Gutenberg
An alternative approach

An alternative approach to Gutenberg

October 03rd, 2017 – 74 Comments

There’s a lot of discussion in the WordPress world right now about a new editing experience that’s in the making. It’s called Gutenberg. While some of that discussion is technical, every user that uses WordPress regularly should be aware of what’s coming. At Yoast, we are quite excited about the concept of Gutenberg. We think it could be a great improvement. At the same time, we have our worries about the speed in which the project is being pushed forward. And, we’re not excited about all the changes.

In this post, I’ll first try to explain what Gutenberg is. Subsequently, I will tell you about the things that are problematic to us. Finally, I will tell and show you what we think should be done about the problems.

Update: I’ve written another post showing some concepts for integrating Yoast SEO with Gutenberg »

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is a new approach to how we edit posts in WordPress. It’s basically a new editor. It tries to remove a lot of the fluff that we built up over the years. The intent is to make the new experience lighter and more modern. The end-goal is to make WordPress easier to use. That’s something we really appreciate at Yoast.

Gutenberg introduces the concept of “blocks“. The new editor will be a block-editor: paragraphs, headings, images and YouTube video embeds will all be blocks. Blocks will make it easier to learn how to work with WordPress. People starting out with WordPress, only have to learn the concept of blocks, instead of 3 or 4 different concepts. When we make WordPress easier to use, we make it more accessible to a larger group of people. Making editing easier was the goal from the outset, as Matt Mullenweg is quoted on the Gutenberg Github page:

The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery. — Matt Mullenweg

As well as introducing blocks, Gutenberg also introduces a new look and feel for the editor. For me, the look and feel is mostly a copy of the Medium editor, an editor that got a lot of praise in certain online circles. Gutenberg appears a bit more modern, more contemporary.

New technology in Gutenberg

Besides introducing a new look and feel and the concept of editing blocks, Gutenberg also introduces an entirely new technology to WordPress. Gutenberg will use a lot of JavaScript, particularly React. While this change in itself is not interesting to the average user, it does impact how WordPress is built.

Here at Yoast, we are worried about the use of new technology combined with the introduction of big new concepts. This is bound to make for a rocky experience. We know from our own experience releasing Yoast SEO 3.0 (we’d rather not talk about that anymore). Even when releases are very well prepared, a lot can go wrong and you’ll be busy fixing it for a long time. We feel worried about the combination of new technology, completely renewed functionality, and the extremely ambitious time plan.

Plugins in Gutenberg

The concept of blocks brings some very powerful new tools to plugin authors. At Yoast, we have lots of ideas on how to make our content analysis better, faster, and more user-friendly with the Gutenberg editor. However, Gutenberg does currently not have the technical necessities in place to allow us to actually build that integration. Yoast SEO can’t integrate with the new editor (yet). Of course, we are actively involved in the technical discussions around this. We are currently heavily discussing how to make it possible for plugins to integrate.

Fact remains that, if you test Gutenberg right now, you’ll see that Yoast SEO is not on the page, anywhere. Nor, for that matter, are all the other plugins you might use like Advanced Custom Fields or CMB2. All of these plugins use so-called meta boxes, the boxes below and to the side of the current editor.

The fact that the Gutenberg team is considering changing meta boxes is, in our eyes, a big mistake. This would mean that many, many plugins would not work anymore the minute Gutenberg comes out. Lots and lots of custom built integrations would stop working. Hundreds of thousands of hours of development time would have to be, at least partly, redone. All of this while, for most sites, the current editor works just fine.

Accessibility issues

The current version of Gutenberg has major accessibility issues both in its frontend output and in the backend editor. This ranges from inline styles in the output to many other things.

We feel very strongly about accessibility. Not without reasons. The law in many European countries requires government institutions to have properly accessible websites. If Gutenberg breaks their accessibility, they will have to disable it, or face lawsuits. The Gutenberg team needs to realize that accessibility requirements are simply that: requirements.

To conclude: we are very enthusiastic about the idea of blocks, but have strong concerns about some of the technical choices and the speed of the implementation process. We are also worried about the lack of priority given to accessibility issues in the project. But most importantly, we are very much concerned about the fact that plugins are not able to integrate with the new editor.

When is Gutenberg coming?

