What You Need to Know about WordPress’ Gutenberg

Page builder to come with WordPress core

If you have a WordPress site, it’s likely you’ve heard about a new feature that was released recently as a beta and will be part of the WordPress 5.0 update: Gutenberg.

Gutenberg is WordPress’ answer to the demands for page builders. For many years, plugins, like Visual Composer and Fusion Builder, have allowed site owners to create their site pages using drag and drop block displays.

While these tools have pros and cons, the demand for them was pretty clear. WordPress built and released Gutenberg in answer to that demand. Now, rather than purchase a plugin, site owners have the ability to harness some of the same functionality right through the WordPress core. When in use, it adds content blocks and page builder-like functionality and replaces TinyMCE as the default content editor.

The goal was to allow site owners to create beautiful layouts for the content they write simply and easily. It was a good goal. But there are pros and cons to every new tool, and to be honest with you, Gutenberg is not for everyone. Let me explain.

What functionality does Gutenberg add?

Gutenberg takes some of the limitations and frustrations that new users experience out of the current visual editor.  Instead of needing short-codes or HTML knowledge, Gutenberg will allow users to add small “blocks” in which to style their content. These blocks will help the user customize their layouts, such as adding in image galleries, or a quote block, or even simple buttons and columns.

What we ran into when using Gutenberg

We decided to try out Gutenberg on both a test site and a brand new, simple site for a client.

The interface was nice. It looked simple and easy to use. It was very intuitive, so the learning curve was very small. But it seems like there are some issues to work out.

We prefer using the Genesis Framework, by Studiopress, for our themes, and these themes do not seem ready for Gutenberg at the present time. We had trouble using features in Gutenberg when the template was in content-sidebar mode, including adding an image.

Images also seems to be an issue with full-width templates. Adding the media only resulted in more problems, such as the image being too large to fit on the screen. We finally had to give up, trash the entire page, and restart with the classic editor.

Shortcodes also didn’t work with the Gutenberg editor. We used the tool and the shortcode would not display. It took switching to Classic for the shortcode to display on the page.

Who is Gutenberg for?

Gutenberg definitely has its place. If you are a blog owner or run your own template-based site and want to add a page builder, then Gutenberg would be a good fit. However, Gutenberg is not for everyone.

If you are a novice to WordPress, but still want to be able to control the layout of each post or page beyond your chosen theme, this page builder might be a good option.  Instead of adding multiple plugins or spending time learning HTML or short-codes, the Gutenberg page builder can give you the flexibility of customizing your site to your own aesthetics.

Who is Gutenberg NOT for?

We don’t recommend page builders in general to any of our clients. We could probably save a lot of time initially by using them, but we don’t because of two main reasons:

  1. Issues with design consistency
    Page builders are fine if you just want to set up a simple site and not update it. But most clients want to update their site, and as the years go by, the pages stop looking similar. When the design isn’t consistent, it’s harder for users to figure out where to go or find what they’re looking for. This can lead to customer calls and complaints. Clients may even leave to go to a competitor.
  2. Plugin bloat
    These page builder plugins carry a lot of code with them — some of the features are used and some of them are not. But just because you’re not using a feature doesn’t mean that the site isn’t loading every single line of code. This can slow down the site and lead to performance issues. Sites that take more than 3 seconds to load start to annoy users, and many will abandon a slow site before even letting the page fully load.

In general, we do not recommend page builders, including Gutenberg, for anything other than a very simple blog site. If you’re running a business or an ecommerce site with anything other than very basic functionality, we recommend against page builders.

What should I do if I don’t want it?

There are steps you can take to prevent WordPress from using the Gutenberg Editor.

You may have noticed a large alert when you log-in to your WordPress dashboard that looks like this:

Click the “Install Classic Editor” and that’s it!  The plugin automatically installs itself and this alert disappears.   This plugin will protect your website from Gutenberg from installing itself until you are ready to make the switch.

If you accidentally dismissed this alert from your dashboard, or you didn’t see it for some reason, you can go to the Plugins section and click “Add new Plugin”, search for “Classic Editor” and you can download it to your website from here.

If you are a current Standard Beagle hosting or maintenance client, we have already activated the Classic Editor plugin on your website until we have fully vetted the new Gutenberg feature.

It is important to know that Gutenberg is still in beta, and will not be released as a default until WordPress 5.0.  The developers with WordPress want to have at least 100,000 active installs to work out all the bugs and kinks before they include the page builder in the default WordPress package.

In the meantime, try it out if Gutenberg appeals to you. It may offer you what you need without paying for a premium page builder plugin. Just remember that page builders are not for everyone, and you may want to seek the help of an expert to ensure your site performs optimally.