Surprise! Depending on what holiday you celebrate, this may be a timely or early gift (or lump of coal in your stocking). But, Gutenberg, the new editing experience for WordPress in the latest (5.0) version goes live today. And, the big question is, should you update to the latest version of WordPress?
In brief, if you can wait, wait. And, if you can’t wait, use a staging site to test, backup your site before installing after testing on your staging site successfully, then hold your breath and install. Now, for the more involved answer.
Gutenberg, as WordPress.org has noted, “[t]he entire editing experience has been rebuilt for media rich pages and posts.” In essence, all along, WordPress was supposed to make publishing content on a blog or website not only easier, but accurately. And, for too long, what you saw when you are in the WordPress editor is not what the post or page looks like when you Publish. This is the problem Gutenberg sets out to solve.
Meanwhile, drag-and-drop builder themes and plugins (i.e., Divi, Beaver Builder, X, etc.) cropped up along the way. This complicates but doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. I’m never been a fan of these builders, but I also see the value they brought to many of our WordPress hosting clients. It gave more control over the publishing experience and I’m all for that. Sadly, it came at a price–time, learning curve, and more bloated WordPress installations prone to failure and security flaws, at times.
Benefits of Gutenberg
Gutenberg is a big chunk of new code in WordPress and will also have a learning curve. But, with Gutenberg, many of the plugins you have that bogs down your site and which you need to maintain, may not be necessary any longer. For less updates and more stability and faster websites, we can all celebrate that about Gutenberg!
The new publishing experience will also be WYSIWIG, or what you see is what you get, and will work across the various mobile and desktop screens on which the modern small business owner needs to work. (I’ve been using Gutenberg since its early beta on several W3 Consulting websites and editing swiftly and accurately on mobile screens is a welcome addition to my productivity toolkit!)
Gutenberg–The Fundamentals…of Blocks
Gutenberg’s editing architecture is founded on something that will likely be new to you–blocks. Blocks are predefined, flexible chunks of content, whether rich text, or photos, audio, or video. You are able to manage the layout of each page with granular control and with the final post or page more clearly defined. (You can also hit Preview at any time to see what it will look like when published.)
As you can see above, there are many types of blocks, and I’m sure many more to come. But, things that used to confound WordPress users are now available in easily-defined blocks.
That’s it. That’s the simple but elegant solution to many of the woes in writing and editing in WordPress, now a reality.
But, Wait…How About Updating to WordPress 5.0?
With any major update such as WordPress 5.0, there are going to be hiccups. And, this version comes with a number of yet to be seen problems. They could be minor, but they could also wreak havoc.
For the vast majority of non-tech-savvy WordPress publishers, we recommend that you install the Gutenberg and Classic Editor plugins. You can then test pages and posts on your website to see if Gutenberg “plays nicely.” Hold off on the update until some of the kinks have been straightened out.
That said, we’ve been using Gutenberg in our production website here on W3Cinc.com and WebandBeyondCast.com and have had no problems, minus the curve of learning to find features tucked away that were once more visible in the classic editor.
Also, any theme framework, parent and child theme, plugin and/or widget you’re using must be compatible with Gutenberg. This will take time and research. And, even then, as the issues get worked out, it could break your site.
If you must update to WordPress 5.0 for some particular reason, as I said at the top of this post (and I’m presuming you are an advanced WordPress user): verify theme and plugin compatibility, successful staging site test, backup, then update.