WordPress 5.0: Everything You Need to Know About the New Gutenberg Editor
WordPress has been around for quite a while now. Not only has the tool evolved from being just a blogging platform to a full-fledged website and app engine, it has actually also become the web's biggest content management system, powering over 32% of all websites on the internet.
One reason why WordPress has become so popular among website owners is its EASE OF USE. And one area we've witnessed this level of user-friendliness is in the way WordPress lets users create, edit, and publish content.
Since its inception, WordPress has been making use of an open text editor to allow users publish posts and pages. However, Automattic — the company that runs WordPress — thought that it was time for a change (and possible improvement) on the content editing front.
So in 2017, the company started developing what would be a replacement for the old, beloved open text WordPress editor. The development of the new editor started on GitHub in September 2017, and in December that same year at WordCamp Europe, Matt Mullenweg — Automattic's boss — introduced Gutenberg (as he called it) to the world.
Well, if you haven’t heard about it just yet, WordPress 5.0 was released earlier this month December 2018 (after much postponements and controversies) and along with it came the much anticipated Gutenberg editor.
Now, Gutenberg is causing quite a buzz in the WordPress community. Some users are glad to switch from the old editor, but unfortunately, it isn't the same story with other users. In fact, the tool has seen an incredible amount of negative reviews both on its plugin page on the WordPress official website and within the social web.
For example, look at the user rating of the Gutenberg plugin on WordPress.org:
Really poor, you'd agree!
With this sort of mixed reaction, it could be difficult to tell whether or not Gutenberg is right for you. But that's why we're putting this post together — to help you get the most out of your WordPress.
WHAT IS WORDPRESS GUTENBERG?
For those who have yet to grasp it, Gutenberg is simply a new WordPress editor which makes use of a “blocks” system to edit content. But it's more than just a content editor. According to its developers, Gutenberg's future is hinged on being a full-blown website builder.
Gutenberg comes with dozens of cutting-edge features and it simplifies website creation and editing for the average non-techie user. Its drag-and-drop capability provides users with a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) experience.
Named after Johannes Gutenberg, the German guy who invented the mechanical movable type printing press more than 500 years ago, Gutenberg was planned to be officially released together with WordPress 5.0.
You can go to WordPress.org/Gutenberg to use a live demo of Gutenberg.
HOW IT WORKS
Like mentioned earlier, Gutenberg is going to be more than just a WordPress content editor. It is aimed to give website creators the platform to easily build websites using “blocks.”
In essence, blocks are small drag-and-drop units of the new editor. They're the building blocks of WordPress 5.0, which means to build a page or blog content, you'll just have to drag and drop blocks.
In the old editor, content editing used to happen inside a big HTML file; and if you needed to add new content units, you had to do so using different elements including shortcodes, widgets, custom post types, embeds, and the like.
Each one of these had its own quirky interface and was almost always confusing, especially for non-technical users.
Gutenberg is built to take care of this once and for all. It's built to make content editing an absolute breeze. It's created to make building a website something you'd actually enjoy doing and with great ease.
Every build elements that was in the old editor — including content, embeds, custom codes, paragraphs, separators images, quotes, galleries, cover images, audio, video, headings, and buttons — are now distinct “blocks” on their own. And with just a click, you can add any of those to your content.
No need to deal with annoying shortcodes, theme options, meta-boxes, and other formatting elements as before.
“Imagine a custom “employee” block that a client can drag to an About page to automatically display a picture, name, and bio. A whole universe of plugins that all extend WordPress in the same way. Simplified menus and widgets. Users who can instantly understand and use WordPress — and 90% of plugins. This will allow you to easily compose beautiful posts like this example.” — WordPress.
THERE'S MORE OF GUTENBERG COMING
While Gutenberg shipped with WordPress 5.0 (although the plugin version had been made available prior to the stable release of WordPress 5.0) Automattic has stated that that's only the first phase. In fact, the company states that Gutenberg is a 3-phase project.
