Today marks the release of WordPress 5.0 which includes a new editing experience for WordPress; codenamed Gutenberg whilst in development.
There has been much speculation and discussion over the Gutenberg project since it was announced 18 months ago and has been a polarising force within the WordPress community. Some are predicting a nuclear-level fallout, although we’re not going to being quite so dramatic about it.
There have been general concerns from WordPress developers about the impact this new update will have on existing websites and how best to manage the update process. Accessibility has been another huge concern for users of WordPress in the editing experience. Finally, the release date, just a few weeks before Christmas has not been well received by users or developers.
It’s inevitable, so let us focus on the positives and talk about what Gutenberg is, when and how it should be updated.
What is Gutenberg?
The new Gutenberg editor in WordPress 5.0 allows developers to create reusable blocks of content which provides content editors with the ability to create dynamic layouts using these blocks; editors can build different variations of pages and posts which developers can define. If you’ve ever used a page builder in WordPress before, then Gutenberg brings that kind of functionality natively to WordPress. It’s a very powerful tool that offers greater creative editorial flexibility for your content.
WP Engine have produced a great Gutenberg webinar on how to get ready for it: Embracing the change: How to win with Gutenberg.
For a more in-depth view of Gutenberg, check out Kinsta’s guide: Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons)
Should I update to 5.0?
Due to how the release of 5.0 has been managed, it is not advisable to immediately update to 5.0 because the theme and plugins your site uses may not yet be Gutenberg-ready. If you have a bespoke design of your site, it’s likely your agency or web developer will want to manage the upgrade to 5.0 with you. Once you update to 5.0, there is no simple way to go back.
With any major update, it’s best to take a full backup of your site prior to clicking the update button, just in case it causes problems with your site.
At 10 Degrees, we’ll be working with our WordCare clients to manage this process for them. Our intention is to be conservative with the update, waiting at least for the first point release of v5.0.1 (anticipated in January) which will allow the dust to settle and any major bugs to be fixed that weren’t picked up during previous beta releases.
In January we’ll be testing sites with 5.0/Gutenberg on staging environments first and initially recommending installing the Classic Editor plugin whilst we work on development to support Gutenberg within our bespoke builds. The Classic Editor plugin restores the previous editing experience and ‘parks’ Gutenberg for the time being. It’s not a long term solution however and the upgrade path to Gutenberg is inevitable for all WordPress websites.
When will I get it?
Depending on your hosting provider, you may get it today, or it may be rolled out in the near future. On your WordPress dashboard you will be notified that an update is pending which you can choose to update to if you wish. For WP Engine customers, the update will be automatically applied in January 2019.
What impact will it have on my site?
This depends on how your website was built. If you use a premium (off the shelf) theme then it’s likely there’ll be an update to make it Gutenberg compatible. If your site was custom built then to take full advantage of everything that Gutenberg offers your agency or developer will need to make changes to the theme, which is likely going require a budget to do so. This impact on our clients is one of the reasons why we’re taking a very conservative approach to updating the sites we’ve built as we wish for the impact to be minimal and spread over a few months.
Do I really need it?
Eventually yes, you will need to have a Gutenberg-compatible website if you wish to continue using WordPress in the long term.