WordPress and Gutenberg, what’s the story?
WordPress needs no introduction. A phenomenal, open source, content management system, which has become so popular that nearly a third of world’s websites are powered by it.
The WordPress community is global and passionate, the platform is regularly updated, augmented and is instantly customisable. Capable of showing small blogs, giant e-commerce platforms and all stages in between, it’s solid, reliable and trusted.
When change comes, it’s usually evolution rather than revolution, but the latest update on the WordPress horizon is sure to shake things up and the community is already divided.
Just what is Gutenberg?
The way we write posts in WordPress has remained unchanged for around a decade. The built in ‘TinyMCE’ editor is simple, lightweight and familiar. Hailing back to WordPress’s early days as a blogging platform, the text editor appears superficially to be a cut down version of Microsoft Word, so even those new to Wordpress can dive straight in and start blogging.
Gutenberg, however, represents a change in how we compose our content. Rather than being text first with everything else added in, Gutenberg reimagines content creation as a collection of content blocks which can be edited, replaced, deleted or repurposed independently of the rest of the content on a post or page. The stated aim of the Gutenberg editor is to make the adding of rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable.
Anyone familiar with various ‘page builders’ or the bulk email tool MailChimp will be at least a bit familiar with how Gutenberg works. Simply pick an appropriate block type for the content you’d like to add, add that content and it’s there. Each individual content block, whether it’s a picture or a paragraph, can be moved around like the tiles of a mosaic and each block type has its own properties and settings.
Blocks? Think Lego!
The type of blocks which can be added are of particular interest. Text (paragraph, heading, quote, etc) blocks are, of course, standard, as are picture blocks. As such, these and others are included in a group labelled ‘Common Blocks’. Some of the other block options which are, however, more worthy of note;
‘Formatting blocks’ like Custom HTML, Table, Code and Pull Quote are fairly self-explanatory, as are ‘Layout blocks’ such as Text columns, Button and Separator. Blocks under the ‘Widgets’ grouping are fewer in number, but the one likely to raise eyebrows is the ‘Shortcode’ block. It appears, at the time of typing and as we heard at a lively discussion on the subject, that this block must be used for adding plug-in shortcodes, they’ll no longer work inline with text.
The ‘Embeds’ section, however, is likely to be particularly useful. The ability to embed a youtube url by simply pasting it into the content has been with us for months in the regular editor, but with Gutenberg, there are a selection of ‘embed’ blocks, there are embed blocks for a plethora of external platforms. Twitter, Spotify, Facebook, Polldaddy, Slideshare are just a few of the forty plus platforms currently supported. There are bound to be more added as time goes by.
Simply click on the ‘add a block’ button, select ‘embeds’, select the platform whose content you’d like to embed, then paste the link. That’s all there is to it.
How will this affect existing sites?
As Gutenberg is still in development, there’s always a degree of uncertainty until the release and all the details are finalised, however, those using content building themes like Divi and Beaver Builder are likely to be particularly concerned about whether there will be compatibility issues. Having to decide whether to update a site to WordPress 5.0 or keep their favourite page builder and risk future security issues is likely to be an unpleasant choice.
Despite Gutenberg not being finished, there are already plug-ins in development to disable it!
When is Gutenberg released?
Although nothing’s completely set in stone, it’s predicted that Gutenberg will replace the existing WordPress editor with the release of WordPress version 5.0, expected around April.
If you want to experience Gutenberg a little sooner, it can be installed via plug-in from all the usual repositories. However, bear in mind that this is still in beta, so it goes without saying, don’t install it on your business sites!
The opinions expressed by those who’ve installed the plug-in are a fair reflection of the divided opinions about the new editor and the Gutenberg team are actively listening to the community as the release date nears.
As mentioned earlier, opinion is divided on Gutenberg in its present form. Until release, it’s still a work in progress and there have been heated debates both online and offline about the pros and cons of the new system.
At Falkon, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the development and eventual release of Gutenberg and you can be sure that when the WordPress 5.0 update is ready, we’ll be ready too!