Gutenberg – new editor for WordPress

Release Candidate 2 of WordPress 5.0 has been released from wordpress.org.

The focus of this release is the new ‘blocks’ based Gutenberg editor in WordPress.

WordPress 5.0 should have been released on November 27th but it had to be postponed due to problems with accessibility and stability in Gutenberg.

In an article associated with the release of RC2 wordpress.org says that the final date for releasing WordPress 5.0 iss till to be announced later.

WordPress Core Team wants more time to gather impressions and feedback from test users about the new RC2.

The above article also contains a list of the improvements that have been made since the release of RC1.

What can we expect in WordPress 5.0?

WordPress 5.0 is inspite of number five not a new and fundamentally different WordPress version … and yet.

Although version 5.0, according to wordpress.org, only contains minor improvements and changes, the total experience of WordPress will be radically changed in future versions.

The new Gutenberg editor, which will replace the classic editor in WordPress, is going to be a totally new experience for many WordPress users.

There are alredy more than one million installations of Gutenberg block editor, but that number has nothing to do with how users in general will accept Gutenberg.

Among that million installations are a lot of test installations and professional development installations.

Gutenberg

The Gutenberg editor offers a completely new way of working in WordPress.

Instead of the ‘old’ WYSIWYG editor with all the possibilities for additional plugin-based features, Gutenberg is a radical change and development of the WordPress editor.

It’s something quite different, to say the least.

The Gutenberg editor is a ‘blocks’ based editor, where a post or page is created by adding individual blocks into the editing area.

Blocks can be almost anything; an image, columns, text area etc.

Gutenberg replaces the classic editor, but it is still possible to continue with the ‘old’ editor and ignore Gutenberg – anyway so far.

At first sight Gutenberg might resemble the way Page Builders for WordPress work.

Page Builders have been a widespread succes in WordPress the past five or six years throughout the WordPress community.

Today Page Builders are available as stand-alone solutions in WordPress and / or as a built-in part of many WordPress themes.

The big difference is that Gutenberg is NOT is a Page Builder, but is a new integral part of the WordPress experience.

Blocks

‘Blocks’ is the new black in WordPress in the sense that Blocks completely replace the old Rich Text editor.

In the classic editor, different types of content; images, audio, and other formatted content types such as columns, shortcodes etc. were inserted as a single text string in the WordPress database.

Blocks treat Paragraphs, Headings, Media, Embeds all as components that strung together make up the content stored in the WordPress database, replacing the traditional concept of freeform text with embedded media and shortcodes.
WordPress Designer & Developer Handbook

The contents of any page or article in WordPress can now be built by separate discrete blocks that are inserted and edited in the new Gutenberg editor.

At first glance this seems very similar to the way Page Builders work… but only at first glance, since Blocks are an integral and native part of WordPress.

Gutenberg contains a relatively large inventory of built-in (native) blocks in Gutenberg, that provide more options for building pages with separate elements, for example. images, text, columns, etc., than in the classic editor.

Also, there are already a lot of free and commercial third-party Blocks add-ons in WordPress.

Blocks are hierarchically structured; A block can be a child block.

That way, a WordPress page or article created with Gutenberg is a collection of Blocks whose order, appearance and structure are selected by the person who edits WordPress.

Pros and Cons

We have tested Gutenberg thoroughly the last few weeks and we like what we see.

Gutenberg may be the ‘next step’ that brings WordPress ahead of the many Page Builders and possibly overrides them in the long run.

Not that we believe this to be a goal in itself to wordpress.org, but it can be a natural consequence.

Gutenberg can be what makes WordPress completely unique as CMS. Time will tell..

Problems – still

Gutenberg is not fully developed yet and more work needs to be done before Gutenberg qualifies as a replacement for the classic editor.

Today in our tests we found what appears to be a bug in RC2. We have notified wordpress.org about it.

Challenges with accessibility in the new Gutenberg have been an issue for some time now.

We have not tested this, but discussions among the project team resulted in one of the leading developers leaving the team last month.

Apparently there are still problems with the stability of Gutenberg – they must of course be solved – and it will be.

Challenges  for WordPress and for users

Gutenberg is quite a mouthful seen from the general user’s perspective.

It’s a new editing experience that might alienate users.

The advantages in Gutenberg and the ideas behind the ‘blocks’ idea have not been communicated particularly well.

A simpler way of communicating and explaining in layman’s terms why Gutenberg is such a good idea would have helped – a lot.

During the last months of warming up to Gutenberg we believe that wordpress.org have missed explaining exactly what it that makes Gutenberg a good replacement for the classic editor – again in layman’s terms.

If you read the technical documentation, you get some insight into what Gutenberg and Blocks are.

But even here, the open-source tradition which has made WordPress possible, has not proved sufficient to inform broadly about the benefits of Gutenberg.

WordPress has millions of general users worldwide.

We fear that only a small fraction of those users actually know exactly what Gutenberg and Blocks are good for.

Is Gutenberg a good idea?

We believe Gutenberg is a great idea.

We’re just not sure that everyone agrees.

WordPress became famous for it’s very easy approach to get WordPress going.

The five-minute installation process (actually it’s less) and the one day training needed for anyone to begin using WordPress is what has put WordPress ahead of all other Content Management Systems.

Gutenberg might not live up to this easy approach in WordPress.

It is far from certain that general users without coding abillities and with only the smallest insight into the inner workings of the WordPress core, (or on how to create custom blocks for that matter) will find Gutenberg something they can handle after a few hours of training.

Bloggers who use WordPress everyday for their own personal blog (there are many many thousands of around the world) are not supposed to be able to handle blocks from day one.

They too will need some education communicated in layman’s terms.

The many general users who work as editors in companies and organisations around the world without any deep insights in WordPress might not embrace Gutenberg at first sight either.

We fear that there will be many everyday users who will develop tunnel vision and instinctively reject the new and completely different interface in WordPress 5.0.

Unless wordpress.org really accelerate their information about Gutenberg there’s a risk that Gutenberg might end up as a niche for the nerdy in the WordPress community.