If you are tuned into the WordPress world, you've heard one word many times over the last few weeks: Gutenberg.
On stage at WordCamp EU in mid-June, Matt Mullenweg unveiled the first version of Gutenberg. This is the new editor that may replace TinyMCE in the WordPress core.
This would be a mind-boggling radical change for WordPress. In recent years, they have developed a legendary reputation for always keeping backward compatability. Gutenberg would probably shatter that reputation. Gutenberg would likely break a lot of existing plugins. Many people would not be able to update easily.
So, is Gutenberg worth all the fuss? It's hard to tell at the moment. Gutenberg is a plugin on WordPress.org and is undergoing significant changes almost every week. What you see in Gutenberg today is a very long way from what may end up in WordPress 5.0.
Still, the image below shows what Gutenberg looks like at the moment. Gutenberg is a "Page Builder", or at least a "Content Builder". You build your content using blocks. Those blocks could contain text, images, widgets, videos and almost anything else WordPress can display.
Why is WordPress doing this? Why does Matt think it's worth risking WordPress' status over changes to the editor?
The easy answer is competition from Squarespace, Wix and Weebly. Those platforms are growing like weeds and they offer "easy-to-use", block-based page builders. This next image shows the Squarespace editor. You don't need to use any code at all to build a Squarespace site.
But, don't be naive enough to think that the demand for these tools is limited to beginners and low-end users.
Open source software users want page builders.
I want page builders.
You want page builders.
The proof is all around us.
There over 94 pages of results for "Page Builder" on WordPress.org. That's over 1,300 plugins that are page builders, or work with them.
It's common to talk about Drupal as a tool for power users, but have you seen the tools they're adding for end-users? Drupal 8 is quickly moving towards front-end editing and page creation.
The image below shows a feature that is actually in Drupal 8 now, although it is labeled as "experimental". You can try the page builder features in Drupal 8 by visiting https://simplytest.me/project/drupal and installing Drupal 8.3. Once you have your Drupal 8 demo site, go to the "Extend" tab and enable the "Place Blocks" and "Settings Tray" modules.
Yes, there are many Drupal developers who think this is a terrible idea because it is merging the content and presentation layers. But, Drupal 8 is adding features that will make end-users feel more comfortable.
Joomla doesn't have any page builder options in the core. But there's a thriving industry of 3rd party developers who are developing their own page builders, such as this one from RSJoomla:
Magento is on a buying spree and recently purchased Bluefoot, a Page Builder module. They have rebranded it as "Magento Advanced CMS" and plan to add it to the Magento core. You can try a demo of Bluefoot here.
WordPress is adding a page builder because that's what almost everyone wants. Page builders are being embraced by entry-level tools such as Wix, but also by enterprise-level software such as Drupal and Magento.
Yes, it's worth listening to the developers' complaints. Page Builders do bring real problems and limitations for complex sites. But most sites are not complex.
Web platforms like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Magento are too abstract. OSTraining exists because these platforms do have a steep learning curve. They have terminology and user interfaces and workflows that often make no sense.
A good page builder (there are plenty of bad ones) is self-explanatory. You point. You click. You get the result you want. They make sense to people.
Gutenberg may not be a good page builder yet, but it will probably will become one.
If I had to guess, Gutenberg will arrive in the WordPress core in early 2018, with the ability to disable it and revert to the old TinyMCE editor.
- Why Gutenberg?
- Matt Mullenweg on a podcast talking about Gutenberg
- A list of all articles about Gutenberg