A few weeks ago the WordPress community gathered in Paris for WordCamp Europe, and what caught my attention on Twitter was the announcement around a project called Gutenberg. Gutenberg (available as a plugin in a preview version) brings a new editing experience to WordPress and will at one point replace the default WordPress editor.
As a blogger and marketer I often meet people telling me they prefer using Medium as a blog platform because of it’s beautiful design and great editing experience. Both the editor and design of Medium blogs have been an inspiration for lots of WordPress people. Look for “Medium like theme on Google” or the Editus project.
On Medium.com you edit the content in a real WYSIWYG experience, compared to WordPress where you have to switch back and forth between backend (editor) and frontend (preview). That allows a more content focused editing process on Medium.
One feature in Medium’s editing experience has been a component known from Microsoft Word since 2007: If you select a text area a little toolbar shows up and allows to quickly format it. For adding headlines, images or embeds you click a little plus sign on the left.
Others got inspired by the Medium editing experience. Facebook Notes and LinkedIn articles now have a similar editing experience.
While the editing is a little bit different on each platform, you will master creating content on all platforms if you know how to use one of them. There is just one design for a post on these platforms and the formatting options are limited as you can see.
So this makes it hard to compare WordPress with blogging on Medium, LinkedIn and Facebook, as those platforms have a “one theme for all” blogs approach (and are available as hosted solutions only), compared to WordPress with thousands of themes available covering much more use cases.
Millions of people have learned how to use the classic WordPress editor and many developers have built alternative editing solutions on top of the default editor. Therefore you can’t just replace the default editor with something new during one WordPress release.
The classic WordPress editor has some limitations when it comes to work on large posts (lots of scrolling) and embedding external content. The overall experience feels a little bit outdated.
Now the Gutenberg project is a first step in bringing a modern experience like on the previously mentioned platforms, directly to WordPress and fixing those issues.
This is how the Gutenberg editing experience looks like now:
I like the general idea behind this project. Your posts content is organized in content blocks, and these content blocks can be moved up and down. The editors default layout is also less distracting, as the toolbar hides as soon as you write and the right hand toolbar for adding meta information is also streamlined. After using it for a bit I disliked that a headline item is also a single block, so whenever you move a block of text you have also to move the headline with a separate click. Anyway, as this is a preview I have not played around with a lot, you can check a demo site created using Gutenberg and download the plugin for your site on WordPress.org.
While this first preview of Gutenberg is a step forward from an editing perspective, it does not change the default behavior of switching between edit and preview mode. It will be interesting how theme and plugin developers will react to Gutenberg.
If you are interested in a more detailed review of the current version of the Gutenberg editor, lots of people have taken Gutenberg for a test drive already: