170 – Page Builders v The Block Editor a.k.a. Gutenberg

Debate – Page Builders v The Block Editor a.k.a. Gutenberg

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Kindly suggested by Peter J Ingersoll 

To avoid things getting stale we decided to mix it up for a while and challenge ourselves by arbitrarily taking one side each in some of the great debates in WordPress.

The idea is that it might make us dig harder in to topics, give us a focus and force us to look at other perspectives.

1. First together we will set up what the debate is about 

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2. Then the arguments and counter argument will go back and forth (as we pitch for our allocated side)

3. Finally we go back to our usual more neutral positions for final thought to see if we learned anything new!

Setting up the Debate

Here we have to assume Gutenberg is a competitor to Page Builders… something that developers of the Page Builders have been keen to say is not the case.

With this we are imagining that most people are building client sites and are considering where they should be putting their learning efforts and how they should be steering their businesses.

Our talking points can be summarised as follows:

For Page Builders (David in the red corner)

  • 5 star ratings v 2 star ratings (i.e. 1 in 4 users like it)
  • Proven success and works at this moment 
  • We can pick and choose the Page Builder that suit us and our clients aims (Gutenberg killed some Page Builders instantly, reducing customer choice)
  • I can pick a Page Builder which tests their UI/UX before releasing it
  • I can pick a Page Builder which listens to their users about major releases
  • Runs on PHP – which more can understand (more open to all)
  • Has far fewer bugs – Gutenberg has more now than when launched
  • Open to true commercial competition 
  • Page Builder plugins meant that the WordPress core could have remained a simple core platform used by people who do not want a Page Builder (that is Page Builders are not taking over the whole ecosystem like Gutenberg)
  • Keeping WordPress to a simple core allows more innovation without restriction. Automattic did not come up with Theme Builders. What innovation has come from Automattic? WordPress is a fork of B2 and they have Akismet, JetPack (collection of bought plugins) and WooCommerce (again, bought)
  • Matt Mullenweg got the horse to the water but is it drinking yet (still a 2 star rating)
  • You can’t predict how people will react to new things so is it not arrogance to call it the future?  (the Sinclair C5 clearly seemed to be the future, but the timing and marketing were wrong!)
  • The choice of Page Builders and their superior marketing (compared to Automattic’s) has probably prevented a decline in WordPress (see Google trends)
  • Page Builders seem to have a clearer target audience in mind
  • Page Builders seem to have been able to change the look of their UI with no issue – in fact praise (no need to blame the user for being afraid of the new)
  • I have not seen anything that I would want that I can’t do now – so why not stick with what works?
  • There is a bit of me that champions Page Builders because Gutenberg was forced on us. It did not earn it a place on its own merit. The message to all seemed to be that you had better change or your businesses will be screwed. I have experienced that in the workplace and the majority of staff fall inline. It did not make it a success though just more of an embarrassment. The presentations Matt Mullenweg has done at WordCamps have hardly shown us something new as end users. Who cares that it is JS rather than PHP? Page Builders – the people’s choice!
  • 5+million have installed the Classic editor plugin to remove Gutenberg. I would argue most WordPress users don’t even need to do that, as set up does not require them to. Probably the fastest growing plugin of all time?
  • Innovations for Gutenberg need to made via committee

For Gutenberg (Nathan in the blue corner)

  • Free to all
  • JS allows for so much more
  • Better code output – bloated page builder code
  • More resources due to audience size
  • Why fight what you can’t change
  • Less plugin conflicts?
  • It’s the future baby!
  • Installed on every version of WordPress from now on
  • Continually expanding range of blocks which are getting serious attention
  • Roadmap looks great
  • It’s where devs are spending their time
  • No proprietary lock in – no single vendor point of failure 
  • React is the future
  • Page builders need continual innovation and turn over just to survive – leads to bloat
  • Splits the community into various factions which are not interoperable
  • People using Page Builders don’t understand the architecture of WordPress as well as other users

A couple of things to learn from all this:

  • David prepares more than Nathan does!
  • Sadly, there is no right answer and you’re going to have to make up your own mind. This post was created in Gutenberg and is displayed using a Page Builder Template, so you can have your cake and eat it!

