[Queue: Game of Thrones theme song]
As you may have heard, with this pending 2018 major update, Automattic plans to release its new ‘rich media’ Gutenberg Editor. By default, this new editor will be enabled, replacing the ‘Classic Editor’ – a WYSIWYG HTML Editor, built on the open source TinyMCE editor used by many Content Management Systems. If you haven’t heard – well, this is considered the biggest change to WordPress in over a decade – possibly ever.
Opinions about the new editor are mixed, to say the least. The pre-release Gutenberg Editor Plugin currently has only a 2.5 star rating. Pre-release anxiety and tensions are high due to possible Plugin and Theme conflicts that could impact tens of thousands of sites.
The new editor aims to provide in-Page/Post layout flexibility by editing site content via ‘blocks,’ which can be manipulated. In the hands of a competent visual designer, Gutenberg offers flexible tools for creating page layouts inside Theme Templates. Layouts that were previously available only via code-bloated Page Builder Plugins (e.g. Visual Composer), Premium Paid Template Themes, and other third party tools.
Critics complain that the new editor takes more time to use. That its click-based User Interface originates from phone and touch devices vs. desktop computers where most content is created. Ultimately, that Gutenberg’s ambition moves away from the WordPress ‘Code is Poetry’ simplicity model – breaking semantic SEO-friendly HTML, and not being as inclusive for visitors using assistive technology devices. In the hands of less skilled content creators, could WordPress morph into the next Microsoft FrontPage? Remember MySpace websites? Some contributing developers have even spun off a new branch of WordPress that excludes Gutenberg.
My own opinion is that the editor is a move in the wrong direction: an attempt by WordPress to compete with popular DIY, template page building products – such as SquareSpace, WIX, Weebly, and others. This is particularly true for non-brochureware, content-rich websites because the editor requires more steps to enter and edit each ‘block’ of content.
From your WordPress entry Dashboard, you can already take the new editor for a ‘pre-release’ spin by installing and activating the Plugin. Administrators take caution, particularly with some third-party Plugins and Themes that may not be compatible with Gutenberg. Be sure you have full backups of your sites. Note: all of my custom sites are based on Themes that adhere to WordPress’ coding standards – so *theme* conflicts should hopefully be minimized. For those of you who do choose to experiment with the new Editor, I would greatly appreciate your candid feedback.
For most clients, unless not satisfied with the existing editor, I will recommend they “install the Classic Editor” to continue using the traditional Visual/Text editor. At least until more real world data is gathered. WordPress remains the *most popular Content Management System in the world,* powering ~30% of websites (~75 million). Comparable CMSs can require up to 20 hours or more of training to use. With over 56,000 open source Plugins in its repository, WordPress’ value is not going away tomorrow, or with the release of WordPress 5.0.