WordPress Gutenberg should we fear it or embrace it?

For today’s WordPress Wednesday I thought I would talk a bit about the new Gutenberg changes that are coming to WordPress.  Now, you may not know what I am talking about but some of you maybe have been wondering what it is and how it will impact your website and maybe some of you are even sort of afraid of it… thinking it may impact your business in a negative way, or present the need to pour hours into your products to make them “compatible”.

To be honest, I have been in all of these categories to some degree and decided it would be best to just jump in and investigate it a bit.  To dig in and see what it is really all about and how I might shift my gears to make it a positive move forward.

So… WordPress Gutenberg should we fear it or embrace it?

(disclosure… what you are about to read are my thoughts, opinions, and findings in my own personal research on the upcoming Gutenberg changes in WordPress 5.0)

Let’s begin where we should… what exactly is Gutenberg?

As most of you would know, WordPress publishes updates to patch security holes that are discovered, fix bugs and to keep up as technology progresses.  In the last few years, we have seen a growing move toward drag and drop page builders.  The average business person, mom & pop shop, online marketer etc. are all seeing the value of being online.  If you are to be taken seriously, you will have some sort of webpage.  There are plenty of businesses that do not have the budget to hire someone to build their website and so, they turn to the options out there to “do it yourself”.  Our team over here at StephanieHellwig.com has been building WordPress themes to help anyone who wants to DIY their own website by providing well designed and coded premium themes that are easy to use and maintain.

Our team recently released a WordPress theme or template, that has a built-in page builder.  We kept seeing folks building beautiful websites then feeling stuck when they wanted to create specific styling on their about page, or build a sales page.  We could build them a page template with widgets but then they could only use it for one page.  Our way of providing a way for our customers to build custom styled pages that were full width or included special styling was to create a page template that could be used over and over.  So we went to work and built several options into our “flex” page to allow our customers to build multiple sales funnel pages, about pages, custom contact pages… whatever they needed, no limitations and without a third-party service or a professional developer.  The Influencer theme was designed and built with a custom, built-in page builder template.

WordPress recognized this issue as well and has decided to create Gutenberg as a solution. Gutenberg is WordPress’s way of keeping WordPress easy to use and customize.  It is their solution to keeping up with services like Wix and Squarespace.  They are trying to make it as easy for the average person to customize their website so as to not be dependant on someone who knows code.

Here is what they write on their website:

“It’s great that so many people think WordPress is the best way to get their ideas on the web, and it’s easy to unlock the power of WordPress if you know how to write code — but not everyone does. And now, you won’t need to.” source

How is it different than what we do in WordPress now?

Gutenberg will be rolled out in phases.  The first phase only pertains to the WordPress editor.  Currently, when you draft a post or a page in the WordPress editor it is a one-page word processing format.  You have an open slate to add your text, images, links and embed videos and other multimedia.  Gutenberg behaves a bit different in that it works in blocks.  I will post a video to show you Gutenberg in action and illustrate what I am explaining here.

How will Gutenberg impact you?

Well, if you are a small business owner, or writer, blogger or any other content publisher it might just make your life a bit easier.  Blocks are being designed to have that drag and drop behavior that we are all becoming accustomed to.  You might just find Gutenberg as a way to add a bit more style your own posts and pages and with ease.

If you are website designer and developer I could understand how you might be a bit frightened of what is to come… after all if we are making it easier to publish online, then you might see a decrease in customers… folks who before would have hired you to build their WordPress website and now feel like they could do it themselves.  If you fall into this category, I would encourage you to not entertain the scarcity mentality.  Building WordPress websites is a global market and there is plenty of work available.  There will always be the baker that wants to bake rather than build their website, the lawyer that doesn’t have time to think about building their website, the Etsy store owner who is growing and wanting to take the next step online busy creating and fulfilling their orders to even think about building their own website.  Just look around in your own community, it doesn’t take long to recognize there is plenty of business for Web designers and developers.

What if you fall into the plugin or theme developer sector?  I  have to be honest, I did struggle with the thought of Gutenberg a bit.  I would go back and forth being a bit lazy… a whole new thing to learn.  Urgh.  Will I have to go backward and make all my current products compatible?  How many hours will that take?  How much will I have to invest to get it done quickly and seamlessly for my customers?  What sort of support will need to be provided when this new “block” feature is introduced? I had all kinds of questions rolling around in my head.  First of all, it’s like a forest fire.  The fire comes through and burns out all the dead foliage and cleanses the ground for new growth.  There will be a certain amount of plugin or theme developers that have been feeling a bit burned out and will choose this as a good time to exit the game.  It’s true.  On the flip side those who really are invested and are passionate about their products and impact on the industry will embrace Gutenberg and grow.  Which brings me to why we should love the prospect presented by the new Gutenberg features…

Why we should embrace Gutenberg.

Again, this is my personal take on the subject, but as I continue to think about the goals and plans for Gutenberg I am getting more and more excited.  Really, as a theme developer, it is an opportunity to find new ways to better serve my customers.  Blocks will be a new way to create ease of use and custom features in my themes that will make my products easier to use and more customizable.  Honestly, as a designer, it is a chance to do what I love to do and get my hands dirty being creative.  To “think outside the box” and find new ways to build in fun and exciting features.

What’s next?

Right now, Gutenberg is still in development.  As I mentioned earlier it is being released in phases.  Phase one is focused on the WordPress editor.  The new Gutenberg features have been packaged into a plugin that you can install in your WordPress dashboard.  This gives you a chance to test drive it before it is released in WordPress 5.0.  Our team has been playing around with it and we are so excited to see the innovative changes that are coming.  Just as a fair amount of folks feared what the Gutenberg press would bring as it revolutionized the mass production of books and the rapid dissemination of knowledge throughout Europe in the 15th century, we have seen folks in the WordPress community a bit fearful of what is to come.  Our attitude has changed from a tinge of fear and laziness to excitement of what is to come and how we can fit into it!

Here is a little walkthrough to give you a behind the scenes tour of what we know about Gutenberg so far… Enjoy!

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