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Gutenberg WordPress Editor

by Alex Carr30/01/2024,
Gutenberg WordPress editor

The advent of the Gutenberg WordPress editor marks a pivotal shift in the WordPress ecosystem. From our extensive background in custom WordPress themes using Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), and our hands-on experience with page builders like Divi and Elementor, we at Morningstar Digital have witnessed firsthand the evolution of content management systems. The introduction of Gutenberg is a perfect foundation for developers, but not a great starting point for beginners.

Defining Gutenberg WordPress: The Block Editor Reimagined

Gutenberg WordPress, inspired by Johannes Gutenberg, who revolutionised printing, heralds a similar transformation in the digital realm of WordPress. This innovative editor shifts away from the monolithic Classic Editor to a block-based system, redefining how web content is created, manipulated, and visualised.

The Essence of Block-Based Editing

At the core of Gutenberg lies the concept of 'blocks' - the fundamental units of content. These blocks can be anything: a paragraph of text, an image, an embedded video, a button, or more complex elements like galleries, tables, and widgets. This granular approach brings an unprecedented level of control and flexibility, allowing users to build and design pages piece by piece, block by block.

Intuitive Content Construction

Gutenberg's intuitive interface invites both novices and seasoned developers to construct web pages with ease. It eliminates the obscure shortcodes and HTML that once cluttered the Classic Editor, replacing them with a clean, streamlined environment. Users can see their content taking shape in real-time, offering a true WYSIWYG experience.

Advanced Design Capabilities

With Gutenberg WordPress, the power of advanced design is at your fingertips. Each block comes with its own set of customisation options, allowing for detailed adjustments like font sizes, color settings, and spacing. The ability to tweak each element ensures that every aspect of the page is in line with the overall design vision.

Reusable Blocks: A Step Towards Efficiency

One of Gutenberg's standout features is the 'Reusable Blocks'. These allow users to save and reuse customised blocks on different pages or posts. It's a boon for consistency and efficiency, especially for elements that need to appear across multiple pages.

Enhanced Layout Options

Gutenberg WordPress introduces more sophisticated layout possibilities compared to the Classic Editor. Users can effortlessly create multi-column layouts, media-rich pages, and intricate designs that were once only possible through complex code or third-party page builders.

The Template Library: Pre-Designed Starting Points

To further ease the design process, Gutenberg WordPress offers a growing library of block templates. These pre-designed layouts provide users with starting points for various content types and designs, significantly speeding up the page-building process.

Extensibility and Custom Blocks

For developers, Gutenberg opens a world of possibilities. The extensibility of the block editor allows for the creation of custom blocks, tailored to specific functionalities or design requirements. This feature makes Gutenberg WordPress an incredibly powerful tool for bespoke website development.


The Shift: From Classic Themes to Modern Flexibility

The evolution from traditional themes to Gutenberg WordPress marks a significant shift in the WordPress landscape. This journey from a rigid, often templated approach to a more fluid and adaptable framework has reshaped how developers and content creators think about and interact with WordPress.

Breaking Free from Constraints

Classic themes, for all their strengths, often came with limitations. They provided a set structure, often requiring workarounds or custom coding to achieve specific design goals. Developers adept at using Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) had become accustomed to these constraints. Gutenberg WordPress, however, opened the door to a more liberated form of content creation. It offers a canvas where elements are no longer confined to the strict boundaries of traditional layouts.

Embracing Gutenberg's Flexibility

Initially, Gutenberg faced resistance from those comfortable with the familiar territory of older page builders. The new block-based approach, however, gradually revealed its strengths. It allows for assembling a webpage like a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece - or block - can be placed and styled independently. This modular approach gives developers and content creators the freedom to craft pages that truly align with their vision, without the need for complex workarounds or custom code.

A Platform for Creativity and Precision

Gutenberg strikes a unique balance between creative freedom and precise control. Developers who have mastered ACF fields find that Gutenberg's blocks can be customised and extended, offering a similar level of detail but with a more intuitive interface. Content creators, on the other hand, enjoy the ease of use – the ability to visually compose and edit content without delving into the intricacies of coding.

