27 November 2018

The Gutenberg Effect

WordPress 5.0 is just about to land and with it, they will bring an entirely new editing experience. Everyone in the CMS world is buzzing because of the Gutenberg editor. This new software has been rebuilt for media-rich pages and posts whilst still maintaining a level of flexibility through their new ‘blocks’.

It’s replaced one of the most central aspects of WordPress backend and overhauled central ways of how CMS works. Although the plugin has been available for around a year now, a lot has changed since its first release.

Over the years, individual updates have brought with it, significant shifts and along with it, significant opinions. The 4.9 ‘Tipton’ update enabled users to schedule design changes in the WordPress customiser so they can go live at later dates, just like post drafts. And WordPress 4.8 brought with it an array of widget updates including three dedicated media widgets that no longer have to be manually uploaded.

However, these aren’t really “game-changers”. They’re more of an incremental change. But WordPress 5.0… WordPress 5.0 will be less incremental, more innovative, instrumental, intelligent… you get the gist.

Is It Really That Good?

The aforementioned Gutenberg editor is one of the pretty major changes. For some, it represents a much-needed innovation to keep up with other website builders. It is made with modern technology and is paving the direction of page builders. Whether you’re building your first site, or write code for a living, the new blocks are being considered as a great tool for building engaging content with very little technical knowledge.

But there is still a big divide on whether or not Gutenberg is as good as it sounds.

Many people are afraid that it will ruin existing sites, especially those that rely heavily on custom fields, meta boxes and of course, existing page builders like Page Builder by WP Bakery (critical review of other page builders here:, which has been around for many years and almost perfected. With over 350,000 individual sales and over 200,000 which are active, Gutenberg has a lot to live up to.

Gutenberg Vs Page builders

Developers use meta boxes to add more information to the posts. Sometimes, it’s not just the content, but also settings and arbitrary data. It’s been reported that with the current user interface, there is no place for meta boxes; but they should think of it as though they’ve been pushed into a different position.

And why would we want to get rid of Page Builder? It’s useful. Developers can build general templates which clients can easily create pages and edit content without deterring from current layout/designs. Page builders allow the client/user to easily move elements around as they’re fully customisable. Gutenberg overrules all current page builders, which for some isn’t good news.

However, with Gutenberg, you won’t need to know HTML, or be able to write shortcodes, increasing personalisation capability. You can control the front end and the backend of a website entirely from a single console, and similar to working with HubSpot, what you see is what you get. For non-developers who are building their own website, this will make navigating WordPress a whole lot easier.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you’re not a developer you should be building a website. Without basic UX knowledge, your site might still look a little basic and because Gutenberg focuses on the content, not on custom fields, the meaning of custom fields becomes a bit blurred. Some popular plugins such as WooCommerce might not work because of this. Although Yoast SEO foresaw this and has it covered.

You've Got To Break It To Make It

Plus, there’s an innate possibility that Gutenberg will break a lot of things when it’s merged. The effect of this will be especially felt by those that are building and running the site for others, such as digital agencies and the IT team. Though in a roundabout way, this will hopefully raise the barrier for developers to keep their plugins up to date and render those which are non-functional, non-functional.

It's Not All That Bad...

However, and it’s a big, however, it’s not all bad news. Gutenberg has received good reviews, with many developers praising its innovative approach. It’s slick, clean and modern and has a beautiful content writing interface. Its “block” concept is almost superior in its editing capabilities. And it does showcase more customisation capabilities in the sense that the plugins can define their own content blocks, meaning that for example, with an event calendar plugin, you could place it anywhere you want on your page.

But mainly, it will help WordPress’ success in the marketplace as they bring in less technical users. As the user base grows, so will the commercial opportunities.

The impact of Gutenberg on WordPress, whether it be good or bad, should not be underestimated. It has already taken the WordPress community by a storm and is one of the most divisive issues they’ve ever encountered. It will take time for people to become familiar with the new editor and feel comfortable using it and because it’s built in JavaScript, it will be even more challenging for many developers, especially for older browsers. But hopefully, that might encourage developers to extend their skill sets.

Proponents have said that it’s high time WordPress innovates its content creation module to stay competitive and attract new users. They’re looking forward to a more modern take on an editor, by unifying editing experience which will hopefully create better content and a better end product.

If you have any questions about WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg or anything else, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.