Gutenberg: What You Need to Know About the New WordPress 5.0 Update
The biggest WordPress update ever made is coming, and it will affect every theme, almost every plugin, and every user. It's called WordPress 5.0, or Gutenberg.
Starting July 31, 2018, WordPress started enticing users to try Gutenberg with a button that allows you to install the beta version on your website. It is not mandatory that you switch over yet, and we are encouraging our readers to hold off so you can forgo the headaches and issues that come along with a beta version.
But right behind that optional update comes the real WordPress 5.0 version, which is thought to arrive as early as this month (August 2018). When that happens, all new websites will default to Gutenberg automatically, and any sites that are set to update automatically will be “Gutenberged” as well.
As Small Business Trends indicated in a recent article, this WordPress update can cause issues on your site, so it's very important that you understand what you're dealing with first. But don't worry, we've got you covered—just read on!
What Can Go Wrong with WordPress 5.0 (Gutenberg)?
Let's cut to the chase because we know you're all wondering what headaches are coming your way with WordPress 5.0. Here are the main issues that might arise:
If You Want to Go Back, It's Not So Simple
Once you switch to Gutenberg, you can't just revert back without restoring your original site from a backup, so make sure to back up your site before installing it.
When you are just starting out with Gutenberg, it is much better to install it on a test site so that you can play around with it and get used to it before installing it on any sites that are important to your business.
Your Site May Get Updated Without You Even Realizing It
If your host automatically updates your website, it might get updated to Gutenberg without you even realizing it. This is especially bad if your site isn't automatically being backed up each day. It is critical that you take the steps listed below in the “How to Avoid a Broken Site” section to ensure your site will not switch to Gutenberg before you have been able to properly test it.
Your Hosting Company Might Not Be Able to Support This Change Just Yet
As Donna Fontenot Cavalier puts it, “Gutenberg will confuse the crap out of almost everyone,” and that means lots of support calls.
Support personnel may not be adequately trained to handle the influx of support calls that are sure to be made as this WordPress 5.0 update takes place. Or if they are, the call volume is probably going to cause some issues as well.
If your host is a WordPress-specific hosting company such as WPEngine, DreamPress, or Synthesis, they should be more familiar than other hosting companies since they are involved in WordPress development.
Not every part of your site will function properly when Gutenberg is installed. There are way too many themes and plugins out there for it to work perfectly with all of them, and all the software companies you use to support your website have a lot of work to do to get their products up to speed. It will take time and patience, unfortunately.
E-Commerce Sites Could Have a lot of Headaches Ahead of Them
E-commerce sites will most likely have some issues, as e-commerce platforms are more complicated and therefore have a lot to do to ensure they are Gutenberg compatible.
In the end, however, once all the kinks are ironed out, the new block-building functionality is going to be a really good thing for e-commerce on WordPress. It will make adding products a breeze (for simple products at least). WooCommerce is excited about the upcoming changes, though they know they have a lot of work ahead of them to figure out how more complex products with variations will play out.
Gutenberg Removes Sidebars
With mobile in mind, Gutenberg is removing sidebars from all sites. While that works well on mobile devices, it does create a visual issue on regular computer screens, not to mention that many websites will need to change their layout.
Content Might Get Put in Wrong Blocks
When you migrate to Gutenberg, it will attempt to break up your existing content into different components to fit into its new block structure, but there will likely be cases where it does that incorrectly. In most cases, it will probably lump all the content into one block, which can be confusing and cumbersome when you switch between older and newer content that is formatted differently.
Why Is WordPress Making These Changes?
The average marketer sees these changes as a burden because it's a learning curve that takes either time or money to learn the new software, not to mention the loss of productivity it will cause. And many unhappy beta testers are already complaining.
But WordPress is making these changes for the right reasons. The way WordPress was designed pre-Gutenberg does not work with the modern advances in browser features. The Gutenberg editor will work faster and more in sync with browsers, and in the end, the switch will be well worth it.
