Episode from the podcastThe Audacity to Podcast

Should You Use the Gutenberg Editor on Your WordPress Website? – TAP338

Released Tuesday, 5th November 2019
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Switching to the Gutenberg Editor was probably the most controversial change in WordPress's history. I'll help you decide whether you should start using Gutenberg for your podcast's WordPress website.

What is the Gutenberg Editor?



If you’ve been working with WordPress for a while—before version 5.0—then you know the WordPress editor for creating pages and posts is similar to nearly any software where you compose a document to be sent, viewed or printed. You can write paragraphs or headings, you can adjust the text to be bold or in italics, and other common formats. It’s very basic; it’s very linear; and it’s also very limited.

The Gutenberg editor changes all that by building an all-new editor around the ideas and needs that we have in the media space today.

Now, when we’re creating content on WordPress websites, it’s not so linear. Sometimes, we’re telling stories, we’re inserting images and videos and multimedia into posts. We’re embedding lots of information with tables, charts, buttons, multimedia, opt-ins, and much more. We couldn't do this stuff very easily before with the classic editor; we needed extra plugins or else knowledge of web technologies like HTML and CSS or perhaps even some PHP and Javascript. Gutenberg simplifies all this by building new functionality into the new editor, and it’s all centered on the idea of blocks.

Every bit of content inside Gutenberg is a block. Headers, images, paragraphs, lists, embed, and more are all blocks. You can even have blocks inside of blocks (like a text block inside a column or grid block). All of this makes Gutenberg much like a page-builder, which I talked in episode 337.

You can drag and drop these blocks to reorder them, style them, and do some basic things with them. You don't have the full control you would with a dedicated a page-builder such as Elementor Pro, Beaver Builder, or Divi Builder. But you can do many of the same things in more simplified ways. So maybe you don’t need all of the features of a page-builder.

The Gutenberg and WordPress developers say Gutenberg is the future of WordPress. That sounds lofty but it’s also true. The plan for Gutenberg is to not only let you edit your content better but to help you edit your whole site better. The Gutenberg editor will someday help you build your header, sidebar, and footer. When you get comfortable using Gutenberg, you’ll be ready to edit the rest of your site in the future.

If you’d like try Gutenberg, then click here to learn more and try live without even having to have your own website. You don’t have to create an account or sign up in any way.

Gutenberg's benefits



Interested? I think these are the biggest reasons you should use Gutenberg.

1. Make repeatable content and templates with reusable blocks



This benefit is huge! This one alone may be enough to convince you to use Gutenberg. This can save you time, it can save you frustration, it can make the process of writing your show notes so much easier. And also make it so you don’t need to use several other plugins as it’s built into Gutenberg.

I’ve previously talked about how to write show not… by making repeatable content with custom shortcodes and content templates. Shortcodes will be a short word or phrase wrapped in square brackets, like [this], that you see in the post editor but when you preview or publish, the shortcode is replaced with something else. Shortcodes can display players, multimedia, buttons, text, and more.

I previously recommended using shortcodes to display text that you always repeat at the end of every episode such as:

  • How to subscribe
  • Links to your social accounts
  • Special promotions
  • Affiliate disclosure


Instead of wasting time copying and pasting text, you could use one or multiple shortcodes to make it easier to update across all of your site when you edit the original content and then clear your website cache to make the changes propagate across your website.

Custom shortcodes are not easy to make. In the least, you’ll need to know a little code to get them to work. To date I haven’t found a good shortcode plugin.

I’ve also previously talked about using Simple Con… for creating starting templates in WordPress. This would let you create the basic structure of your show notes you could use as a starting canvas for each new post.

These sound great, right? With the Gutenberg editor, you can do these same things with “reusable blocks”!

A reusable block can be one or multiple blocks grouped together as a single block you can place in multiple pages and posts. So instead of needing some code to make a custom shortcode, you can simply make your content with blocks in a page or post, select them, and save them as a reusable block.

You can even have reusable blocks inside reusable blocks! For example, your affiliate disclosure inside your show-notes closing block.

To make a whole content template, make all your placeholder blocks, select them, and turn them into a reusable block. When you place that template block into a new post, click on the More Options button, then convert to regular blocks and it will break it apart again so you can fill in your content.

I made a video tutorial that teaches how to do thi…

2. Unlock more content-formatting options



The classic editor works fine for basic writing, but it falls far short for more advanced formatting and content.

Sure, you could always dive deep and edit the CSS or HTML to get your content just the way you’d like, but Gutenberg makes this much easier!

Here are some of the many things Gutenberg can help you insert and manage better.

  • Images: more layout and alignment options (support added by your theme), faster caption-editing, and easy sizing.
  • Buttons: change the colors and style without needing an extra plugin or CSS.
  • Tables: add rows and columns easily for displaying tabular data.
  • Multimedia: embed with ease, and have more control over your embedded multimedia.
  • Widgets: you can finally put a WordPress sidebar widget in your content!


