Test Driving Gutenberg Plugin for WordPress
Written by: Justin Gedge / Monday 16th April 2018
I’m not the first to know… but I’m also not the last either. Sometime this year, WordPress 5.0 will be released, and the page builder will be Gutenberg. I decided to play around with this plugin/page builder on my site [Fire Media Lab]. Nothing quite like a live test case to get the incentive to learn Gutenberg.
To be fair- I have tried this out on a private server, so I don’t risk taking down a live site. I also decided to play around while I was in the middle of a site migration that included theme updates and a change over to SSL [https] as well. With this, I’m already overhauling quite a bit so playing with a page builder is a trivial addition. I also have a relatively small site with minimal content right now. It’s was going to be easy to back out if something didn’t look right.
My Thoughts on Gutenberg
My initial thoughts are that it looks like a stripped down version of WP Bakery’s Page Builder that came bundled with some of the responsive themes I’ve been using and testing. I find this is interesting because I hear various complaints about these page builders when I attend WordPress groups in the area, but the concept seems very similar to what Gutenberg is doing.
With both systems, instead of just dropping all your content in, you break it up into little blocks. Each paragraph, each heading, each image or embedded piece wrapped in a block. The advantage is that all of these content blocks can then be arranged or formatted in columns for full desktops or merged into a single column for browsers that have been made skinny or tablets and phones where the screen in not conducive to multiple columns.
After wrestling a few responsive themes using Page Builder, Gutenberg didn’t take long to become familiar with. The only thing is that its features are relatively limited at the moment. The individual blocks are in place, but the containers that they would fit into for page formatting aren’t there yet, or if they are, the features are limited. The responsive elements and things like buttons that make mobile navigation easier aren’t readily apparent either, but I’m also just scratching the surface. I expect all of these things will be available in time either as part of Gutenberg or through additional plugins.
Is Gutenberg Ready for Use?
Right now, I’m going to be a little crazy and push it into production on my own Fire Media Lab site. This will force me to stay up on what’s happening. I will make sure all my updates occur on a local copy and get pushed up to the live site to quarantine issues from using development code and minimize or limit downtime. IE- I can always revert to a known working version if something goes wrong while I’m waiting for an update in the event something goes wrong. I won’t do this to any of my customers right now.
I can do this on my site because my formatting needs are relatively simple right now. I can do without all the bells and whistles of a full-blown page builder right now. My customers, I’m not willing to risk their production pages right now. When Gutenberg becomes the standard page builder, we’ll run a migration of their sites over, but it should be reasonably straightforward. Tedious, but straightforward as we’re just moving content from one type of page builder to another.
I’m cool with the direction WordPress is taking with Gutenberg. When done, the standardization will be nice and efficient. The Gutenberg blocks are much more lightweight than the current responsive page builders I’ve been using. And again, once established, the new framework should provide an excellent foundation for developers to build lots of blocks to drop into the new Gutenberg framework. I just can’t use it on any of my customer production sites right now.