“Gutenberg has three planned stages. The first, aimed for inclusion in WordPress 5.0, focuses on the post editing experience and the implementation of blocks. This initial phase focuses on a content-first approach. The use of blocks, as detailed above, allows you to focus on how your content will look without the distraction of other configuration options. This ultimately will help all users present their content in a way that is engaging, direct, and visual.
These foundational elements will pave the way for stages two and three, planned for the next year (2019), to go beyond the post into page templates and ultimately, full site customization.”
In other words, Gutenberg will combine the best features from both DIY platforms (like Medium and Squarespace) and page-builder plugins such as Elementor and Divi to create multi-column layouts through a single interface. Howbeit, it won't necessarily replace these page builders.
THE CONTROVERSIAL RELEASE OF GUTENBERG
So here's the thing:
Based on the general reception and users review of Gutenberg, it seems that a part of the WordPress community is actually unimpressed with the new editor. Before the public release, Automattic decided to make Gutenberg available to users as a WordPress plugin to see users response. And boy, has it been getting bad-mouthed? A lot!
Look at this rating again, which comes from Gutenberg's plugin landing page on WordPress.org:
And let's even talk about the release date a bit. You know, WordPress 5.0 with the new editor was initially scheduled to be released in November 19, 2018.
But due to issues and slow general progress, the release date was moved to November 27. And yet again, it was further moved to December. On December 4, 2018, Matt Mullenweg made an announcement on the WordPress Make blog stating that the new target date for WordPress 5.0 release would be December 6, 2018.
The team managed to release it finally on the 3rd attempt on December 6, the same day PHP 7.3 was to be released. WordPress 5.0 included not only the new Block-based editor but also compatibility fixes for the new PHP version.
But the response from the WordPress community was not entirely impressive.
One WordPress user even described the first testing version of WordPress 5.0 as “unstable.” Yet, Matt Mullenweg went ahead with the release, citing “stability” and “testing” as reasons to move forward with the official release of WordPress 5.0.
“Based on the stability, testing, and reports on the release candidates for WordPress 5.0 so far, we are now targeting Thursday December 6th for public release and announcement. 5.0.1 will open for commits soon, and will be an area people can choose to focus on at the contributor day at WordCamp US in Nashville this Sunday.”
The announcement was unexpected because of so many outstanding issues needing to be resolved, including accessibility and lots of bugs. Some skeptics asked the question: Did Matt Mullenweg release WordPress 5.0 on the 6th of December so as to have something to say on his keynote address at WordCamp US 2018?
This rings bell when you realize that WordCamp (a WordPress conference) was scheduled for December 7 in Nashville, United States. After the release, WordPress 5.0 immediately upgraded to 5.0.2 within 2 weeks, a sign that WordPress 5.0 was not completely ready.
Notwithstanding, we think that Gutenberg is a great step-up for WordPress and that it holds better things than what most people say. And using Gutenberg is not entirely a must. Automattic made it possible for users to continue with the old editor if they were not happy with Gutenberg (more on that below).
The question to ask is:
IS GUTENBERG RIGHT FOR YOU?
Well, quite frankly, it's a matter of preference.
Like we mentioned earlier, Gutenberg is more than just a content editor. With it, you can build custom pages even without being fluent in HTML or any coding language for that matter.
You can control a website’s entire layout (both backend and frontend) from a single console without ever writing a single line of code. In our opinion, that's the #FutureofWebDevelopment.
Given the issues associated with the new editor, here are some precautions you can apply to be on the safe side if you want to be using Gutenberg.
Backup your site regularly
Perform a regular audit of your site
Update your WordPress theme, plugins, and core regularly
Check the health of your website frequently (you can do this using a plugin).
If you're not completely down with Gutenberg, you can still install the old editor and use that instead.
Matt even admitted it:
Yup, Gutenberg is set as the default editor in WordPress 5.0, but users still have the option of using the old editor. In WordPress 5.0, the old editor is called the “Classic” Editor and we understand why :-)
You can install it as a WordPress plugin and switch from the new default Gutenberg.
And if you need other useful content and SEO tools for your WordPress website, you can check out our array of free tools here. You can also learn more about running a great, SEO-optimized website on blog or simply join us on Facebook and Twitter.