Gutenberg, a landmark upcoming release for WordPress in version 5.0, marks an enormous shift in the publishing and theming landscape for sites powered by the platform. It’s a new editor designed as the first step away from the current content editing experience in WordPress, and towards a more visual editing experience. The Gutenberg editor, when set up and properly supported by the theme the WordPress site is running, will allow content editors to format and style their content using “content blocks” – not unlike what is found on popular DIY website builders like SquareSpace and Wix.
Basically, Gutenberg is an advanced page builder powered by entirely new technology (React) that is making its way into WordPress core.
We do a considerable amount of large-scale, custom WordPress work. We’ll save our opinions about Gutenberg means for WordPress for a future post (Is WordPress an enterprise CMS? A DIY platform? Can it be both? etc.) and rather just talk about what our immediate plans are for Gutenberg support, for future, current, and past sites. Here’s what we’re planning on doing, and why.
As mentioned, we do a lot of work with WordPress, and want to adopt the path WordPress is headed – but only if and when it makes sense for our clients and their project types. With that in mind, the following criteria need to be met for us to adopt Gutenberg for future projects:
- Long-term content & design integrity. Gutenberg must be able to be implemented, in a customized, reasonable and cost-effective manner, within a site-wide, coherent design system and in a fashion that will allow for long-term content & design integrity on the enterprise-level sites our clients require.
- Widespread adoption. Gutenberg must be battle-tested on other production sites similar in scope to the types of projects we tackle.
- Performance. Gutenberg must prove to be a performant addition to both front-end and WP-admin.
- Stability. Gutenberg must prove to be highly stable in the context of the types of sites we build, and how we build them, including plugin support.
- Improvement. Gutenberg must be proven as a better content-editing experience for our clients, compared to our current implementation. At the very least, it must be equal.
We will be monitoring and testing Gutenberg against those criteria – which it currently does not meet. Once we are comfortable the criteria have been met, we will further explore developing around the Gutenberg editing experience for production sites.
Projects currently in progress will continue as-is. The Gutenberg editor will be disabled via the installation and activation of the Classic Editor Plugin when WordPress 5.0 rolls out, as the criteria outlined in the Future Projects section have not been met. We believe strongly in our current WordPress implementation methods, as they have been honed over tens of thousands of hours to great client reception.
If the above 5 criteria have been met and you want to implement Gutenberg on your site, we’ll evaluate the effort, feasibility, and cost of implementation and training in order to work with you on that.
Gutenberg will be disabled for past projects we currently provide support and maintenance for via the installation and activation of the Classic Editor Plugin, and the current content editing experience will remain in place. This decision was made for the same reasons mentioned above – the 5 key criteria for Gutenberg adoption – alongside the fact that past custom WordPress builds will not support as drastic a change as Gutenberg out of the box. If the above-mentioned 5 criteria have been met and you want to implement Gutenberg on your site, we’ll evaluate the effort, feasibility, and cost of implementation and training in order to work with you on that.
It Comes Down to Cost, Risk, and Planning
Gutenberg isn’t just something that can be implemented with the flick of a switch. It is arguably the single biggest shift WordPress has rolled out, period, and to enable it on a production site requires considerable effort. Budgeting, scheduling, planning, implementation, and testing are all requirements to control for the countless moving parts that make up a large-scale custom website implementation. We’re talking compatibility of content, plugins, APIs, and more that are all integral to the functionality of a site.
However, we are confident that, over time, Gutenberg will mature into a enterprise-level content editing experience that we can implement in a similar manner to how we now use Advanced Custom Fields and design-system-focused custom page templating to create an intuitive and effectively controlled content management experience.
But I Really, Really Want Gutenberg
If you really, really need/want Gutenberg for your (past/current/future) project, let us know. We’ll have a discussion around the pros, cons, timelines, and potential effort levels to implement Gutenberg on your specific project, and go from there.