In a recent post about the JavaScript library of choice for the WordPress ecosystem, WordPress’ project lead Matt Mullenweg said:

It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

At Yoast, we were pretty shocked about these words. In its current form, Gutenberg is not ready -at all- for mainstream usage. In fact, we do not see it as being ready to be released anywhere in the first half of 2018. In our view, ready to be released also means that the community has had ample time to fix all of their integrations. In this point of time, it’s not possible for plugins at all to integrate with Gutenberg. How on earth should plugin authors be able to build their integrations within a few months? That’s not possible. At least not without breaking things.

So what should be done?

We think that taking the following three steps would bring Gutenberg much closer to release:

  • First of all, we should keep the blocks idea, as it’s a good one. And then we should start iterating, slowly. If you want the admin to get a modern “makeover” for 5.0: that’s doable. We don’t need to change how meta boxes are rendered for that to happen.
  • There’s also no need to move the toolbar (with bold, italics etc buttons) away from where it is (this has been discussed before). Medium does that, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing and it means more re-training than the team building Gutenberg seems to realize.
  • We should focus on making sure both the backend editor and the frontend output of Gutenberg meet basic accessibility requirements.

Once we’ve decided on the above, we should start educating plugin & theme developers on what will and what will not work in the new environment.

What should this look like?

We’ve made some mockups of what we think this could look like (click for larger versions):

Document level

Gutenberg editor mockup - block level

Block level

Gutenberg mockup - distraction free mode

Distraction free mode

Note that we have disabled the background color and text color controls in the block level mockup. These should be off by default in our opinion, and possibly only allow a subset of colors, chosen by the theme author, when enabled.

I’d love to discuss with you, in the comments here, on Github, on Slack: everywhere!


74 Responses to An alternative approach to Gutenberg

  1. Tim
    By Tim on 13 October, 2017

    It works great now. It’s not broken. We don’t have fix it (yet). But maybe we will have to if this is forced on us.

    Me? I’m going to turn off automatic upgrades and keep my current WP version right up to the last possible minute before I have to switch.

    And I know what I’m talking about: as a former Authorized AutoCAD dealer and drafting service bureau chief, I STILL use AutoCAD 14 (from 1997), because it is simply the most productive and fastest AutoCAD for simply turning out drawings.

    During the last year I was with AutoDesk, and they came out with “The Best AutoCAD Ever” (Release 13, duh), I had to advise my customers NOT to upgrade to AutoCAD 13 because it was such a productivity decrease. I turned away a potential $125,000 in upgrade income because I was honest with my clients.

    Duh.

    • Aubriegh
      By Aubriegh on 13 October, 2017

      Hey Tim. Thanks for the reminder about turning off automatic updates! That’ll solve a boatload of launch issues until they work all the kinks out.

  2. Joshua Johnson
    By Joshua Johnson on 12 October, 2017

    As mentions it is using many JavaScript, Will it affect site speed or SEO?

  3. Lawrence Ip
    By Lawrence Ip on 11 October, 2017

    Look at the way https://www.postleaf.org/ does things and that’s the way we should go. Dust.Js teamed up with Node.Js is quite a powerful duo indeed!

  4. Harry
    By Harry on 8 October, 2017

    There will always be worry with the introduction of something new! I personally love WP..

  5. David Ritter
    By David Ritter on 8 October, 2017

    @ David Finch: since when does market share of a CMS have anything to do with the fulfilling the goals of a website for a website/business owner?

    The Toyota Camry is one of the most popular cars sold. Yet that makes it a terrible choice if you need to haul a metric ton or two of building supplies; a semi-truck would be a much better choice for that. Or maybe I need a track car. I’ll pick up a used Ferrari. Last I checked, Ferrari had less than 1% market share. Does that make the Volvo Semi or Ferrari any less relevant?

    Price is irrelevant when it comes to a CMS if meets business goals. FWIW, Automattic charges a minimum of $2500/mo for WP hosting. That doesn’t make your £24 per month hosting irrelevant, they’re simply different markets.

  6. James
    By James on 7 October, 2017

    You mentioned, “Gutenberg will use a lot of JavaScript, particularly React.” Does that mean the site will become JavaScript too? If so, won’t that reduce the traffic to sites? Aren’t there browsers and OS that try to limit JavaScript? I guess I am missing something here.

  7. Dick Metcalf
    By Dick Metcalf on 7 October, 2017

    SO – there will be no OPTION to NOT use the new editor when WP releases it?

