The New is Always Strange.
There have been rumors, tutorials, and reviews of the WordPress Gutenberg editor floating around the internet for nearly a year. But unless you are a tech guru or make your living building websites, you may never have heard of it. Now, WordPress is planning to roll out Gutenberg to users in its next big update. So what is it like? And will this new, strange interface be worth the change?
WordPress Gutenberg Editor is Coming to a Blog Near You
WordPress has been around for about 15 years. Over time, its visual editor has collected features and plugins, but it hasn’t really changed. Bloggers, web developers, and other backend users have grown used to how to write blogs, schedule posts, and upload and use photos and videos. We have even come to accept many of the editors limitations (ahem, tables!).
Then earlier this year, WordPress announced a new interface: the WordPress Gutenberg Editor. As you might expect, it didn’t make much news. But a certain amount of fear and trepidation began to seep into the conversation among users.
- Would the new interface be clunky or easy to use?
- Would writers still be able to use their favorite tricks?
- What would happen if they didn’t like what they saw?
Well, now the Gutenberg editor is here, and you can try it out for yourself. In fact, this blog post is being written using the new interface. Here are my take-aways from my first Gutenberg blogging experience
Gutenberg Editor Moves
WordPress Toward Wix, Weebly
The big deal in the WordPress Gutenberg Editor is the “blocks”. These are drag-and-drop formatting elements that allow you to add pictures, videos, lists, and other common blogging features. You can call out a quote or create a two-column layout by choosing a different block and putting it in place where you want it. Each block allows you to adjust settings and features including adding alt-text to images or changing font size and style.
This drag-and-drop style moves the WordPress editor closer to website managers like Wix and Weebly. It makes sense, from a business standpoint. Conventional knowledge has said that WordPress is hard for small business owners to work with if they don’t use HTML. Drag-and-drop website editors have used their more streamlined interface as a selling point, saying they are easier to use than WordPress.
However, I am a lawyer and a writer, not a web developer. I refuse to learn HTML or any coding language (I leave that to my husband). And while I have occasionally been frustrated with the way WordPress creates a list or leaves unpredictable white space, for the most part I haven’t had any problems. This new interface moves the user further away from the code and that could make it even harder to be 100% certain of how your blog will look when all is said and done.
Great for Images, Less So for Text
My first impression is that the Gutenberg editor will be great for image-centered posts. You can easily create a gallery of images and adjust how they are displayed. You can feature a single large image that spans the entire page. And you can embed videos or slideshows easily.
But all that emphasis on imagery makes it slightly less intuitive to just write and edit content. Every time you hit enter, the Gutenberg Editor creates a new Paragraph Block. That means each paragraph can be moved and formatted separately. That may work well for shifting pictures around your page, but if you are looking to get into a flow with the written word, you may be out of luck.
Then again, all those separate Paragraph Blocks may be a good thing. I am one of the only people I know who writes linearly. Most writers do a fair amount of rearranging and editing as they go. The Gutenberg Editor will make that rewriting easier, because you can simply pull each paragraph to where you want within the post.
Autosaving Is Going to Save My Life
One other feature of the WordPress Gutenberg Editor is the nearly instantaneous autosaving. Every few seconds, your WordPress editor saves a new version of what you’ve been working on. That way you won’t lose your place because of a sudden internet interruption.
This feature is going to save my life. I am terrible about saving my work. I have lost pages of briefs and legal research because Word crashed. In older versions of WordPress, I have had to train myself to save my work outside the app, just in case there was a problem loading the page after I saved.
The autosaving feature will literally save me hours of rewriting lost content. For this, I am in love with the new editor.
First Impressions: Pros and Cons
Pros of Gutenberg Editor Experience
- Easy to drag-and-drop photos
- Convenient to edit or rearrange content
- Intuitive formatting for adding columns and lists
- Creates galleries and allows flexibility in how they are displayed
- Increased color and formatting options
Cons of Gutenberg Editor Experience
- Blocks can interrupt flow in writing content (too many flashing boxes)
- Pasting content brings formatting code with it
- Touch screen and split screen interfacing is iffy
- Sometimes hard to figure out where the menu you want is located
- Lost auto-posting to social media
- Still no tables (but columns?).
Other Features of WordPress Gutenberg Editor
A single test drive can’t explore all the features of the new WordPress editor. In addition to the features discussed, the Gutenberg Editor is reported to have:
- A mobile-friendly interface for blogging on the go
- A downloadable desktop app to manage all your blogs in one place
- Live HTML editing block (for those of you who like code)
- Slash autocomplete formatting (for bold, italics, headings, etc.)
Do I think the WordPress Gutenberg Editor is the best thing for law blogs since sliced bread? Probably not. The emphasis on imagery and media means that those of us writing text-heavy content need to work around a lot of unnecessary features to get our blogs done. The good news is, if you aren’t ready to make the change, WordPress will allow you to install a plugin to continue to use the classic interface even after the Gutenberg Editor goes live. So you can adjust at your own pace.
Will I keep using it to write my blogs? Probably. Its distractions and interrupted flow are made up for through easy formatting and a relatively straight-forward interface. But that’s just after one post. The new is always strange. It could be, after I get used to the new way of doing things I won’t ever want to go back.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web content for lawyers and small businesses. If you need help learning to use WordPress for your blog, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a blog coaching session.