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.
Hello there, and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 170 entitled page builders versus the block editor, AKA Gutenberg. It was published on Thursday the 12th of March, 2020. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and I'll be joined in a few moments by David Waumsley, and we're going to be having a bit of a change today because rather than doing a discussion, we're going to be having a debate, but I'll tell you more about that in a moment.
Before that, a few bits of housekeeping, please head over to WP Builds.com I've got a bunch of links I'm going to mention as I always do. It's just a way of me keeping in touch with you. We've got a whole. Bunch of WordPress content on that website, and so the first link is WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe over there.
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Deals and over there you're going to find a permanent list. It's a bit like black Friday, but every day of the week, coupon codes for WordPress products and services, and you never know. You might find exactly what you're looking for there for a significant amount of, so that's WP, Bill's dot com forward slash deals and lastly, WP Builds.com forward slash advertise if you would like to have your product or service put in front of a WordPress specific audience.
Right. Let me tell you about the change that we've got today. Usually David and I, every couple of weeks we do a discussion where we talk about a particular WordPress subject, something to do with agencies or WordPress website building, and we normally get along and the idea is we're going to make it a tiny bit more adversarial or.
As it turns out, David and I are not very, not very good at being adversarial, so we were quite quite in agreement on a lot of points. Nevertheless, the idea is that one of us take a particular position and the other one takes a country position and argue without. So today it's page builders versus the block editor.
I'll let you listen to the episode to decide for yourself who is the winner. But we present a whole bunch of arguments about why one might be better in the past, in the present, and in the future. And obviously there's a whole bunch of differences and array of different things that you can do with each of these.
And so you'll have to make your own mind up. But anyway, it's an interesting new format. I hope that you enjoy it.
David Waumsley: [00:03:10] Hello. This week's discussion, well, isn't a discussion. It's a debate in title page builders versus Gutenberg. And it was kindly suggested by Peter J Ingersoll. So to put a bit of background to this, to avoid things getting stale, Nathan and I decided that we'd mix it up for a little while and challenge ourselves by arbitrarily taking on each side of the well known debates.
In WordPress. So the idea is that it'll help us to kind of dig a little bit deeper into certain topics, give us a bit of focus, and force us to look at some other perspectives. What do you want to say on this, Nathan?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:03:46] I'm going to say you're going down Waumsley no, that's not what I'm going to say. No, we're going to be very gentlemanly about this.
And I think it's probably important to say, you said at the beginning, it's really arbitrary. So in a sense, we're both assigning our. Positions by the toss of a coin. Rarely, for want of a better word. So it, you know, it could easily have landed the, I was arguing the other side. And so we, I guess it's important to say that, you know, it's not like anything we're about to say is an entrenched position.
And actually during our chat beforehand, we were, we were able to come up with contrary positions to our own positions, which was really interesting.
David Waumsley: [00:04:24] We ended up, didn't wake up. I know of in the same place at the end of this debate, so it's going to be hard to, it's got to dive in again.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:30] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Anyway, so one thing I want to say right from the outset is that I was listening to a Stephen Fry podcast just yesterday, and it was all about Gutenberg, the actual person, Gutenberg, and he said, Gutenberg and I trust Stephen Fry. So I'm now going to start saying Gutenberg instead of Gutenberg, which is how I've been saying it from, from this point, prior.
So yeah, I, I'm going to be taking the Gutenberg position and you're going to be taking the page builder position. So the really, the idea is. the the principle is that one of us is trying to knock the other one down. We're trying to prove that one is better than the other. Whether or not we'll achieve that or even even advanced the debate in any way is remains to be seen.
Yeah, well, we've got to keep it friendly as well, or with this one, we don't want to insult anybody if we can avoid it, but we might get heated. Who knows?
Let's see. This one was suggested in a Facebook post that David put together with a slightly inflammatory picture of boxes. Peter Ingersoll suggested that we do page builders versus Gutenberg.
There were many other suggestions, but we'll get to those in the weeks to come. Yup.
David Waumsley: [00:05:47] So I'm in the red corner. You're in the blue corner and I'm gay for pay. Page builder. So let's get, what should we just actually put a little bit background? I think the format, we should set up the debate properly, shouldn't we?
