Understanding the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor

One of the biggest changes to happen to WordPress in recent years is its transition from a strictly blogging/publishing platform to a more generalized website builder. In the process, the makers of WordPress have tried very hard to be all things to all people, and unlike most website builders which go down this route, they’ve done an impressive job and blending the two without seeming too much like a blogging platform or a website builder.

How they have done this is through the introduction of Gutenberg. Named after the very same innovator that revolutionized the written word with the introduction of the printing press, WordPress Gutenberg has been designed to completely shake up the foundations of everything you know about WordPress and make it easier and more intuitive to use. 

The Difference between WordPress and Website Builders

In the past, there was a clear line between WordPress and website builders like Wix or Squarespace. The latter sites were examples of drag and drop website builders, whereas this functionality itself didn’t exist in WordPress by default. You had to install third party plugins or themes in order to get some kind of drag and drop functionality added to WordPress. Of course, many people still prefer these editors. Popular choices include Elementor, Divi and Beaver Builder. 

Many people mistakenly describe Gutenberg as a drag-and-drop WordPress editor, but it goes well beyond that functionality. Let’s take a look under the hood to see what Gutenberg is all about. 

Gutenberg: Streamlining and Adding Efficiency to WordPress

At its core, Gutenberg is a block-based editing system. That means that building your website with Gutenberg can be done in pieces, much in the same way as other drag and drop website builders on the market. Prior to Gutenberg, there were many different ways to achieve the same results in WordPress. You might use a plugin, a shortcode, a specialized script, or a WYSIWYG editor. This, in turn, created a lot of conflicts and difficulties from within the system, and also created the potential for abuse and security problems. 

Much More than Just a Pretty Interface

Gutenberg doesn’t just let you make changes easily to the content and sections of your website. It also lets you illustrate the why behind the change. For example, let’s say you only want to show testimonials on certain pages of your WordPress site. 

Gutenberg makes it easy to do that. While this may not seem fundamentally different than other website builders which also have drag and drop editors, it does create a framework that will act as a springboard for future iterations of Gutenberg WordPress, making it even easier for you to distinguish separate pieces of content across your entire site and make each piece look unique.

One of the best features of Gutenberg is that each of these self-contained “blocks” of content can be customized and edited independently of each other. For example, you can change the background color of a section of text on your page, but you can also reuse that block of text on other pages. 

So if you wanted to create a warning or a callout on your page without having to copy and paste a bunch of specific code, use a short code or otherwise mess with the development end of things, Gutenberg lets you do just that. 

Should You Upgrade to WordPress Gutenberg?

You can try out Gutenberg (it’s free) with the free plugin to give it a spin and see how you like it. Keep in mind that WordPress 5.0 is separate from Gutenberg. You should definitely upgrade to WordPress 5.0 (for security reasons) but wait to upgrade Gutenberg until both you and your site are ready to try it out. There is no rush. However, many people who try it find that it’s very intuitive and easy to work with. 

Plus, with WordPress tutorials, you can easily get up to speed on how Gutenberg works and the ins and outs of working with it, so that you can feel comfortable using it before you make the switch.

With that being said, it’s important to note that if you have an established workflow set up with your WordPress blog, with marketers, writers, designers and developers all working in tandem to publish content, Gutenberg is going to turn all of that on its head. If you have a specialized theme with a lot of specialized features or hooks, Gutenberg will likely turn that on its head as well. 

It’s not surprising that if you search for “should I upgrade to WordPress Gutenberg”, you’ll find just as many posts telling you to take the plunge and do it, as you will find posts telling you to wait until the system is more fully developed. Who’s right? Both are.

Gutenberg, if it’s not already abundantly clear, is a BIG update that shakes up a lot of what can be done with WordPress. Just because you may not necessarily need a developer on hand to make a lot of changes to your site, or a designer to tweak some things, doesn’t mean you don’t want to have them around in case there are issues. 

Do I Have to Completely Re-Learn WordPress? 

No. Rather than starting from scratch, Gutenberg changes one fundamental part of WordPress – but it’s a big part. If you’re already familiar with drag and drop editors such as those from Elementor or Divi, Gutenberg works in a similar way so you’re not completely left with Gutenberg dropped in your lap with no real direction forward. 

With that being said, a lot of the workflows and processes you’re used to in WordPress may be changed. For example, the main dashboard post and page writing window has changed considerably. Many of the features within Gutenberg are contained within the sidebar, freeing up the central screen for easier editing. If you’re used to seeing things like your HTML editor and other features, those have now been removed and a greater emphasis put on tailoring each individual block of content to fit your needs.

