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B2B website editors – time to get familiar with WordPress Gutenberg?

  • by Ali Qamar
  • 7th May 2019
    • Brand Growth, Content, Web and Digital

There’s a lot of talk around the new Gutenberg editor in the WordPress community at the moment. Gutenberg is a block-based editor added in WordPress 5.0 and will replace the classic content editor seen on WordPress edit screens. Named after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented a printing press with movable type more than 500 years ago, Gutenberg is a take on a new editor for WordPress. In this short blog, we’ll talk about what Gutenberg for WordPress is, why it was added to WordPress and any potential issues it may cause if you update your site to WordPress 5.0

If you are a content editor or an author for a website, chances are you will be familiar with WordPress. WordPress is undoubtedly the world’s most used content management system (CMS) and for all the right reasons. It‘s open source, easy to set up and has a user-friendly structure – there are also a lot of stable plugins out there which you can take advantage of. There’s also a very large and vibrant community of users around the world that uses WordPress on sites of all scale and size – small to medium and even large websites use this market leading website CMS, and its ease of use is one of the biggest reasons people love it so much.  

WordPress provided a very simple editor until late 2018, which worked well for most people and which has stayed the same for a very long time. The classic content editor proved easy to use for publishers, but sometimes it also needed extra shortcodes and additional work by developers to enable certain media rich editable pages.  

In simple terms, when using the classic editor, it is possible to format text using the “visual tab and add images via the media toolbar. Although a text tab is available to work with the source code, content editors needed to be familiar with HTML to be able to edit the source code. To make a content editor’s life easy, shortcodes and plugins such as visual page editors were required to create more complex layouts.  

Many people in the WordPress community felt the need for a change to the standard WordPress editing experience with the aim of making it as easy as possible to add rich content. The developers and contributors of WordPress have responded with a new editor called “Gutenberg” 

Guten what? 

“Gutenberg” is a new, blockbased rich content editor introduced in WordPress 5.0.  

Since its release, there have been mixed reviews in the WordPress community, some welcoming it, some running into issues on their sites after upgrading to WordPress 5.0 and many not fully understanding the purpose of this new editing environment.  

Realising the potential for issues when updating, and therefore allowing people the choice to be able to use WordPress without relying on the new Gutenberg editor, WordPress also offers the familiar classic editor as a plugin too, so people not comfortable with the idea of block-based editor or running into issues because of updates, can now install classic editor as a plugin and continue to use WordPress in the old version. WordPress will continue to support classic editor until 2022, or as long as it is needed so there‘s still plenty of time for people unsure about the new editor to hold off and see how things go. But one thing’s for sure – the Gutenberg update is showing us the future of WordPress. 

Should you upgrade to WordPress 5.0 now? 

Although the prospect of laying your hands on the shiny new “Gutenberg” editor tools is exciting, upgrading does come with potential implications, so it’s worth proceeding with caution, especially if your website relies on third-party plugins such as off the shelf page builders, or has been heavily customised using plugins and shortcodes. 

There have been some reports of issues after upgrading to Gutenberg including some websites breaking, or new formatting issues on existing pages, forms and posts appearing. Because there are many moving parts in a website e.g. custom themes, plugins etc, there is always the potential for things to go wrong with an update. This can be a big problem for content-rich busy websites, so it’s important that Gutenberg is fully tested before rolling it out to a live site. 

Its worth also remembering that the new editor will take some getting used to and could potentially break sites if not updated properly. In some cases, for example, where your theme is not fully compatible or you have a core plugin your site relies on, it might not be feasible to use Gutenberg editor on your site right now. 

If you haven’t upgraded yet, we recommend getting your head around Gutenberg sooner rather than later. To upgrade your site in a safe and secure way, and thereby minimising any risks to your current site, we’re advising you to test first on a development server.

So, in a nutshell, we recommend the following steps before upgrading to WordPress 5.0: 

  1. Backup your live site 
  1. Create a local copy of the live site from the backup 
  1. Install the classic editor plugin if you are not planning to use Gutenberg yet 
  1. Upgrade locally and test to make sure everything works as intended 
  1. Now create a staging environment on the live server or a server with a similar configuration 
  1. Create a staging copy and test thoroughly 
  1. Once everything works as intended without any issues, your live site can be upgraded 

If you are unsure about any of the steps above, give our team a call and we’ll be happy to advise.  In our next post, we will introduce the “Gutenberg” editor functionality in more detail.