Gutenberg is the working name of the new WordPress editor that is currently being built to begin the process of bringing WordPress into the age of the drag and drop page builders. The classic WYSIWYG text box editor offered limited formatting options for customizing page and post content.
The new Gutenberg block editor is a much-needed improvement in the user experience of designing page and post-content. It provides a series of blocks that you can use to add content, customize the content and move them around to formats specific content in pages and posts.
When WordPress 5.0 is released sometime over the next few months, the new block editor will replace the classic editor.
How Will The Gutenberg Block Editor Affect My Site?
If you used the classic editor to create your pages and posts on your site, the pages and posts on your site should display as they did before, with the new editor since the Gutenberg block editor will only affect new content that you create. Previous content will remain in “classic mode” with an editor that is much more like the one you currently use.
The good news is that when Gutenberg is released, it will only affect the new content that you create. Previous content will remain in “classic mode” with an editor that is much more like the one we currently use. Past pages and post content that you are satisfied with now, can remain in the classic mode and you can create new pages or posts using the Gutenberg, block editor.
You can choose to have your content remain in classic mode forever and use the new block editor for creating your new content. Alternatively, you can manually convert past content into Gutenberg blocks.
If you don’t want to deal with the new editor at all, you can go ahead and install and activate the Classic Editor plugin now, and when Gutenberg is released, you won’t see any changes to your site at all
What if My Site Uses a Page Builder?
If you’re using a page builder plugin and are happy with it, don’t worry. The first versions of the new editor will not come with the level of functionality you would need to replace what you are doing now. Therefore, it’s going to be quite some time before you will want/need to use Gutenberg to design your pages.
Word on the street is that the release of Gutenberg won’t come with front-end visual editor options for advanced styling, won’t offer padding around images and it may not even be responsive. What?
If you’re happy with your page builder-built website, you should continue with the way you are doing things now by using the Classic Editor plugin.
Give it Some Time
Eventually, you’ll be required to update to the new block editor but, for the next year or two, the Classic Editor plugin will allow you to ignore this whole conundrum safely. You can revisit the issue when you need to design or refresh your website at which point, the Gutenberg block editor will have worked out the kinks and offer more functionality.
How to Test the New Editor with Your Website
If you’ve updated to the most recent version of WordPress, 4.9.8, released August 2, 2018, and you have Admin access to your website, you’ll see a callout in your WordPress dashboard offering you an opportunity to try the Gutenberg Editor before it’s released by installing a test version as a plugin.
Remember this version is not a ready for release so don’t worry about small details in how it works. This test will give you a feel for what’s coming and allow you to check on how it may affect your current website.
Don’t do Tests on Your Live Website
I would caution you against trying the new editor on your actual live website since it could cause things to break. Older themes, sites using many plugins, complicated sites using page builders, will be particularly at risk for complications.
Instead, we advise you to test your site with the new block editor on a cloned version of your website. If you aren’t technical, you may be able to talk your web host technical support team into installing a mirror image of your site on a sub-directory on your hosting account. Then you can upload the plug and test it out.
Otherwise, you can clone one yourself using a plugin. This article offers a variety of plugins to help you and outlines the pros and cons of each method.
It will take some time before all of the other vendors working with WordPress themes and plugins update their plugins and themes to work seamlessly with the new editor. As Gutenberg is still under construction, many are waiting for a stable first version to make their changes and release the updated products. This period may lead to some styling snafus and functionality problems.
We’ve had a couple of clients take the opportunity to try it on their live website who had strange things happen that turned out to be plugin conflicts. Thankfully, when we deactivated Gutenberg and installed the Classic Editor the problems they encountered reversed themselves. However, you may not be so lucky.
To be safe, we are installing the Classic Editor plugin on all of the sites we maintain and recommend if you have any doubts about how your site may work or not work with the new Gutenberg block editor, you also go ahead and install and, activate the Classic Editor plugin today. It will save you from any big surprises when the Gutenberg block editor is released.
Watch Me Take Gutenberg for a Test Drive