Because, this easily could be a page builders and both versus just Gutenberg. We are kind of imagining that Gutenberg is a threat to page builders with this one, aren't we? A little bit, yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:11] Yeah. I think that was fair to say. So the idea is that one of them is trying to beat the other ones into submission and take all of its market share, which of course. Isn't how it's actually playing out, but yes.
David Waumsley: [00:06:23] Yeah. And it's probably not true at all. So we're going along with kids. Yeah. I think there's a popular perception that we're taking on board that it is one, one of the two will lose out in the long run. Yeah. And yeah, and the winner will be good to Berg, but let's see.
I'm arguing for pace builders, so shall I just kick off with a few of the things that I, why I'm on the page builder side, or at least persona
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:47] is in a, in a normal debate, you get certain amount of. Very fixed period of time in which to say your piece, and then I get to respond to that, but let's not make it quite so formal. You just talk about page builders. I will promise not to interrupt. And then if you can, you know, give me the same courtesy than a, then we can just start nattering.
David Waumsley: [00:07:08] Okay. Well, first off, it's really that I use a page builder and it works for me. Now, proven success, clients like it, I can't do the same thing very easy in Gutenberg.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:20] So for
David Waumsley: [00:07:21] that reason right now, page builders just went out for the things that I need to do. But on top of it, I think the acceptance of page builders is not a sign of Gutenberg isn't as strong as it is with page builders. So if you look at most of the popular page builders out there, they've got five star ratings.
There's very few people that kind of. Leave it and don't use it. When you look at Gutenberg and it still remained the same and they were judging the plugin alone, and it's, that's probably not a true representation. It's only got two star ratings and one out of four users like it. So it doesn't seem to be connecting with people and I think that's going to be important.
For the future of WordPress that there is a platform that people feel that they can use instantly straight away, not something that's just built for developers or something that in the future may be a wonderful thing, but we're not quite sure what that wonderful thing is actually going to be at the moment.
Hmm. Shall I go on? I'll go on with a few of my other points.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:08:20] Give you as much time as you like. Yeah. Or you can arbitrarily stop when you think you should. Made your opening remarks. It's up to you.
David Waumsley: [00:08:26] Yeah. I've got so many points here though. So I think it's the usability of it is one of the things, but also the fact that the core of WordPress has always run on PHP, which more people can understand and develop on it. So yeah. It is a kind of platform, which I think WordPress is. Successes always come out to the fact that it's a platform that many people couldn't develop on it. And because of that, it means that we've got a lot of true commercial competition with people building some wonderful things, including the page, each builders on it and why I feel page builders are great is because I've got the choice. Now I can pick from the whole bunch of page builders who are meeting a particular audience where I feel good, and Berg is perhaps a peer into attempt to be the same thing, but it's got to appeal to everybody. So I like the idea that there's lots of competition out there, and I can pick the unit that's going to work best for me and what I need to do and for my clients. And I shall pause there. So you can take on some of those things that I've.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:09:28] Well, first of all, I'll just make my positions completely unrelated to yours, if you know what I mean. So I won't respond to those. I'll, I'll just make some opening remarks if you'd like. And the, the remarks that I would make would be, firstly, and these are in no particular order, there's, there's no sense that the stuff that I say first is more important, I think, but they're just the, the order in which they come out.
So the, the freedom. And by that I mean the literally the, the dollar cost, I think is quite significant. So as an example, I'm a page builder. There, I, there are free versions, but they don't do everything. whereas . The, the, the Gutenberg project and all that it will become, is going to be free. It's going to be rolled up into WordPress core until something else comes along to replace Gutenberg, which no doubt, at some point it will, and it's going to be completely free to use.
So that barrier, the economic barrier, which for most people living in the West is probably not significant. You know, stumping up $99 or $199 is not always. Too tricky to do, whereas perhaps in other parts of the world, that might be tricky. And so WordPress is mission to sort of democratize publishing, shouldn't have an economic barrier attached to it.
And Gutenberg, enables that to happen. It's completely free to use forever and ever. Amen. The other thing I would say is that it's built on a bunch of technologies. Now you, although I am going to refer to what you said because you talked about PHP and what have you. It's built on a bunch of technologies, which I'm not going to make any claims about understanding.
