WordPress Gutenberg, what it is and how does it affect you?

After being delayed twice before, today’s the day, WordPress 5.0 is finally getting its release, that is assuming it doesn’t get pushed back again.

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Toby Osborne - Web Developer

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Toby Osborne

Hi, I’m Toby, a web developer with over eight years experience. My professional goal is to educate businesses in the use of technology to streamline their workflow.

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WordPress 5.0 contains a complete re-imagining of the WordPress content editor. You know the big white box you add text to before hitting the blue publish button; a change they’ve codenamed Gutenberg.

How is Gutenberg different?

To see the differences between the classic content editor and Gutenberg, all we have to do is look at them next to each other.

As you can see the new Gutenberg editor in the first video has almost no resemblance to the classic editor on the second, and you’d be correct.

The new editor aims to provide more freedom to content managers by giving them the tools to arrange the page however they’d like using a system they have dubbed “Blocks.”

What is a block?

To put it justly a block is a section of the webpage, each block has its own purpose, layout and styles allowing you to build a webpage from scratch.

Think of a block as a component to the overall page; you’ll be able to add, remove and reorder blocks to make the webpage your own. Some examples of blocks include:

  • Heading
  • Paragraph
  • List
  • Quote
  • Gallery

Using this new block-based system makes WordPress 5.0 a little like a website builder but with more long-term options, in the form of custom blocks.

So WordPress 5.0 removes the need for developers

Not any less than before, remember that WordPress has always been an excellent platform for developers and non-developers alike.

If you want a fully bespoke website, almost any web agency can build it in WordPress; but if you wanted a quick, easy way to get online, you could buy an off the shelf theme.

This hasn’t changed; instead, it is giving non-developers better, more accessible tools to fine-tune their website’s look and feel; while providing developers with the ability to more efficiently create, manage and maintain their code.

The end result is a faster development process for developers and more options for content managers; a win-win.

Gutenberg seems confusing

Changes can always be daunting at first, but like anything practice makes perfect.

In reality, Gutenberg is quite simple. Click the plus, select the block and type the content. It seems a little more long-winded than the classic editor, and that’s because it is, but the overall benefits should negate the additional effort involved.

How Gutenberg effects you

You may be thinking to yourself, “great now I need to learn a new system straight after I got my head around the old one”.

No need to worry, since Gutenberg is such a significant change the delightful people at WordPress have made it an opt-out update.

The reasons being that Gutenberg changes the whole way developers think about the website, most themes, or plugins (especially bespoke ones) won’t support the new system or will require a complete re-coding to be able to integrate correctly.

Anyone in this scenario only has to install the classic editor plugin before installing WordPress 5.0.

Is updating really necessary?

Yes, but maybe wait a little while.

I’ve spoken to plenty of people over the last few months, some developers and some website owners; and the first question or statement made is, “we
won’t update then.”

That’s not the best decision, WordPress is your website’s backbone, it gets plenty of security updates that help prevent your site from becoming the next big viagra store or Russian dating site. Don’t forgo updates.

But at the same time, there’s no need to update straight away, it’s always a balancing act. My opinion this time is to wait a few weeks so the wrinkles of Gutenberg can be ironed out first.

Like any update, remember to take a backup, and preferably test it on a non-public facing version of your site first.

The future of WordPress

As a developer, Gutenberg adds a new way of creating experiences on the web, it changes how we’ll need to think about coding websites. It even changes the coding language we’ll need to use (PHP to React for those interested); It’s going to come with a learning curve but is something that we as WordPress developers should embrace.

Gutenberg will make it easier for developers to build maintainable, speedy and adaptable websites, the relatively small learning curve shouldn’t be seen as a daunting task; instead, a step toward the future.

Like plugins, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to download new blocks to add different aspects and features to pages. I for one am looking forward to seeing what gets created.

More information

This is a broad outline of Gutenburg to explain what it is and how it could affect you. There are plenty of resources, guides and posts already available to help you get better acquainted with Gutenberg. Here’s a handful for you to get started.

Give it a try at https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/ – WordPress has put together an example page to explain Gutenberg and let you give it a try. Follow the link above, hover over some text and click the plus to start adding blocks.

Yoast’s Gutenberg roundup at https://yoast.com/what-is-gutenberg/ – Explaining what Gutenberg is and how it differs from the classic editor.

A Gutenberg tour – at https://gogutenberg.com/ – An in-depth tour to using Gutenberg, broken down into simple easy to follow steps.

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