Gutenberg Solves a Problem That Doesn’t Exist

Gutenberg block editor review - it's a pretty tool but unnecessary

Some people get really uncomfortable when things change.

Let me give you an example to illustrate.

I graduated from Florida State and I’m a huge college football fan.

A few years back after FSU won the college football national championship the football program updated their uniforms and logos.

And people lost their minds.

The negative reaction was (and still is in some circles) massive, and those who liked the new look over the old were few and far between.

And what’s worse is that, not only do people hate change, they’re hard-wired to follow the crowd when the crowd loves or hates something.

People were piling on everywhere – FSU-related Facebook pages and across social media, just about anywhere anyone talked about FSU or college football people were weighing with their dislike of the new look.

Obviously, this phenomenon isn’t an issue just for serious college football fans.

It happens in all areas of life, including our most tried and trusted tools.

Take the new Gutenberg Editor for instance.

It’s got almost 2,000 1-star votes on the WordPress site – more than twice as many 1-star votes as all the other votes combined.

So it’s time to cut through the clutter and actually look at what Gutenberg is, what it’s not.

Ultimately, I don’t care for it, but I’m not part of Gutenberg’s target audience. In my opinion, it’s aimed at solving a problem that doesn’t really exist.

But I tested it when it would have been easy to just follow the reviews and listen to the rants by those who were all too eager to talk about how much they hate it.

But just because it doesn’t really fit for me, that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful to many.

So why not figure out what it actually is, then see if it’s going to work for you?

The decision is yours to make.

After all, Gutenberg is now part of WordPress core, so if you’re starting a new WordPress website, it’s going to be installed by default.

What is Gutenberg?

There’s been a lot of discussion over the last year or so about the new Gutenberg block editor that was rolled out in WordPress 5.

Some people were excited, but most were not.

It’s a completely new approach to working with content on your self-hosted WordPress site

When WordPress 5.0 was released it introduced this completely new content creation experience called “Gutenberg” and it’s a completely new approach compared to how the previous editions of WordPress worked

It provides you the ability to create media-rich posts and pages by using a new tool called “blocks”.

Blocks give you the ability to create and work with different kinds of media in a simple, intuitive way blocks give you the flexibility to easily create new, enhanced layouts for posts and pages using blocks.

You can insert, rearrange and style blocks to suit your needs for your posts and pages, as much – or as little – as you’d like.

Blocks enable you to add create and manage various different kinds of media:

  • audio
  • video
  • images
  • embeds

Here are a couple good things about Gutenberg if you upgraded your WordPress site and were surprised by the new editor.

The new Gutenberg blocks don’t interfere with your old posts. This is a big deal because you don’t want your formatting for your existing content get scrambled.

Gutenberg blocks don’t affect how your visitors see the content. The only thing they see is the enhanced media that you’ve added to your content.

Ultimately Gutenberg blocks are designed to make working with media in the post or page itself easier and more intuitive without having to worry about learning to code these features.

Why Gutenberg, and why now?

The goal was to create a tool that creators could use that would give them the ability to create “richer” posts that contained various media elements and to have greater control over how pages and posts looked.

It’s an attempt to take the content creation experience to a more interactive and real-world level. The goal is to bridge the gap between the WordPress editor’s screen with all its various fields and a true “what you see is what you get” editor.

Who’s it for?

There is no doubt that some creators will find it useful. And I think creators as a group is the sweet spot for this tool.

Non-developers who want more control over the layout of a blog post or page will be able to do a lot more things with Gutenberg than they ever could with the standard text editor.

Who’s it not for?

Simply put, most developers don’t like it. I mentioned before that it’s got horrible reviews on the WordPress site. Granted, that may be a bunch of people who don’t like it piling on to make a point, but what you see on that page is not a good look at all.

If you’re someone who is used to working with raw HTML then this is going to present a lot of challenges for you. The content creation experience is challenging for those who are used to a better flow when creating content.

My experience

I followed the discussion about Gutenberg while it was in development. There were some very strong opinions so I decided I’d watch from the sidelines and see what it was like when it was finally released in a stable version.

It’s a “pretty” tool. If I’m being honest I liked it at first.

It’s got some great features and will be a great solution for some people.

When I was creating the Gutenberg walk-throughs for my WordPress Website Workshop course, I caught a glimpse of the vision they have for it.

I loved the idea at first, but I was also skeptical because it was such a huge change.

You see, I’m one of those developer-types who’s used to a much more smooth experience and prefer to work on the HTML side of things.

In my experience, it’s clunky. It’s slow. It’s hard to work with. It slows down my writing process – big time.

I worked with it for a few weeks here on this blog, and on other projects I’ve been building, and it just feels too cumbersome for my workflow.

But now the issue that it’s part of WordPress core and installed by default.

I think that part is a bad move.

It may be helpful for new WordPress users because as they come in to the WordPress world it will be the only experience they ever know.

And I think that’s the reason it’s there by default.

However, this should not be the core content creation experience that’s the default in WordPress.

So what are the alternatives?

After test-driving Gutenberg for several weeks I decided that I’d seen enough and it was time to switch back to the “Classic Editor”.

For myself I needed to put it through the paces and give it a fair chance to win me over, because I do believe that Gutenberg is the future for WordPress.

But it’s not for me.

For those who are developers and more comfortable working with HTML and the raw text format, my recommendation is to install the Classic Editor plugin.

The Classic Editor will continue to be supported for the foreseeable future, and even if Automattic eventually ends support for it I have no doubt that someone else will pick up the mantle and carry on.

And who knows? Over the next couple years maybe the Gutenberg experience will get so much better that using it will become as normal as using the Classic Editor is now.

But that then leaves yet another question:

How do we create more dynamic layouts and displays if we’re not going to use Gutenberg?

I’ve got two solutions.

Custom Fields and Custom Post Types

Now wait before you get carried away saying “I can’t do that!” or “that’s way too complex!”

Custom fields and custom post types are most definitely the domain of someone who knows their way around WordPress.

This isn’t for the WordPress newbie or those that struggle with tech-related stuff when it comes to your website.

Using custom fields and custom post types is a great way that developers can create nice, succinct functionality that isn’t anywhere near as intrusive as Gutenberg feels at times, and accomplishes the same kinds of features in a much more streamlined way.

Web Page Builders

Now, if you’re not a web developer, or you don’t want to hire one, you can do a lot with a good page builder plugin.

In fact, you can do a lot more.

One of the weird things about Gutenberg, in my opinion, is that it tries to behave like a webpage builder, but it’s far more limited than more robust page builders like Beaver Builder.

I’m more comfortable living in the raw code – PHP templates, javascript, Sass, etc. is where I live.

But I’ve been using Beaver Builder over the last several months on my smaller/fast-paced projects and it’s a fantastic solution that builds beautiful websites and is accessible to the non-developer.

Gutenberg is not a true page builder and I think that’s where some users might get stuck. They may grow frustrated with its limitations when they’re really looking for a true page building tool.

Next Steps

Don’t get carried away with what anyone else says. Use it on your next WordPress project. Test it out for yourself and see what you think.

And when you’re starting up that new WordPress project get the Ultimate WordPress Start-Up Guide here to make sure you don’t miss any of the crucial steps.

I built this guide so that you would have all the things you need to start a new website project with WordPress right at your fingertips.

This guide will allow lead you down a path that covers it all in an easy-to-understand way so that your new website is a success from day one.


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