Get Ready for Gutenberg, WordPress 5.0

Printing Letters

WordPress has now received its biggest upgrade for years to version 5.0, and I have just edited this post using the new Gutenberg editor.

The most major change is to the editor which is now based on blocks with the intention of making WordPress more visually attractive and user-friendly. This is probably one of the most significant changes to the editing interface that WordPress has ever seen, and moves the editor more into the direction of a page builder, albeit a limited one.

To find out more this change, you can read an overview by popular SEO plugin people Yoast  – What is Gutenberg?

Or watch this short video:

So should I upgrade when WordPress 5.0 is released?

It’s really hard to know how you will be affected and it will vary from site to site. The changes to the editor and other more background changes are likely to have some impact on your site when you upgrade to 5.0 – for example, your plugins and theme may not be compatible, or require an update. Any sites with custom coding or highly customised themes may may also be affected and no longer work or work well with the new editor. In the worst case, your site could look fairly broken or your layouts and styling could look very ‘off’. On the other hand, everything may be fine, particularly if your site has uses a regularly updated and maintained theme together with a Page Builder such as Visual Composer/WP Bakery or Site Origin Page Builder. However, there is no real way of knowing until you test the water and make the full switch. Back up first!

There’s No Need to Upgrade Immediately

In the short term, and for quite a while in all probability, you can choose to not upgrade to WordPress 5.0 until you’re ready. It won’t be an auto update, and if there are subsequent 5.0.x security releases, these fixes will be backported for a good while yet. Therefore you can stick with 4.8 until WordPress announce it will no longer receive security updates. Given the change that Gutenberg presents, it’s likely WordPress 4.8 will be supported for some time.

Backup before Upgrading

Longer term, you will need to move to Gutenburg at some point, and I would not put this off for too long. When the time comes, bear in mind that the upgrade to WordPress 5.0 is an irreversible process unless you take a back up first so make sure you do so before doing anything. I recommend using  UpdraftPlus

Check Compatibility of Plugins and Themes

Aside from your own editing experience, Gutenberg will also bring important changes to your plugins and themes. For example, a lot of plugins interact with the WordPress editor directly, whether that’s to add new functionality or include shortcodes. Those plugins will need to become Gutenberg compatible, and the good news is that most leading plugins and themes are ensuring that they are. Before you upgrade, check that all the plugins you need are compatible, replace those that are not and make sure all are up to date. The same applies to themes.

Don’t be too scared either though – the chances are that if your plugins and themes are broadly compatible and up to date, and there is little custom coding on your site, you may find the upgrade is quite smooth, just don’t take that for granted.

Try it out

Gutenburg is a big change so the WordPress community has responded with a few useful plugins that can help you test it out.

Firstly, you can test drive Gutenberg now with the Gutenberg plugin. Or you can try it out directly at Frontenberg.

Want to try Gutenberg but not activate site wide?

And then if you upgrade to WordPress 5.0 but change your mind? There are options – you can use the Disable Gutenberg plugin to remove all instances of Gutenberg EXCEPT on a page or post you specify. And if you upgrade and have problems, you can also revert to using the traditional editor via the Classic Editor plugin.

Disable Gutenberg

You can completely disable Gutenberg by checking the box as well as remove the nagging notice you will get to Try Gutenberg. If you select the disable Gutenberg everywhere option – no other options will appear.

If you you do want to use Gutenberg in some areas – then uncheck the disable Gutenberg everywhere option. Then you will see options for who you can disable Gutenberg for as well as what post types or specific posts you can remove it from.

Disable Gutenberg

Revert to the Classic Editor

Just install the Classic Editor plugin and choose the replace Gutenberg option in their settings. Now you will only have the classic editor. This will be supported until 2022 and now allows you to switch between Classic and Gutenberg on a per-user or per-post level.

Classic Editor

Clone your site to try out Gutenberg

If you are worried about the impact on your site, the best thing would be to clone the site and try out the upgrade away from your live site. You can then test it and make any necessary changes in your own time.

Sites with WP Bakery Page Builder (Visual composer)

If you have WPBakery Page Builder version 5.5 or later installed, you will notice two options related to the Gutenberg editor:

  • A content element ‘Gutenberg’ available in your Add Element menu that allows you to insert Gutenberg layout/blocks directly into the layout of WPBakery Page Builder
  • An option to disable Gutenberg editor on your WordPress site via WPBakery Page Builder Settings (in your WordPress Admin Dashboard).

Sites with SiteOrigin Page Builder

SiteOrigin is making all their Page Builder widgets Gutenberg compatible. So you can add their buttons, tabbed layout, maps, etc. to your Gutenberg pages. The SiteOrigin Layout block will also be available as a Gutenberg block so you’ll be able to create fully nested, columnized, widgetized content, with advanced row, column and widget styling right inside Gutenberg.

Do I still need a Page Builder?

Gutenberg moves WordPress more into the direction of a Page Builder but Gutenberg is taking a more conservative approach to page building, which means there are designs and layouts that you just won’t be able to achieve.

However, there are already some great plugins out there extending the number of core blocks that Gutenberg will offer. In particular I like the look of Atomic Blocks and Stackable, both of which add a great collection of content blocks to those that come as standard. These include for example  Call to Actions, Testimonials, Video pop Ups, Accordions, Headers and Buttons, plus some neat features like being able to add tints to background images in relevant blocks. For simple sites, this may well be all you need and although the simplicity of the current editor may be missed by some, I think this shows that the use of blocks has a lot of potential.

Way Forward?

The best way forward will vary from site to site, and it is still quite early to make definite suggestions, except to tread carefully! There’ll be a period of learning ahead but in general, I think this is the right way for WordPress to go.

In the short term, I would not rush to update on a live site that is working fine right now. Unless you are really keen, I would certainly wait until some weeks after the eventual release, to let others iron out all the likely unforeseen compatibiltily issues and bugs that the release is likely to present in WordPress itself, plugins and themes.

Having said that, I updated this site to WordPress 5.0 within a couple of hours of its release and have not spotted any problems yet. I’ll look at client sites next…..