If you own a WordPress website you’ve probably heard of the term “Gutenberg” being thrown around lately. Its impending release is causing confusion (not to mention scaring some people), so I thought it a good time to try and explain what this mystery word means and whether you need to worry about it.
Let me say straight up – if you have a WordPress website, then yes – you absolutely need to worry about it. But don’t panic yet, let’s start at the beginning.
What is Gutenberg?
Let’s keep it simple. It’s a new content editor for WordPress. What is a content editor? On the backend of your WordPress website where you create pages and posts is where the editor is used. It looks a little something like this (I use the Divi theme, so if you don’t just ignore the purple Divi button):
Yes it’s simple and has limited options, but it’s what most WordPress users are used to (unless you use an awesome page builder like Divi, which I highly recommend!). Despite this familiarity, in order for WordPress to compete with some other platforms available, they had to take things up a notch.
Its aim is to provide a better user experience and make it easier to enter nicely formatted page content. It involves “content blocks”, like a page builder, so you can update layouts more easily (ok, once you know how).
If you’ve used a page builder before then you’re at a step ahead conceptually. If you haven’t, I’m sorry, but you will have to learn this concept as part of learning how Gutenberg works!
So…I need to worry about Gutenberg right? When?
So by now you’re with me on the fact that you absolutely need to be thinking about Gutenberg. When the next WordPress update is released, you can “opt out” of using it for now but be careful if you’re webhost does auto updates as you may end up with version 5.0 of WordPress (the Gutenberg version) without realising.
It was due to be released November 29th 2018, but they have changed this date several times so it may be postponed until sometime in January 2019.
In any case, it’s coming – so let’s continue with the action plan!
Will Gutenberg work on my website?
As mentioned, Gutenberg is part of the next WordPress release. It’s part of the core of WordPress, so fundamentally yes, it will work on your website without you doing anything additional. My main concern at the moment is more around what you already have on your website.
With the endless array of WordPress plugins and themes available and the fact many are unsupported, there are likely going to be issues with some of them (conflicting with Gutenberg). This is something you just won’t know until installing it on your website and seeing what happens.
Naturally, any reputable theme and plugin developers will update things on their end to resolve any issues, but this may take time – both to find the issues and then update and implement.
Thank you, but I’m worried now – what do I do?
Ok firstly don’t panic, if you have a backup of your website then no matter what happens we have something to go back to. We may have more time up our sleeves in the release is in January, so you can have a relax over Christmas and get “Gutenberged” in the new year.
Next steps depends on your webhost and time/care factor:
- Does your webhost make it easy to create a copy of your website somewhere that isn’t the real site, so you can test (so a staging copy)?
- If so – awesome! Create a copy of your site, install the Gutenberg plugin and start testing. Check important website functions work as they should and check the page layouts are ok.
- If the answer is no (or you really don’t have the time), move onto Option 2.
- One way to avoid Gutenberg for now, is to install the Classic Editor plugin (see screenshot below of a nice little love note from WordPress on your dashboard). When Gutenberg is eventually released, you can continue to edit using the classic editor.
- There is also a plugin called Gutenberg Ramp, which will allow you to choose which posts or pages you use Gutenberg on so you can give it a test when you’re ready.
Sidenote – these options don’t help with any potential plugin or theme conflicts, but at least you can carry on editing content on your site without issues.
Also, I’ll say it once again – do check if your website host completes automatic updates of WordPress on your website and if they do, see if you can disable that for the moment.
What happens to all my content when Gutenberg does arrive?
The answer to this depends on your current theme or page builder plugin (if you’re using one). Let’s assume you aren’t, in which case your post and page content will be placed into the Gutenberg editor into a “Classic Block” – so you can edit it as you need. You can then add other blocks on the page or post as you need and edit the content within the classic block.
If you’re using a page builder, you have to be careful – if you elect to use Gutenberg on the page it will wipe your formatting. BUT don’t worry, it warns you before any changes happen. Plus, don’t forget – WordPress has the “restore previous versions” functionality – so if you change something in error, you can use that to restore the page content.
Now as for my fav Divi, you’ll be fine. They have made an update on their end so it’s very difficult for you to accidentally change your Divi page to a Gutenberg page. Plus, they’re assuring everyone Divi is Gutenberg compatible. Awesome work!
But if you’re not on the Divi bandwagon, don’t worry – as mentioned previously we can assume any reputable plugin and theme developers will be working hard to make sure their products are compatible with Gutenberg. It’s tricky for them too, as obviously updates are being made to Gutenberg constantly as well. But they will get there.
Hopefully the final release date will be confirmed soon, but in the meantime be aware it’s coming, if you don’t want to test anything, at least have the Classic editor plugin installed on your site and you’ll have the option when it comes. In time I’m sure we will all grow to love the new editing experience…in time!