The WordPress “Gutenberg” Roll Out: everything you need to know from Zebra 360

When you hear ‘Gutenberg’, your mind probably goes straight to the famous bible. The launch of the Gutenberg printing press was one of the most profound, society-changing moments in the history of literacy- will WordPress be able to live up to that gutsy name choice with it’s new ‘Gutenberg’ WordPress Editor? Zebra 360 takes a look.

It’s pretty obvious that WordPress is one of the most popular Web content management in the world today. The latest data suggests over 74 million websites use WordPress technology- or something like 25% of the web. So any changes- let alone large overhauls like this- are worthy of taking note. The Gutenberg editor is all set to replace the original ‘visual’ editor totally, and with an ambitious title, they clearly expect it to be a game-changer… but do expectations mirror reality?

What Gutenberg does for WordPress

The aim is laudable- new features, more user-friendliness in the layout, and much less clutter. You should be able to build, maintain and grow sites with far less effort than before. In fact, it mimics the existing ‘upfront’ builder plugin in the flexibility it brings, allowing you to easily position media, add buttons, links and icons, and set up text styles.

  1. Improved layout

That’s not what will strike you first, though. That’s the increased content creation space. Long a bone of contention for users, the tiny, cluttered text area has been opened up, and the default layout can be improved on through ‘post settings’ to give you even more space. This means a lot of familiar spacing and formatting options have been moved around. They’re all still there, behind an ‘insert’ button, however.

2. Better mobile usage

It’s no secret more and more of us access the web from our mobile devices, so this change is refreshing too. A fully responsive layout makes navigation much easier on small screens.

3. Quicker tables and embedding

Another long-time bugbear of the old interface was the impossibility of creating a single table without plugins, but that has been addressed. Embedding external content is also easier than before, and covers far more options.

4. A table of contents

Perhaps fitting given the name, Gutenberg also rolls out a table of contents to help you stay on top of everything, showing you what content is on your page currently.

5. Blocks get a boost

HTML blocks can be previewed easily now, meaning you don’t need the cumbersome switch from ‘text’ to ‘visual’ mode any more to see your code’s front-end. A ‘recent’ feature has been added to show you the last element block/embedded element you used to help speed up repetitive actions too.

It’s not all perfect though, of course- as with anything related to IT, the question is always ‘do the positives outweigh the negatives’ and ‘what future potential does this have’? Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

Where does the Gutenberg WordPress Editor stumble?

There isn’t too much downside to the Gutenberg Editor, but there are some points the design team need to address- and swiftly.

  1. Some custom plugins suffer

As with any new roll-out, not all custom content has been accommodated. It’s a big deal, though, as so many websites rely on existing custom plugins to shape their personality. Yoast SEO and some other notable third-party plugins are not yet compatible with the interface. Given the number and versatility of plugins open to users, it’s important they address this fast. Fortunately, the developers of these useful tools are likely to be on it, but that’s a lot of extra work for everyone involved.

2. Some basics got sticky

Surprisingly, they’ve missed something obvious- many of us compose our content elsewhere, not directly on WordPress. Copy/pasting on the new interface requires a ton of re-formatting, which really isn’t acceptable when you’ve already done the work once. Needing to create blocks for every paragraph of simple text is a little irritating too. Lastly, the inability to change custom elements to different colours without deep-level CSS tweaking shows a slight lack of foresight.

Key questions on backward compatibility exist

These complaints are small fry, however. The big question: Is Gutenberg fully backwards compatible? It’s not a big question, it’s actually a HUGE question. Microsoft has long staved off some of the worst criticisms of their many faults by at least ensuring the Windows OS and Office Suites can always reliably handle anything that’s gone before, so you lose nothing when they upgrade. If Gutenberg becomes the core code of WordPress 5.0, will we be able to say the same? Only time will tell, but it’s a legitimate concern given the current incompatibility with some plugins.

So what’s the Zebra360 verdict?

Gutenberg has a lot of promise, and shows a smart eye towards the future. A new-and-improved content editor for WordPress has been long overdue. Its rollout has been impressive, too, showing a lot of care in addressing the faults of earlier versions. It runs smoothly, delivering on several promises nicely. Most of its current snags are nothing that future updates can’t iron out easily, and only to be expected. However, questions over the backwards compatibility could well lead to a lot of redesign work being needed for teams everywhere, so whether it’s quite ready for a roll-out as a core component still remains to be seen.

Here at Zebra 360, we’re choosing to play it safe for our valued clients. Gutenberg is likely to become a core interface over time, and we’d rather face the issues of getting plugins and beloved featured migrated before any potential issues become site-breaking. This enables us to harness the best of both worlds. With this in mind, we’re already busy preparing to slowly roll the Gutenberg editor across our sites through the year-end, taking advantage of its best features and ensuring the best friends of all- time and experience- stay firmly on our side to ensure it goes off without a hitch.

Looking to take advantage of the vast social media marketing knowledge of the Zebra 360 team? Want to find out more about the Gutenberg Editor? Feel free to get in touch with us today.