordCamp 2017 in Nashville. It’s good, and after the presentation, he answers many of our obvious questions. Not least the changing landscape ahead. Finally taking the current ‘viewport’ the safe area that works across many devices with traditional header, sides and footer. And, putting the blocks ‘anywhere you like’ with the belief that the future trend for websites and online marketing is Virtual Reality (“VR”). Now, that would be interesting.