3. Replace many separate plugins with Gutenberg features



Because Gutenberg brings so much built into WordPress, you may not need as many plugins for basic features, like buttons, tables, shortcodes, and such.

4. Use high-quality themes and plugins to get more Gutenberg blocks and options



SecondLine Themes, among others, provide additional tools to allow you to do even more than what might have been available with the classic editor. This can bring in colors from your them, offer more layout options to make your content look great on your site, and more.

5. Paste formatted text without so many worries



Pasting text from other places into the classic editor used to be a big problem. If you wrote your show notes using Google Docs or some other word processor, and then pasted it into WordPress, you might end up with all sorts of extra—but hidden—code making it hard to get your text to look like you want. Gutenberg is far more paste-friendly, especially with Google Docs, so you don't have to worry about extra code messing up what you’re trying to put in place.

6. Edit faster and without page-refreshes



Although WordPress has always been a somewhat fast tool, the Gutenberg editor makes writing in WordPress even faster by doing things without page loads! Save a draft, publish your post, and more without having to reload the page, thanks to the modern Javascript backend of Gutenberg.

7. Navigate your post quickly with an outline



If you write your content with a hierarchy through headings, there are two ways that you can navigate your content very quickly without having to scroll.

image
Block navigation will show a list of the types of blocks in the order you have them allowing you to click on the one you’d like and get to it quickly.

image
Content Structure shows you the hierarchy with your headings, like a table of contents. You’ll be able to see at a glance what you already have and can click directly to that section.

Plus, this structure works create to select (from the bottom) to copy a quick outline.

8. Access advanced options more easily



When you’re working in any block, you’ll see its options on the right side of the screen.

The advanced section even allows you to enter a CSS class for that block or a link anchor. Before, you would have to add this stuff by editing the HTML code, but Gutenberg makes it more accessible.

9. Edit a block in HTML for advanced needs



If you do need to edit the HTML code for your content, Gutenberg makes that easier, too.

Previously with the classic editor, you to switch the whole editor to the code or “text” view or to adjust the HTML. With the Gutenberg editor you can edit the individual block in HTML without having to change over the entire page. This allows you to keep your place and work more efficiently.

Gutenberg's disadvantages



These are some of the most common problems and oppositions I've seen for Gutenberg.

1. It's a drastic change



I think people often resist change simply because it's different. Things aren’t where you expect them to be or something doesn’t work the way you’re used to.

The Gutenberg editor arrived with a completely different interface, so I understand that it can be a bit of a shock. However, Gutenberg still works fine for simple typing and pressing Enter. Plus, if you really try to use it and all its new features, I think you'll come to like it.

2. There are still some compatibility issues with other plugins



Some plugins built functionality into the classic editor. So when you switch over to the Gutenberg editor, that functionality could b missing. Sometimes, the feature is still available, but now it's in a block.

In some cases, though, it’s more serious and a plugin you use isn’t working as it should. When that happens, it’s worth reaching out to the developer of the plugin and letting them know you’re using Gutenberg so they can go about investigating the problem.

If you have a plugin that works with only the classic editor, then use the Classic Editor plugin to switch back for that specific page or post.

Classic Editor

3. It may slow down some editing functionality



Some users have reported that Gutenberg makes the interface run slower. The Javascript backend could introduce the possibility for more conflicts. But Gutenberg is generally faster and the report of slowness are rare.

4. Managing reusable blocks is a little weird right now



The process for managing blocks, right now, is to edit a page or post, click to add a new block, scroll down to reusable blocks, and then click a link to manage your blocks.

That's a little tedious, but you can either bookmark that resulting page, or add /wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=wp_block to the end of your domain, such as https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/wp-admin/edit.php…. (Change wp-admin to match your URL pattern, if you have altered that default.)

5. Many features may be more simplistic than you want



Gutenberg takes a simple approach to creating different blocks. For example, you can create basic tables, but you'll need an additional plugin if you want more advance control over your tables.

In some cases, a page-builder may be the answer to your needs.

That said, if the Gutenberg provides what you need, then it can avoid extra bloat and save you time by just using what it has available.

Tips for using Gutenberg



If you're ready to use Gutenberg, here are some tips!

1. Install the plugin version if you want the latest version



Gutenberg has been included with WordPress since version 5.0. But if you want the latest version of the Gutenberg editor, for the latest fixes, features, then try the plugin.

The plugin will replace the pre-installed editor without your having to do anything further. Just keep in mind it might be so cutting edge that it could have some bugs.

Gutenberg

2. Install the “Classic Editor” plugin



Even if you’re all in with Gutenberg, install the classic editor and have it deactivated but ready in case something breaks.

Classic Editor

3. Don't worry about your past content



You don’t have to go back and convert your past content over to Gutenberg. All your old content will be in a single classic block and you can still edit it.

But if you'd like to replace your reliance on an old plugin, or you want to improve how your old posts look, then you might want to consider updating your older content.

What do you think of Gutenberg?

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