If ever a controversy was to divide our friendly and easy-going WordPress community – sparking fury to the point of drive-by shootings targeting Matt Mullenweg: it would be Gutenberg – the new WordPress editor, currently in public beta, available to anyone courageous enough to install the plugin.
The huge outcry was likely an unintended backlash spawned by Gutenberg's 100% open development process. The developers wanted feedback from the WordPress community, early in the process. A choice we should all appreciate and applaud.
Few seemed to appreciate it, however.
They did get some feedback, though.
Oh… my… Feedback is what they got. To say Gutenberg caused panic and confusion, would be an understatement.
But! In my not so humble opinion: many naysayers didn't *get* Gutenberg. The critique was in some cases premature, and in others it was downright ignorant and regressive/reactionary.
It had to be done! The archaic and cumbersome “classic” WordPress editor sucks. Below, I'll clarify why I've seen it as the arch-enemy of WordPress' future, for years.
Shifting perspective: Gutenberg doesn't suck anywhere near as much as its reputation suggests.
Gutenberg is good for WordPress – and you
WordPress needed Gutenberg to happen. Without it, we'd be stuck in la-la semi-CMS land, and kept depending on band-aid solutions such as custom fields, widgets, and to some extent: page builders. Why? Because competition from Wix, Squarespace and Weebly, is FIERCE.
It's not just that Wix, Squarespace and Weebly have marketing budgets larger than WordPress. Competition sparks innovation and WordPress was lacking behind. Or rather, WordPress core has been lacking behind, for years.
That's why we got page builders! Third-parties had to supply what WordPress core didn't.
In all honesty, I've been concerned about WordPress' future, during the last few years, for exactly that reason.
Project Gutenberg has restored my faith in WordPress. Without it, WordPress would be at risk of becoming the next Joomla: a CMS that was powerful, but fundamentally inflexible, at its core. WordPress beat Joomla, with flexibility and adaptability. All while being much easier to use than Drupal, which was too modular and flexible for its own good (I was a Drupal-guy before I switched to WordPress. Speaking from experience here).
Gutenberg: not as bad as they say!
Throughout the development of Gutenberg, I’ve regularly tested new releases to see whether it was ready for real-world, practical use.
Until version 2.0, I found it too buggy. That all changed, in Gutenberg v. 2.1. Apart from an issue related to CloudFlare’s WAF (Web Application Firewall), I deemed Gutenberg good enough to start using it on my site.
(I always strive to battle-test stuff thoroughly before writing about it)
This is my third post published in Gutenberg – and I've really been enjoying it!
Even in beta, it’s such a pleasure to write in Gutenberg. In fact, I find myself doing a larger portion of my writing in it. Until Gutenberg, I’d work with my text in iA Writer (a brilliantly simple writing app for Mac) for as long as possible, before exporting the final draft to the classic WordPress editor.
My (never published) WordPress editor rants
I’ve disliked WordPress' editor for years. So much in fact, that I wrote two full blog posts about it. I never published them, as I felt they were too ranty and bitchy. I strive to be as positive as possible and spread good vibes around me.
The drafts were titled “Why WordPress Should Have a Page Builder Built-in” and “Why WordPress NEEDS to ditch its Archaic Content Editor”. Below, I've condensed the gist of what I wrote back then:
Why WordPress Should Have a Page Builder Built-in
Why WordPress NEEDS to ditch its Archaic Content Editor
Frankly: WordPress' editor sucks. It feels archaic. It feels like Joomla did, before WordPress claimed its throne. It feels old-hat.
We need something more akin to a real framework, but with a UI on top of it. Sort of like Lego bricks. Highly standardized base building blocks. Built to be almost infinitely expandable.
Could be an approach like Widgets – but for Posts and Pages.
What's stopping that from happening? WordPress' archaic content editor, with its simplistic, single content area.
One, single content area = ok for blogging, but not adequate for CMS-use. Hence the somewhat hacky adaptations of custom fields and widgets, to simulate a real CMS (offering multiple content areas per page).
The problem with page builders: each is its own little island… there are no standards.
All page builders suffer from the same problem: each stores your content in proprietary building blocks. Switching page builder plugin will require manually migrating your content and rebuilding your layouts.
If the WordPress editor had more than one content area, page builders could tap into those content areas, letting you store your data in a standardized way.
WordPress needs to renew itself, and bring some of Beaver Builder's page builder tools into core. That way, there would be a standardized way for WordPress themes to hook into those content areas.
Naturally, this should of course be somehow standardized and be available for theme and plugin developers to tap into. WordPress CORE should set the standards for page builders.