And really, WordPress is just getting with the times. Now, the way you draft a blog is more like a page builder than the WordPress editor we are all used to. That seems to be what most people want because it creates a better flow and user experience.
What Changes Does Gutenberg Bring to WordPress?
Well, in a nutshell, it changes everything.
It changes how you add content to your website and how it appears to the end user. It is a completely different way of creating content, and it's the biggest WordPress update the company has ever made. Essentially, they are completely overhauling the functionality of WordPress.
The layout of WordPress features is different in Gutenberg, but the features are all still there. Most of the ones like meta details that have typically been below the content have now been moved to a right column.
The good news is that, the way it looks right now, we can still use plugins and themes to determine our design and most of the look and feel of our websites (header, footer, etc.). It's the content itself that will look and function differently.
The Main Difference: Block Building
WordPress 5.0 will now function like a page builder, such as Divi or Wix. Instead of having one large blog post, you will add different blocks for each type of content you want to add (paragraph, image, column, list, quote, gallery, heading, SoundCloud, spacer, widgets, and many more).
One feature that WordPress Gutenberg is very advanced in is its Embeds blocks, which allows you to simply enter a URL to embed content from other sites. It offers more embeds than any other page builder right now. For example, you can embed content from Facebook, Kickstarter, Polldaddy, and many more.
The Benefits of These Differences
With this type of block-building functionality, you'll be able to see your changes right away, and your experience will be more visually interactive. It's certainly more user-friendly for newcomers, and it's mostly just the WordPress veterans who are going to struggle with these changes.
How to Avoid a Broken Site
The main issues with Gutenberg will occur for sites that already have a lot of content because it's not all going to come through into the new layout properly. The content in your current posts will be lumped into one block, which can get confusing as you start having new content with several different blocks and older content with single blocks.
But the main thing you want to do is ensure that your site doesn't get broken when you make the switch to WordPress 5.0, and here's how:
1) Be Proactive
If your host automatically installs updates on your site, it is critical that you ensure you have the Classic Editor plugin installed before 5.0 is released if you want to be able to continue using the familiar editor. This is temporary, but it will allow you to bide your time as you test it and resolve the issues on a test site.
You'll also want to make sure you have the latest backup of your site before the WordPress 5.0 update takes place.
You might want to consider installing the Gutenberg Ramp plugin, which allows you to enable or disable Gutenberg on specific posts. You'll need to add a line of code to your theme's function.php file. Again, this is a temporary solution, but it could be a good one for the time being.
2) Let the Bugs Get Worked Out Before You Switch
Install the Classic Editor plugin so that you can continue to use the familiar WordPress and let all the kinks get ironed out before you migrate over.
3) Test Gutenberg on a Clone Site First
We suggest contacting your host to set up a developer version (technically, it's a clone) of your website so that you can install the Gutenberg plugin and test it there. The developer version should be a complete copy of your site, but one that isn't live, so you will be able to see what aspects are broken and which ones work well.
It's important to point out, however, that a cloned version of your site might work fine while your site might not due to the differences that can take place in versions of HTTPS, PHP, MySQL, and MariaDB.
If your host doesn't provide clones of your site upon request, here are some instructions to help you do it yourself.
Once you have your cloned site, check the following:
- Does the layout look the same?
- Are your contact forms working properly?
- Are your images all displaying properly?
- Are videos still working?
- Are your widgets displaying properly?
- If you have any custom code, is it still functioning?
- Is the e-commerce aspect of your site working properly?
Also, try changing themes on your clone site to see if it functions properly in that theme versus your theme. Try turning plugins on and off as well to see how they are being affected.
What If There Are Issues?
Well, it depends on many things. You might just need to make a few tweaks or you might need a complete website overhaul, which could include a change in theme and doing away with custom code.
Don't sweat too much about WordPress 5.0. It's here, and there is nothing we can do about it. Remember, in the end, it's a change for the better, and just resolve yourself to the fact that you'll need to work through some potential issues. You can do this! And if it feels like too much on top of everything else on your plate, just Contact Us—we're always here to help!