WordPress 5.0 is scheduled for release Thursday, December 6. Some people are terrified of this happening. I don’t think I’m one of them.
I have turned on Gutenberg for this post. Let me know if weird things happen on the screen while you’re reading.
The one serious issue still in process for WordPress 5.0 is accessibility. For that reason, I don’t recommend that people with issues using a mouse use Gutenberg until a promised accessibility audit is completed. Everyone else should be able to upgrade with reasonable confidence. If you’re the slightest bit concerned with how Gutenberg might affect your experience, install the Classic Editor plugin.
As Matt Mullenweg, team lead on WP 5.0, was announcing the projected release date Monday, I was already writing this post about one writer’s Gutenberg experience. I will now pick up on that original idea.
Complaints about Gutenberg’s Interface
Last week, Matt Mullenweg published his Gutenberg FAQ. This was a fairly well-reasoned response to his critics.
But a few critics showed up to demonstrate their anger in front of the boss.
There was one guy who responded that “WP is history, and so am I…I feel it is a HUGE STEP BACKWARDS! But then gotta keep all those barely educated millenials (sic) happy.” Unfortunately, he didn’t really explain what his problem with Gutenberg was. Perhaps it was because his website is on Blogger now.
Two other folks offered more constructive criticism, worth examining. Their criticism focused on the way you write in Gutenberg. Thiago writes:
Paul Marsden has a similar complaint, taken a bit further.
If you haven’t yet tried Gutenberg, these comments might fill you with terror. Let me suggest trying this version of Gutenberg before you call it “inhuman.”
The Gutenberg Learning Curve
Marsden makes a good point about how the Comments editor works, but I’m not sure it applies here. It’s also true that word processors also present a blank screen and you just type until you stop typing. Gutenberg takes a little getting used to, but the height of the learning curve is about the size of a pebble in the road.
I’ve been using TinyMCE, aka the Classic Editor, in WordPress for nearly 15 years. When I first typed in a Gutenberg block some months ago, I thought it was a little weird that pressing Enter demanded that I select another block. Well, the developer team fixed that. Today, finish a paragraph and another paragraph block appears. If you’d rather have a heading just now, move the mouse to bring up a menu, or type a forward slash like this / (which it helpfully suggests) to choose a Heading block. By default, the menu will make that a Heading 2, but you’ve got options.
Note: As I’m typing here (in a Paragraph block, by the way), I’ve got a couple suggestions for the team: It would be nice to have a Note block with a border around it to make it stand out. I could add some CSS to make that happen in the Advanced settings for this block (it’s right there on the right side of the editor page), but my CSS skills aren’t quite up there yet. It would also be great to have the Word Count information at the bottom of the screen, like the Classic Editor does. I’ll see if anyone else has filed that as a bug.
My other favorite thing about Gutenberg over Classic is how easy it is to deal with images. Those comments up there? I took a screen shot, put it on the clipboard, and pasted it into the spot. An Image block was created, and I could change the positioning on the page. It just worked! I was hardly ever happy with how graphics meshed with text in the old editor. You also don’t need a separate window to type Alt Text, and handle the other editing tasks to make the image look right.
If you just want to use something already in your Media Library, you have to create the block first, then choose from Upload, Media Library, or Insert from URL, just like you used to.
HTML, Blocks and Structure
But why can’t WordPress just let me write on a blank sheet of (electronic) paper? Why blocks?
One short answer is: Every web page you’ve ever seen has paragraph tags. Every word processing document has code of some sort hiding out of plain sight. Blocks in Gutenberg should make it easier for you to communicate. It may also have a benefit in that search engines can better find your content (though probably not immediately).
Some folks have noted that the menu of formatting options for writing is not at the top of the screen, always visible. In Gutenberg, those options are available with the push of a mouse at the top of each block. This can be a problem if you can’t use a mouse, but I’m confident this will be fixed soon.
As a writer, I think Gutenberg will make a positive contribution to democratizing publishing on the web. I think we’re all going to be better at communicating with Gutenberg very soon.
I guess I can say that I, for one, am ready for Gutenberg! I’m hoping to learn more this weekend, watching at least some parts of the Livestream of WordCamp US. Get your free ticket here.