Podcast Episode

382 – The Next Phase of WordPress: Gutenberg

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Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

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Chrissy is a plugin that will make your website more interactive.

The Next Phase of WordPress: Gutenberg

In today’s episode we dive into the future of WordPress and share ideas about what’s to come with the new editing experience with Gutenberg.

Here are the two posts that are referenced in the podcast:

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we are going to talk about the next phase of WordPress, which is Gutenberg. We’ll talk all about it right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, Episode No. 382. Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hertzler, and today, we’re going to be talking about Gutenberg – all things Gutenberg. We’re going to spend the entire podcast today talking about Gutenberg – well, after I share two announcements and a plugin of the week. So, let’s go ahead and dive into that.

The first article I want to share with you today is one written by the team over at deliciousbrains.com, and they’re the folks behind MergeBot, and WP Migrate DB Pro, and Amazon S3 Offload. I believe those are the three products that they offer. They do a great job of posting weekly on their website, on their blog, and giving you up-to-date information – more developer-y type focus, but this article I want to share with you is one that says, “Hey, WordPress plugin developers, stop supporting legacy PHP versions in your plugins.”

So, basically, it’s talking about the different versions of WordPress and how WordPress 5.2 was developed and released and actually shut down end of life seven years and one month ago, which is a really long time in the tech space. So, basically, what they’re saying is that if plugin developers stop focusing on making sure their plugin works with 5.2, it’s going to be a better experience for everyone. It looks like there are – about 3.3 percent of all of WordPress installations are running WordPress 5.2, so it’s basically saying stop wasting time to make sure your plugins are compatible with that very old version of PHP and focus on the newer version of PHP.

Upgrading to a newer version is really great because it gives you the ability to have better PHP security. All those vulnerabilities have been fixed over the last seven years and it’s a lot faster, so once we get to PHP Version 7.0, that will allow you to execute twice as many requests per second in comparison to PHP 5.6. And so, overall, it’s a much better platform and much better experience on your website for the customers and your visitors to your website. It was a nice sort of quiet. I recommend reading it if you want to know more details about switching over and what that looks like. You can find that at deliciousbrains.com in their blog section, or there’s a link in the show notes for Episode No. 382.

The other thing that I want to share with you this week is about the Jetpack. Jetpack had a blog article that came out this week that says, “Monitor your site’s success with analytics.” Basically, if you want to figure out where some of that traffic is coming from, who’s looking at your website, and whatnot, you can do this all with Jetpack’s analytics tools. Now, it’s built in with stats and it has Google Analytics integration, so you can turn it on out of the box and start using the stats right from Jetpack, or, if you’re interested, you can go and integrate with your Google Analytics account and get even more data and more information on your WordPress dashboard. And so, if you want to learn about how to do that, I definitely recommend it. Head on over to Jetpack and look at their blog section, or you can find the link in the show notes for that article as well.

Moving on to “Is There a Plugin for That?”, this is an unusual one. There’s just a handful of people that are using it right now, but it’s really kind of cool and can show you the power of what you can do with a WordPress plugin. This one is called Chrissy. Chrissy will make your website more interactive. She’ll provide your visitors with the ability to just mention the name of the page that you want to go to from the menu and she’ll bring you there. So, you can say, “Go to blog,” and using Google Speech Recognition API, it will catch precisely what the user says, and it is the first voice-driven navigator in the WordPress world. It’s just really kind of cool.

It’s something you can absolutely do with a plugin to make your website more interactive. That’s the plugin I want to share with you. I don’t think that we’ll have a lot of people using this, but the purpose is to highlight new plugins and show what is actually possible with a WordPress plugin. So, I think that’s really cool, and I think that is great as an accessibility feature that allows people to navigate throughout the website by using their voice. So, if you need any type of information or any type of plugin like that, I recommend checking out Chrissy, and as always, the link is in the show notes.

All right, so, let’s go ahead into – take a little dive into what is Gutenberg. There’s a page over on the wordpress.org website, and it’s at wordpress.org/gutenberg, and it basically says it’s a new way to WordPress. So, I’m going to read parts of this article, and then we’re going to talk about it, and then I have another article that came up this week on WP Tavern that is talking about some of the use cases, and why it’s going to disrupt the ecosystem and whatnot, and why it’s a good thing. So, the new publishing experience on WordPress is in the works. It’s getting ready to make your words, your pictures, your layout look as good on the screen as in your imagination, and that’s all without code.