The problem solved by page builders (like Beaver Builder) SHOULD be solved by WordPress core!
I can't fathom why the WordPress core developers haven't yet acknowledged and begun the creation of a universal content layout base – one that themes and plugins can tap into.
Today, in light of Gutenberg, I should have published those posts in full, back then. My thinking wasn't as bitchy and ranty as my inner critic wanted me to believe, after all.
I did however, publish a shorter, impromptu rant titled The Most Frustrating Thing About WordPress. I guess my inner critic was out for lunch:)
Why are we finally getting a new editor?
I believe two factors made the WordPress leadership team (finally) wake up and realize the urgent need for a better WordPress editor:
- The emergence and popularity of commercial DIY website builders like Wix, Squarespace. and Weebly.
- The emergence and popularity of WordPress page builders like Divi Builder, Beaver Builder, Elementor and Thrive Architect.
Gutenberg = a future-proof solution!
Gutenberg will let us format our content, in a standardized way – one that WordPress themes and plugins can tap into. Finally!
By splitting our content into separate, distinct content elements – called “blocks” – your WordPress theme and plugins will be able to display and use them in all kinds of funky ways. I'll delve deeper into all that wonderful potential, in a future post.
For now, just realize that Gutenberg represents so much more than “just a new editor”. Gutenberg = vast potential. Frankly, it feels so f*ckin' great to finally have it in front of us.
With Gutenberg, WordPress didn't just “catch up” with the competition: with Gutenberg, we're again showing why WordPress is superior to the competition. Its openness and expandability has taken yet another giant leap into the future of online publishing.
Big words? Sure. Big potential? Ab-so-f*ckin-lutely! 100%
This is HUGE and will shake and shape WordPress as we know it, for years to come. Period. Fact.
This is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time. I stand 100% by my words and excitement: Gutenberg is great. For WordPress at large. And for YOU.
Built by a highly skilled, capable team
To counter the Gutenberg-naysayers and contrast some of the skepticism towards Gutenberg, it's worth pointing out the highly skilled team assigned to Project Gutenberg.
Without going into a full biography of each Gutenberg team member, I'll highlight one whose work I've followed for many years – long before he was hired by Automattic: my fellow Dane, Joen Asmussen. To say he has an impressive track-record of interesting web-projects in his portfolio, is a huge understatement. For more than a decade, he's contributed considerably to the world of web design, through both his writing and design work. Among many things, Joen has created official themes for not just WordPress but also Zenphoto. I also remember his legendary site Noscope.com – now redirecting to his blog Mocco (worth reading too).
Joen is to Automattic what Jonathan Ive is to Apple.
If the Gutenberg team was a Navy SEAL team, they'd be a SEAL Team Six / DEVGRU team – the elite of the elite – the most capable of getting the job done. Well.
Not intended to replace page builders (yet)
So far Gutenberg isn’t a page builder-killer. It’s not intended to be. Tackling page builders is the next step, after Gutenberg has been integrated in WordPress core.
WILL it kill page builders? Who knows? I do have some thoughts on that, which I'll share in a follow-up post.
Give Gutenberg a try if you still haven't!
If you still haven't tried Gutenberg: give it a try. You may find you like it, after a short period of adjusting to its niceties:)
I firmly believe the open source, community-driven development of Gutenberg will yield a fantastic editor. One that Wix, Squarespace and Weebly can envy (and perhaps blatantly copy). And Gutenberg could end up as a prime case study on the power of open source development. It's possible.
Papa WordPress (Matt Mullenweg) wants as many WordPress users as possible involved in testing Gutenberg. You can install it as a plugin on your site today. Just remember that it is still in beta: there are occasional bugs, and stuff does change from release to release.
While testing Gutenberg, you can still access the classic editor. And your current posts and pages wont be altered in any way. Also, rest assured: should you deactivate the Gutenberg plugin, the posts you’ve made in it will open just fine in the classic editor.
Me? I already don't miss WordPress' archaic classic editor. At all.
Now is also the time to help shape Gutenberg. The place to do it, is by voicing your concerns and suggestions (as an "Issue") on GitHub. There's an amazing community around Gutenberg – and they do listen. So contribute! In any way you can! You don't have to be a code-savvy geek to participate just because it's GitHub;)
And Go Gutenberg team! Big-ups to y'all! You've done really well. Listened to constructive criticism (my own included) and held your heads high despite shards of sharp words from all corners of planet WordPress.
What about you? Have you tried Gutenberg yet? Diggin' it – or still on the fence? If so: why? Share your voice in the comments below! I'm curious:)