Big Changes on the WordPress Horizon

It’s no secret that WordPress has been working on a major change for the upcoming version 5.0 release of the WordPress Content Management System (CMS). Codenamed “Gutenberg,” referencing the 15th century inventor of the moveable-type, mechanical printing press, Johannes Gutenberg, the latest version of WordPress should not fall short of its promises of revolutionizing the platform.


What’s the Big Deal About “Gutenberg?”

Gutenberg offers a major change to the content editor experience in WordPress. Long-time users of WordPress may be confused by the new experience, as Gutenberg replaces the current TinyMCE WYSIWYG content/code editor experience and replaces it with a visual editor that relies on “small blocks” of various types, such as text, code, and image, just to name a few.


Currently, you can test the Gutenberg editor as a plugin, but once WordPress version 5.0 launches, the new editor will be integrated into WordPress core – replacing the TinyMCE editor. At this time, we understand that the TinyMCE editor will be available as a plugin to replace the new editor, if you prefer the current experience.


What’s Good About “Gutenberg?”

If you’ve used WordPress a lot or have ever developed a site in WordPress, you are likely familiar with the many ways to accomplish the same thing. Gutenberg unifies those methods and uses them everywhere, making the user experience across different areas consistent. The old page/post/widget toolset, where every tool was used differently, has been replaced by a unified interface – the block. All the various embeds and different functions are accessed the same way in Gutenberg, so there’s less confusion for users as to how to make changes.


The new interface also hides a lot of the clutter on the editor screen, offering more space for design and editing of content. All of the old page and post options are accessible, but they are hidden by default and are easily accessible via drop down and flyout menus.


Another serious challenge of the existing interface was that making edits on a mobile device was pretty much impossible, or at the least extremely frustrating. Gutenberg fixes that. It was designed with mobile-first functionality in mind.


What Are Some of the Drawbacks?

There are major changes to WordPress core that had to be made for Gutenberg to replace TinyMCE. With any significant change comes drawbacks, including learning an entirely new interface. Additionally, there had been serious concern in the industry that a custom site that was upgraded to version 5.0 might break entirely. Those fears have been allayed; however, if the site is built using a page builder plugin such as Visual Bakery or Elegant Themes’ Divi Builder, it’s entirely possible they will not play nicely with the new Gutenberg editor.


Another industry concern was ADA and SEO compliance and optimization, which we take very seriously at GRIT. There’s not a ton of certainty about how the new system will behave. In fact, Joost de Valk, developer of the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, had expressed some serious concerns over accessibility and how to integrate their extremely powerful and popular plugin into an entirely new editor experience.


While screen reader support and behavior is still up in the air, we can rest assured that the Yoast team has already taken care of the SEO challenge as they launched version 8 of their SEO plugin on August 14, 2018. The updated plugin integrates perfectly with both TinyMCE and Gutenberg while adding minimal code-bloat.



Should You Make the Switch?

That is the question, isn’t it? The answer: it depends.


It’s not the best answer, but it really does depend on how your existing site is built. Some custom WordPress themes use plugins like Advanced Custom Fields to create simple yet strict content editing experiences. This keeps novice users from wandering off the path when editing pages, but it also offers much deeper capabilities that do not exist in core WordPress.


Other sites may use “builder” plugins that allow for custom layouts and functionality on every page. Sites built on this type of system will apparently see the biggest difficulty moving to Gutenberg, as it does not play nicely with editor plugins that are trying to do very similar things to what Gutenberg is doing.


If you’re planning on upgrading to Gutenberg, you should consider contacting a web design agency like GRIT first to make sure that you’re not going to run into issues. It’s not impossible or extremely difficult to integrate Gutenberg into a custom WordPress theme, but you shouldn’t make the leap until someone has tested your site.


Don’t make this decision in a vacuum. Contact the GRIT team today and we can audit your website and prepare you for the latest iteration of WordPress.