    • Lawrence Ip
      By Lawrence Ip on 11 October, 2017

      No but there are other editors you can install or at least there will be.

  8. Corey
    By Corey on 7 October, 2017

    I smell a fork coming. This is going to be a clusterflock.

    • Jignesh
      By Jignesh on 11 October, 2017

      Completely agree with your view on launching totally new product rather than revamping the existing one. In this way, people will get time to migrate from existing to new product. Here they can also have option for easy migration without worrying about compatibility once the new product get stable.

  9. Matt Hill
    By Matt Hill on 6 October, 2017

    I stopped building things with WordPress years ago and moved on to better CMSs that had a modern approach, Craft CMS for example.

    It was inevitable that at some point WordPress would need to start ditching its legacy code and backwards compatibility to be able to move forward on a cleaner code base. I understand the concerns raised, and do sympathise, but I think overall it’s better to embrace the difficulties of change, rather than keep WP locked in the past.

    For people using WordPress as a CMS for delivering content-rich experiences, the block style editor is long overdue and is absolutely necessary if it wants to keep its place as the most used CMS on the planet. It’s probably not so good for people who mainly use WP as a simple blog editor: for them, a single text entry panel is still probably a better UX.

    Perhaps WP needs a high-level switch on each page, to choose between these two types of content editing. Or maybe it’s simply time to create a new WP product entirely that can compete with the more robust CMSs out there. Traditional WP for bloggers who want the old experience, and a new “WP Pro” for developers building sites that require complex content management.

    • David Finch
      By David Finch on 8 October, 2017

      I do agree the change needs to happen but slow it down a bit and don’t rush things as that just leads to pain and unhappy customers and an angry community.
      Would you mind listing these supposed more robust CMS’s that WordPress competes with? Since WordPress has 28.6% of all websites and Joomla in 2nd place has a total of 2.5 million websites in the world, I don’t see any competition.

      • David Finch
        By David Finch on 8 October, 2017

        Oh and Matt, why would I pay for up to $300 for a CMS that isn’t even in the top 10?

    • David Ritter
      By David Ritter on 8 October, 2017

      Spot on Matt.

      Your read is similar to mine: this is a great evolutionary step. Like you, we’ve moved on from WP as well (to Craft) but still follow Yoast because of their contributions not only to WP but to SEO, etc. (I would love to see a Craft CMS port of Yoast SEO but that’s another topic.)

      It seems to me there’s a lot of people claiming “WP is moving my cheese!” Yeh, to that I say: “Well go find it!” You want to stay relevant in this space? Evolve or die.

      I do think Yoast has some merit here: slow down a bit and think about this. This is probably the biggest shake-up since WP was invented. Regardless, there’s going to be a ton of dissent over this and WP may lose some market share as people who don’t agree move onto other platforms.

      Calypso was the first big step that Automattic wants to modernize WP. Just wait until WordPress X: totally rewritten codebase with modern frameworks. That’ll raise the bar indeed.

  10. Andrej
    By Andrej on 6 October, 2017

    I agree with most of the other comments here – make Guttenberg an optional WordPress feature. Many of us are already using WordPress page builders to style the texts on our websites.

    • Pete Wright
      By Pete Wright on 6 October, 2017

      Agreed – or do the obvious thing, and fork the project. WordPress is an ecosystem of plugins, not just a writing platform. If it breaks that ecosystem, it isn’t WordPress any more – it’s a new project. Call that project “Gutenberg” and keep it as an alternative product until it has its own ecosystem.

  11. Bob Special
    By Bob Special on 6 October, 2017

    Many thanks for making what could have been a baffling article easy to follow and understand. Like many users of WordPress I’m a one-man-band business, building and maintaining my website is just one of the hats I wear. I also handmake the GiftTubes, knit the booties, etc. Just creating a website was a huge learning curve, the idea that a new release could render all the plug-ins useless is crackers!

  12. Michael Lauritzen
    By Michael Lauritzen on 6 October, 2017

    Great post will look forward to thes.

  13. Charles Lowe
    By Charles Lowe on 6 October, 2017

    Thank you for your clear call to action Joost.
    Is WordPress aware that a huge (I suspect the hugest) reason it is so popular is the number and variety of plug-ins available to use within it?
    How closely have they been listening to you recount the horror of handling Yoast 3.0?
    Or is this simply the unbridled impatience of a testosterone-fuelled little corporate nit-wit seeking to rocket to the top?