Let me back up one step and say Gutenberg is a plugin that the core developer team has been working on for months and months, and the whole purpose is that they’re building it as a plugin, and as soon as the plugin is ready to go, they are going to roll that into WordPress 5.0. So, when WordPress 5.0 comes out, it’s going to have a brand-new experience on the inside of how to edit a post in-page and whatnot. The cool part about using it as a plugin – it makes the barrier to entry to test very low. So, before, in the past, they used to develop WordPress and say, “Okay, here’s all the features,” then you have to download the beta version of WordPress, and it was a lot harder to get set up. Now, you can just use WordPress 4.9, install the Gutenberg plugin, and that plugin gets updated every single week or every other week with the new updates and the new features, and then you can continue to test.

I recommend testing this out if you’re a plugin developer or a theme developer and just want to see what this new experience looks like. It’s always great to get the experience before it comes to WordPress core. So, let’s go ahead and dive in, and we’ll talk about it. Gutenberg is – the name came from the Gutenberg printing press. This is a way that revolutionized printing, and how printing worked, and how it got books into the hands of many more people. Well, the thought process here is to get websites, blogs, and content into more hands because people will be able to use it much easier. So, that’s why the Gutenberg name came from – that’s where the Gutenberg came from.

And so, you’ll see a big difference in your workflows, most likely when posting a blog post or posting a podcast episode like I do every week. It’s going to significantly change – the Gutenberg editor uses blocks to create content, replacing a half-dozen inconsistent ways of customizing WordPress, and it brings it in line with modern coding standards, aligns with the Open Web initiatives. The blocks can transform how users and developers and hosts actually interact with WordPress to make a rich web content easier, more intuitive. It will democratize publishing. It will make it much more easy to publish on WordPress regardless of your technical abilities.

So, the new experience is this block experience. Basically, it will get rid of almost everything that’s in your WordPress Post area. It has a new section for where you put the title and where you put all the content, but the thing is they’re called “blocks.” So, if you wanted to add a text block, any text on your page would go on a block. If you wanted to add a block quote, that would go on a block. If you wanted to add a little section for your podcast, then a plugin – maybe that has a block.

You’re just adding these blocks and you can rearrange them, pick them up, and drag them, and you can make specific blocks go full-page with, or you can make specific blocks go – have a different color background, or different font size, or different font in general, and it’s essentially like a page-builder that you’ve seen with Visual Composer, or the Divi Page Builder, or Beaver Builder. It’s essentially like that, but it’s all built in to WordPress now, and it’s using the modern technology of JavaScript, and JavaScript will make things much easier because you can do things very quickly. It feels like it all works much, much quicker.

So, you have the ability to go, and you can help build this feature if you want, and like I said, you want to go in and spend a little time playing with it, and then report any bugs or issues or things that just may not work, and just spend some time playing with it. So, what is a block? Let me kind of back up and explain what a block is. That’s probably the biggest word or the key technology term that’s changing or we’ll hear change over the next coming months. You’ll hear a lot about these blocks. They’re basically a unified way to style content that currently requires short codes, or embeds, or widgets, or post formats, custom post types, theme options, meta boxes, and other forming elements.

So, the goal of Gutenberg is to get rid of some of these clunky, archaic things for short codes. Thinking in the WooCommerce space, in WooCommerce, if you want to list four of your products that are on sale, what you have to do now is first try to figure out how to do that. What you have to do is you have to find the page that lists out all the short codes for WooCommerce, so you have to say, “Oh, this short code,” and then you have to fill in these parameters in the short code – it’s not a very good experience. But, with Gutenberg, you have the ability to add a WooCommerce block, and I’ve seen this in demos before, and it’s really cool. So, you say, “I want to add this block, I want to add sale products, and I want to add four of them.”

It’s all this intuitive user interface that just has these buttons that you can click and select, and you can make it bigger or smaller, or whatnot, and it just – it is going to take the barrier to entry down so much, and it’s going to make it so much easier to add the content that you want to add on your WordPress website. So, that’s the blocks. Blocks are basically like…I don’t know. The current WordPress is like this blank canvas. You can add anything that you want, and you have to shoehorn things in if you want them to work. Well, this gives you blocks to do certain things. It makes your content drag-and-droppable and much easier, much more of a flow to create the perfect layout. Then, each block has its own little Settings area. So, if you wanted to make the font size bigger for that specific area, or if you want to make the color different, you can control that on a block-by-block basis.

So, Gutenberg has three stages. There’s three stages of Gutenberg coming up. The first is aimed for inclusion of WordPress 5.0, so it focuses on the post-editing experience and the implementation of blocks. This is the initial phase to – that’s going to roll out. It’s on a content-first approach. The use of blocks – as we’ve talked about – allows you to focus on how your content will look without the distraction of configuring other options. This is ultimately the way to help the users present their content in a way that’s engaging, direct, and visual. These elements will pave the way for Stages 2 and 3, planned in the next year, to go beyond the post-pages and ultimately full-site customizations.

