The next major WordPress update is going to be a very, very big update. We will have a new editor, called Gutenberg, that will change the way we add content to WordPress. That is fundamental. It is also a good thing because honestly, the old way wasn’t great. It was better than the alternative website building choices, but that is an oddly low bar.
Like all big changes, and this is a BIG BIG change, we need to manage it very carefully to be sure bad things don’t happen to our sites.
Most sites that I have built over the years have signed up for annual site maintenance services. I wanted to let you know how I’m planning to help you through this exciting but stressful transition. Other readers might find this process helpful for their own sites.
Although I certainly didn’t see this disruptive change in WordPress coming years ago when I set up my site plans, simple, small sites with fairly up to date themes already set up will likely not incur extra changes. More complex sites, especially horse sites, are going to take a lot more work when we decide to make the change.
What is the new editor like?
The new editor experience is better. I like it. Rather than one big white block everything goes in, you get a “block” for everything. Each paragraph, heading, image, everything is a block.
Mostly, my testing of moving existing sites over to use the new editor has gone without major issue. The exception has been the pedigree tables on horse sites. I’ll write more about that later.
This site is running pre-release version of the new editor and I’m writing this in it. It’s fine. Maybe even a little fun. I mean, isn’t that orange color fun?
However, it is buggy. It has a weird, unfinished feel. Some people will find that a deal-killer. I hope that will work itself out, but the release deadline, currently scheduled for November 27th is really bearing down on us. Even the amazing people working on this project probably can’t get this as polished as it should be by the drop date.
Soon I’ll talk about the specifics of how it work. For now, just know it is something to look forward to.
What do we do about Gutenberg?
It depends. If you are used to working with me, you saw that answer coming. Every site is different. Each needs a different approach. Most importantly, the people who own and add content to sites need an approach that works for them.
We can use a plugin to turn off the new editor for a while. How long? That will depend on the following:
- For at least a few weeks on most sites to wait out the first round of tweaks that will get pushed out.
- Staging site testing tells us that a site’s specific content will still look good. (This is why we have such expensive hosting!)
- The owners and content editors must feel ready!
Waiting to turn on the new editor is a great option for companies need to pick a less busy season. It’s also a good choice for those who just don’t want to wonder if they did something wrong or if they found a bug in the software.
Once we get ready to turn it on, we can decide if we want to turn the whole site – pages, posts, custom post types – over to the new editor or not. Again, it is a site by site decision. Some sites have just a few pages and we might as well make the switch for pages and posts at the same time to avoid creating confusion.
Big sites, ecommerce sites, sites with custom post types, or any number of other complicating factors might not benefit from the sudden change in all parts of the site. We might decide to turn on the new editor for creating Posts but maybe wait awhile before Products are turned over to the new experience. That way, an ecommerce store can get used to the editor while working on Posts without having to worry about changes to that all important store.
What should you do next? Mostly, don’t panic. We can leave your site the way it is a long time. But hey, when you get some time, I really do think you’ll like this new editor better. I think you’ll use it more. That is big!
Dying to see if you will like the new experience better? Let me know and I’ll set up your staging site so you can experiment without breaking your live site.
Last week I added the necessary plugins to every site I manage that isn’t already running Gutenberg on a live site. Now we’ll wait for the release and then I’ll be watching the various places people talk about WordPress on the internet for signs the release is stabilizing. And then, site by site, we will decide to make the big switch!
Keep checking back. I’ll write more about Gutenberg.