    • David Finch
      By David Finch on 6 October, 2017

      Yes I think it is and her name is Tammie, or at least Tammie is the one answering all our concerns by telling us it’s coming so deal with it.
      https://tam.blog/

  14. Paijo
    By Paijo on 6 October, 2017

    Hello Joost…As beginner I want to know “Does Gutenberg will impact on wordpress seo ?”

  15. Marcus Tibesar
    By Marcus Tibesar on 6 October, 2017

    I’ll probably just hold off on updating any client sites and our own site when 5.0 comes out. We’ll jump from say 4.9 to 5.9 ;-)

  16. Eileen
    By Eileen on 5 October, 2017

    Thank you for this. I hope the WordPress developers take your thoughts into account.

    Personally, I dropped AWeber when they switched to a block editor. It was not intuitive or easy. The block editor just got in the way of my writing flow.

  17. Tracy Thomson
    By Tracy Thomson on 5 October, 2017

    I have a small estate agency. Will all of our custom posts, (ie life blood property listings,) pre-Gutenberg still be readable and accessible?
    If we don’t update to WP 5 will it be a security risk?

    • Pete Wright
      By Pete Wright on 6 October, 2017

      Good question, Tracy. The answer is, “Yes, but not so much of a risk as switching to code that breaks other plugins”. Updates are only safe as long as you can trust the company creating them to act responsibly and test adequately.

  18. Amie Akridge
    By Amie Akridge on 5 October, 2017

    Oh goodness. Here we goooooooo. I’m already scared.

  19. Bill Peschel
    By Bill Peschel on 5 October, 2017

    I’m afraid I’m not seeing the value in “blocks.” Now, we have a plain sheet of paper. Text is text: anything else needs simple HTML code that you switch off and on. How much more simpler can you get?

    I’m finding WordPress to be less and less user-friendly unless you’re a developer, and I say this as a self-taught minor programmer who moved my website from straight HTML to using Dreamweaver 3.0 to Expression Engine to WordPress. Now I’m trying to integrate various plugins and a premium theme, all of which are vulnerable to WP upgrades or infected with malware.

    Yeah, this sounds like “old man yelling at clouds,” but WordPress isn’t helping us here, it’s only creating more work for itself.

  20. Felix
    By Felix on 5 October, 2017

    Will the end user be able to just bypass the editor and use one of there choosing?

  21. Steve Horn
    By Steve Horn on 5 October, 2017

    I couldn’t agree more. I hate inline styles and all the extra junk markup that so many block editors add. I hope WordPress takes the stable and responsible approach to this. I REALLY don’t want to be pushed into a new line of expectations from clients and managers.

  22. Jerry Schrader
    By Jerry Schrader on 5 October, 2017

    While as a developer I appreciate growing, this in my opinion is going to wreak havoc. All of the clients we have trained in editing and adding content, are now going to have to be brought up to speed. While some may view this as an opportunity to make more money, I don’t feel it should be forced upon us as developers, or on our clients. To repeat what everyone is saying, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

  23. Jim Mueller
    By Jim Mueller on 5 October, 2017

    Would have loved to have been in that meeting… “Okay team, we need to change something. Think. Think… Larger buttons, no. New login box, no. How about, no, already did that. Hmmm. What can we change… Oh, yes, great idea! Let’s “update” the editor!

  24. Mike Minh
    By Mike Minh on 5 October, 2017

    Isn’t this a geek discussion? Ever thought about the many users who don’t even know what meta boxes are (and heard about them here first)? Who sits here sky high in the ivory tower, detached from the real user base?

  25. Dario Fumagalli
    By Dario Fumagalli on 5 October, 2017

    This is not a new kind of issue.
    In the whole human story, we get great, simple ideas (like WordPress) become exceptionally successful until some elite guy decides to fix what’s not broken. When it happens, sometimes the once-great product either dies or it faces lots and lots of tribulations.
    As plugin developer but also as large business software developer, I despise when somebody decides to rain epocal decisions from the sky without checking the consequences nor giving the time to adapt.

  26. Theresa Jennings
    By Theresa Jennings on 5 October, 2017

    We sell WordPress as a content management system that enables clients to manage their own content. As designers/developers, we’ve probably spent time training our clients to do this. This is the interface. This is how you do such and such, and so on. Built into our scope of work.

