Hypothesis of Gutenberg in WordCamp Kolkata 2019

7 mins read    

WordPress was always meant to be a blogging platform, but it has grown to become so much more than that. Presently WordPress is one platform which consists almost 1/3rd part of all the websites. In any website content plays an important role to convey its purpose and for that reason, the editor becomes an indivisible/integral part of WordPress.

We all know about the “WYSIWYG” editors. “TinyMCE” is the classic way of adding content to any webpage and default editor for WordPress. It hasn’t had many changes over the years and remained pretty much the same. But now entire editing experience has been rebuilt for media-rich pages and posts. To achieve it WordPress 5.0 came with a completely new editor codenamed “Gutenberg”.

What is Gutenberg?

As we start looking at the editor from a technical perspective it’s important we identify the main obstacles and requirements we face before we start conjecturing solutions. As @matt wrote before the editor focus aims to make writing rich posts effortless. This has taken the path of treating a post as being composed of distinct pieces of content called blocks. These pieces should be easy to insert and manipulate, providing rich and contextual interfaces to interact with as you craft a post.

To turn the block-based editing into reality “Gutenberg” has been introduced. It is a block-based editor which allows users to create beautiful layouts using content blocks. Gutenberg will bring WordPress back to bloggers, making it much more user-friendly mainly for people with no coding experience.

Why Gutenberg?

If as a developer I am going to represent “Gutenberg” to people who knew little or nothing about it, I’ll have to provide a reason why did this major change came that’s causing significant frustration, work, and headache for them.

Here you can read different possible reasons/theories on “Why Gutenberg is introduced as a default editor in WordPress 5.0”
1) To make backend = frontend

One of the intentions of the team behind Gutenberg is to minimize the difference of how things look in the backend compared to what visitors of your site see once the page loads. That will make the creating and editing content much more streamlined, as you wouldn’t have to switch to “preview” all the time to check how your latest entry turned out on the front page.

2) To make editing user-friendly and attract a large user base

Most of all we know that WordPress.com is the main product for  Automattic. That platform has many competitors namely – Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Ghost, Medium, etc. All those platforms are much more user-friendly than WordPress(.com), and the main reason is their built-in page builder, usually which operates as drag & drop.

Because those platforms attract a growing number of users, mainly people who have no coding knowledge, Automattic has started to lose customers. WordPress.com to be on the top updating the editor to become more user-friendly to stay competitive is logical. So, they decided to introduce Gutenberg.

3) Innovative Disruption

Another theory says: Could it be really me too attitude that left all of those brilliant minds feeling like they had to keep up with Squarespace and Medium? That didn’t seem to fit.

One thing is there if you want to revolutionize something you have to leave the old methods first and then try to implement it in a new way.

Innovative Disruption is what happens when an existing company who is in the top position and gets comfortable there along with their revenue stream and quits innovating. They make small, incremental updates to their products or services to keep customers happy, but fail to look at the future of their industry. This makes it easier for a startup or smaller, more innovative company to bring a new product or service to market that completely disrupts the existing market because it’s better, faster, cheaper.

For example, Classic example of this is Blockbuster Entertainment, Inc. at some point of time slowed down the innovation and failed to see the future demands and at that same time Netflix grabbed the opportunity and we all know the success rate of Netflix in present time. Presently nine Blockbuster stores still operating, mostly in Alaska. 9,000 fully operating stores down to 9 in just a few years! This is what failing to innovate does. 

The choice of Gutenberg as the name of the new WordPress editor seems accurate in this situation as well. The name was one of the clues that led me to answer the ‘why?’ question. It was Johannes Gutenberg and his movable type printing press that was the innovative disruption that changed everything! The same way “Something will replace WordPress if WordPress doesn’t innovatively disrupt itself.”

4) To make search results more effective on all possible devices

Another thing is how we consume the content is changing, mobile access to the website is continuously growing. It’s no longer enough to have your site listed in Search Engine Result pages or to be accessed. Your content must be consumable, readable and interacted with, from any devices used by the audience.

The use of a block editing system tied to the core of WordPress isn’t about only making it easier to create content. It also allows for the delivery of content which specifically addresses a search query based on the device used.

Think about searches on mobile devices. Without getting into the differences in what shows in SERPs for a mobile and desktop search, look at how the content is delivered. In both cases, links in SERPs brings up an entire page. Responsive websites mean we can read the content delivered. It does not address the fact that it is still necessary to read an entire article to find a specific answer (or do a second search within the article once accessed).

Gutenberg provides the ability for only specific content blocks to be delivered based on search query AND the device used for the search by allowing content to be published as a series of interconnected, yet independent blocks.

Benefits of Gutenberg:

  1. Gutenberg will simplify things, at least at first glance, making a writer-friendly environment. The new editor is clean, showing only the necessities, and it is fairly similar to Medium, a favorite platform among bloggers.
  2. Gutenberg will look more minimalistic, and equally appealing on smaller screen sizes too, making editing on the go a much more comfortable process.
  3. The main benefit of the Gutenberg is you can convert existing posts into Gutenberg compatible content a.k.a. blocks. You can also go to “edit as HTML” to edit the blocks via code. This is awesome because everything gets separated into smaller blocks, making it easy to find problematic codes.
  4. For Developers troubleshooting bad lines of code is now much more comfortable to do than it used to be. You don’t have to look through the code of the whole page to find the typo you made. Now everything is going to be segmented, and finding and fixing that typo will be a much faster process.
  5. Gutenberg minimizes the difference of how things look in the backend compared to what visitors of your site see on the front. That will make the creating and editing content much easier as you wouldn’t have to switch to “preview” all the time to check how your latest entry turned out on the front page.
  6. Gutenberg allows you to save your block settings, allowing you to quickly apply them later on future blocks you create – so-called “reusable” blocks. It will speed up your WordPress site building process.
  7. There are some additional features Gutenberg possess. Adding a table in the old editor is somewhat tricky. Gutenberg solves it by adding a “Table Block”, so you can quickly add and edit a simple table. 

Also, there’s an option to add custom HTML code using  “Custom HTML Block” it’ll show you the frontend preview right there.

Again, Gutenberg lets you display sidebar widgets in it, again making it a lot easier for you to preview how everything will look to the end visitor.

Limitations of Gutenberg:

  1. For the time being, there’s no markdown support.
  2. Learning Curve is high for the users who have not worked with such page builder before.
  3. Backward compatibility is not there fully, it could be a significant concern for some users.
  4. Meta boxes are an essential part of any editor. Gutenberg shows partial support for meta boxes but still, meta box validation is missing.
  5. Even though the editor can be used to create a responsive design, it doesn’t support responsive columns yet. This should be a temporary issue, as more features are added to it on a daily basis.
  6. Things like hiding page titles, having unique options for each page are still things for the future.
  7. Gutenberg editor might be not as accessible as you might think, especially for developers. Developers heavily rely on APIs and similar stuff to build themes and plugins. However, at the time of writing, APIs are still in development.

Conclusion:

Gutenberg is bigger than just a new post editor, it shows that the leaders of the WordPress community are willing to make hard decisions and innovate even when it means disrupting their own work and previous innovations.

We should welcome Gutenberg. Changes are a good thing, and they are a way to keep moving forward. We think that Automattic made a brave decision not only for introducing Gutenberg but for making it the default editor.

However, this is already creating resistance, especially among WordPress veterans. But people, please, things have to move forward! In our opinion, the Gutenberg update is a massive step in the right direction. In the end, you have to Learn enough to decide for yourself if you want to adopt now – or later.