When logging in to Select Web’s client WordPress website dashboards, I’m greeted by the bold statement that a “new, modern publishing experience is coming soon”. I am given the option of installing and testing the new editor from WordPress, called Gutenberg.
To be honest, the last time I heard the name “Gutenberg” must have been 35 years ago in a school history class. That was long before the internet was so ingrained in our daily lives. Content-managed websites, such as WordPress and Joomla, weren’t even a blip on the radar back then.
Now, for those millions of WordPress users, including many of our clients, the name Gutenberg has popped up again.
Named after Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe in 1440 with the printing press, the editor has become a hot topic of discussion on industry blogs.
On balance, I would say it’s getting mixed reviews.
The guys over at Yoast, the company that has developed a very popular search engine optimisation plugin for WordPress, believe the impact that the new editing environment is the “first step for a bright new future” for the world’s most popular CMS platform.
More than just an editor, Gutenberg is poised to become a full website customiser once it has been rolled out fully, predicts Yoast’s Edwin Toonen.
The first phase is all about the redeveloped editor.
The interface is much simpler and that’s because it is built around the use of blocks.
According to the WordPress blog, “blocks are a great new tool for building engaging content. With blocks, you can insert, rearrange, and style multimedia content with very little technical knowledge. Instead of using custom code, you can add a block and focus on your content.”
WordPress states without being an expert developer, you can “build your own custom posts and pages.”
Brian Jackson from Kinsta says Gutenberg has some plus factors, including:
- Providing a less distracting experience with more screen space
- Blocks are fun to use and the new alignment options are a step forward for larger resolution screens and full-width templated and responsive sites
- Already works great on mobile, which is handy for on-the-go edits
- Theme and plugin developers can create their own custom blocks
- Easier to use for beginners
Some commentators have been more circumspect, some even downright gloomy about the impact that Gutenberg will have on WordPress.
In his analysis, Iain Poulson asks whether Gutenberg is the end of WordPress or the beginning of something new for the platform.
He argues that although it’s a “lovely piece of software”, it doesn’t “belong in . . . WordPress as we know it today.”
His major gripe, and it has been echoed elsewhere, is the backwards compatibility of Gutenberg. He warns that “Gutenberg will simply break sites.” Not in the front end, but in the backend.
Because of this, he believes agencies, such as Select Web, will have to prepare their websites in such a way as to prevent this from happening in the new version 5 of WordPress and in doing so protect their clients.
However, he believes most developers won’t be able to allocate the time and skilled resources to make their sites compatible with Gutenberg.
This, he says, will have “a detrimental effect on user experience and the WordPress ecosystem in general.”
Wait and see . . .
From our perspective, it’s early days yet. It’s quite clear there are still many kinks to iron out, so we’ve taken a wait-and-see approach, for now.
As yet we haven’t installed Gutenberg on any of our sites, nor have we tried it. But we will be taking it for a test drive soon enough, so watch this space for our feedback!