Gutenberg heralds a new era for WordPress and its ecosystem. The feature-rich editor makes it easier for people with a non-technical background—e.g. marketers, content creators, and really anyone — to quickly build sleek, high-performing, great-looking websites.
Rather than relying on custom HTML, embed discovery, and shortcodes to add dynamic content, Gutenberg offers a post and page building experience that makes it easy to create rich post layouts. Adding text, images, videos, and a slew of other elements can now be done through the use of content blocks, which are added (with a click or keyboard shortcut) as a post or page is being built.
The earlier way of designing websites involved using full page templates. These templates were helpful but very rigid and you ran the risk that your template matched someone else’s. With Gutenberg’s block approach, you get the convenience of pre-designed layouts, you don’t have to write complicated editor functions from scratch and you have the flexibility of picking and choosing each section as a “click and drop” and you can add the rich media that helps engage today’s digital audiences. With a nearly infinite number of blocks for a page, you can not only have the stunning website of your dreams but it can also be unique.
Gutenberg & Themes
At WP Engine, we’re excited about what this development means for WordPress, the changes it will bring to the theme ecosystem, and how we’ll be able to support both with our platform—with our Genesis Framework and also with an incredible customer success organization of award-winning WordPress experts.
Backwards-compatibility is something that is very much top-of-mind for developers and website owners who are following the evolution of Gutenberg. They’re especially interested in the way Gutenberg might affect existing plugins and themes, particularly if Gutenberg launches before those plugins and themes are backwards-compatible.
Despite concerns that Gutenberg would launch too early, that simply hasn’t been the case, and in recent months a herculean effort has gone into checking a considerable subset of the most-used plugins to make sure they’re Gutenberg-compatible. An equally heavy lift has been undertaken by plugin and theme authors to update their code to be Gutenberg-compatible. Based on these efforts, we are confident that the Gutenberg team is taking backwards-compatibility very seriously and are continually making improvements in this area. Further, we know the community at large is also doing everything it can to help.
Generally speaking, most sites will have very few issues when it comes to backwards-compatibility with Gutenberg, and the Classic Editor plugin (discussed later), makes it easy to keep using the old WordPress editor and take your time adopting Gutenberg.
With regards to Genesis, the good news is that it has no substantial backwards-compatibility issues with Gutenberg. The main focus of updates to the StudioPress themes are focused on adding styles for the new Gutenberg blocks. However, what we’re most excited about are the brand new features we will be adding to Genesis and the StudioPress themes, that Gutenberg helps enable.
Beyond just being “compatible,” Genesis will play a big role in being Gutenberg-First. That means not only supporting the software and ideals of Gutenberg, but using them for new features. In doing so, it’s our intention to light the way for the countless agencies and developers who use WordPress to fuel incredible digital experiences that are made even easier with Gutenberg.
Breakthrough Pro, for example, is the first Genesis-built theme WP Engine has released since our acquisition of StudioPress. The theme was built with today’s creative, digital agencies in mind, and in addition to being optimized for mobile devices, Breakthrough is fully compatible with Gutenberg, it will also be updated after the release of Gutenberg (along with all StudioPress themes) to include additional features which allow users to take full advantage of the power of Gutenberg.
In addition to the work we’re doing with new Genesis themes, we’re also creating ways to make content blocks more efficient, performant, and portable across child themes as part of the core Genesis framework. Part of this effort includes looking at how to leverage the block options that Gutenberg offers (suggesting theme colors, fonts, etc. in the block admin UI) to help content creators stay on brand and fully within their style-guides.
Slow and Steady Approach
Offering Gutenberg-compatible themes is one way we’re helping content creators take advantage of the new editor. Another area we’re exploring is how we can help people get started with Gutenberg, rather than jumping directly into the deep end.
A great way to do this is by using the Gutenberg Ramp plugin, which adds a settings screen where users can enable Gutenberg selectively, for specific post types. Users are also able to use the plugin to specify Gutenberg loading behavior in code, and Ramp works with the plugin version of Gutenberg, as well as the core version.
The Classic Editor plugin is a way to preserve the previous editor experience in your site. This plugin is expected to be maintained for the foreseeable future and will be an essential tool for easing users into full adoption of Gutenberg.
Additionally, your custom post types with custom meta fields will still work after the Gutenberg update, including those using Advanced Custom Fields and the TinyMCE editor, which will be part of core for the foreseeable future. The experiences you built will still work!
Just as with any big change, there is a period of time necessary for adjustment. The same is true with Gutenberg, and we’re standing by to help users find their way towards full Gutenberg adoption during that time, so they can reap the many benefits the new editor has in store.
Keeping WordPress Updated
Keeping WordPress up-to-date with the latest version is a crucial component of keeping the CMS running smoothly and more importantly, keeping it secure. This isn’t just a WordPress-specific issue, it’s a critical reality of technology. Just like with the apps on your mobile phone, it’s important to upgrade WordPress from time to time in order to ensure it always performs at its best.
Gutenberg should not be used as an excuse to refrain from updating to WordPress 5.0 when it’s released. Quite the contrary—our hope is that Gutenberg will be the reason many people update to 5.0 once it’s made available. We hope it will also bring in many new users to WordPress from other solutions because of how it takes the simplicity of building posts, pages, and sites to a new level.
As discussed previously, the backwards-compatibility of Gutenberg is strong and the use of the RAMP and Classic Editor plugins means you can take your time in adopting Gutenberg as a page editor, and still be able to keep up with the most recent version of WordPress!
In an effort to combat some of the misconceptions about Gutenberg and help people feel more comfortable with it before they make the switch, WP Engine will continue to publish content with advice and instructions on how you can deploy WordPress 5.0 in measured, safe, and effective ways.
Gutenberg is the Future
Our overarching mission at WP Engine is to help you win with WordPress, and that means helping you win with Gutenberg. We believe the new editor will be ready for prime time when it launches, and it is already enabling content creators to build beautiful websites with more ease and intuition than the legacy editor.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to update the WordPress community about the efforts we’re taking to put the Genesis framework as well as our WordPress experts to use, so you can sort through the noise and begin putting Gutenberg to work for your website(s).
We’re looking forward to this opportunity to help you win with Gutenberg, and we’re excited to join you on that journey. Stay tuned!