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The WordPress Gutenberg Editor is Coming: Ready?

WordPress says its new Gutenberg editor will be part of its next major release: but the question is, are you and your blog ready for it?

There’s been a lot of talk about the upcoming WordPress release of its new Gutenberg editor.

As I’m sure you probably already know, it was named after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press with movable type in the 15th century, creating the Printing Revolution.

Some may have had more time than others to read up on it and get an idea of what’s coming. Fewer still, I imagine, have had the chance to actually try it.

I was surprised by a big announcement on my blog dashboard Sunday. It made it clear that Gutenberg is coming.

Though there’s no hard release date, the announcement, which ran across the entire dashboard window to the right of the sidebar:

A new, modern publishing experience is coming soon.

Take your words, media, and layout in new directions with Gutenberg, the WordPress editor we’re currently building.

Well, it sounds both exciting and mildly terrifying at the same time. The terrifying part centers on what came below those headlines: an invitation to try the new plugin for a sneak peek, and an invitation to install the classic editor “if you’re not sure how compatible your current themes and plugins are” with Gutenberg.

Cue the panic.

Yes, it’s possible that some of the components you’re already using on your site may not play well with Gutenberg. If you’ve either paid for a custom site design or even paid for a template that you’ve then customized on your own, that could be a painful reality, depending on how much your current layout and the new Gutenberg collide.

What’s the big deal about the Gutenberg editor?

The running theme I keep seeing on write-ups about the Gutenberg editor is that it was time for an update to the old WordPress editor. What I don’t seem to find is exactly why this change was so “necessary.” It feels like change for the sake of change…at least to someone like me who is used to the current editor and reasonably content with it.

What I’d have liked to have seen was a tab option for Gutenberg, just as there are currently tabs for a “visual” editor and a “text” editor. The former looks more like a word processor and the latter is a window where you can type HTML formatting into your text as you go.

There will still be an HTML option if you want, I’m told, but Gutenberg will be the default when it is eventually rolled out and you won’t be able to turn if off. (You can download a plugin that returns the classic editor, but it’s not clear how long that will be supported.)

I’ve been blogging now for more than 14 years, so either the Visual or Text tab was fine with me, though I know just enough code offhand that relying more on the text editor was never really a problem for me.

Gutenberg, however, promises to add more elements to your posts. This is accomplished through “blocks.” You click on the kind of element you want to add — text, photo, video, etc. — and drag a block designed to handle that type of element into the spot you want that element to appear.

On one hand, it sounds pretty simple. On the other, it’s more complicated if you’re used to just going into text editor and typing everything and using familiar formatting codes to accomplish what you want to accomplish without having to stop typing and drag things in.

To be fair, from what I’ve seen of it so far, it’ll probably be relatively simple to get used to…unless there are compatibility issues: that would mean something more than just the post editor window might have to change.

Gutenberg getting mixed reviews so far

Somewhat disheartening is the fact that at this moment, the plugin allowing people to try Gutenberg and get used to it has a 2.5 rating. (That’s 2.5 stars out of a possible 5.)

Of the people who have left reviews, 201 have given the plugin 5 stars. That sounds good…until you realize that a total of 740 users have written reviews and 405 have given it a 1-star rating.

That’s even more disheartening.

One of the best 1-star reviews — I say it’s a good review because it details the concerns — comes from Steven Peters, who says, in part, this:

The interface is not cohesive in its design. For example, To place a block of a paragraph, a heading, a subheading, a bullet list and every other block, the user must click the + sign every single time, making it that much harder to ‘go with the flow’ of writing, and is cumbersome and time-consuming.

It is nowhere near as intuitive as the current interface.

This cumbersome and unintuitive change should absolutely not be a core code in WordPress, but rather, it should remain a plugin, giving the millions of WP users an opportunity to use it, or not use it, if they so choose.

The current user interface works great and is intuitive. There is no need to ‘fix’ something that isn’t broken and is hands-down the best writing experience of any platform I’ve used in the last decade.

To be fair, it may not seem as intuitive because we’re so familiar with the current platform that we no longer need to “intuit” what to do with it.

I get it: We all hate change!

Anything requiring changes is going to be an adjustment, and some of us just hate change, even if it’s a change that makes something truly better than it was before. The fact that we have to make an adjustment is, at times, enough to fire us up about the change itself.

But when 55% of reviews give something the worst-possible rating, that gives me pause.

Some have been quick to point out that even when Gutenburg becomes part of core WordPress — which means it’s the default editor you get — you’ll still have the option of turning it off. Others respond to this with the notion that once something becomes core, the alternate options often don’t get maintained any longer, so that it’s essentially only a matter of time before Gutenberg is the option we have.

If that’s the case, I suppose it’s about time we all learned to love it. So to that end, starting tomorrow, I’m going to start writing posts for the week using the new editor. Naturally, if I switch over and run into major compatibility errors, I’ll switch back to the classic editor right away.

Otherwise, I’ll let you know how these new wheels drive.

Have you tried Gutenburg, yet? Have you encountered any problems?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.