This is an update of an article published October 26.
WordPress 5.0 was released on December 6. It included the new page editor, Gutenberg.
I have watched the Gutenberg project from its infancy two years ago. From then till now, I have seen many iterations of this block editing system that forever replaces TinyMCE (now called “The Classic Editor”) which has been in use since WP’s earliest days 15 years ago.
Gutenberg is a revolutionary change in how site owners, content creators, developers, and others will work with WordPress. As such, it has been met with much controversy and not just because humans are resistant to any change – especially big ones.
Here is some of the pushback I’ve heard over the past two years:
- Gutenberg does not solve many of the fundamental problems presented by the Classic Editor.
- Because many of Gutenberg’s features are contextual and hidden until called into use, it is difficult to learn and use.
- Gutenberg is not nearly as feature-rich as page builders such as Visual Composer, Divi, and Elementor.
- Gutenberg was supposed to give us a more WYSIWYG experience replacing the Mystery Meat adventure you get when creating a page only to see it appear as something very different.
Perhaps worst of all, many have felt that the Gutenberg team – now in the hundreds from the world over – has not carefully paid sufficient attention to feedback it has received from users like me.
Despite all the sturm und drang, Gutenberg was launched in WordPress 5.0. It is the first step in the future of a new WordPress.
The question I know you’re asking is: “What Will Happen To My Site Now That Gutenberg Is Here?”
I had a feeling that’s why you’re here.
Having looked carefully at about 30 sites over the past 4 months, and having seen how it was rolled out, the bottom line is that the vast majority of sites will transition well in WP 5.0.
Let me screenshot you through how you can improve your experience working with the Gutenberg editor.
This is the editor you already know. It’s the Classic Editor. This page features text wrapping around the left side of an image.
Below is the same page using the Gutenberg editor.
What happens is that all content will be placed in one block which is called “Classic”. The appearance is completely unaffected but you are left with a less than ideal editing experience.
If you click anywhere inside the Classic block, you’ll get a set of tool bars that will look very familiar.
But it’s still not a good editing experience. How would you add images to the page?
I strongly suggest that you convert the Classic block into Gutenblocks by clicking on the vertical ellipsis (upper left corner) which opens an options panel. Then choosing Convert To Blocks.
The result will be a page where images, paragraphs, and other content types will be separated into individual blocks like this.
Notice the tool bar is gone. Now it will be much easier to add, remove, and edit content since you’ll be using the Gutenblocks.
Moral of the story: All pre-existing content will be placed into a single Classic block when WP 5.0 is installed. You will find that difficult to work with. Convert the Classic block into Gutenblocks and it will be much easier to edit the page.
But What If You Don’t Want Gutenberg. What To Do?
For any number of reasons, Gutenberg may not be good for you. In that case you must use the Classic Editor plugin. That way you’ll take advantage of the security and other enhancements of WordPress 5.0 without seeing a trace of Gutenberg.
The Classic Editor plugin is expected to be supported for the foreseeable (some say forever) future. This option is a must if your site uses page builders like Visual Composer or Divi that rely upon shortcodes in order for them to work.
Here’s Divi with Gutenberg.
See what I mean?
Your page will look the same as always to visitors – but how will you edit this? You won’t. For now you will need the Classic Editor. I suggest you have it installed and activated before you update to WP 5.0. But in case you don’t, you will be ok if you install the Classic Editor plugin after you’ve updated to 5.0.
This will allow you to use Divi (or any page builder) since the Classic Editor plugin removes Gutenberg.
If later on you decide you want to use Gutenberg you can deactivate the Classic Editor plugin. All of your content will be placed in the Classic block as describe above.
What Happens To The Gutenberg Plugin When You Update To WordPress 5.0?
This is easy. The Gutenberg plugin will automatically be deactivated once you are using WordPress 5.0. Go ahead and delete the Gutenberg plugin as you won’t need that anymore.
What Comes Next?
Ostensibly the Gutenberg project was launched to meet and beat the nascent competition such as Wix, Medium, and Squarespace. While those systems have a very small market share, they do pose a threat to the future of WP. Gutenberg is very much a response to what its developers believe are the desires of web site users and builders.
What was released in WP 5.0 is only the beginning. In its immediate future you can expect small changes that will improve Gutenberg’s first release. It may be similar to a software update to a cellphone.
But in the next 10 – 15 years major changes to WP will come your way. Next up is some kind of merger between Gutenberg and the Customizer (the Custom option in the Appearance section). Eventually you’ll be able to arrange all content elements – headers, footers, sidebars, and page content – in a drag and drop environment. You’ll be doing this from the front end of your site. You’ll still login, but you won’t have the need to go back and forth between WP Admin and your site to design and develop it.
No one knows exactly how the smart people will figure it out, but I’m betting that they do.