This article on Gutenberg was originally published by Torque Magazine, and is reproduced here with permission.
One of the biggest changes to WordPress ever is coming soon. Are you ready? How can you prepare? Why is WordPress making this change anyway? These questions and many more have been flying around the WordPress space for nearly a year since the new Gutenberg editor was announced by Matt Mullenweg in Summer of 2017 and with good reason. Many developers have concerns, namely around backward compatibility. Read on to learn how Gutenberg will affect your existing site.
Intro to Gutenberg
For those who have not yet heard, Gutenberg is the nickname given to a new Editor for the WordPress Admin interface. This is big news because while many things about WordPress have changed since its birth, the editor has remained a fairly basic visual and HTML user experience. As a result, plugin and theme developers created add-ons and new functionality for the editor to fill their needs. This caused developers and many websites to become heavily dependent on shortcodes. WordPress is creating a more unified experience between what users create in the backend, and what displays on the front end. In this way, they are baking in some of the functionality so many users find “essential,” and particularly the functionality non-technical users need.
The other rift that grew deeper with time was that what an editor sees on the back-end did not necessarily represent what displayed on the front-end. As plugins and themes began integrating page builders and drag-and-drop components for ease of use, WordPress remained a plain text editor by default. Gutenberg solves for this disconnect as well. Not only does it make the editing experience more natural and fun, it also more accurately represents what will show on the front-end–a true “what you see is what you get” experience. It divides text, images, media, and more into building “blocks” which make up your pages.
The foundation of Gutenberg is a concept of “blocks.” You can edit classic content sections in fun new ways like adding highlights and background colors, easy resizing, and easy wrapping and embedding of classic elements like photo and video. This means for other items users might embed in a page, these elements have custom blocks. You can add a block for a contact form, a tweet, block quotes, and more. The purpose of blocks was to bring a sense of continuity and regularity to the way different types of content were created. With one uniform way to create a block, even if your end goal for functionality is vastly different from others, there is a known “WordPress way” to create the code for it, which inherently helps the security and scalability of the platform as a whole.
Okay, so Gutenberg will really help new users with new websites have a better experience. What about my existing posts and pages? Is this going to break things? There’s a lot of panic around the community surrounding backward compatibility with their existing posts. The nice thing about Gutenberg, as Matias Ventura aptly put it, is that it does not intend to completely replace the old–everything you have and use today will still work–but instead to gradually shape behavior and development with the new.
What does that mean, exactly?
- Shortcodes still work as they do today
- Existing posts still exist exactly as they do today
- All functionality of the old editor is retained in the new editor
- Page builders still work, although their functionality may be partially duplicated in Gutenberg
Remember: the thought behind it all is, simply put, you shouldn’t have to download an extra plugin or premium theme for functionality that nearly every user can agree is “essential” to the WordPress experience.