I don't really know what the benefits of building in react is as an example, but the, the direction of travel for web developers seems to be going in the direction of technologies like react and using more JavaScript. So it's not relying entirely on the server side. Technologies like PHP and so on. It's enabling it to do more.
And although I don't know what that will look like, I do like the idea of a technology, which is just in its infancy and the things that we're just beginning to see are the tip of the iceberg and my imaginings are that. A few years from now, we'll look back and we'll be amazed by what things like react and the ability to do things in Java script and more, have allowed us to do.
and I think that will be good. The other thing is there's going to be a focus by the WordPress community on the, the code not being particularly bloated. Now, I can't, I can't guarantee you that, but I'm imagining that there'll be a. I'm imagining that the code output by a page builder with all the bells and whistles, which they now have, will be considerably more bloated than that.
That will be put out by the the block editor. I mean, it's very, very, very light footprint. If you, and I'm thinking about just for example, putting together a post with text, you've got a very, very small footprint in the HTML, output. Whereas with a typical page builder. You are devs within devs, within devs, within devs, just to achieve a simple, basic layout.
So, so that's quite important. Obviously that's an SEO benefit, but nice clean code always helps also in the future. I think that because it's going to be in core, I think the. The audience for Gutenberg will. I said it wrong, Gutenberg will grow, and so the resources over time will improve. And I think at the moment we're in a, in a period where the resources are fairly poor, everybody's making resources for the complexities of page builders.
And I think. Well, I hope that at some point that that balance will tip. The Seesaw will go in the other direction and we'll get a bigger audience and more, more interesting, I don't know, tutorials and resources and videos and what have you. and then there's a whole bunch of other stuff attached to it.
So. You know it's happened, it's already occurred. It is part of core and is it a bit of a needless fight trying to sort of stifle it and say, I'm not going to use it. I'm going to go off and fork WordPress or I'm going to use a page builder and. And I just think get with the community, you know, the community, the WordPress project has decided, and I'm sure we'll get into that in a moment.
The WordPress project, whatever that means, has decided that this is going to be in core. And so why fight something, which is, you know, it's already happened. It's in there already. The other thing I suppose is because of the magnitude of, of Gutenberg's install base, and bear in mind that from this point on.
Every single install of WordPress, new install of WordPress will have Gutenberg in it. It all of them. And so I think developers are going to have to accommodate it. And with that in mind, I think there'll be less conflicts. You'll have people developing. Specifically around the page builder, the Gutenberg page builder.
I've done it again, Gutenberg page builder, and so in the future, I think there'll be less plugin conflicts. Things will work more with Gutenberg because it just makes sense to develop for Gutenberg. Whereas if you're using, let's say, Elementor DV, Beaver build or whatever it might be, you're going to be stuck with.
A solution for which some things work, but for which other things don't. And again, I could go on, but I think I've probably rabbited on
David Waumsley: [00:14:54] Well, then I'm going to counter some of yours. So the free for all. Yeah. Under GPL on all of them. Free for all what you pay for is the support. What support are you going to get for Gutenberg?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:06] Yeah, it's a good, it is a good, it's a good rebuttal and not one that I've gotten an adequate answer for, but I think, I think it's fair to say we all know that GPL is a, is a kind of like an interesting philosophical position, but you still put your hand in your pocket. I mean, I certainly do. I don't go to those clubs and I don't.
I don't, you know, I do pay for the support and I do pay for it. So there is an economic cost. If I, for example, download one of those premium versions of the, the page builders, it's implied, isn't it? And very, very, I would say it's an expectation that you are going to pay for it. And so I literally mean that there is zero expectation to pay for anything.
If you want the support for Gutenberg, well, that's going to be a community thing. You are not going to get a dedicated support channel, but you will have millions and millions of helpful users in the community helping you out. You said trying to quickly, quickly, but yeah, fair point. Fair point. The GPL, I think in that case it's muddy.
David Waumsley: [00:16:09] Yeah, it wasn't so fad because I think most people don't realize they're paying for the support more so that they get the updates, don't they? And I think for most people using WordPress, they wouldn't really know the ins and outs of GPL. But anyway, but there was another one. Let me just maybe throw, so the, I agree that it appears that JavaScript will and react will allow us to do much.
