What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg Editor is a brand new editor set to replace the current WordPress Editor. It is intended to upgrade the writing experience within WordPress and will become a part of WP core in version 5.0. While there has been a lot of mixed opinions surrounding the update, the core team is committed to this upgrade, and it is planned to go into effect sometime in 2018.
Whether you’re happy about it and cannot wait to learn the new editor, or you’re going to revert to the old editor asap via a plugin, you should at the very least have an idea of what to expect when the new editor becomes part of WordPress core. If you haven’t already tested Gutenberg, I strongly recommend doing so here at this test site. You can also download and install the plugin onto your own site via the plugin here.
Gutenberg and Kadence Themes
Let’s make it clear here that Kadence Themes products support and are compatible with Gutenberg. We’ve been testing and working with it for some time and we’ve already added in extra styles and support to make your experience using the Gutenberg editor better. More on that later.
What Changes with Gutenberg?
The classic text editor along with the editing page will be replaced with a more modern writing experience made of various “blocks.” With the addition of these “blocks,” editing page content will be more of a visual representation of what you get on the front end.
The blocks layout is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, and the user interface is getting better all the time as it’s being updated. In general, most content written in the “classic” non-Gutenberg editor can transfer into Gutenberg without any issues. Gutenberg places the classic content into a classic block, and while you have less control over that block than in the actual classic editor, it will at least preserve what you have without losing things when you switch to the Gutenberg editor.
For anyone using really custom content in their classic editor, for example, you’re adding raw HTML or scripts or you’re using a plugin to embed content into the editor, I suggest being cautious about editing those posts/pages in Gutenberg and making sure to have the classic editor plugin installed so you can easily edit complex posts in the editor you created them in.
The Good in Gutenberg
While there is certainly room to improve Gutenberg, and we will get to some of the biggest needs in a second, it is an improvement as a basic content editor. Trying to do anything custom in the classic editor was tricky at best, and not at all user-friendly. For example, something like adding a button to your page usually required a custom shortcode and then it was hard to get it to align exactly how you wanted. And speaking of aligning things, spacing was always an issue when doing anything more than text. Hitting the return key a couple times to give yourself some space only to have that gap disappear if you were in the text editor was not a good user experience and the classic editor is full of these types of experiences.
Gutenberg solves a lot of what makes the Classic editor really hard to work with when wanting to create better content than a simple page with text. Like everything, there is a learning curve, but there is no comparison (once all the bugs are ironed out and it’s released into the core – hopefully in that order) that this is a better editing experience, even if not perfect.
New WordPress users who haven’t had experience with the original editor should have an easier time getting started adding content than before.
A Content Editor
Because of how poor the editing experience is in the classic editor, many solutions have been built for WordPress to help the page building and editing experience. These “Page Builders” are very popular and can help people accomplish a lot of amazing sites with relative ease.
One of the easiest ways to critique Gutenberg is to compare it with a good Page Builder, like Elementor, Brizy and even SiteOrigins Page Builder. Gutenberg isn’t really a fully featured Page Builder, and it is best to approach it that way when assessing its value and usefulness. While Gutenberg has some page building potential (that we are even going to help unlock), it’s hard to imagine it truly being comparable with something like Elementor or Brizy within the next year. But that doesn’t make it bad. It instead becomes more about what you need to build, and if you need to build with a fully featured page builder then you should probably not use Gutenberg. But for the vast majority of sites we see being built with a page builder, Gutenberg is going to be able to accomplish what many people are currently using a page builder for. This is mostly because people are using full page builders to escape from the classic editor experience. Gutenberg, with the help of some page building blocks, is really going to make it easier for people to create the content they want in the native editing experience of WordPress and that is a great thing.
Though it’s not an all-out page builder, we suggest giving Gutenberg a chance. It should be a welcome addition to your writing experience. It doesn’t have to take the place of page builders for you, but it can be a new tool to add to your site building. There are going to be things you can do in Gutenberg that were never an option before in the classic editor.
Extending its ability to create more dynamic content is something we are helping to make happen by releasing Kadence Blocks – a Gutenberg Page Builder Toolkit. We are adding some blocks that will target many of the things we see people wanting to do the most often with a page builder and enabling this in Gutenberg. Things like custom column layouts with tablet and mobile collapse control, full-width call to action sections with full-width parallax backgrounds, image overlay links, icons, advanced headings, tabs, and so on. We just recently released version 1.0 with the key addition of the Row Layout block which is the foundation for creating better content in Gutenberg. We have plans add much more in the coming weeks and months.
The Bad in Gutenberg
I’ve been experimenting with Gutenberg and am getting ready to release two importable demos that are built using it. The most frustrating thing I personally experienced is the learning curve and not being aware of all the features. We are working on some tutorials (including a new post on 5 Essential Gutenberg Hidden Features) to help inform people because many great things are hidden in the user interface that you can miss if you don’t take the time to learn.
The built-in gallery block is not in a good state for performance. Currently, every image is loaded in its full-size regardless of the columns or how small the image actually shows in your browser. This means a huge hit on performance for anyone using a gallery because many use a gallery with a lightbox so they upload larger images that are great to view in a lightbox. With the current gallery, those large images are loaded on page load which means a much slower loading page than the classic gallery.
Annoyingly, you can’t use the classic gallery option unless you manually add the shortcode or convert a page from the classic editor into Gutenberg. And if you do that your gallery layout breaks down in Gutenberg so it’s not as great to view.
That is a serious negative and hopefully will be fixed before 5.0 is released. We plan to have an Advanced Gallery block available before the 5.0 release as well. It will support some different layouts such as masonry, tiles, and mosaic.
The current state of the columns block is very basic. There are no controls to make a column wider than another or determine how or if the columns should break down on mobile. In fact, the only controls that are there are simply setting the number of columns. This is very limiting when it comes to creating more custom layouts.
But we worked hard to solve this negative with the release of Kadence Blocks. The row layout block totally takes the columns block to the level of control needed to make it really useful.
If you test today one complaint might be the lack of advanced blocks. This is something we will help with as we release more blocks into the Kadence Blocks plugin and as we get closer to the launch time for Gutenberg other developers will be adding additional blocks that will extend what you can do.
Gutenberg and the Future of WordPress
While it’s still early in Gutenberg history, there is a lot of promise in the new editor, and I have high hopes that it will end up being a good thing for WordPress in the long run. The initial upgrade is going to be a rough transition for a lot of people. People don’t like change and while the Gutenberg team has worked hard to make it as smooth as possible, the mere fact that you have to test to make sure something worked like it should is very alarming and scary for people. It is my suggestion that everyone with a current running site install the classic editor plugin just for the peace of mind.
Regardless of how you currently feel about this change coming to WordPress, we suggest withholding all out judgment until you’ve given Gutenberg a chance and worked through some of the learning curves that anything new requires. A change to the editor is undoubtedly necessary for the sustainability of WordPress, and while there are disagreements on what that change should/could have been, Gutenberg promises to add more opportunities for innovation and growth to the platform as a whole. Transition is hard, but we feel that the potential of Gutenberg is a great thing for WordPress as a whole.