Gutenberg Incoming — What You Need to Know

Here at Solamar, we build our sites with WordPress. There are tons of reasons we choose WordPress over other systems, many of which we’ve talked about before. It’s free, it’s got a robust community and is easy for our clients to use.

That last point is of particular importance, because WordPress is about to undergo a major change to its editor, all in the name of making it easier for the end-user to create.

I’m talking about Gutenberg, the code name for a brand new editor that will be debuting when WordPress 5.0 releases. Gutenberg has been in the works for a while now, and while it’s not quite finished yet, it’ll soon become the default editing experience for any WordPress site using 5.0 or later.

What is Gutenberg all about?

Blocks. You see, Gutenberg is an attempt to bring the WordPress editing experience closer in line with the many page-builder plugins and apps that have become so popular these days. You’ve probably run into a few of them yourself, if you’ve poked around the admin area of any WordPress sites recently.

To that end, it ditches the old system in favor of a number of “blocks”, each with contain an element of the page. There are text blocks, blocks that embed galleries or videos, blocks with forms, image blocks, etc. Each of these blocks can be customized individually and re-arranged on the page by dragging and dropping them into place. You know, standard page-builder stuff.

With Gutenberg up-and-running, complex layouts will be possible for folks without coding experience from the get go, without needing to learn or pay for anything additional. At the moment, Gutenberg is a relatively simple page-builder, and doesn’t rival some of the popular existing plugins in terms of feature-set, but you can bet that will change quickly as the new editor grows and is supported by WordPress’ massive user-base.

What does Gutenberg mean for me?

Right now, nothing. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can install a plugin to implement it immediately, though we don’t recommend doing that on a production site since it’s still in beta. Another option would be to head over to Frontenberg, a sandbox that has a Gutenberg editor front-facing so you can easily muck about with it.

Once WordPress 5.0 releases (currently set for November 19, 2018), if you want to keep the old classic way of editing things, you’ll need to install the Classic Editor plugin to keep things the way they were. That should buy you a bunch of time to get things set.

Eventually, WordPress is going to retire that Classic Editor plugin, at which point, you will be forced over to the Gutenberg editor. You can either wait for that moment, or proactively switch at sometime prior.

What’s the catch?

The catch is that once you make the decision to switch, the transition for existing site content from the classic editor into the Gutenberg editor isn’t completely seamless. You’ll need to manually go through the pages of your site and convert them.

If your theme, or any of your page content uses WordPress’ default Custom Fields, then they will need to be replaced (we recommend replacing them with the awesome Advanced Custom Fields plugin).

If your pages contain any html beyond h, p or a tags, then you’ll need to drop it into one of Gutenberg’s HTML blocks. Video embeds will also need a little cleanup. The good news is that any shortcodes you’ve used should be fine.

When should I switch?

The sooner the better, really. You can delay the inevitable for only so long, so better to get it done when there is plenty of time to test and make sure it goes smoothly. If you’d like some help with the process, then Solamar would be happy to help, so feel free to give us a shout!

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