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Gutenberg Editor in WordPress: a Survival Guide for Digital and Web Dev agencies.

Developing websites and web apps using Gutenberg might seem difficult in the beginning, but in the long term it is more convinient and progressive way of building applications and sites.

The upcoming “revolution”, regarding Gutenberg Editor in WordPress has become a major talking point between Chop-Chop and our partnering agencies.

Everyone who places their bets on WordPress should get familiar with the subject. I will not focus too much on how Gutenberg works, but rather how creative, marketing and web development agencies might go through the next 12 months of changes and succeed. Or rather – inspect, adapt and succeed. As Gutenberg will be soon upon us (with WordPress 5.0 release), let us go through 8 most vital questions.

1. Where is WordPress heading?

WordPress is having a growing romance with Facebook’s React.js technology. That is actually a great news because it may result in transforming WordPress form a slowly reloading traditional website into a much more app-like environment. WordPress developed so-called WP Rest API that allows among other things building hybrid web apps combining WordPress on the backend and React/Vue on the frontend.

To visualize its potential, imagine a blog built as a Progressive Web App (based on WordPress & React), that works smooth and fast on desktop and on mobile. Users interact with the site in real time, no refreshing needed. Everything loads in a flash. As a PWA, that website might be accessible via regular app icon on your phone and send notifications. The mobile usability of that kind of a portal is significantly improved and enhances its competitiveness. At the same time, it is still a website, so the development cost is much smaller than that of a regular mobile app.

The firstborn child of WordPress & React was Calypso which is an interface that allows users to manage sites hosted on WordPress.com. It is a Single Page App, combining the power of WordPress Rest API, Node.js & React.js. A similar app-like look & feel is introduced in the WordPress dashboard and front-end editor by WordPress Gutenberg.

To learn more about the future of WordPress, listen to Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic (company owning WordPress):

Mullenweg provides some valuable insight on the matter and, as a further listening, directs to the Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s excellent presentation:

2. Do I have to instantly move to Gutenberg with WordPress 5.0 release?

That is a major concern of many individuals, especially those whose business relies on WordPress a lot. The short answer is ‘no’. The developers prepared the Classic Editor plugin that will allow keeping the classic look and use of the dashboard while staying up-to-date with current WordPress version. So at least for the time being, WordPress might be available with both Classic and Gutenberg versions of the Editor.

3. Will existing WordPress sites break down after the 5.0 update?

No, you can use the Classic Editor and keep your site the way it was before.

4. Will WordPress get rid of the Classic Editor at some point?

There are basically two scenarios that are most probable for the future:
a) WordPress will fork into two parallel paths: Classic WP and Gutenberg WP. This status quo may last for a while or even become a standard that will be maintained for a long time.
b) If the market accepts Gutenberg well, the Classic WP might disappear altogether at some point.

5. When will WordPress 5.0 be released?

The 4.9.8 version was released on the 2nd of August. The Gutenberg team is working hard on releasing 5.0 as soon as possible, but we do not know when it is going to happen. Matt Mullenweg prognosis for the release date was May-June, but it’s September already and there is still no clear statement from the developers. Many people in the WordPress community are expecting Gutenberg release between September and the end of the year.

6. How might the next 12 months look like?

Well it’s just a guess, but I personally expect the following scenario:
1) WordPress 5.0 is released and the market tries to adapt to it, designers & developers learn its power, clients see if they like it.
2) WordPress plugin community adds Gutenberg support to their products. Not until major plugins adapt would I expect the market to switch from Classic to Gutenberg WordPress. That will give us a few extra months to see how to handle Gutenberg and measure the actual users’ interest.
3) While still developing traditional WordPress sites, Chop-Chop and other web-dev agencies are likely to see ever-growing demand for Gutenberg projects.
4) It seems to me that there will be a transition period when people (both designers, developers & clients) will be learning Gutenberg and relearning how to estimate budgets for WP projects. That ride might be bumpy but like with any other major emerging standard in the past, everyone is going to adjust eventually.

7. How will development with Gutenberg Editor in WordPress look like?

As for the development of Gutenberg sites, it will be possible to build custom layout blocks, which in the beginning might be rather costly and time-consuming. I suppose many developers and designers will decide to use default Gutenberg blocks and extend their possibilities using the Advanced Custom Fields. Money-wise, that approach might prove more efficient. With time, the knowledge base available online will grow and the community will provide ideas and pre-prepared elements that will bring custom blocks into everyday use.

8. How to prepare your clients and your team?

Become familiar with Gutenberg, check out the presentations I gave you, set up a new WordPress installation and turn on that shiny new Gutenberg editor. It is already available in 4.9.8 release as an option. Show your clients and your team a theme built on Gutenberg – there are some available on the web already. If you have developers in your team, subscribe them to that course: gutenberg.courses/development/. Make sure they know ES6+ JavaScript and are getting familiar with React.js.

As for the designers, ask them to look into Gutenberg too, but especially to learn more about the modular approach to design. Gutenberg Editor in WordPress makes it even easier to build sites with reusable elements and blocks.

If you have questions or would like to share your thoughts on the subject, do not hesitate to write at jan(dot)lubieniecki(at)chop-chop(dot)org
Many assumptions I made are arbitrary at best, so please keep some broad perspective and look out for other sources and news!