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Embracing Change With Gutenberg – The New WordPress Editor

December 4, 2019

When it comes to content management systems, none can compare to the sheer size and popularity of WordPress.

According to a web technology survey from W3Techs, 34 percent of the internet is powered by WordPress. That is to say, as the most dominant CMS on the market, WordPress is used to manage, edit and publish content for just over a third of all websites. That’s a whole lot of content, and a whole lot of time spent building in WordPress’ classic editing experience known as the TinyMCE.

Anyone who has ever created content within WordPress knows there has always been an expandability issue with major limitations in visualizing web pages prior to publishing content. Content creators with limited HTML and technical experience have always relied on developers to create custom solutions within the WordPress editor to make it more user friendly with better ways to edit and preview content.

So when WordPress initially announced “the new Gutenberg editing experience” with the goal of making editing in WordPress easier for users of any skill level, it was a big deal that spawned a lot of discussion around what the new default editor would mean for websites, content teams and developers alike.

While Gutenberg is still evolving, it officially became the new default WordPress editor in December 2018 with the launch of WordPress 5.0. Fast forward nearly a year later, and you still aren’t required to use it, with the classic editor still available through an official plugin.

That won’t always be the case though. Once the plugin is gone, currently until 2022, or “as long as necessary,” it’s gone. Unless you custom develop your own version of the classic editor, it’s time you start getting used to Gutenberg — sooner rather than later.

So let’s dive into just what Gutenberg is, what it means for your website and how you can best prepare for the inevitable change to the most popular publishing platform on the web.

What is Gutenberg?

Does the name Johannes Gutenberg sound familiar? He’s the guy who invented the printing press and revolutionized media forever. Newspapers were more empowered than ever to print more at faster, cheaper rates thanks to the movable blocks of type in Gutenberg’s design.

WordPress’ Gutenberg largely seeks to do the same — switching from a plain text editor to a block editing experience with greater emphasis on more advanced post layouts with easier design flexibility.

What Are Gutenberg Blocks?

Say goodbye to clicking “preview” every few minutes to see what you’re building in WordPress thanks to Gutenberg’s most fundamental change — content blocks.

Users are now enabled to point and click anywhere on the page they’re building to add content and visualize it directly within the editor.

Better yet, developers can create their own custom content blocks to fit the needs of content teams and allow for even more complex post designs. Once a custom block is created, you can save it for repeated use to start building posts with greater efficiency.

But don’t worry, if time is of the essence and you’re just looking for simplicity, Gutenberg has all sorts of prebuilt blocks you can take advantage of right out of the gate.

The advanced custom fields plugin (ACF) is fully functional within Gutenberg and gives developers even more control over the types of content blocks they can create.

This empowers development teams to even further elevate the output of their content teams to make for rich, engaging online experiences users will remember.

Why Does Gutenberg Matter?

As we move forward toward more visual and personalized digital experiences, Gutenberg is a content creator’s dream of simplified flexible content creation without relying so much on their dev or technical teams. At the same time, these teams teams are empowered to flex their creative skills in designing custom content blocks and APIs to add even greater layers of complexity to post designs — all while maintaining the content team’s ability to control the look and feel of the page.

What Does Gutenberg Mean For Your Website?

Given that Gutenberg eliminates the need for the swaths of plugins or shortcodes needed for custom post designs in the classic editor, you could in theory see improvements to your sites’ performance, but don’t expect that much of a significant change. The most measurable impact Gutenberg could have for your site comes from driving better SEO performance.

Search engines reward websites with high quality content, and Gutenberg enables you to more easily create the types of rich and engaging content needed for maximum SEO benefit.

Additionally, WordPress’ classic editor couples together your content structure with your site’s theme. If you want to switch themes, you better be ready to sacrifice your content structure. Gutenberg solves this major inconvenience by decoupling content structure from your theme. So if you’re looking to switch themes down the line, Gutenberg’s block structure will remain intact across all of your posts for a seamless theme transition.

How Should You Prepare for Gutenberg?

Naturally, with any new tools and mechanics comes new workflows and ways of working that require time to establish, implement and refine. Remember, you aren’t required to use Gutenberg just yet, so as it’s still being refined, you’ve got nothing but time to start playing around with its features and getting familiar with it.

And just because Gutenberg touts greater publishing efficiency doesn’t mean it’ll come naturally; developers and content creators must put in the time to start getting over the learning curves of the editor.

For example, each content block you use for a post, custom or not, is unique from another that have their own options that limit what you can and can’t do with them. Testing the limits of blocks can lead developers to create custom solutions to workaround problems, or unlock even greater capabilities.

How Noble Studios Leveraged Gutenberg During a Website Redesign

In September 2019, Noble Studios launched a redesigned website for AdventureSmith Explorations. While developing the site, our team of developers created custom content blocks for our content team to use while building out page layouts. One of these custom blocks was a climate table that could be used to enter and present the average monthly temperatures of destinations across the world. Creating the block means that writers can move this block within content on a page-by-page basis to make sure it fits seamlessly within the other content.

Our developers even added custom heading styles for more flexible and stylistic page designs that could be moved around without sacrificing SEO.

The result? A website redesign with heavy emphasis on visual elements to inspire visitors of the page to connect with an AdventureSmith specialist and venture forth on an unforgettable getaway.

Embracing Change With Gutenberg

The pushback of developers in the WordPress community about transitioning to Gutenberg was always expected. The discourse is vast with some good points to be made, but when you look past them, the future lies ahead in Gutenberg whether they like it or not.

We all want the latest and greatest tools that empower us to make for increasingly better experiences on the web, and part of getting there is actually building those tools and refining them in the first place. You’re better off avoiding arguments rooted in the old ways of doing things that will only keep you behind while everyone else is moving forward.

By embracing change from the classic editor and diving into the nuances that come with Gutenberg, Noble Studios is ensuring we remain ahead of the curve for our clients when the time comes for Gutenberg to officially become the standard WordPress editor.

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