Gutenberg is a huge change and there will be always ways to ensure that existing functionality, like short codes or meta boxes, will continue to work while allowing developers the time and paths to transition effectively. Ultimately, it will open new opportunities for plugins and theme developers to better serve and make their – allow them to have their users make more engaging and more visually experienced – change that visual experience to make them create exactly what they want to do.

So, that’s kind of in a…a nutshell what Gutenberg is. It addresses some of the compatibility concerns, some of the things out there that we’re talking about is how do short codes work? How will they continue to work? What is a new short code block and how can you do that? All the documentation is being created for how developers can go and make short codes, they can turn their short code formula into a block formula. The meta boxes – those are the little boxes that show up underneath your posts and pages – how do those work? Some will continue to work without any changes in the UI. Some will need updating. Some can be just converted from meta boxes to these new blocks. So, there’s a lot of moving pieces, a lot of pieces of the puzzle.

I do want to say that WordPress 5.0 is going to come out, and it’s going to come out with a default editor – or, default Gutenberg will be the editor. It’s going to change the entire experience. But, there is a plugin out there that will roll back or allow you to use the old visual editor with a tiny MCE button bar at the top and whatnot to keep that experience very similar to what the experience is now with WordPress. So, if you are running an agency or running websites for your clients or whatnot, you can install this extra plugin as well, and then the experience looks exactly the same when WordPress 5.0 rolls out. So, that is something to think about. If you want to have a slower transition plan, this is definitely a path you can take.

One other thing that I want to share with you on the subject of Gutenberg is an article that was published on WP Tavern this week, and it was called, “Why Gutenberg and Why Now?” It is an article written by a guest speaker or a guest publisher over there on WP Tavern, Tevya Washburn, and he’s been building websites for more than 20 years and building them on WordPress for ten, so he actually bootstrapped his website maintenance and support company, Word Express, and he’s worked on it full-time for more than seven years. And, he just goes through a big, long article about why Gutenberg and why now.

The interesting part about this whole article talks about how the future of technology and how we’re different companies making a pivot and whatnot – the big example is with Blockbuster and Netflix. It talks about how Blockbuster – it was a big-time movie rental place and it had a huge market share, and they actually had the opportunity to buy the technology of Netflix early on, and they could have continued to keep their huge market share. Well, it turns out they didn’t. They didn’t think that streaming was ever going to be a thing. They had 9,000 stores, and now they’re down to nine. There are only nine Blockbuster stores left, and most of those are in Alaska.

So, it’s just talking about the future of the technology. Why Gutenberg? The time is now because the folks at WordPress want to make that step and that transition to using WordPress more and more. We just crossed the threshold of 30 percent. More than 30 percent of the top 1 million websites now run WordPress. The number of people that are going to be creating websites – and, I even think the quality of websites is going to skyrocket. You’ll see a trajectory of an upward-sloping line, and all of a sudden, it’s just going to go straight up because people are going to understand and have a much better experience.

And so, WordPress is ripe for the disruption right now. Like I said, 30 percent market share. No other platform is close. Basically, we add Gutenberg, we add this functionality, and then it is going to be painful, it’s going to be a learning process for everyone, it’s going to cause a lot of work and effort on the part of the community – most plugins and themes will need to be slightly rewritten to take full advantage of Gutenberg.

The alternative is what it says here in the article. If we have to learn a new platform, that’s fine in the next five years. Otherwise, WordPress may go the opposite way. It may start to die like Blockbuster did. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I think this is a great step forward and very forward-thinking by the core team – by Matt Mullenweg and whatnot – to invest time and effort into this community and just make WordPress that much greater. So, that’s what Gutenberg is, and if you hear me mention it on upcoming shows, that is definitely why.

I think WordPress 5.0 is scheduled to come out in the next month or so, but again, they’re basically waiting until Gutenberg is ready enough for that Version 1, and then they’ll push that version to everybody. I’m extremely excited. I’m excited to start playing with it and see what that looks like with some of the plugins. How is that going to change my workflow? How is that going to make it easier to create a podcast and show notes every single week? I’m just really excited to see new things. I love the new technology, and it feels so fast and so slick, and Gutenberg is going to be extremely fun to start using on a daily basis when it comes to WordPress full-time.

So, that’s what I wanted to share with you this week, just talking about Gutenberg, giving you an overarching idea of what it is, getting prepared for what it is to come. And, if you are in the WordPress space building for clients or building for – you’ve got a plugin or theme or whatnot, I highly recommend installing Gutenberg. It’s something that you need to be aware of and need to be in the know and figuring out how you can make your product or your service work best with Gutenberg, which will be coming out in just a few short months. So, that’s what I wanted to share with you today. Take care, and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye. For more great WordPress information, head on over to yourwebsiteengineer.com.

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