In the next couple of months there is going to be a major change in WordPress which could impact or even break existing websites. The developers have been working on a replacement called Gutenberg for the post and page editor that WordPress has had since the year dot.
The latest timeline I’ve seen from the developers says that there will be a WordPress 4.9-something release in July 2018 which will offer users the choice of implementing Gutenburg or staying with the classic editor. WordPress 5.0 will be launched sometime in August 2018 and will have Gutenburg as its default post and page editor. After this and you will have to install a plug-in if you need to return to the classic editor.
In many cases it won’t make any difference to existing websites but some themes and plug-ins might not be compatible. Site owners should be cautious before opting-in to Gutenburg or upgrading to WordPress 5.0 which has it built in.
The main issue with Gutenburg coming soon is that some themes and plug-ins build functionality into the WordPress editor and may not function after Gutenburg is installed. One example of this I found recently was the DIVI theme and its page builder which lost its wireframe layout mode.
This is one example which is certain to be corrected with Gutenburg but it would be a mistake to implement Gutenburg before that happens. The same applies to other themes and plug-ins and it is highly advisable for site owners to check that components used on their sites are all up-to-date.
How to check
- Visit the websites of your theme and plug-in developers to check that their products are fully compatible. Those still under development should be okay but don’t assume as much.
- Create a copy of the site and install and activate the Gutenburg plug-in to see if there are any negative impacts. Switch off the plug-in and install WordPress 5.0 when it is released and check again. If all is well and, after backing up the site, you can safely update it.
- Another less preferred option would be to ensure that the site is fully backed-up before installing and activating the Gutenburg plug-in. If anything goes wrong you should be able to deactivate the plug-in without damage and at least you would have the backup in case everything went totally pear-shaped.
If there is a problem
Things will hopefully go smoothly but if there is a problem and the developer of the theme or plug-in causing it can’t help, you will have to resort to the Classic Editor plug-in which is designed to restore the old editor. At the time of writing, the Classic Editor plug-in was still in beta testing phase and its web page had a warning not to use it on production websites. It will hopefully be ready to go before the release of WordPress 5.0 but it should definitely be tested on a copy website before being implemented.
Gutenburg coming soon. Why?
Personally I’m pretty ambivalent about Gutenburg coming soon. Yes, the classic editor in WordPress is extremely basic but things have moved on. There are page builders which make laying out posts and pages in WordPress a real pleasure. Two examples at the moment are Beaver Builder and, my favourite, Elementor which both have free versions that are better than Gutenburg.
So why did they do it? At this moment I have no clear idea but perhaps things will become clearer as Gutenburg moves into phases two and three. There will be folk who will find it useful in its present form and I may use it for text-heavy blog posts. I certainly can’t see me using it to design Web pages for myself or clients.
I don’t intend to upgrade any working websites to Gutenburg before I have checked that all my themes and plug-ins are all compatible with it and I’d recommend you take the same approach.