On December 6th, 2018 WordPress dropped version 5.0 and, with it, the new editor that we have come to know as Gutenberg.
Opening it for the first time was a shock. Gone was the world-famous and ever-present content editing interface that had been a large part of the WordPress success story. In its place was an extremely clean, futuristic-yet-alien environment, which looked nothing like anything we’d ever seen.
Little did we know at the time that Gutenberg was not just an iteration of the famous text editor. It was – and still is – the start of something far, far greater.
In the words of the WordPress team:
“Gutenberg is more than an editor. It’s also the foundation that’ll revolutionize customization and site-building in WordPress.”
Gutenberg is the foundation of huge incoming changes in the WordPress ecosystem. In its current form, it is a redeveloped block editor, which is the first phase of a five-phase (according to some sources) strategy.
The second phase will focus on page templates, the third phase will be the unveiling of a whole new site customiser, and the fourth phase will be concerned with multilingual functionality.
If you are a WordPress user right now – or thinking about it – now is the time to get excited.
But first – let’s take a step back. Let’s have a look at what Gutenberg actually is and what you can do with it as of this writing.
What Is WordPress Gutenberg?
When people opened Gutenberg for the first time there was a lot of disappointment. Well known influencers in the space loudly voice their concerns about its ability to produce good content.
We all know how hard it is to change our habits.
Now that we have had time to get used to Gutenberg we can appreciate it for what it is in its current form – and what it isn’t. What it isn’t is a page builder or a front end editor. In its current phase of development it is a content editor, rebuilt for a modern world of media rich pages and posts.
The Rise Of The Block
In Gutenberg, the world is in blocks.
In the old WP editor your content was contained in one big HTML file, which sometimes led to weird interfaces and unpredictable behaviour. Now, everything has been standardised. You can build fantastic content like you would playing with toy bricks. You can pick and pile blocks until you are happy.
The content block concept is simple but extremely powerful. You can now define almost everything about your page. Blocks are not limited to big elements, either. There are blocks available for everything, including: quotes, headings, paragraphs, lists, images, galleries, code, columns, shortcode, widgets, buttons and embeds. And then each one of these blocks has its own layout and settings.
Once you have been building with Gutenberg for a while and have developed a way of doing things you can save commonly-used blocks and make them reusable. These reusable blocks will save a lot of time when creating similar layouts, such as when you create a blog post or a landing page.
That’s just a simple application but blocks can be complex as well. You can create multi-faceted layouts – such as a multi-column template – to really scale up your content creation.
You best believe even cooler things are in the works, too.
Calypso And Gutenberg
Calypso is a new interface for managing your WordPress sites. At its most basic level it can be used to change themes, view analytics and make updates, but there is so much more to it than that.
It’s a one-stop shop for optimal WordPress performance.
There are also some interesting similarities between Calypso and Gutenberg, so allow us to put our detective hat on for a moment .
Consequently, this decoupling of the frontend, admin dashboard and backend would allow for more flexibility in how WordPress is used. Its potential market would be vastly increased. When put in this perspective, it seems like the only logical next step for a company that powers 30% of all websites.
WooCommerce has also been leveraging the power of Gutenberg, introducing a content block that makes it easier for users to embed products on their site. This is only part one of their plan. The ultimate goal – driven by the arrival of React in the WP core – is to create a brand new single-page interface, encompassing all of the key information you need to run your business.
This makes sense. As people get more mobile the way we consume content – and do business – is changing. By moving to a single-page application WooCommerce can future-proof its current success.
The Future of Gutenberg
As we mentioned way back in the intro, Phase 2 of the Gutenberg roll-out will see the continuation of converting WordPress to a block-based editor. It won’t just be content this time. Everything – from widgets to menus – will become blocks. This blows WordPress web design into a whole different realm. Everything will be accessible, all the time, allowing you near-total customisation of your posts, pages and sidebars.
This is fantastic news for users. The possibility is endless.
Then, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s Phase 3…
Phase 3 is where things start to get really interesting.
This is where Gutenberg begins to take the reigns on total site customisation. The rumour mill is still fully operational on this one. We don’t know exactly what to expect. But given the trajectory of WordPress in recent years we can definitely take an educated guess.
Phase 3 is likely to be the most interesting part of the roadmap – and the phase with the most potential for huge change. It is likely that WordPress will never be the same again, transforming web design in the process. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. But we will have to wait to find out.
In 2018 Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of WordPress, announced that Phase 4 of Gutenberg would be aimed at supporting multilingual sites. This is, again, a sign of the times. The world has opened up and global online transactions are a daily occurrence. As of this writing Phase 4 is still in its experimental stage (slated for a 2020 release) so concrete theories are thin. However, the idea of bringing multilingual functionality into WP core has been floating around for a long time. It makes sense. In the same way that Gutenberg has challenged page builders, a built-in multilingual solution would put pressure on all of the third-party plugins that are currently on offer. Bringing it in-house is, after all, smart business.
WordPress have already announced nine priorities for 2019, including: creating blocks for navigation menus, transferring all existing widgets to blocks, upgrading the widget-editing areas and the Customiser to support blocks, providing a way for users to opt-in to automatic plugin updates, building a directory for block discovery, and providing a way for themes to visually register content areas and expose them to Gutenbeg – amongst others.
You can view the official 2019 plan, as well as the basic roadmap for further developments, here.
As we move forward the way we use, create and consume content is changing. WordPress know this. Its competitors know it. As a business it has evolved out of necessity and as a response to new technology.
Gutenberg is probably the single greatest evolution of the WordPress platform and one that we are still watching play out. There is still a lot of uncertainty. But all great things take time, and face adversity. As a team that works daily with WordPress, we are optimistic about its almost limitless potential.