Back in December 2018, WordPress Version 5.0 was released to the public, shipped with a new ‘block editor’ aimed to revolutionise content editing. This marked a paradigm shift in the world of WordPress website development; removing the TinyMCE editor that had remained mostly unchanged over the last decade.
The TinyMCE or ‘Classic Editor’ is now available as a plugin.
The classic editor was fine for its original purpose of blog writing. But with the low barrier to entry due to the simplicity of the content management system (CMS), the blogging platform has since grown to become a popular choice of CMS for developers and website administrators alike.
With increase in popularity came increasing interest in utilising WordPress for something more than just blogs, as its expanded capabilities to serve anything from corporate sites to eCommerce stores and learning management systems.
With websites becoming more than just digital pamphlets with simplistic functional needs (and an emphasis on good design and user experience), it became impossible to build the new kinds of websites that were required of the CMS with the classic editor.
Up until the release of Gutenberg, page builder plugins were the solution, allowing you to put together pages from a combination of premade elements. While most of them performed their functions well, problems arose when trying to get multiple plugins to “talk to” each other to fulfil greater business requirements.
Compatibility issues, proprietary plugins or poor support from the developer rendered them unreliable business tools. Even if the plugin worked, finding a developer with experience using a specific page builder was difficult.
This leads us to Gutenberg!
Gutenberg is the official implementation of a modular content editor coined ‘the block editor’. Content can be edited independently of other blocks and utilises a simple drag and drop feature to move blocks around. It brings to the table a single standard that all plugin and theme developers can adhere to, ensuring better compatibility and upgradeability.
The new Gutenberg block editor. Source.
Much like its page builder counterparts, the modular blocks increase the layout possibilities on a page. Whether it is a header, call to action or banner, each block needs only to be built once and can be reused anywhere on the site. This increased reusability also encourages better coding practices.
From a user experience perspective, the result is easier to visualise and allows content to dictate a page’s layout – not the other way around.
Website administrators and content editors can use the drag and drop functionality of the ‘blocks’ feature to adjust page layouts and create posts without any coding required. This reduces development time and costs.
If you want to learn more about the new features as well as the user experience, Kinsta has provided a comprehensive article.
Businesses that upgrade to Gutenberg will save time and budget on maintenance of their websites.
While still early days, Gutenberg compatible websites will be able to:
Avoid future core update conflicts
Better integrate 3rd party plugins
Perform deep website changes without developer assistance
Update website content without any coding knowledge.
Once the building blocks are in place, organisations will have little to no development costs and will be capable of conducting Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and other experiments in-house. Building campaign or landing pages will be simple with reusable existing or new elements. This goes beyond cost savings to provide businesses with the flexibility and freedom to make their websites work harder for them.
For new sites, finding a developer or agency that has experience with building Gutenberg blocks is essential. It is also important to check if the major plugins you intend to use already ship with blocks, as this could have a major impact on development costs.
For existing site owners, depending on how your site is built, the cost of transitioning may outweigh the benefits and it may even prove cheaper to start from scratch. Partial implementations are also an option, but we would recommend seeking advice from your developer before deciding the best way forward, both in the short and long term.