The Best of Both Worlds

Gutenberg represents a harmonious blend of form and function. It caters to the developer's need for customisation and the content creator's desire for ease and simplicity. With Gutenberg WordPress, the process of building a website becomes more about crafting an experience rather than just filling out a template. It empowers users to bring a level of sophistication and uniqueness to their web pages that was previously challenging to achieve.

Adaptable to Diverse Needs

The flexibility of Gutenberg WordPress extends beyond just design. It adapts to a range of needs – from simple blog posts to complex corporate websites. Its versatility makes it a suitable choice for various industries and content types, providing a universal solution in a landscape that was once fragmented by varying needs and capabilities.

Gutenberg: The Mixed Reception and Gradual Acceptance

Since its introduction in 2018, Gutenberg has sparked diverse reactions within the WordPress community, a testament to its transformative impact on website development. This new editor, while heralded for its innovation, initially met with resistance, only to gradually gain acceptance and appreciation over time.

Initial Resistance and Challenges

When Gutenberg first arrived, it marked a significant departure from the familiar Classic Editor. Its block-based approach, while revolutionary, was a drastic change for many users accustomed to the traditional WordPress interface. The initial versions of Gutenberg faced criticism for lacking the refined features of established page builders like Divi and Elementor. Users experienced a learning curve, and many were hesitant to transition to what seemed like an unfinished product.

The Journey to Acceptance

Despite its rocky start, Gutenberg WordPress has been steadily evolving. Over the years, consistent updates and improvements have addressed many initial concerns. By focusing on user feedback and enhancing functionality, the Gutenberg team has significantly improved the editor's capabilities and user experience. It's this commitment to growth and refinement that gradually shifted the perception within the WordPress community.

Embracing Gutenberg: A Shift in Mindset

By 2023, Gutenberg had matured into a more stable and feature-rich editor, leading agencies like Morningstar Digital to start delivering client sites using this platform. This shift reflected a broader change in the industry's mindset – from viewing Gutenberg as an experimental tool to recognizing it as a viable option for professional web development. The simplicity that was once seen as a limitation began to be appreciated for the freedom and creativity it allowed.

The Strength of Gutenberg: Simplicity Meets Potential

One of Gutenberg's core strengths lies in its straightforward, intuitive nature. It's a foundational tool that provides the basic structure for content creation – simple enough for beginners yet robust enough for developers to extend and customise. This balance between ease of use and potential for complex customisation is what gradually won over many skeptics.

Extension and Customisation: The Developer's Playground

For developers, Gutenberg's true potential lies in its extensibility. Unlike traditional page builders that come loaded with features, Gutenberg WordPress offers a clean slate – a base that can be expanded with custom blocks and functionalities. This aspect has become increasingly appealing as it aligns with the modern need for tailored, scalable web solutions.


What We Loved, and What We Did Not

Flexibility and Control: A Double-Edged Sword

Advantages:

  • Enhanced Customisation: Gutenberg empowers users with the ability to customise each block, leading to more tailored webpage designs.
  • User Empowerment: The block-based approach allows users, regardless of technical expertise, to have more control over content layout and design.

Challenges:

  • Brand Consistency: With increased customisation comes the challenge of maintaining a consistent brand image across different pages.
  • Complexity for Users: The myriad of options and controls can be overwhelming for users, especially those used to more straightforward editors.
Reflecting the Front-End: A Step Forward, Yet Imperfect

Advantages:

  • Improved Visual Editing: Gutenberg's editing interface provides a more accurate representation of how content will appear on the front-end.
  • Streamlined Design Process: The closer alignment between the editor and the final output streamlines the design process, reducing guesswork.

Challenges:

  • Imperfect Match: Despite improvements, discrepancies between the editor view and the final output still exist, which can lead to unexpected design results.
  • Learning Curve: Users transitioning from the Classic Editor may need time to adapt to this new visual approach.
Revolutionising Site Management: Headers, Footers, and Archives

Advantages:

  • Ease of Editing Global Elements: The ability to easily modify site-wide elements like headers and footers enhances website management.
  • Consistency Across Pages: Streamlined editing of these elements ensures design consistency throughout the website.

