How is ZigPress managing the introduction of Gutenberg?

If you keep your ear to the ground as far as the WordPress content management system is concerned, or even if you don’t, you may have heard that a new content editor called Gutenberg will be introduced when WordPress 5.0 is released.

Since WordPress is such an important part of our business activities, we’ve been following Gutenberg’s development with interest, particularly in the various Facebook groups that exist for WordPress developers. Its development has been dogged by controversy, particularly relating to whether it should permanently remain an optional plugin (we think it should), and how accessible it is for disabled users (spoiler: it isn’t, not yet at least).

Now that WordPress 5.0 is into Beta, we thought it might be useful to outline our strategy for dealing with Gutenberg on our client sites.

Our Strategy

The fairly short and succinct description of our strategy is this: we’re disabling Gutenberg on all client sites for the time being.

And why are we doing that?

Our Rationale

  1. Our clients need their sites to keep working. At the moment Gutenberg is causing problems with many other plugins and many developers have complained of broken sites after adding Gutenberg.
  2. Our clients haven’t asked about Gutenberg, and may not even be aware of it. They probably wouldn’t take kindly to a sudden change in the way they manage their site’s content.
  3. Because our clients haven’t asked for Gutenberg, they probably wouldn’t take kindly to an unexpected bill for time spent resolving problems on their site caused by adding Gutenberg without asking them first.
  4. Many of our client sites use a particular plugin (Advanced Custom Fields Pro) as a modular page builder, allowing you to flexibly add blocks of content to a page; in this scenario Gutenberg (which does the same thing) would be superfluous and simply get in the way.
  5. Gutenberg is still missing many useful editing functions when compared to the existing ‘classic’ WordPress content editor.
  6. We have found from bitter experience that using “version 1.0” of anything is generally a bad idea. Yes, Gutenberg has been evolving as a plugin but the version packaged with WordPress 5.0 will be the first version that the WordPress core team consider to be “ready”, and we would rather wait until there have been two or more further releases so that more of the bugs can be worked out.
  7. We’re busy, and suddenly arranging a large number of Gutenberg training sessions for clients would be very difficult.

There is one exception to this strategy: recently we took over maintenance for a site developed by a third party, who used the Gutenberg plugin in order to make the content editing experience more like what it will be in WordPress 5.0. We have no choice but to support this site as-is, and in fact it is giving us useful insights into the problems that Gutenberg has caused and will probably continue to cause.

The Future

When there have been enough future WordPress releases that Gutenberg is a polished and trouble-free part of the WordPress administration experience, we’ll set up some test sites and, if the outcome is good, may start using it for certain new design and build projects.

However, existing client sites that we maintain will be kept in a Gutenberg-free state for as long as possible. Then, once disabling Gutenberg is no longer possible with new WordPress releases, we will discuss the way forward with clients. This ensures that additional costs for clients are postponed for as long as possible.

Alternatives

We have also been closely following the development of two projects that promise to offer an alternative to a Gutenberg-equipped WordPress: ClassicPress and CalmPress. We will continue to evaluate these projects as possible alternative platforms for certain projects and existing sites.

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