    Then we introduce Gutenberg. As others have mentioned here, do we do the small and large changes AND RETRAINING pro bono????? Days and weeks and even months of no income while we get clients up to speed on a change they (and we) had no say in? Like we and our clients have all this disposable time to devote to learning this huge change? Or do we drop a nuclear financial bomb on clients, saying we have to rework their whole site they’ve already paid perhaps thousands of dollars for, and oh, it’s going to cost them, and we’ll probably lose the client in the process? Will ecommerce sites with their hundreds and thousands of products be a huge broken, non-revenue-producing cluster? Is Automattic THAT disconnected from how things are for us in the trenches? Because WP isn’t just for frou-frou hobby blogs anymore. Business is being done.

    I like the option of being able to opt into or out of it. That way we can play with some sites locally and see what’s going to break and not break with each site’s configuration before we enable it. Gutenberg sounds great in theory, but give each of us time to assess its impact on each site.

    Someone mentioned this making them want to retire. Yup.

    • Carol
      By Carol on 7 October, 2017

      I appreciate Theresa’s concern for businesses, especially small family owned businesses that have forked out quite a bit of money to get a WordPress site up and running, whether paying a developer or not, it’s not cheap. Then to turn around a year later and none of your plugins work anymore. That’s a nightmare. If they have paid a developer which included training and all of sudden it’s all obsolete don’t expect them to turn around and have more money to dish out. That’s a mistake. And more than likely if you’re unable to work with them you going to see your clientele shrivel. @ Ron Seigal

    • Eveline Power
      By Eveline Power on 5 October, 2017

      Yep, that was me – we’ll see how this plays out.

      • Ron Seigel
        By Ron Seigel on 5 October, 2017

        If you have to do anything “pro bono” then there’s something wrong with your business model.

        We charge for every single thing we do. If it takes more than 5 or 10 minutes – it’s billed. No exceptions ever (it’s my company – I make the rules). Would you expect a lawyer to give you free time? Of course not.

        If you’re OK with working for free then your time would be better spent volunteering to help people in real need.

        Too many companies value their time at next to nothing. We charge 10X (yeah – you read that right) on most everything the lowballers do and take business away from them daily.

  27. Tarnya
    By Tarnya on 5 October, 2017

    I agree with earlier comments – scarey stuff! I wonder if there will be the option to turn this functionality off. For me as long as one can turn it off, perhaps even on a page by page basis then I am happy

    • Joe Zlomek
      By Joe Zlomek on 5 October, 2017

      I agree with Tarnya: let me choose to opt out until I want to opt in. Don’t force this on any user.

  28. Doc Sheldon
    By Doc Sheldon on 5 October, 2017

    This is scary stuff, Joost! I can’t imagine how they can justify in their own minds, releasing Gutenberg before it’s thoroughly debugged, much less when they HAVE to realize they’ll be breaking the vast majority of WP sites out there! This could cost them dearly, not to mention destroying a lot of small businesses.

  29. Jen Miller
    By Jen Miller on 5 October, 2017

    Interesting suggestion and if implemented definitely leaves more time for evolution. I’ve been worried about how plugins will adapt as well since it seems development is shifting so quickly. There just isn’t a static model to serve for testing. While I understand that the open source model means constantly contributing to new code and concepts, it seems that a community-oriented software or platform should allow a trial period for testing before a major structural change. I know that there are a requisite number of installs that need to be met before the release of 5.0, but since all of the installs are still transitory beta versions, they don’t seem to be a solid standard by which to time a release. Very grateful you are staying at the front of the conversation, Joost. Thank you.
    Jen

  30. Simon from SEOm
    By Simon from SEOm on 5 October, 2017

    WordPress really is the CMS for the masses and so a simplified interface will make it easier to use for many more people, that’s great!

    Unfortunately, for as long as I remember (perhaps since they moved from a blogging platform to a website platform years ago) it’s always been a complicated system to work with, especially for any clients seeing a CMS for the first time.

    I don’t envy the task of any plugin creators keeping up with integration and keeping their plugin simple. Yoast is a fantastic SEO plugin which we recommend for all our customers sites that use WordPress.

  31. Jon Brown
    By Jon Brown on 5 October, 2017

    Introducing blocks the way you’ve outlined makes a lot of sense to me. Then later they can be leveraged for a better front end editing experience.

