Does your company website or blog run on WordPress? You’ll be facing some big changes soon.
Responding to competition from visual website creators like Wix, the latest version of WordPress will have a different look and feel.
We don’t actually know when WordPress5.0 will be released, but we do know that one of the main changes will be the introduction of a new page and blog post editor called Gutenberg.
Named for Johannes Gutenberg, the German printer who introduced the printing press to Europe in the 15th century, the new editor makes it easy to create high-quality, media rich pages.
With the current WordPress editor, users are faced with a blank text window where they can insert paragraphs, pictures and more.
But the Microsoft Word-esque editor can be clunky, especially when you’re dealing with visual and interactive media such as photos, featured images and embed codes for social media and YouTube videos.
To insert these kinds of media into the current WordPress editor takes a wide mix of approaches that are not always intuitive.
The new Gutenberg editor makes it easy to create dynamic page layouts and impressive visual editors. It also enables new features like dropcaps and columns that were not available as standard on previous versions of WordPress.
How Gutenberg works
Gutenberg ditches the classic ‘WYSIWYG’ editor for a block-based page builder. With very little technical know-how, the block system allows page creators to insert, rearrange and style different types of content.
You can insert paragraph blocks, image blocks, cover image blocks, heading blocks, quote blocks, list blocks, gallery blocks and many more. Instead of using code, you add content visually – building up a full-page block by block.
You can customise each block to give it its own layout and settings. You may need a developer to set each block up for you, but once you have a styled-up block, you can save it to be reused time and again.
See what the new editor can do on the Gutenberg test site.
Create something beautiful – Create rich visuals on your blog posts and pages faster and more intuitively. Visual assets like cover images, images and videos all enhance written content, drawing your audience in and helping you promote your products and services.
Website maintenance – Getting a developer in to make minor website changes is tough. Many developers won’t accept this kind of work without an expensive retainer in place. And if they do, you’re likely to pay over the offs for a simple job like editing content assets.
Gutenberg makes a lot of simple editing jobs easy, so you will be able to complete them yourself with limited technical know-how. Gutenberg makes WordPress work more like the Wix website builder and the Medium blogging platform.
Ditch your designer – Who needs designers anymore? Once you have your basic design elements in place and have created some basic design policies, you won’t need a designer for most day to day website management tasks.
Mobile friendly – Mobile web traffic overtook desktop browsing for the first time in 2016. More potential customers are visiting your website on mobile devices, so you need to make sure your site is optimised to meet their needs.
Gutenberg works very well on mobile, with blocks automatically snapping into an ordered place on different screen sizes. The editor is also easy to use on mobile, so you can create and edit content on the go.
Website branding – Good website branding requires some uniformity across pages and blog posts. Uniformity also makes it easier for visitors to navigate your site. Because you can save and re-use content blocks, Gutenberg can help you achieve uniformity and avoid building a Frankenstein website.
eCommerce boost – Generally speaking, WordPress isn’t a particularly good as a business level eCommerce solution. Because most eCommerce sites use products contained within blocks, WordPress 5.0 could become more online seller-friendly.
New features – There are some new features that were previously unavailable on WordPress editor, or else were only available with the use of third-party plug-ins or the help of a gifted developer. You can use new features like columns, table contents and dropcaps.
Change your mind – If you decide that you don’t like using Gutenberg, you can always switch back to the Classic Editor. You can continue working on this until everybody feels comfortable transitioning to the new editor.
Problems with launching – At least initially, there is a good chance that Gutenberg will not play nicely with the rest of your website. WordPress 5.0 isn’t out yet and it is unlikely that all your plug-ins will be compatible with the new editor.
These issues will be fixed quickly with large plug-ins, but it may take a little longer for smaller plug-ins to become Gutenberg compatible. Make sure you test everything in a sandbox environment before putting it live on your website.
Developer set-up – Although Gutenberg makes it easy to create beautiful content without a lot of technical coding knowledge, you may still need a developer to help you set up and style the blocks. If you use an agency to create your website, they should create the blocks for you as part of the service.
Old blog posts look different – Your Gutenberg blog posts won’t look like your classic WordPress blog posts. This shouldn’t be a massive deal. Websites change all the time and previous posts aren’t updated – just look how the BBC News website has changed since 1997.
If you did want to make sure all your old posts looked like the new ones, then this would be a big task.
Learning curve – We have billed Gutenberg as a simple and easy to understand system, but there are always learning curves with these kinds of things. New users and people who have only used the classic WordPress editor may struggle with Gutenberg at first, but getting comfortable with Gutenberg shouldn’t take too long.
eCommerce bumps – eCommerce sites can be complicated and not one-size-fits-all. Switching to a new editor could have some unexpected effects on any eCommerce website that will require fixing. More extensive training will also be necessary on eCommerce sites using the new editor.
Should I get Gutenberg?
WordPress 5.0 has not been released yet, but you can download the new editor now. While the possibilities for Gutenberg are strong, we do not recommend rushing to install it on your site.
Make no mistake about it though, Gutenberg is coming whether you like it or not. The new editor will take some getting used to. But we think that, eventually, the benefits will outweigh the costs.
Gutenberg represents a major change to your WordPress website and if you have plugins on your site, there is no guarantee that these will continue working after you install Gutenberg.
Put simply, Gutenberg could break your website. This is probably reflected by the number of one-star reviews the editor has collected on its download page.
Because it is such a fundamental change to your blog or website, we recommend that you test how your website responds on a sandbox server first, without launching the website live to the public. We can help you do this if you are unsure how its done.
Take your time with Gutenberg, read our list of pros and cons to get a clearer picture of how the editor will benefit your site and how you expect to use it. Then make sure you test everything before you go live.
If you have already installed Gutenberg and want to revert to the classic editor, you can download it here.