Thinking of Updating Your WordPress Site to Gutenberg?

Some thoughts from our pros about WordPress 5.0
If you have a WordPress website, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Gutenberg, WordPress’ new editor, presently available as a plug in and is expected to be the default in WordPress 5.0. Here at PMA we LOVE technology, and we love NEW technology – especially when it makes our client experience more seamless, and they achieve their objectives quicker and easier.

With all this talk about Gutenberg, we sat down with two of our WordPress pros to get their thoughts and tips to share with you.

  • Don’t immediately update to WordPress 5.0 whenever it is launched, which is still TBD. New releases are always a bit buggy, and this release will be no exception and possibly even worse. WordPress 5.0 is a “wait and see” release.
  • With the release of version 5.0 – the Classic Editor plugin will be bundled for anyone UPDATING to 5.0. Do not install the classic editor plugin now – wait until you do update to 5.0 and then activate the Classic Editor plugin that is included. This plugin is going through an overhaul and will be different from what is currently found in the plugin repository.
  • In the current (4.9.x) version of WordPress, Gutenberg is a plugin, and the ‘classic’ editor is the standard editor. In 5.x, that will be reversed. This means that people won’t ‘have’ to start editing in Gutenberg, even if they do upgrade to version 5 (although they may have to download another plugin).
  • Gutenberg still has several bugs, or more accurately, interface issues to work out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the editor gets delayed, although their bug tracker still is indicating November 27th as the release date. They are claiming that they will have a new minor release every two weeks for the foreseeable future after that release. Early adopting may not be the best for many clients.
  • From a developer’s point of view, Gutenberg will be great!… eventually. They won’t need to teach the end user about short-codes. Instead, they’ll be using ‘dynamic blocks’ to achieve the same thing.
  • Gutenberg treats pages as a designwith text as part of that design, not as a text blog with design as part of the text. This pushes people to become defacto designers, not just defacto writers.
  • A big plus to Gutenberg that I see initially is that you can reuse blocks. The downside will be that you can create a large number of these reusable blocks, cluttering the interface (or block panel).
  • Another big plus (and a huge negative at the same time) is that you can customize each block independently. This is going to lead to great looking pages from people who can design, but also to awful looking pages from those who cannot design but are willing to mess with the design.
  • The downside to both of the above ‘pluses’ means possible severe database pollution, so site optimizations and caching will become more important, as well as frequent backups.

For existing sites (our pros add) users are going to be frustrated on three fronts for a short period.

  • The first is that it is going to be annoying to edit existing posts and pages. Users will not have the ‘blocks’ that Gutenberg brags about. Gutenberg is going to treat existing (legacy) content as one giant ‘classic’ block. The concept looks good on paper and sounds good to programmers, but it’s not going to be pleasant for people who start to use the block concept of Gutenberg. They’ll want to break that large, monolithic block into smaller ‘real’ blocks. This will lead to inconsistencies within a page or post, and people will probably start rewriting many of those pages completely. Posts won’t be quite as bad, because they typically don’t get edited (unless they are customized posts created by other plugins).
  • The second frustration is going to be the typical ‘how do I start, and where is everything’ problems. In Gutenberg, you start typing to let the editor know you want a text block. At that point, the familiar TinyMCE editor like features show up (paragraphs, bullets, etc.), and not before. Also, when you copy and paste, Gutenberg treats each paragraph as a block, which messes with the way things are copied and pasted. Something simple is now more complex (although some things that are complex now will be simplified).
  • The third frustration will be plugins. Many plugins are barely maintained, or no longer maintained. If they have page or post editor components, they may not get updated to support Gutenberg. Also, there will be a slew of new plugins to add specific functions to Gutenberg. It’ll be the wild west of plugins for some time until the cream rises to the top.

A lot to think about!

The big tip our pros wanted to pass along – Back up your site before any upgrade. But most importantly, you can’t afford any downtime for your website, if you are unsure at all about what this upgrade will do to your site, and don’t feel you have the tech skills (or time) to fix anything that breaks in the process, please reach out to a professional before making the switch.

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