Last month, we told you the Gutenberg editor for WordPress would be out soon. On December 6, 2018, the WordPress team released WordPress 5.0, including Gutenberg, now known as “the block editor”.
In our previous post, we gave you some suggestions on how to approach this transition.
A month later, over 50 of the websites we actively manage have already made the change to WordPress 5.0. That’s fewer than the 700K+ Siteground hosting has upgraded, but a decent-sized sample that includes enough variables to have an idea of how the upgrade is going.
How is the Gutenberg update going?
For websites with page builders
Some of the websites we manage use a page builder like Beaver Builder or Visual Composer. For those sites, the 5.0.x upgrade made no difference at all. These websites continue to use their original page builder. For those with Beaver Builder, we installed the Classic Editor, because so far we have not found the block editor 100% reliable on letting us know which pages were built with Beaver Builder. We expect that will be improved in upcoming releases. In the meantime, the Classic Editor alerts us so we don’t accidentally edit a page with something other than Beaver Builder.
For websites with Advanced Custom Fields
Some of the websites use Advanced Custom Fields extensively in order to allow end users to edit their content without having to worry about layout. Though ACF has been working on compatibility with the new editor, we had some minor issues with the way the fields show up in the block editor. For that reason, we prefer to continue testing for a while longer. So in those cases, we installed Classic Editor to give us some more time to be sure this is working to our satisfaction. Since the developers at ACF are actively working on these issues, we expect to be able to fully transition these sites and remove the Classic Editor from them soon.
For simple websites without a lot of special functions
Other websites are simple and don’t have a lot of special features or functions. We transitioned those websites straight to WordPress 5.0+ with the block editor, and everything has gone very smoothly.
For websites built with Gutenberg from the start
Overall, websites built from the ground up with Gutenberg have been largely successful. Gutenberg is quite an improvement over the classic WordPress editor and gives clients the ability to edit their website directly without the assistance of a page builder. WordPress has provided various hooks that allow developers to style the back end independently from the front end in order to allow the content changes to display consistently with the way they will look to website visitors.
Almost all of the drawbacks of Gutenberg stem from the fact that it’s so new, which makes sense. For developers making their own Gutenberg blocks, changes to the API can render blocks invalid, cost additional maintenance time, and render older tutorials and documentation useless. The default selection of Gutenberg blocks is also limited for the moment, and might not fit the requirements depending on the nature of the website. However, there are already several third-party blocks available for download. Sorting through these blocks to find just the right ones can be tedious, but will almost always fill in the functionality missing in the vanilla block editor.
Running across a Gutenberg bug from time to time is not uncommon, but fortunately, Gutenberg has a nice revision history that makes it possible to restore lost data. However, at the time of writing this article, we advise you proceed with caution. It is a good idea to back your website up daily in case you need to restore to an earlier version. Gutenberg is definitely a valid choice, but be aware that until some of its growing pains are worked out, you may spend extra time compensating for changes or bugs that haven’t been squashed yet.
Have we had any major issues switching to the Gutenberg block editor?
As mentioned above, we’ve met up with the most challenges when dealing with websites built entirely with Gutenberg. The reason for this is that they also include third-party plugins that build off the Gutenberg block system, and changes in the Gutenberg API require those third-party Gutenberg block developers to constantly update their plugins in order to keep their blocks functional. But developers creating plugins for Gutenberg are very active at the moment, so updates to those plugins have come out with fixes rapidly. These have only caused minor hiccups.
For simple sites not using a page builder, the change has been almost totally painless. The Gutenberg block editor includes the content in what is called a “classic block”, and you then have the option to “convert to blocks” if you want to start using the block editor for the page instead. This makes the transition seamless for many websites.
What is our opinion so far on the WordPress 5.0 update, and the transition to the Gutenberg editor?
Overall, the transition to WordPress 5.0 with the Gutenberg block editor has been very smooth. For such a monumental change to the entire editing paradigm, we couldn’t have asked for a cleaner transition. As we expressed last time, we think this is a positive change for WordPress, and will make editing website content and layout easier for the end user.