Challenges:

  • Limited Customisation Options: While the feature is convenient, it might not offer the depth of customisation experienced developers expect.
  • Adaptation for Existing Themes: Some existing WordPress themes may not be fully compatible with Gutenberg's site editing capabilities.
The Query Loop Block: A Powerful Feature

Advantages:

  • Dynamic Content Display: Offers significant flexibility in showcasing posts and custom post types dynamically.
  • Creative Content Solutions: Ideal for creating complex, content-driven layouts that were difficult to achieve in the Classic Editor.

Challenges:

  • Complexity for Novices: The advanced nature of the Query Loop block can be daunting for beginners or less technical users.
  • Potential for Performance Issues: If not used judiciously, complex queries can lead to performance impacts on the website.
The Pattern Directory: A Gateway to Creative Design

Advantages:

  • Rapid Design Deployment: Allows for the quick implementation of complex layouts, significantly speeding up the design process.
  • Inspiration and Efficiency: A valuable resource for design inspiration and efficient creation of sophisticated page structures.

Challenges:

  • Overreliance on Pre-Made Patterns: Could potentially stifle creativity if users rely solely on pre-made patterns without adding personal customisation.
  • Consistency Issues: There's a risk of inconsistent design elements if patterns are not carefully selected to match the overall website style.
A Call for Enhanced Styling Options

Advantages:

  • Basic Styling Out-of-the-Box: Gutenberg WordPress provides essential styling options for each block, allowing for decent customisation without additional tools.

Challenges:

  • Need for More Advanced Styling: There's a demand for more comprehensive styling features to allow for more detailed and varied designs.
  • Dependence on Additional CSS: Currently, users often need to resort to custom CSS to achieve certain design goals, which can be a barrier for those with limited coding skills.
Fine-Tuning Permissions Based on User Role: A Necessity for Collaborative Workflows

Advantages:

  • Controlled Editing Experience: Fine-tuned permissions can ensure that users have access only to the blocks and features they need, preventing unintentional alterations to critical aspects of the site.
  • Role-Specific Customisation: Tailoring the editor experience to fit different roles (like authors, editors, and administrators) can enhance productivity and streamline the content creation process.

Challenges:

  • Limited Native Role Customisation: Gutenberg currently offers limited options for customising user permissions at a granular level, which can be a drawback in environments where content responsibilities are distinctly divided.
  • Dependency on External Solutions: To achieve detailed permission control, administrators often need to rely on external plugins, which can complicate the setup and potentially affect site performance.
  • Complexity in Management: Implementing fine-grained permissions requires a careful balance to ensure that user roles are clearly defined and do not overlap, which can add complexity to site management.

Embracing Gutenberg: The Future of WordPress Content Creation

As we've explored the many facets of the Gutenberg editor, it's clear that its arrival heralds a significant shift in the WordPress landscape. From its inception, Gutenberg has been a topic of mixed reactions, challenging traditional content creation norms and introducing a new era of block-based editing.

Gutenberg WordPress, with its intuitive design, flexible content blocks, and evolving capabilities, represents both the present and future of WordPress. It’s a tool that has grown from initial scepticism to widespread acceptance, continuously adapting to meet the complex needs of today’s web developers and content creators. The introduction of features like the Query Loop block and the Pattern Directory, along with improvements in site-wide element management, demonstrates WordPress’s commitment to innovation.

However, as with any transformative tool, Gutenberg is not without its challenges. The need for enhanced styling options, more granular permission controls, and closing the gap between editor experience and front-end display are areas where Gutenberg continues to evolve. These developments are crucial for maintaining the balance between user-friendliness and the advanced capabilities demanded by professional web development.

In conclusion, Gutenberg is not just an editor; it's a paradigm shift in how we think about and interact with WordPress. As Morningstar Digital continues to navigate this evolving landscape, we see Gutenberg as a key component in delivering cutting-edge web solutions. By harnessing its potential, we empower our clients with websites that are not only visually stunning and functionally robust but also reflective of their unique brand identity and messaging.

As we move forward, embracing the changes and advancements in Gutenberg WordPress will be pivotal in shaping the future of web design and content strategy. With its ever-growing community support and continuous enhancements, Gutenberg is well on its way to becoming an indispensable tool in the WordPress ecosystem.

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