Finally, the much-anticipated release of WordPress v5.0 is with us. This is a major update for the platform and brings with it both excitement and trepidation. While we want to find out about its new features, we also want to know that the changes won’t cause problems with our sites or the themes and plugins we rely on. In this post, we’ll take a look at v5.0 and discover what’s changed.
Replacing the WYSIWYG editor with a page builder
The main change in WordPress v5.0 is the replacement of the TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor with the Gutenberg editor. WYSIWYG has been a key feature of WordPress, enabling users to create content from entirely within the admin area. However, despite improvements over the years, its basic set of tools means many people had replaced it with more sophisticated plugins. Now, with the advent of page builders, WYSIWYG has become somewhat obsolete.
The solution that the WordPress developers have come up with is called Gutenberg, perhaps in the hope that it will prove as revolutionary as the Gutenberg printing press it is named after. In truth, it’s not new at all. Many third-party developers have provided similar functionality for some years – Elegant Themes’ Divi Builder is possibly the best known.
Gutenberg is a similar tool, enabling pages and posts to be created by putting together various types of content blocks. There are different types of block you can use, each of which is used to create a specific type of content element, such as text, images and videos.
One of the best features of Gutenberg and one which has many advantages over the retired WYSIWYG editor is that each block can be moved anywhere on the page using drag and drop. Not only does this give you the freedom to create custom page layouts but the process of doing so is made simple.
As a result, the standalone version of WordPress now gives users the functionality to create visually attractive pages without having to rely on shortcodes or custom HTML. Nor will they need to purchase premium page builder plugins and the annual subscriptions you need to update them. That said, Gutenberg may not provide all the features you need.
One helpful feature that Gutenberg does have, however, is that each of the blocks in its portfolio has their own markup. This is useful for SEO purposes as it tells search engines exactly what type of content is found on different parts of the page without you having to add it to the code. While this won’t necessarily improve your site’s ranking, it will ensure that Google can more easily discover if your content is relevant to a search query.
With a multitude of WordPress plugin and theme developers out there, the arrival of v5.0 is certain to have an impact. One of the first things we are likely to see are Gutenberg enhancement plugins. Indeed, as Gutenberg was released as a plugin to give people the chance to learn how to use it, there have already been developers who have looked at its weaknesses and found functions that were missing and have begun releasing these as plugins already. The good news is that if there are things you want Gutenberg to do that it currently doesn’t, there’ll be a plugin you can install to make it happen. This, as many people would agree, is one of the best things about using WordPress.
Besides adding functionality to Gutenberg, there are other themes and plugins which will be created to take advantage of its new features. In particular, you’re likely to find plugins that create their own block in the same way that they create their own widgets. Your newsletter signup box, for example, might now be freed from the sidebar or footer and allowed to sit anywhere on the page you wish to place it.
Themes will need to be Gutenberg-friendly too and for some, it may be back to the drawing board to enable the new editor to be compatible with the page layouts it offers by default. The new Twenty Nineteen theme, however, should be fully compatible.
Effect on users
With such a dramatic change in how page and post content is created, the launch of WordPress v5.0 is going to impact on any user that isn’t familiar with how page building plugins work. If you’ve always used WYSIWYG, it will take some time to learn the new process.
The good news is that the use of blocks enables users to create better pages without the need to learn HTML. Adding horizontal sections and vertical columns is a breeze to do and if you don’t like the look, you can simply drag the content elsewhere.
On the downside, the process of page creation can be slower. With WYSIWYG, you could write the content in Word, paste everything directly into the editor and then fiddle around with the headings and layout. With Gutenberg, you’ll have to work on one content block at a time. And to edit the work you have done, you’ll need to locate the right block before you can start – which can be an issue if you have lots of content blocks on a single page.
WordPress v5.0 is a major release that focuses almost entirely on the implementation of the Gutenberg page builder. While this definitely enables the user to be more creative with their content than with the retired WYSIWYG editor, it will no doubt have its critics (the plugin version is only rated 2 stars!) and will give some users a headache until they master the new ways of working. However, if you need to, you can install the Disable Gutenberg plugin and stay with your beloved WYSIWYG.
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