WordPress 5.0: Gutenberg Editor and Other New Features
In an official recap post, the WordPress Foundation is aiming to release WordPress 5.0 on November 19th. That leaves you with less than two weeks to fully catch up with the newest features and to learn about the Gutenberg Editor.
In the past, new WordPress releases have been fairly straightforward with minor quality of life improvements. This trend of minor updates is about to change with the immediate release of Gutenberg — an entirely new way of publishing content with WordPress.
On the surface, it looks like WordPress 5.0 is changing the design of the default editor. And while this is true, Gutenberg introduces a completely new Blocks-based system. This is a system that’s going to affect the editor itself, themes, and a large proportion of your plugins.
As a result, it’s highly likely that your WordPress site is going to experience some technical errors. Testing the new release is going to be critical in ensuring that the transition is smooth and without hiccups along the way.
But, before we fully discuss the new Gutenberg Editor — let us take a closer look at everything else that’s going to change in WordPress 5.0!
WordPress 5.0 & Beyond
Starting from 2019 — WordPress is going to focus on major releases opposed to smaller patches with fewer changes. Whereas in the past you could count on 2 new version releases per year, the new system is going to introduce larger gaps between major releases, but with the promise of implementing changes that are going to feel substantial for the WordPress community as a whole.
And despite WordPress being the clear winner in the market share of popular CMS platforms, the new WordPress experience is focusing on adding tools that provide a streamlined page building experience. Competitor platforms like Wix, Squarespace and Joomla have shown rapid growth in the recent year. (Even if relatively tiny compared to the 60% market share that WordPress holds.)
How WordPress is going to expand upon its new content-building capacities remains a mystery.
Some WordPress developers have said that this new approach might stall the popularity of page-builder plugins like SiteOrigin, Elementor, Visual Composer, and others. We’ve yet to see how far WordPress wishes to take Gutenberg and its capacity to act as a full-fledged site building engine.
REST API Improvements
New updates to the REST API is going to make it easier to send and receive data from a WordPress site. As a result, developers are going to see a major change in the way that WordPress acts as a platform-building framework. Additionally, Gutenberg is heavily reliant on the Block API to let developers use Gutenberg as a means to develop new themes and plugins.
Introducing Block Templates
A block template is defined as a list of block items. Such blocks can have predefined attributes, placeholder content, and be static or dynamic. Block templates allow specifying a default initial state for an editor session.
Prior to Gutenberg, you had to have some development experience in order to create a custom WordPress design. Moreover, creating unique layout concepts would require extra work.
The introduction of Block Templates means you can rely solely on Blocks to create new and exciting WordPress themes. Blocks let you create pre-determined page styles that can be reused under any circumstances.
More information can be found inside the official Gutenberg Handbook provided by WordPress.
Classic Editor is Still Here
WordPress isn’t going to take away the Classic Editor immediately, which means that you will be able to switch between Gutenberg and old version of the editor.
As it happens, the community isn’t entirely over the moon with this new update, as can be seen on the Gutenberg Plugin page.
Out of 1,500 reviews — more than 800 are 1-star; the lowest rating possible. And the Classic Editor plugin currently has more than 500,000 active users.
It’s clear as day that there are mixed feelings on what Gutenberg is bringing forth, and understandably — WordPress must ensure that the grace period is long enough for people to make a decision.
Gutenberg Editor: A New Way to Publish With WordPress
Gutenberg is bringing forth a core-level change to the default WordPress editor. A new interface has been built to help you add, edit, and customize your content. The goal of Gutenberg is to make it simple for WordPress users to create media-rich pages using the Block interface. Page components are created through Block modules, which means that Blocks can be used for any part of your posts, pages, and homepage needs.
Gutenberg brings many changes to WordPress, but the biggest impact comes from the way it can enable a much clearer product architecture — one which enables modularity, consistency, and interoperability — and the positive impact that can have on the end user experience of WordPress.
In other words, WordPress is going to go through a modernization phase to catch up with the latest web technologies. This modernization is going to drastically change the way WordPress works, and introduce new ways of creating and sharing content. The goal isn’t to make Gutenberg as an alternative part of WordPress. Instead, the team is going to continue building upon this new system until it becomes the standard WordPress experience.
At the same time, developers might feel a little fearful with this new change as it requires of them to learn a new front-end language. While technically true, there are efforts being put forth by the community to minimize the effort needed in learning a new language. One such project is Stackable.
Stackable is an easy to use Gutenberg-based framework for creating websites. Yes, it’s a page builder. And yes, it’s built with Gutenberg. The Stackable website uses an all-Blocks structure and can be downloaded separately as a WordPress theme. This is the beginning of a new era for WordPress.