Two more in the future. Here's my problem. PHP, which people can use, seems to have withstand. It's like a cockroach, is everybody, since I've, you know, got into this, I've been saying PHP isn't a great language, but we still seem to innovate using it. It's more accessible to more people. For me, page builders are winning because they show him more innovation with PHP than Gutenberg is presently with JavaScript.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:00] Yeah, and I, I can't, I actually can't agree with that. Sorry. Can't disagree with that or not, I think, I think you're right, but again, I'm going to express my ignorance at this point. I'm not entirely familiar with, with where the. The journey is intended to become. I'm not really that sure. But looking at the capabilities of SAS platforms and all sorts of resources that I use online, you know, things like email clients and editing software for images and so on.
I feel that a lot of these technologies are probably built with those, with those things, you know, they, they're leveraging those things. And so it's, it's more. It's more for the future. It's going to enable things, which are a simple service side framework like PHP can't do. And you're right, it is amazing what, things like page builders have done.
But you know, my, my guess is that the vast majority of the stuff that you're interacting with is JavaScript anyway. although built with PHP, you know, things just sort of saving asynchronously and being able to move things around on the page and drag things. And all of that is, is built largely, I imagine, with these, with these new technologies.
So I'm not sure. I think, I think if we stop only with PHB. My guess would be that WordPress would die a slow and painful death. So we've got to got to adopt these new technologies. And, and the other thing would be that I'm sure that the next generation of developers, you know, the people who are at university studying this stuff at the moment, they're probably not.
Spending a great deal of time working on PHP and so on. I imagine that there, that the, the track to employment is going to be based upon the future technologies and not on the technologies that are kind of widely used over the last 10 years. That would be my guess. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:18:48] Yeah. It's hard for me to disagree with that one. Should I go in for what I guess is my, worry, I guess, and why I'm a little bit more on the page builder side. So if, if WordPress has remained this very simple core where everybody can kind of build on top of it, we can get this intervention innovation from more people, but. As it appears to me.
Gutenberg is kind of over the automatic buyer. A Matt has kind of the controller on how WordPress is going and Gutenberg is his thing, but does he have a history? Does does them, as a company have any history of innovation? All the innovation that I've seen, the most key things like being able to easily change headers and footers have been a pain in WordPress for over 15 years until page builders came up with a simple way of addressing that. That didn't come out of automatic. And also when I look at automatic, it's history is that, you know, WordPress is forked from B2. So that wasn't created, you know, has a kismet. It has jet pack, which is, you know, combination of a lot of bought plugins by somebody else who has, we've commerce again, invented by somebody else. Where's the. Kind of history of being innovators.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:05] It's an interesting argument, isn't it? But I suppose the counter argument would be that they're, the innovation is, is to allow other people to innovate. You know, they've built this platform with a plugin architecture and a theme architecture, which is, which is people can bolt their own innovations onto and WordPress.
Its mission is not to, is not to be. For the 1% it's not to satisfy, you know, this little crowd over here who've got this burning desire to achieve a certain task. Its desire is to build a platform on which anybody else can build anything else. So I think the mantra is something along the lines of if 80% of the people need it.
It'll go into core. So my art, my counter argument to that would be WordPress. His job is not to do the innovation necessarily. it is to provide the framework upon which other people through their plugins and what have you, you know, the committed code can innovate. And so page builders are a perfect example of that.
You know, if we hadn't have got a plug in architecture, probably WordPress wouldn't have taken off. But it did, but it allowed your page builders to, to, to sit on top of the shoulders of giants. And so that would be, I guess my counter argument. It's job is not to provide, you know, everything to everybody.
It's to provide the framework, the foundation. The architecture, the, the, the community, the documentation so that other people can come in and innovate. And in this case, that I think is what we're just beginning to see. So, you know, we had controversially, WordPress at version five, November, 2000 and I'm going to say 2018 I think that's right.
Launched with Gutenberg included. And there was a, there was a lot of. A lot of disagreement within the community about the direction and we've had what since then 14 months of toing and froing, negative reviews and all of that, and people forking WordPress and going off in their own direction. But I feel that in the last few months, certainly within the last six months, the, the framework that Gutenberg has given us is starting to bear fruit.
So we're seeing, for instance, for example, we're seeing a proliferation of companies who have decided that they're going to invest their time and resources into building. Block packs packs, which ostensibly achieve the exact same thing that modules do in page builders. So it might be a grid layout, or it might be a way to have custom separators, or it might be a way to interact with the topography and so on.