This may seem like having to reinvent the wheel, but it is actually an act of “futureproofing” your site. That is because Gutenberg is not only changing how WordPress edits and content publishing, as well as content design are handled, but it’s also setting the stage for how content will be consumed in the future. 

By having pre-formatted blocks designed specifically for various purposes, you’re able to reuse this content and define, for example, what is a testimonial, what is a services list, what is a pricing table, and so on. 

Don’t be surprised if, in the future, Google and other search engines recognize and use these blocks much in the same way that their robots and algorithms learn about a site beyond it’s meta tags. And speaking of meta tags…

Where Do I Find My Custom Fields and Meta Fields in Gutenberg?

If you use additional post features like meta fields and/or custom fields in WordPress, these features do not yet exist in WordPress Gutenberg. Although Gutenberg contains several key features, mostly related to creating (or re-creating) these content blocks, it has not yet grown to the point where it uses additional features that you may be used to seeing from previous versions of WordPress. 

If you rely heavily on these or any other outside features beyond page formatting and design, it may be worth waiting to upgrade to Gutenberg until further development is completed. 

Can I Revert to the Old/Classic WordPress Instead of Using Gutenberg? 

If, in using Gutenberg, you decide that you’d rather see the classic WordPress editor, it’s available in the right sidebar. There you’ll see that you can return to the old-fashioned WordPress WYSIWYG editor and code view. 

However, before you dismiss Gutenberg completely, it’s a good idea to go through a tutorial or two about how to use it so that you can see exactly which benefits Gutenberg brings to the table. Like it or not, Gutenberg has changed the future of WordPress, and because so many sites on the web now use WordPress, Google and other search engines have to pay attention to them. 

In short, they are tightly interwoven, and avoiding change for the sake of it being different will just cause your site to stagnate as the relationship between WordPress, Google and other tools becomes more and more symbiotic. The bottom line – don’t shy away from Gutenberg just because it’s different. Embrace it and learn the ropes quickly so that you and your team are more accustomed to how it works, and how WordPress will work as a whole for the near (and far) future. 

Can I Restore My Site After Switching to Gutenberg? 

If your site uses a lot of specific plugins, theme hooks or other advanced coding to get around the WordPress admin or core framework in order to achieve certain goals as a workaround for WordPress’ own limitations, you’ll find that Gutenberg will have demolished a lot of that – and sometimes, it isn’t a pretty sight. 

If you venture over to the WordPress plugin repository, you’ll see lots of reviews from angry site owners for whom Gutenberg was not what they had hoped for, because it turned their sites upside down. 

The good news is that official WordPress developers knew beforehand that migrating over to the Gutenberg method of editing would ruffle some feathers. That’s why they’ve released a Classic Editor plugin that will let you revert back to the old-fashioned WordPress editor to format your posts and page content more easily. You can install it in the same way you would install any other WordPress plugin.

So if you need to make changes to your blog or WordPress website and you don’t have time to wade through Gutenberg just yet, consider using the Classic Editor plugin until you are more comfortable navigating around the new system! 

What if I Need Help Making Updates or Maintaining My Site with Gutenberg? 

It’s no secret that in its current state, Gutenberg is a bit of a mixed bag for WordPress website owners. It adds the ease of drag and drop functionality but at the expense of stripping away (at least temporarily) many other features that website owners have come to depend on. By the same token, it has endeavored to make the WordPress workflow more efficient and streamlined. 

Because many WordPress websites do not follow a sort of “cookie cutter” template style like other page builders (including Wix and Squarespace), Gutenberg has varying effects on how the resulting site looks and functions. In short, everyone’s results will vary. 

But help is here! With WPDandy, your programming and WordPress development needs, as well as maintenance and management with WordPress Gutenberg are no problem at all. By working with our experienced WordPress developers and programmers, even if Gutenberg has turned your site into a mess, you have skilled, proficient WordPress experts on your side. 

We can help ensure that your site is not only back to normal, but that it works well with Gutenberg, so that you can use all that this innovative editor and page builder system has to offer – both today and in the future. 

Futureproof Your Site Today with WPDandy!

WPDandy can help not only upgrade your site to Gutenberg and ensure maximum compatibility, but also perform regular and routine maintenance and management for your WordPress blog. Whether you’ve decided to upgrade to Gutenberg or you’re still taking it for a test drive, you’ll love the ease of use of our exclusive administrative dashboard. We make it easy to assign projects to your dedicated WordPress developer and programmer, while enjoying prompt communication and updates from our proficient and experienced team. To learn more about our variety of WordPress management services, contact us today! We’ll also be happy to answer any questions you may have about installing or upgrading to Gutenberg when you choose to work with us as your WordPress development team!