In its present form, the WordPress editor is great for creating text-based posts and pages, or even adding rich content like images and videos as long as the content is presented in a linear format. However, the Internet has evolved since WordPress was created, and the “content block” format is becoming increasingly popular. To compensate, many visual editors have been created for WordPress — Elementor, Divi, and Beaver Builder are just a few of the many possible options available. Those options exist because, until now, WordPress itself hasn’t incorporated a “content block” style editor, but that will soon change with the Gutenberg editor.
What is the Gutenberg editor?
The Gutenberg editor is the name given to the new WordPress content block-style editor. The sidebar on the right side of the screen will be replaced with a new one, allowing users to add “blocks” of text, an image, buttons, or other elements to a page.
Currently, the Gutenberg editor is available as a plugin. It is still in beta and is not yet recommended for use on production sites. However, that will soon change as Gutenberg will be integrated into WordPress beginning with WordPress 5.0, which was set to release as early as April or May 2018. That soft deadline has passed, but Gutenberg will be released in a public preview in WordPress 4.9.8 on July 31 and WordPress 5.0 is still on track to be released sometime in 2018.
Benefits of the Gutenberg editor
The Gutenberg editor was designed to allow for an easy way to build content blocks. Ideally, this will allow theme developers an easier path to creating themes that support content block sites. Instead of needing a visual editor like Elementor or Beaver Builder, Gutenberg will allow themes to support such layouts natively. Ideally, this will also cut down on site load times as well since less sometimes-bulky content block plugins will no longer be necessary.
Furthermore, Gutenberg will greatly aid users who wish to switch themes. For themes like Divi that have the content block builder embedded into a theme, switching themes can cause major problems. Thankfully, many of those themes (Divi included) offer a standalone builder plugin to allow Divi blocks to be used without the Divi theme, but this can be a complicated process to complete.
Themes that don’t currently support content blocks will also be able to support them without any changes. This means that a theme you like that doesn’t offer a content builder will now have one without having to install a third-party one on top of your theme.
Another enormous benefit to the Gutenberg is its capability on mobile devices. Many content block plugins simply don’t work well on mobile. However, Gutenberg has been designed from the start to work on mobile and offers the same functionality whether one uses the mobile or desktop site.
Drawbacks of the Gutenberg editor
Did any of the above sound complicated? If it did, you’ve stumbled on the major concern with Gutenberg — that users will have difficulty adapting to the change. WordPress could be seen as a lot more confusing for many beginner-level users.
Another major concern is that it could create issues for certain plugins. Plugins using custom meta boxes (extra boxes you see on the editor page in your Dashboard) were originally incompatible with WordPress. Gutenberg 1.5, released in late October 2017, adds support for custom meta boxes with a new “Extended Settings” bottom panel. This is essential for the success of the new editor, as many major plugins like Yoast SEO and Advanced Custom Fields take advantage of custom meta boxes. While the Extended Settings panel likely solves this problem for plugin creators, a large panel full of nested toggle boxes is a clunky design and could make it hard for users to find the meta box they need.
WordPress will offer a plugin to restore the current editor, but it’s clear that the developers’ focus will be building out Gutenberg in the future. Gutenberg offers a major challenge for plugin developers, and the rollout may not be completely smooth. These issues clearly provide ample concern for users, as well over half of the Gutenberg plugin’s ratings are 1 out of 5 stars.
Gutenberg is still several weeks from release and will likely see major changes before it is released. When the plugin appears to be taking on its final form closer to its release, we’ll offer a full review of the new editor complete with screen shots and tips.