    I’ve turned the corner on Gutenberg and think it’s got great potential. I still find the over UI flow awful though. It’s just too clunky and hard to use for creating long-form content.

    Theme and plugin support is another huge issue. This needs to be phased in with add_theme_support() for Gutenberg AND the plugin directory needs tags that declare support as well. Leaving users guessing is a bad idea.

  32. Magda van Tilburg
    By Magda van Tilburg on 4 October, 2017

    And remember also: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, WordPress!

  33. Magda van Tilburg
    By Magda van Tilburg on 4 October, 2017

    Thank you SO much, Joost, to provide us with this warning explanation! Is there also a possibility NOT to partake in Gutenberg for a while, to wait the first patches that possibly will be published in tsunami’s…? I think this will be a DISASTER, especially for the non-developers webmasters!!! I spent so much time to get my favo plugins to get in line. The idea that there will be devastating storm for them, is a gastly one!
    I will follow your articles about this big issue with arguseyes…

  34. David Finch
    By David Finch on 4 October, 2017

    Finally some common sense, way to go Joost.
    We have tested Gutenberg on a few of our sites and test beds and worked out there will be huge bills for our clients if it goes ahead now.
    I have a screen shot of a basic page on one of our clients sites that just scares myself and my entire support team.
    Thank you again for a common sense review and hopefully they will listen to you Josst as they seem to be ignoring the communities concerns.

  35. Eveline Power
    By Eveline Power on 4 October, 2017

    Thank you for this post.

    I absolutely agree with all the comments here. As a designer/manager of some fairly complex educational sites, the idea of plugins not working and things breaking makes me consider retirement. I purchased an editor plugin that does exactly what I want and paired it with compatible plugins – I don’t need or want Gutenberg in the core to change all of the game rules.

    When we convince our clients to spend money on pro plugins and upgrades so that their site serves their needs and then, a few months later, WordPress releases an update that means we have to bill for hours of painstaking repair it just reflects badly on us. The client doesn’t understand what goes on in the WordPress world – all they see is their bottom line and money out the window. As the previous responder said, what do we do, work pro-bono?

    Please WordPress developers, put the reigns on Gutenberg – at least make it optional.

  36. Steven Gliebe
    By Steven Gliebe on 4 October, 2017

    Finally, a moderated approach. Most of the feedback so far has been utterly for or against (usually against). I like the idea of Gutenberg and I like what you propose to make the rollout more reasonable in consideration of plugin authors. Thanks for putting this out there.

  37. Steve Borsch
    By Steve Borsch on 4 October, 2017

    Spot-on thought about this major change, Joost.

    As I read this I thought of just one site we did for a client that took literally **30 hours** of metadata work to ensure the post editing page had all the right selections and the front-end displayed everything beautifully. I can’t even imagine approaching the client and saying, “Um…when you upgrade as this is released in January we’ll have to re-do most of that work and it will cost you $X,XXX.00 in additional development time.”

    They don’t have the money to make those changes (I know the owner well) so what…do they not upgrade? Do we do the work pro-bono? This is one example and I can only imagine the collective screams in WordPress-land when this upgrade happens and tens of thousands of sites break all across the world.

    Thanks for taking a leadership position on the “rush to Gutenberg” and that it should be handled gingerly and with forethought.

  38. Lakewood
    By Lakewood on 4 October, 2017

    I agree, the basis of Guttenburg is good and I always like to see technology moving forward. I also get that people will always complain when technology changes but the complaints here need to be addressed.

  39. Joe
    By Joe on 4 October, 2017

    Agree completely. I work at a major hosting company and this would definitely be a, for lack of a better phrase, complete cluster if they implement half of this. You break that many sites in one go, and it will, then people will leave. If implemented incorrectly, WordPress may find that they start losing the moniker of top dog at a speed they didn’t see coming….just like that poorly planned update.

  40. Kim jørgensen
    By Kim jørgensen on 4 October, 2017

    When the new editor is implemented – What happens with old posts? Are they “destoyed”?

    • Allyn
      By Allyn on 6 October, 2017

      No, Kim, the old posts remain in your database. What’s changing is the interface used to edit those posts.

  41. Lennart Øster
    By Lennart Øster on 4 October, 2017

    I use WordPress daily on several websites to maintain my affiliate sites. For me accessibility and the use om plugins, is the most important reason to use WordPress.