And so the innovation isn't what we see. The innovation is providing the platform for other people to innovate. And produce third party solutions, which will, which will enable us to achieve in the end the same results. I feel that was very long winded. Sorry.
David Waumsley: [00:23:16] That was fine. Okay. Let me go on. another point here, maybe I was looking and I shared this. In the Facebook group for WP Builds at, the Google trends for the term WordPress. And you could see that it peaked in about 2004, and there's been on the descend since. And the interesting thing about it, through the discussion, you look to all the associated terms, you thought, well, perhaps so many people know about WordPress, so they're not gonna type that in.
But if you look at other things like how to install WordPress. WordPress tutorials, they show the same kind of pattern of decline. So some people's view, and I think there's some truth in this, or at least we can't exclude it, is that the, the page builders out there, growing in numbers, we know that elementary is 4 million Davies probably something very similar.
If you combine them all, all the ones that are on theme forest, that is really, really popular. And we don't really talk about those in the closer web press communities. They are probably bringing people to WordPress, not the other way round. So what I'm, what I'm wondering is, could this be a problem that Gutenberg will at some point get in the way of page builders and page builders should be allowed to build on a very simple framework without Gutenberg impeding their efforts?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:24:33] Yeah. Interesting. The, the first rebuttal I suppose would be, so it's going down in Google trends, but the number of installs as a percentage of the top 10 million websites is going up. So we're now at 35%. And I suppose from my, you know, my side of the argument, that's the important statistic, whether or whether people are searching for it in Google is kind of immaterial.
because all we need. Is is, you know, the user base to grow, which it is. And you know, you only have to attend events for the last, well, I haven't, but if you've been attending word press events for the last 10 years, you'll see that the number of people attending those events is increasing. but yeah, I can see you, I'm sure you're right.
I'm sure that there's a huge amount of people who are coming to WordPress via. Plugins, page builders. So for example, Divi Elementor BeaverBuilder, and I'm sure that there's a lot of people who probably are largely unaware of what WordPress can do. They may never even interact with it in the sense that they don't go into the admin other than to maybe click a button, which says, you know, add new page or to fiddle with their menus.
But the, but I don't see that particularly as a problem. After. Well, you know, Oh, sorry. You carry on.
David Waumsley: [00:25:51] No, no. Yeah. I think the problem was because, I mean, almost as soon as Gutenberg was announced, a couple of page builders clothes shop. Right. You know, because the work that they would have to do to accommodate. The change in WordPress meant that they could no longer continue. So then there's an argument here that if the core doesn't remain this simple platform, which it always has been, which has created this big environment, that if they start to do more for us, like Gutenberg has, though now I get messages telling me when those failures on my site, which I may not want all my clients may not want.
And there were other things. Which have been, if you like forced, and that's probably the issue with Gutenberg, isn't it? Because again, another thing, well I wouldn't expect because they were open to commercial competition, is that a new version of an interface from a page builder that I was paying for would come out.
Even though most people would complain in, it's not ready yet. That wouldn't happen. They would make sure that it was user tested enough for it to come out. Now WordPress has gotten burgers on now to get away with that, it did is user testing, proper user testing after it was already out. Yeah. It didn't do very well.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:27:03] Yeah. Yeah. I can see the way that, the way that it was rolled out was, was not probably with hindsight, the best way of managing it, but I would make this point that if you were to, if you were to go back and. Let's say that you take the classic editor as it was the day before Gutenberg was rolled into version five so you know, the classic editor, which we all knew and we all were familiar with, and people cherished, and then you, you got, let's say a hundred people and you sat them down and said, right, yeah.
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to make a post. I want you to add some color to the background. I want you to change the fonts around a little bit. So this, this portion is a little bit, you know, different to that one. Maybe you've got a color over here or a bold over here. Make some headings for me please.
And also give me a couple of columns and add some text in there and stick an image in that column and next to it, put some texts with bullet points and so on and so forth. Just see what happens there. And my, my guess would be that the novice hundred users using the classic editor, almost none of them would be able to achieve any significant amount of that, but give them the Gutenberg editor all be it with its faults and its failures, I think a significant amount of them would achieve a significant amount of the task set.