New Theme: Twenty Nineteen
As with all major updates, WordPress 5.0 comes with a unique default theme — Twenty Nineteen. This clean-slate theme showcases how Gutenberg works in the real world. The team’s goal is to make Twenty Nineteen an aesthetically pleasing theme for bloggers. But, also to fill the role of a business theme if necessary.
It’s going to be interesting to see where this new road is going to take us.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that the future of WordPress theme development lies in Gutenberg? Are you going to experiment with creating custom designs? Let us know in the comments!
A Word on “Gutenberg Compatible” Themes
There’s quite a bit of buzz surrounding the term ‘Gutenberg compatible’, and WP Tavern dedicated a separate post just to address the issue. Essentially, the term ‘Gutenberg compatible’ is pointless, since Gutenberg is becoming a de facto editor, rather than an optional plugin.
Nevertheless, developers are being keen on marking and tagging their themes as Gutenberg-friendly. Having said that, there’s definitely a few new functions that are going to be theme specific. But, not nearly as major as some would like to imply.
For example, developers can apply theme stylesheet to the Gutenberg editor, which lets you preview your post in real-time. This kind of functionality would only work if it was built inside the theme core, specifically.
Laurel Fulford, theme developer at Automattic, wrote a detailed post on ThemeShaper — showcasing the process of styling themes for Gutenberg compatibility. It’s a good introductory read to understand Gutenberg’s functionality beyond content preparation and writing.
Try Gutenberg Editor in Your Browser
WordPress has been kind enough to give both new and existing users a chance to try out Gutenberg from the browser. If you head over to www.wordpress.org/gutenberg/ — you’re going to see a live introduction to the new editor, with detailed explanations for its many features.
Most importantly, you can edit content in real-time and see how it would look. This is the same Gutenberg experience you’re going to get come WordPress 5.0!
How to Prepare for Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0
Being a major release, there’s no denying that WordPress users should remain cautious with upgrading to the latest WP 5.0 version. Chances are, things are going to break, and unless you’re being mindful — you could end up in a mess that could have been easily avoided.
The three most important aspects of this transition are going to be theme & plugin compatibility, pre-Gutenberg content, and site backups. Let’s take a look at each one.
Theme & Plugin Compatability in Gutenberg
Many developers and designers are already making strides in ensuring that their plugins and themes work flawlessly with WordPress 5.0!
But, many of us use plugins that haven’t been updated in months, years even. And such outdated plugins could cause some interesting compatibility issues. To work around this issue, we recommend that you individually check your plugins and themes, and see whether they can be used in the newest WordPress version.
In some cases, you simply won’t have a choice to choose between an alternative plugin and/or theme. This is something you must prepare for individually, as WordPress doesn’t provide any guarantees or contingencies on its own.
Pre-Gutenberg Content (Classic Editor)
What’s going to happen with the content that you wrote with the Classic WordPress Editor? Well, it’s not going anywhere, at least not yet. Once Gutenberg is active and you navigate to a post that you wrote in the Classic Editor — you’re going to see the following screen.
What you see above is the old WordPress editor embedded inside the Gutenberg editor.
This is done so that your old content can retain its format and presentation. You have two choices, either stick with leaving old content as it is or convert your old posts into Gutenberg Blocks. The option to convert is found inside the Settings dashboard attached to every TinyMCE editor.
Both options work great, and whether you should convert is going to be largely based on whether you want to keep those posts updated, or simply because of a personal preference.
Site Backups (Do you even staging site?)
Backups aren’t going to be an issue if you keep both a Live and Staging version of your site. Staging sites are essentially clones of your production site. A Staging Site enables you to test new features, scripts, plugins, etc. without the worry of affecting your live audience. If you’re unsure whether you have access to a Staging site, ask your hosting company for clarification.
In most cases, the average WordPress user relies on one (live) version of the site. As a result, embracing a major update such as WordPress 5.0 requires a bit of thinking ahead. Creating a full backup of your WordPress site before you activate WordPress 5.0 will save you a headache in case things do break.
And while WordPress provides an inbuilt backup feature, it’s hardly sufficient to ensure minimal loss of data. For this purpose, please check out our WordPress Backup Plugins post, packed with details and tips on how to choose a reliable backup plugin for your site.
Last but not least, it’s critically important that you don’t hit the ‘Update Now’ button for WordPress 5.0 before you have everything backed up and stored securely.
Just like waves in the ocean that cannot be stopped, neither can we stall the release of Gutenberg. The time for change is now. Both casual users and developers will have to go through an adaptation process. And only then, many months later, will we start to see the first signs of Gutenberg’s success. Whether it’s going to be a success remains unknown.
We’re eagerly looking forward to this new chapter for all WordPress users. Most of all, we truly hope that you enjoyed this summary of WordPress 5.0, the Gutenberg Editor, and the foreseeable future of the WordPress community.
The comment section down below is where you can share your thoughts and opinions on this new and exciting update.