How Gutenberg Could Change WordPress Forever

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Since its inception, the WordPress platform has been all about one thing; user experience. Initially, this content generation and website creation system was designed to give users the ability to create gorgeous websites limited only by their imaginations. However, in recent years, the platform has become more complicated. Users without advanced web design training have become frustrated with the limitations their lack of coding knowledge creates when trying to design the website of their dreams.

WordPress has been aware of such frustrations, and have responded with Gutenberg, a new publishing experience which is designed to simplify and streamline the experience, without fundamentally changing WordPress as a platform. If this sounds like a tall order, it is. WordPress has spent an extraordinary amount of time and money fine tuning this upcoming advancement in an attempt to rewrite the book on user experience while not alienating those already accustomed to their services.

What is Gutenberg

The Gutenberg editor is a block-based content creation system that brings the quality of modern coding standards to the average WordPress user. This new system is also more in line with open web initiatives. Using Gutenberg, users will be able to create more intuitive and attractive content, regardless of their coding experience.

WordPress chose to name their new system after famed inventor Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the movable type printing press in 1440. This name is no coincidence, as WordPress is setting up lofty expectations for the long-term impact they’re expecting this system to have. The printing press was one of the most important inventions in human history. Its ability to mass produce content created a spread of literacy, placing books in the hands of commoners for the first time. Its creation also led to the invention of the newspaper, allowing all to be informed as to the happenings of the world. Many attribute this advancement to the birth of democracy itself.

With such a powerful name behind it, WordPress certainly seems to be shooting for the moon. The company believes that, much like the invention of the printing press, Gutenberg will place power in the hands of ordinary people. In the early 1400s, only the very wealthy had access to books and the ability to read. Once the printing press started mass producing literary works, knowledge spread like wildfire. WordPress believes that Gutenberg will create a similar ripple effect. Whereas once the ability to create dazzling and intricate websites rested solely in the hands of coding wizards, now the average person will have the full power of WordPress at their fingertips.

What are Blocks?

Gutenberg runs primarily using blocks, which are meant to change how users and developers interact with the program. But what is a block?

Blocks are unified content style tools which use shortcodes, widgets, embeds, post formats, meta-boxes, theme options, custom post formats, and other formatting elements to allow for deeper customization with no code writing. While describing Gutenberg, WordPress said, “blocks make good on the promise of WordPress: broad functionality with a clear, consistent user experience.”

The block system works a lot like the building blocks you may have played with as a child. It simplifies elements of web design such as media inclusion, social media content, polls, excerpts, shortcodes, embedded links, widgets and more into a series of blocks which can be shifted around the page.

For example, if you’re a company looking to list a number of products or services, you design a block which is formatted exactly the way you want each item to look. Maybe it’s a photo on the left, with a caption beneath, a title, some content about the item, and a buy link. Instead of having to create this same concept over and over again with code, you can just grab your block and drag it into place. Then you fill in the content.

How Will Gutenberg be Released?

WordPress plans to release Gutenberg in three stages. Stage one is targeted for a release that would make it available for the WordPress 5.0 platform. The first step of their plan involves Gutenberg being used for post editing and block implementation. This is a content heavy approach which will give users the opportunity to focus on how their content will look outside of traditional configuration options. WordPress is hoping that this initial rollout will give users the opportunity to understand how easy it is to use Gutenberg to create engaging visual content before the full release.

Stages two and three will arrive the following year and will allow users to take Gutenberg into page templates and total customization of their sites.

Because this is such a huge change, WordPress is ensuring that existing functionality will continue to work as developers transition into the new system. They are confident that plugin and theme developers will be able to create a more engaging and visual experience than ever before.

Compatibility Concerns

With any new technology there are concerns regarding developers’ ability to transition. With blocks becoming the new status quo for content features, WordPress is recommending that migration of existing features begin as soon as possible. Despite that, existing WordPress functionality will remain, and the company plans to create transition paths for developers to follow.

Shortcodes will continue working throughout WordPress with no changes. A shortcode block has been created to help developers streamline the process of inserting them. Some meta-boxes will need updates, and several can be converted to native blocks. Gutenberg will also have a mechanism for conflicting meta-boxes which will allow them to load the classic editor instead. Though certain meta-boxes which rely on the structure of the current WordPress editing screen are not guaranteed to work with Gutenberg.

The Future of WordPress

WordPress is going all-in on this new platform and is hoping to change the face of website design forever. The company hopes that individual users and developers will embrace the new system, however they have also provided an officially supported plugin that disables Gutenberg entirely.

An early version of Gutenberg is currently available as a plugin.

The team at 9Sail looks forward to the release of Gutenberg and working within the platform to provide the very best in search engine optimization services. For more information on 9Sail, or to get a free website audit, contact us here.


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