A new way to publish content with WordPress
By: Scott Winterroth
For content creators, the WordPress publishing experience can be rather rigid. For years, it was acceptable to “have any type of blog post you want, so long as it fits into a vertical rectangle.” This uniformity is for a reason as standardization allows for theme and plugin developers to create a host of pluggable features and templates. In the early days of WordPress, the content area provided theme and plugin developers a vertical box to work around knowing the user was going to add all of their blog post content within one area. This was the norm for at least a decade, until recently.
As the growth of mobile device traffic leveled up with desktops combined with the need for long-form content, creators looked for new ways to format text heavy multimedia content. The solution, Page Builders.
Visual page builders have become increasingly popular among the content creators who rely on them as a no-coding alternative for manipulating WordPress page and post layouts. Fans of page builders love them for their plentiful features that manipulate the WordPress content editor to create visual page and post layouts. Often from the front-end side of the WordPress site where they can visually interact with their content.
Critics of page builders cite long-term problems when unknowing users look to change their theme and find years of content in disarray because of how page builders display dynamic content on the theme level. A concept that is against the grain of the core WordPress community which celebrates uniformity and backward compatibility by the separation of content and presentation through templating. (A.K.A. Themes) WordPress core features provide the ability to create and manage large volumes of content that can be easily redesigned when a user activates a new theme.
WordPress responds with its own visual builder
The WordPress Core Team is preparing its own answer to page builders like Divi, Beaver Builder and Visual Composer with a major update to the WordPress content editor. Scheduled for 2018, the WordPress 5.0 release will include the Gutenberg Editor which is the first major update to the built-in WordPress content editor in many years. With this update, WordPress leaders hope the Gutenberg Editor will revolutionize the web publishing experience enough to win back what some feel was a neglected aspect of the software. Gutenberg contributors assure their new editor will allow almost all WordPress users to layout content visually while avoiding the headache of fixing content issues whey they change themes.
WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg stated in a post that he stands behind the new Gutenberg Editor implying the new user interface is revolutionary and required to help the popular website content management software remain competitive within the increasingly crowded web publishing software space.
Since June 2017, a Gutenberg Editor beta tester plugin allowed users an early access preview of new editor setup but early reviews from within WordPress’ loyal fanbase have come back mixed. The new editor’s “block style” format completely transforms a rather untouched aspect of the core WordPress software that some have either grown fond of the simplicity or exploited the editor for profit with the launch plugins and themes that manipulate it. Many of which will no longer be compatible as Gutenberg also comes with a change in programmatic language used to both build it and hook services into it.
The Gutenberg Editor’s key feature includes a series of new content blocks that allow users to arrange content in a modular format rather than compose a large amount of text in a word processing fashion. The new blocks ranging from a standard “text editor” block that mimics the current editor to a host of formatting tools such as image blocks, quote blocks, list blocks, buttons, headings and more. The Gutenberg Editor will also support the ability for developers to create additional “Guten” blocks that will likely appear in the form of both free and premium 3rd party plugins and themes.
The Gutenberg Editor is not just a change to the content composition area but also brings user interface changes to the overall edit page and post screens.
For most everyday content creators, this may not be big deal but Gutenberg pushes WordPress into a new era. Moving the content publishing experience beyond a simple composition editor and into a block-based visual layout builder. A move that both excites and worries some.
Is it goodbye to the standard blog post layout?
For decades, blog posts came in one tried-and-true format. The 1/3 layout, one large area block of copy with a slimmer sidebar of widgets next to the copy. This format started to fade with the adoption of mobile responsive design. Sidebar areas started to become obsolete as they fell far below the bottom of the post content on slim mobile screens. Some blog developers and theme builders decided to then just remove post and page sidebars completely.
With a wider content area, the door opened for a new type of problem. What do you do with a full-width page? The answer landed somewhere between more photos, larger fonts, and columns of content.
With more room, content creators opt for new page builders to fill the extra space left behind and utilize the builders no-code needed solution.
This brings us to today. Page Builders filled a gap in WordPress’ capabilities. Now, with the fast-tracked Gutenberg Editor prepping for WordPress 5.0, the leadership team hopes this new way of publishing – named after a rather old 15th-century inventor who revolutionized free thought – will be their answer to press the competition.
What Content Creators need to know:
Starting in WordPress 5.0, the Gutenberg Editor will be the default content publishing experience. A release date for WordPress 5.0 has yet to be announced.
Gutenberg will likely work alongside existing page builders, themes, and plugins, but with any major release, it’s best to backup your work before you update.
Previous posts and pages should not be affected by the release of the Gutenberg Editor but some older themes may not play nice with the new editor.
It’s highly recommended to give the Gutenberg beta tester plugin a spin before you migrate to WordPress 5.0 upon its release. Check with your hosting company to see if you can create a text environment or staging site to replicate your live site into a private sandbox area before you make any changes to your live production website. Always backup WordPress before you upgrade to a newer version or change a theme.
Gutenberg will provide new ways of laying out blog post and page content but the standard vertical rectangle will still be an option.
Much of the existing WordPress training and tutorials on the web will be out of date, be sure to identify when the training video was made and if it’s pre or post-Gutenberg era.
There’s a lot of hype and negative feedback surrounding the Gutenberg Editor, it’s really a matter of personal preference but it’s likely not going to change your overall content strategy that much. Create content, publish!
Major differences for content creators:
- Gutenberg is a different type of editor with content modules
- Completely different look and feel
- The WordPress permalink URL editor is not as front and center
- New “Blocks”
- New “Embed” blocks
- Move blocks up and down arrows
- New settings control fly out
- Moved preview and publish button
The history of the WordPress
Stay in the know, we’ll update this post with any major information regarding the Gutenberg Project as it becomes available.
- December 3 – Matt Mullenweg delivers the 2017 State of the Word address at WordCamp US (Nashville, TN). Mattias provides a working demo to the audience.
- December 2 – WordPress US conference schedule, Matt Mullenweg to speak at the annual State of the Word conference. Gutenberg likely to be on Matt’s docket.
- November 15 – WordPress 4.9 Released