    One can hope that articles like this will prevent an “early release” with problems many will face.

  42. Clyde F. Smith
    By Clyde F. Smith on 4 October, 2017

    As a daily WordPress user I am very concerned about the impact on all the developers on whose themes and plugins I rely. It seems unfair and damaging to the WP ecosystem to force these changes so quickly.

    I may have missed the issue of accessibility in other pieces about Gutenberg but that is a very serious concern even beyond European requirements. I do hope discussions by those working on Gutenberg lead to actual accessibility in further development. That is not an issue to be taken lightly.

    Thanks for this post!

  43. Digamber
    By Digamber on 4 October, 2017

    From supporting PHP 5.2 to NOT supporting Custom Meta Boxes (yet) for Guttenberg. It’s very weird. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Completely re-writing the custom fields API that is just ludicrous.

    • Birgit
      By Birgit on 6 October, 2017

      Where did you read that the WordPress Core team is ‘completely re-writing the custom fields API’?

  44. Hashim Warren
    By Hashim Warren on 4 October, 2017

    First we need to address the elephant in the room. Gutenberg is a solution trying to solve a WordPress.com-specific problem. Automattic is failing, not WordPress. https://g.co/trends/Ci5b2

    When I use ACF to make a “staff page” for a client, and all they have to do is upload a photo, and fill out a name and title for each employee – that’s an AWESOME user experience.

    WordPress core should be making that easier for me to deliver.

    Instead we’re copying Medium’s features, a service with a small but influential user base, that only beats Automattic in its valuation, not features that matter.

    Remember when we tried to beat Tumblr with post formats? https://poststatus.com/post-formats-looking-back/

    I’m glad that effort didn’t break any plugins. I fear Automattic hasn’t learned from that last attempt at winning new users.

    • Charles Lowe
      By Charles Lowe on 6 October, 2017

      Hashim, your link isn’t working for me (it’s not Gutenberg already is it?).

    • Ron Seigel
      By Ron Seigel on 5 October, 2017

      I agree with everything you say Hasim except one little thing.

      I honestly believe Gutenberg is a “solution” trying desperately to find an actual problem.

      Core has ZERO chance to ever catch the likes of Beaver Builder (our weapon of choice), Divi or any of the other mature page builders out there. Once we teach a client how to use Beaver, it’s like a lightbulb goes off and they get it. Naturally we do all the heavy lifting to protect them from themselves up front.

      I think Matt is just feeling really insecure right now and he’s looking for a fight to win. With 30% market share already those fights are going to be harder and harder to find.

  45. Elaine
    By Elaine on 3 October, 2017

    I’m glad we have a high-profile advocate speaking out. While I’ve tried Gutenberg and provided feedback, I feel like the team is still going full steam ahead when there are absolutely critical issues like accessibility and plugins that haven’t even begun to be addressed yet. I work in higher education, and although we don’t legally have to be completely accessible in the U.S. yet, we’ve been working toward full WCAG 2.0 AA compliance for some time. If an editor like this comes along and reverses all that we’ve been working toward, that will be a dealbreaker for the platform.

    The concept of “if people don’t like it, they can just turn it off for a limited time” seems ridiculous to me. You either need to iterate with real users and build an editor that is a significant improvement for the average user, or not build it into Core. Those who want page builders already have a variety of plugins to choose from.

  46. Jim
    By Jim on 3 October, 2017

    Seems to me that Gutenberg should ship with WordPress.com and be available as an option via Jetpack for self-hosted WordPress installations. Provides the desired functionality while retaining the flexibility for those of us that want/need it.

  47. Collins Agbonghama
    By Collins Agbonghama on 3 October, 2017

    I agree with all the points in this article. Most especially the mockup designs. If Gutenberg should use it, the issue of meta box will be solved.

  48. Nic Bertino
    By Nic Bertino on 3 October, 2017

    I wanted to say thank you to you and your team for your commitment to respectful dialog in the interest of making a great community product. I’m glad this conversation includes accessibility as well; I think good design and accessibility go hand-in-hand.

  49. Lamont
    By Lamont on 3 October, 2017

    I think your perceptions are on-target. My concerns as a designer/developer who works with small-to-medium businesses is how to prepare for this mandatory update which seems scheduled, for better or for worse, with 5.0 coming out around January. Some of my client sites are likely to break when this update is forced out; others with more basic designs may not break – but we won’t know until D Day comes.

