Getting ready for Gutenberg

Big changes are afoot!

For those of you who haven’t already heard – a new WordPress content editor and publishing experience is being built, due for initial release in WordPress 5.0 (apparently anytime from April onwards). The project has been named Gutenberg, after the man who introduced the printing press way back in the 1400’s.


The current WordPress content editor is a big blank box. It’s lovely for writing a load of text, but can be rather a headache when it comes to creating complex pages that contain images, columns, embedded content, and more. Gutenberg is built around the concepts of ‘blocks’ – essentially pre-defined ‘chunks’ of content that are styled in a particular way and that can be easily added, configured and re-ordered. You can read more about Gutenberg here.

It’s still in development, and still very early days, but I wanted to write this post:

  1. To let you know that Gutenberg is out there and is going to arrive sometime soon!
  2. To say that as a WordPress developer, Gutenberg is very much on my radar.

If you have a WordPress website

For anyone with a custom WordPress theme – firstly, don’t panic! Things will continue to work, and there will always (or at least for the foreseeable future) be a way to disable the Gutenberg editor and revert back to the current one. Gutenberg will not affect the front end of your website – it’s simply a different way to create and edit content in the admin area.

To a certain extent, Gutenberg will work out of the box. However, there will likely be some work required to take advantage of all the new features that Gutenberg will bring to WordPress. I can’t give you all the answers right now (I’m not sure anyone can), but this should all become a lot clearer as the release date comes closer (and clearer still in the months following release). If you’re a Hexagon hosting client and want to have a play with Gutenberg before it’s released, let me know and I’ll get the plugin set up on your staging site for you so you can test it in a safe environment.

If you’re a WordPress developer

For me, it means lots of new learning – to ensure I’m ready to work with Gutenberg and use it to it’s full advantage. In common with the vast majority of WordPress developers out there, I spend most of my time coding in PHP. Gutenberg is very JavaScript based. Hmm. I think this is one of the reasons why there was a lot of pushback from the developer community initially. Change is scary, learning a whole new technology is scary. To be fair, it’s not totally new – most of us know a certain amount of JS. But we need to up our game. I’m currently in the process of working through several courses to prepare for JS development – I’ll list them here in case anyone is interested:

I will also be introducing some basic compatibility styling into new custom themes I build from now on, following Bill Erickson’s helpful post on getting a theme ready for Gutenberg. This should help ease the transition once Gutenberg is launched, when we’ll then need to be looking at custom blocks and whatnot. So as a developer, it’s busy times – my job seems to get ever more complex!

As always, if you have any queries, do let me know – or leave a comment below.

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