As of this year (2019), I’ll have worked in the web industries for over 8 years and boy has Wordpress (WP) changed during that time. Having worked as both a designer and developer throughout my career I’ve been able to overcome many different challenges in both disciplines. While I may specialise in more advanced application development like .NET and React-Native nowadays I cut my teeth in development with PHP applications like Wordpress. For many developers and creatives, Wordpress was the weapon of choice for most sites that came through the door. To celebrate the release of Wordpress’ new content-editor (Gutenberg) I intend to share my experience and knowledge to help you understand what this new tool can do for your business.
Hot Off the Presses - What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg is Wordpress’ new content-editor (released December 2018) intended to help users design their posts through the use of content “blocks”. Well, what does that mean? So what!? Well in the good old days of yore before Gutenberg we had to layout and format our post’s content in a manner akin to a basic word processor. It looked like this:
That’s great if all you want to do is write some simply styled content to be displayed in a pre-defined slot in a template. However, it does limit how dynamic your page layout can be. Yes, we can get some pretty configurable block-driven layouts with plugins like Advanced Custom Fields (more on this later) but for vanilla Wordpress that was it.
This is where Gutenberg comes in. The Wordpress team has added Gutenberg to allow for more dynamic content-layouts that are less set in stone. Here’s an updated version of the page content we saw before.
Now we’re cooking with gas. We’ve certainly spiced up that page a bit with blocks that up until now required shortcodes or careful HTML structuring to achieve. The release of this new editor is just the beginning. In the end, the Wordpress team hopes to be able to provide Wordpress as a platform that allows for fully customisable websites. The reasons for this are manifold.
Why was Gutenberg developed?
Firstly, the Wordpress team is continuing their long history of re-developing the platform into what their users and community want and expect from a modern content-management system (CMS). With the content of the web becoming increasingly varied and media-rich the old content editor just isn’t fit for purpose anymore. Additionally, Gutenberg is intended to simplify developing and publishing content with Wordpress. The idea being that there will be a “common language across Wordpress” that will simplify development for the platform.
Mullenweg continues saying that Gutenberg hopes to:
“replace a number of older content-types - things like shortcodes and widgets - that one had to be well-versed in idiosyncrasies of Wordpress to understand.”
Wordpress was never intended (or expected) to be used as a fully-fledged CMS. However, in a laudable fashion the WP team has iteratively re-tooled the platform to provide these features and standards. The new Gutenberg block-based editor is simply an extension of this established pattern of development.
Comically, Mullenweg compares modern Wordpress to the mythical ship of Theseus - an ancient thought experiment that posits whether an object that has had all its component parts replaced is still the same object. Regardless of whether Wordpress is the same application, it’s certainly all the better for it.
Secondly, it’s one of expediency to allow Wordpress to compete with the various website-in-a-bag type services that have sprouted up in recent years. A lot of these services are good enough and no doubt turn the heads of many a mom and pop enterprise when they’re looking to establish their web presence. Most of these platforms (as well as other CMS’ like Umbraco which Parachute also supports) have their own block-lead content editors which made WP’s old editor appear anachronistic.
Quite rightly, the WP team probably envisioned the platform losing at least some of its market dominance if Wordpress wasn’t modernised. Moreover, aligning the publishing workflow with established practices elsewhere aids in uptake and adoption of Wordpress for its users as well. Simplifying and improving WP’s user-experience was considered a key objective in Gutenberg’s development.
The block design paradigm won’t just be limited to the content-editor. The release schedule over the next few years aims to allow users to build, customise and develop page templates and entire site designs with blocks. Users will “will finally be able to build the sites they see in their imaginations.”
What’s been the community response to Gutenberg?
Gutenberg has for the most part been welcomed with open arms by the Wordpress community. The Wordpress team originally set a goal of just 100,000 installs to begin testing. As of November 2018, Gutenberg had over 1 million active installs even before its official release. This fantastic level of curiosity - if not adoption - is largely because the feature-set sported by Gutenberg was produced to meet the needs and requirements of that very same community. While Gutenberg will no doubt continue to be critiqued and perfected the community response has been extremely positive.
This includes, of course, Wordpress’ bustling development community that produces software such as Advanced Custom Fields (ACF). Previously many users turned to ACF for Gutenberg-like editing capabilities. It would be easy to make the mistake that the teams that produce plugins such as this was viewing Gutenberg as competition. However, ACF intends to fully integrate its plugin with Gutenberg to really enrich the editor with the extensive features it has already brought to the platform.
It certainly appears that Wordpress’ aim to create a common language that will simplify development for the platform are achievable with gestures of support such as this.
Can my business take advantage of Gutenberg yet?
Sure. Gutenberg ships with all versions of Wordpress 5.0 and is ready to use with quite a few useful blocks out the box. Vanilla Gutenberg will certainly help your business create richer, more dynamic and easy to edit content than Wordpress allowed before. Of course, Parachute would be happy to provide any help we can if you really want to get your head round this exciting new era of web publishing.
How can Parachute help me leverage this new tool?
Parachute offers a wide range of creative, software development, analytical, copywriting and content management services to help you strengthen your web presence. While Gutenberg can (and will) allow your business to present your business better than ever before, Parachute can maximise its effectiveness.
In short, we offer bespoke, dedicated service that enables you to fully realise your business’ online potential.
Our proven creative team can provide your business with bespoke designs that will display your services and wares in a professional and impactful manner. As well as this, the team can design a library of elements to build your own vibrant and impactful pages and layouts with Gutenberg.
Parachute’s experienced and skilled development team can furnish your site with fully configurable, dynamic, custom blocks with a seamless and intuitive editing experience. We can also implement full integrations of your Wordpress installation with the external services that empower your business. Your business can be further galvanised with rich analytics and reporting that equip you with the data that enables you to widen and know your customers. All of this built to a highly consistent and professional standard of craftsmanship that is accessible on all types of devices.
Finally, our copywriting and content management team can review and refine your content so that nothing is wasted or forgotten when you make that all important pitch to your site’s users.
If you’re ready to make the leap that takes your web presence to the next level get in touch with us here and we’ll see if Gutenberg is right for you.
Come in for a chat and a damn good cup of coffee. We’d be delighted to hear what you’ve got planned and how we can help you with your project.