Gutenberg Press

Gutenberg is on its way

Gutenberg is the new WordPress Editor, currently being built and tested as a plugin. It is expected to be integrated into WordPress core at version 5.0, with an estimated release date of April 2018.

These last few months, there has been a lot of talk in the WordPress-sphere about the new Editor and, unfortunately, not all of it is very positive. Whilst some people fear that it will create a big learning curve for the end user, others are anxious about the effect it will have on their plugins or themes, and some even resent it as the imposition of an unnecessary change.

Even though all these concerns have a basis, I truly believe we should focus on the bigger picture and embrace the improvements in user experience Gutenberg will bring.

Here's why:

Page Builders, Hate to Love Them

I recently had a contract job with a web design agency temporarily short of coders. They relied very heavily on using a very popular page builder for a lot of their work.

My initial reaction was of utter shock at the painful bloating the website endures as a consequence of adding, to my view, a completely unnecessary layer.

But that was soon followed by an admiration of the cleverness and practicality of it all.

Yes, most of it can be done with much lighter CSS and a few simple lines of Javascript.

But, after all, can you honestly write a theme that will give users all the different options a Page Builder provides? Go on, try it. You will probably end up with a massive stylesheet and "a few" extra lines of javascript, plus a long list of classes and instructions for your client to learn… It won't be the most user-friendly experience, will it?

Yet, despite the "super powers" they provide to the average editor, you should always ask yourself whether the extra jazziness truly compensates the slower website you will end up with. Unfortunately, on many occasions, the answer is probably not.

It will not be included in the first release but, the plan seems to be that, eventually, Gutenberg will allow everyone to design the whole site, including page header, title, footer, and sidebar. And so, Page Builders and Theme developers will probably become redundant.

Loss of Livelihood

Is it fair that Page Builders, and maybe even Theme developers, will no longer be needed? Does it matter that it may force many plugin developers to re-write and test a lot of their code?

By democratising web design, some specialised products and skills will be no longer be needed.

Obviously, it is up to you to decide whether this is great, or unfair, or simply just the way the cookie crumbles. I, myself, lean towards the latter.

It is in the nature of every single job in IT that sooner or later we find ourselves facing technology changes. It is also common that we have to keep on learning and adapting to those changes. Whoever is unhappy about this is in the wrong trade.

I'll give you an example. In a previous life incarnation, I was a Network Support Engineer, working in a fantastic team of engineers. Most of our systems were built on Novell servers. Has anyone actually even heard of Novell, nowadays? No, I didn't think so.

So, did I waste those 4 years of my professional life? Of course not. Because it is only one part of my technical knowledge that became redundant. The concepts and the "soft skills" are still useful. Everyone's previous experience enriches and helps them build on their future knowledge and skills.

Gutenberg's Steep Learning Curve

And here comes the "last but not least" section of my rant… Gutenberg is very different from the current editor, TinyMCE. There is no doubt it will mean a very steep learning curve for a lot of end-users.

But this is also a problem quite easy to solve. All we need to do, as WordPress professionals, is to start using Gutenberg and spread the knowledge!

Some useful resources

I would recommend everyone to start by installing the Gutenberg Plugin and, if you come across any bugs, report them. It is still in Beta after all!.

After you have learnt it, why not write about it on your blog? or give a talk at your local meetup?

There are also quite a few talks on the topic on the WordPress TV channel. Plus, Mathias Ventura's live demonstration during the State of the Word (minute 33:50) at this year's WordCamp US is super inspiring.

I would also recommend Mathias's article "Gutenberg or the Ship of Theseus" for some information on the thinking behind the project.

Of course, if you are a Javascript or React developer, you can also get involved in the building or testing of Gutenberg by joining the Make WordPress – Core – Editor team.

At the end of the day, all improvements to WordPress are good for those who use it.