Review: One Year of Blogging With Gutenberg

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One year has passed since the Gutenberg editor was shipped as the main editor for WordPress.

I have written about 50 posts in Gutenberg since its release and trained a hundred WordPress users on how to use the new editor.

The one year anniversary is a good occasion to look back and analyze how the new editing experience changed my blogging workflow.

How the editing experience changed

Just in case you never heard about the discussion of new vs. old editor in WordPress.

Before Gutenberg, all content was put in one huge input field. Text, images, embedded objects, formating, it was all mixed in one input field.

The old editing experience – not block-based

That changed with Gutenberg. Instead of adding and editing all content in one huge input box, you now have blocks of content. That editing experience is not unique for WordPress.

Each block has its own properties and can be moved up/down. Your content is edited in the center of your browser window, and on the right-hand side, the corresponding properties are edited.

Screenshot of a paragraph block and the properties on the right in Gutenberg editor

If no block is selected, you can edit the typical post properties, like publish date, categories, tags, and so on. You can try out the Gutenberg editor on a demo site on wordpress.org.

There are no obvious benefits for simple structured posts

I do not benefit from block-based editing much. Most of the posts I write have the simple structure of 

  • Text
  • Image
  • Text
  • Sub-Headline
  • Image
  • Image Description
  • Text

There is no obvious productivity improvement of moving blocks up and down instead of using the old shortcut of cut and paste on my keyboard. I adopted and learned a few Gutenberg shortcuts, but for this simple blog post layout, there is no obvious benefit. Hence, many still rely on the classic editor plugin.

Gutenberg allows editors to mix design and content

The editor brings a few content blocks that allow setting background and foreground colors, or changing font size. While that of course was possible for skilled editors in the past by switching to HTML view and adding the necessary CSS, Gutenberg makes it much easier for the average user to “be creative”. Though, the casual writer might not be a good designer.

That is no problem on a site like this where 2-3 people edit content. At some of our client’s websites where more than 10 people edit content in WordPress, this is a problem. I have seen very creative posts that didn’t fit the company’s brand.

Screenshot of several Gutenberg blocks with different coloring

The handling of links is silly

For every link you paste, Gutenberg triggers this embed link block, which in most cases shows an error message you have to click away.

I looked for a solution but found no easy way to change the default behavior.

Pasting a link in Gutenberg triggers this dialogue.

Saving your content as re-usable blocks is a nice feature.

You can save a block as re-usable. And you can centrally manage your re-usable blocks.

If you have a pricing table that is used in several posts, or a newsletter sign up form with a teaser text, you can save these blocks as reusable AND centrally edit them later on.

Saving a block as reusable

That is a feature that is overlooked by many. Again, casual bloggers might not find a use for that feature. If you manage hundreds of pages with the same piece of content on it this is a huge timesaver.

Screenshot: Reusable blocks overview in WordPress dashboard

What I miss is a way of seeing which posts or pages use the reusable blocks.

Blocks I haven’t used but are nice to have

The table block! Creating tables in the old editor was not supported, and adding tables has always been a mess. 

Others, that I might start using soon:

Cover block

Pullquote block

Media & Text block

That’s just a few of the blocks that provide richer formatting capabilities compared to the classic editor.

Integrating 3rd Party blocks

With Gutenberg, [shortcodes] in your posts are a thing of the past. Instead, many 3rd party plugins add their own blocks and make it easier to add and configure additional content or functionality in your posts.

We use a Stripe Payment plugin at Fresh van Root. After installing and configuring the plugin we can use the Stripe Payments Product block to add a Buy Button anywhere in a post.

Adding a stripe payment block

That’s just one of the thousands of available blocks you can add to your site. There are many plugins available that add additional blocks.

No way to disable/enable blocks for users

I miss a feature to centrally enable or disable blocks. As shown in this post, I only use 10% of the available blocks and all others are a distraction.

When running a larger site with more than 10 editors, I want to avoid giving editors the power to set background and foreground colors for certain elements or add a stripe button in any post.

It seems there are 3rd party plugins to de-activate certain blocks, but that adds another layer of complexity and I should not need a plugin for that.

Different user roles need different blocks. A contributor might only need text and image blocks, a seasoned blogger can play around with all the blocks available. A Gutenberg editor settings dashboard would be a cool feature.

No experience in using themes specifically made for Gutenberg

All the WordPress sites I am working on use Gutenberg editor only for blogging, pages are managed

  • Using a theme that is coming with its own page builder component, like Enfold
  • Or use advanced custom fields 
  • Or the sites are using a page builder like Elementor

That said, I am sure theme and plugin developers will adapt and offer full support for Gutenberg. Also, for many use cases, Gutenberg will be years away from offering the same feature set like Enfold or Elementor does today.  

For bloggers, small businesses or personal websites, Gutenberg today has enough features not only for blogging but also for building the pages. 

Conclusion

After one year of using the new Gutenberg editor, I can see the technical reasons for breaking away from the classic old editor. The interface and user experience were outdated. 

The Gutenberg editor brings a more flexible and modern editing experience to WordPress, but there are no benefits when writing simple structured blog posts (like this one) that do not use any of the advanced blocks.

Lots of functionality that Gutenberg brings to the editing experience are not needed by bloggers but allow building more complex page layouts.

The overall direction is unclear to me (as someone who does not follow the technical discussion behind it). Is the goal to replace page builders and that the editor is not only for posts but makes 3rd party page builders obsolete?

I see no reason in using the classic editor plugin, but Gutenberg is still far away from being ten times better for everyday blogging.


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Rolf Mistelbacher

Rolf Mistelbacher

Hi, I am the CEO & Founder of Fresh van Root, a boutique digital agency in Vienna, Europe. I got first online in '96 and since then I am hooked on the web. Here I blog about social media, WordPress and blogging, productivity, apps and tools for digital marketers, and all things related to running a digital agency. Before starting Fresh van Root I was working at Microsoft for quite some time. Get in touch with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

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