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What is the Gutenberg WordPress update and why should you care?

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WordPress is about to change in a major way. With the coming WordPress 5.0 update, we will be formally introduced to Gutenberg. What is “Gutenberg” and why should you care? In this article I’ll give you an introduction and, if you are a WordPress user, explain why you most definitely should care.

Gutenberg is a coming update that aims to replace the basic content editor with a completely new editing experience based on “blocks”. Right now it comes in the form of a plugin but will be integrated into the WordPress core with the 5.0 update. The goal is to create a more user friendly way to write content, build websites, and design them. This update makes sense in the current landscape of website page builders and the fierce competition of companies like Squarespace, Show It, and Wix that already come packaged with easy to use page and content builders.

In his article, We Called it Gutenberg for a Reason, Matt Mullengweg, founding developer of WordPress, said:

“Theme developers won’t need to bundle tons of plugins or create their own page builders. There’ll be a standard, portable way to create rich layouts for posts and guide people through setup right in the interface, no 20-step tutorials or long videos needed. Every theme will be able to compete with multi-functional premium themes without locking users into a single theme or compromising their experience.”

So, basically, the Gutenberg WordPress editor will be a page builder using content blocks without needing to install any third party plugins. For basic WordPress users, this should make editing and updating your content more intuitive and just plain easier. If you are already using a page builder plugin, like Beaver Builder (my page builder of choice) then you know how easy it is to edit content via a visual editor rather than the default backend WordPress content editor. With the update to Gutenberg, this will be the default experience.

Will Gutenberg break my site?

This was the first question I asked myself after hearing about Gutenberg, and I’m guessing it may be the same for you. From what I understand, the update should not affect the front end experience of your site. So, when the time comes to update, users will still see the same website as before, on the frontend that is.

The backend, however, is another thing. If you’re using plugins (which is most likely) then you’ll have to be aware of whether or not those plugins play nicely with Gutenberg. Most premium and well-maintained plugins will have already planned to integrate with the update. However, you may find that some of your plugins no longer work and may even cause issues which, in that case, you may need to find an alternative solution.

My suggestion would be to take inventory of your most necessary plugins and find out whether they are preparing for integration with Gutenberg. As a backup plan, we may be able to “turn off” Gutenberg and “revert” to the old editor experience by using the Classic Editor Plugin. This plugin “restores” the classic editor and should allow your plugins to work as normal.

What does this mean for WordPress developers?

If you’re a WordPress developer, then you’re probably already following the Gutenberg discussion. I’d say, plugin developers have the most to be concerned about, but as a website designer who builds all my websites in WordPress, I’m looking forward to Gutenberg.

Yes, there may be some challenges and bit of a learning curve, but I’m ready to embrace the future of WordPress. As digital professionals, I believe that we should always be willing to move forward and modernize. I want to stay competitive in my industry and I love that WordPress is doing the same. As Jeff Chandler discussed in his article Why Gutenberg and Why Now?, the WordPress team is getting out of its comfort zone. They are willing to disrupt the status quo in exchange for the opportunity to innovate. That takes guts. Not only do I admire that, but  I believe that we should follow suit.

The changes look exciting and I plan to focus on taking advantage of the Gutenberg update by fully integrating it into my development process. I’m all about finding ways to speed up my dev time and create a more efficient workflow. If I can do that and also deliver a WordPress website that is easy to use for my clients, then that’s a win-win in my book.

Will Gutenberg make Page Builder plugins obsolete?

I happen to be a huge fan of page builders, Beaver Builder, to be specific. Now, I’ll be honest, I absolutely hate the name (sorry BB guys), but I love the functionality of this plugin. Again, anything that can speed up my dev process and also prove itself to be a high quality, expertly maintained product, is OK in my book. One of the questions that I keep hearing is whether or not Gutenberg will kill Page Builder plugins, and I can’t help but think, why in the world would it?

The WordPress team is obviously set on creating a superior product to what we have today. From what I’ve seen of Gutenberg, it seems to provide rich soil for page builders to flourish. Robby McCullough, of Beaver Builder, sees things in a similarly positive light. In his interview with Highrise Digital, McCullogh likens the Gutenberg/Beaver Builder relationship to that of Instagram and Photoshop. His point being that, page builders have the opportunity to stretch the limitations of Gutenberg, creating an even easier path to customization that exceeds that of current competitors, like Squarespace and Wix.

Personally, I look forward to seeing how Beaver Builder integrates with Gutenberg when the time comes. I’ve got a strong feeling that it will be mutually beneficial.

When will Gutenberg be released?

At the time of this writing, no date has been officially set for the 5.0 release, but it’s happening this year in 2018. From what I can tell, Gutenberg still has some way to go before it will be ready for a major public release but, the right time to start getting prepared for it is now.

What’s next?

Gutenberg is coming and I’ll be taking my own advice by planning for it. My goal is to ensure that current client sites, on any of my Website Care Plans, be transitioned over smoothly. I’ll be here to test and implement the updates and walk you through how to use the new editor. If you aren’t on a Care Plan and are worried about what the future Gutenberg update might mean for your site, please feel free to review and sign up for one today.  

Further reading

If you’d like to read up more about WordPress 5.0 and the Gutenberg update, here are a few articles that I found helpful:

The Gutenberg WordPress Editor: 10 Things You Need to Know

The Gutenberg Update: What You Should Know About the WordPress Overhaul Coming in 2018

What’s Next for WordPress: Why the Future is Great with Gutenberg

*This post contains affiliate links to Beaver Builder, my recommended (and exclusive) page builder of choice. 

Gutenberg WordPress 5.0

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