    Matt Mullenweg has basically stated that the endgame is to create a drag and drop pagebuilder to try to compete (more) with Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace (which to me is a bad business approach, but that’s another story altogether) and Gutenberg is coming out with 5.0. Period.

    So the question as it relates to WP users is how to handle a change that could a) not be backward compatible (updating is going to break formatting for many sites, remove plugins, remove metaboxes, wreak havoc with SEO, and so on), b) break many sites, c) as you state, take weeks to months to recover from. And if Gutenberg is forced out in a state even close to what it is now, as it looks like it surely will, this could even force some WP developers to lose clients and much-needed work.

    How can we prepare for what looks like a stressful and potentially disabling time period for small agencies and freelancers who rely on WordPress for their livelihood?

  50. Tammie
    By Tammie on 3 October, 2017

    There’s a lot in this post, thank you for that.

    I am constantly looking for user insights, did you get to these decisions through user research? If so I would love to learn from what you gathered.

    I would love to get your team working on meta boxes, Edwin Cromley has been with leading that with some support. It is very important that we get plugin authors involved. Let’s make this happen!

    Accessibility, I want to make it clear, personally I care deeply about this and I do not see it as an extra. I was talking to Andrea and in this week’s meeting we are having a triage session to focus on accessibility issues raised. Can we do better? Yes and we will.

    Interface wise, I do admit that your mockup feels ‘between designs’ not as cohesive. Through reverting I feel some problems are created. The preview and publish for example in the mockups have a weaker hierarchy.

    I really look forward to taking the iterations from it and seeing you be more involved in the project as a team.

  51. Robert Abela
    By Robert Abela on 3 October, 2017

    Good write-up Joost.

    I do second all that you have said. I do appreciate change, but I feel that the change is being forced on the community without enough testing and ground work.

    I think a good approach to this would be to ship Gutenberg with WordPress as an optional / secondary editor. By doing so the lead WordPress developers can gather some feedback on how many people are using it and how it is used etc. I am sure that they will also get valuable feedback from the community.

    Also us plugin developers can develop the new integrations
    for Gutenberg without being pressured for time. It will also allow us to do a lot of tests and gather feedback from our users.

    My 2c.

    • Paul
      By Paul on 5 October, 2017

      I’m in the process of deciding between a WordPress platform or another for my company’s site. This is good to know. I was leaning toward WordPress.

    • Ron
      By Ron on 5 October, 2017

      Adobe has done similar things over the years. They’ll just randomly “update” the icons or tool placements in their menus, even though there was nothing wrong with them before. This creates, I suppose, the appearance of creating a “sleek new interface!” (sleek sounds so great, doesn’t it?) but all it does is force long-time users to get used to a new UI that adds ZERO new functionality.

      That seems to be the same issue here. WP is dead simple as it is. My clients have no problems with it, especially after they “mess around” for a couple of weeks. And, as a CMS that relies very heavily on plugin architecture to extend the base software, anything that threatens that ecosystem is just bad. Let us hope that the big brains at WP are listening….

    • Sonia
      By Sonia on 5 October, 2017

      Thank you Joost, great post again. Question as simple WordPress user. I do not understand exactly how this will work. At a certain moment we will get an update and suddenly we will have the new Gutenber editor without opting out possibility? In my case updates happen automatically. Is it better to wait until Gutenberg has been properly developed and tested?

    • Jim Mueller
      By Jim Mueller on 5 October, 2017

      Would have loved to have been in that meeting… “Okay team, we need to change something. Think. Think… Larger buttons, no. New login box, no. How about, no, already did that. Hmmm. What can we change… Oh, yes, great idea! Let’s “update” the editor!

      • Alan
        By Alan on 12 October, 2017

        Thanks for the article, and I agree with not rushing Gutenberg into core. I think Gutenberg is more tailor for users of WordPress.com, for bloggers who want a very, very simple blogging experience, much like medium or tumblr, etc. Gutenberg seems like a direct response to those users and try to grab them onto the WordPress.com.
        But for users of WordPress.org, there is really no need for Gutenberg. These users are looking for more than simple blogging, and that is why they choose the download version of WP. They want customization and advance featueres like REST API. They don’t care about blogging becasuse they are not using WP for blogging.


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