In this issue: The Classic editor doesn’t cut it, and given the growing dissatisfaction with Gutenberg, is it time for a third option? Also, the latest posts on WebTNG, and some useful links from around the web.
If all you have is Gutenberg, then everything looks like a block.
(in the spirit of) Abraham Maslow
Dynamic WordPress – Does WordPress Need a New Editor?
Acknowledgements: “Does WordPress Need a New Editor?” draws from the comments and discussions of David Waumsley and Paul Lacey about Gutenberg.
WordPress already has two editors, the Classic editor and Gutenberg. The Classic editor is pretty easy to understand. New users don’t need much training because the interface is visual. It has editor buttons and menus that are the same or similar to the controls people have seen in their editors for decades. However, the Classic editor is very limited. There are no columns, no buttons, it is difficult to position media files with text, and you have to switch to text-mode for any advanced layouts. The Classic editor looks like a year 2010 product. It is probably fair to say that the limitations of the Classic editor gave rise to page builders. Page builders solve the problems that WordPress users experience because they were stuck with the Classic editor.
Gutenberg is much more flexible. You can easily combine text and multimedia content and this can be more visually appealing. However, Gutenberg is difficult for many new users to understand. For better or worse, the Gutenberg architects hid the controls and only show them contextually when they are needed. This results in a “chicken and egg” paradox as users don’t know how to get started.
In several ways Gutenberg, after two and a half years, still feels like a beta. It is difficult for theme authors to support. Gutenberg the plugin and Gutenberg the built-in editor don’t always work the same and there are sometimes breaking changes. Designers are frustrated with Gutenberg because when you are designing, as opposed to writing content, there is not a good match between what you see in the editor and what you see on the front-end. However, as we are all wont to repeat, “Gutenberg is the future and it will eventually get there.”
More and more over time Gutenberg looks like it is moving into “page builder space,” but it doesn’t seem that the foundation is strong. Worse, it is not clear from the comments of the developers and the direction of Gutenberg that these things are a priority. For example, strong and consistent layout, as well as global style features, are missing. The Gutenberg team is working away at these things, but logically they should have come first. The lack of good row-column functionality means that many Gutenberg addons offer their own “container” and column blocks. This is a huge problem because in most cases these blocks are not interoperable and end-users are going to experience lock-in remorse. I wrote about the problem of content portability between different block vendors two years ago and nothing has changed. Paul Lacey on the recent This Week in WordPress show talked about this, he is open to changing his mind, but it doesn’t seem safe to rely on it yet. I see more and more members of the WordPress community starting to lose confidence in Gutenberg. At this point, “Gutenberg is the future and it will eventually get there,” is sounding less convincing.
I’m fairly happy with Gutenberg as a content editor, but a large number of people seem to prefer other options. The Classic Editor plugin, which disables Gutenberg, shows more than 5 million active installs, the maximum number that WordPress will show. I’ve seen it said that it has more than 8 million active installs. Jeff Starr’s Disable Gutenberg plugin has more than 600,000 active installs. These plugins are installed on sites where someone has gone out of their way to block Gutenberg. An active fork of WordPress, Classic Press, is dedicated to being “block free.”
Recently we’ve seen Bricks and Zion Builder get a lot of attention because they are trying to improve upon the previous generation of page builders. This has me wondering if there might be a market for a better content editor for WordPress? For now, let’s call it the Heidelberg Editor. There are a lot of page builders available, but trying to type much content into their little text boxes is painful. A free version of Heidelberg could be available in the WordPress plugin directory. It would need to output performant code and when disabled leave simple HTML so there is no lock in. It could have a UI that is easy to learn and use so that clients who know how to use a word processor or write an email can produce content. It could provide solid layout and style options and support multimedia without trying to be a page builder. It could have an easily extensible API so third parties can contribute. A pro version could allow users to create single and archive content templates with access to dynamic data. Do you think that an alternate content editor, a Heidelberg, could succeed, or is this a bad idea?
From Around the Web
What’s Up Next?
I created another chapter in the Custom Post Types and Page Builders series, this time looking at Zion Builder. As I was editing the video the developer told me that they are greatly improving the ACF integration. I decided to wait rather than release something that is outdated in two weeks. I will probably need to redo all of the video, but hopefully the builder will be more solid. Coming soon. I’m also adding a chapter in the series showing how to modify a PHP template by hand for your Custom Post Type content.
Thank you for reading. I’d like to hear what you have to say about the newsletter content and what you are excited about. Feel free to comment or send me an email through the contact form.
July 13, 2021