So. There's no doubt it's a better experience. Is it perfect? No. Has it got a roadmap? Yes, and it's a good roadmap. It's got an awful lot of really nice stuff in it, but I think it's better. It is significantly better. It's the future and, and it just has more, it does more. But I think the problem that it's got is that it was born.
Into a world of page builders. They already existed. You know, Gutenberg has to, has to keep up with Elementor and BeaverBuilder and DV and breezy and all these things, these fabulous technologies that have, that have made it so trivial to do such difficult things. You know, we could both agree that if we went back five years and tried to achieve some of the layouts that we can now throw together in.
Honestly seconds. That would have been so difficult. It would have involved us literally typing out code, messing with template files, all of that nonsense. And now it's easy and Gutenberg of the WordPress crew, the team, the community had to keep up. You know, and again, we haven't, we haven't mentioned this actually yet, but remember in the background of all of this is the leeching of the market share.
To third party platforms like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and all of that, and they're fabulous interfaces. And WordPress is interface. Felt awful in comparison, you know, so clunky. So they had to innovate. But. It felt like the innovation was, well, they're building a, they're building a page builder, and actually if you look back, that was never really the claim.
It was to build a better experience, to build something, which was simply a better experience. To begin with, with text, and then along come columns. And then along come, images and resizing and background colors and all of these things. And it's a, it's a trickle. And I don't know if the end result is to have something like Elementor where what you see is really what you get, or if it's just a framework for blocks to, to do, maybe not exactly what you see is what you get, but quite close, you
David Waumsley: [00:30:32] make it. Sorry, I'm
Nathan Wrigley: [00:30:35] Kevin. No, I'm sorry. I was just going to say we, we've kind of got this false false debate in a way, because the question is assuming that Gutenberg is trying to be a page builder, whereas I'm not sure if that it is. It's just trying to be a great editor and certainly from my point of view at the minute. Is it as good achieving complicated layouts as a page builder? No. Is it better than the classic editor? Oh yeah. Way better. so, you know, we'll have to see.
David Waumsley: [00:31:06] But I can use your argument against you. So if, if, and it did start off with Matt, on one of his state of the word talks, talking about Wix and Weebly and their budgets and how they needed to compete with it and how Gutenberg was that. So, but what they're competing with there is a page builder. And, and I see most of the blog posts where people are looking at good Berg and how we can use it these days are comparing it. With the page builder, how they could build a website with this against building a website with a page builders, one or the other.
They're not looking at it as whether they work together, and this is one of the confusions I think, why page builders at the moment, a winning for me is because, although it's not very clear, I think that the page builders have a kind of audience they're aiming for. So I think, you know, kind of Divi and Elementor have got a really wide audience.
They've got a lot. It's an all in one package, which they're claiming Beaver builder, the one that we use is kind of a midway point between the real developer stuff, but it's kind of kept to simplicity for those people who are concerned about sort of reliability and bloat. We've got oxygen that's appeared that has really gone for the, the point that you're making for. for Gutenberg, which has gone for really clear, simple code output. So the solutions are already there without Gutenberg. And people don't understand what Gutenberg is yet because many you were interested in it are saying, w w which point is this gonna turn into something I can actually use to build my sites with?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:32:36] Yeah. And I can't really argue with that. The all I can, I suppose the. The, the, the, the direction of travel, where it's come from. And I've been following it and installing it even before version five came out, you know, just to play with it. And it, it's, it's gradually got better and better. But I am, I am mystified by what, what it's supposed to look like.
And that's, I think the problem is it doesn't look like what we're expecting. And that goes back to what I was saying a minute ago about living in the world of page builders where literally you click save. Unpublish on your page builder, you know, you're in the editor of your page builder and you click publish, and the only difference is that the UI for the page builder goes away.
Everything else looks the same. You know, maybe the little boxes that go around the sections that you're interacting with, they disappear too. But basically everything looks the same. And that was the paradigm. That was what everybody was kind of expecting it to be like, because, Oh, blocks, Oh yeah. Blocks.
That's familiar. We've got these kind of block notions in, in page, but it was dragging what we could call a block or a module or whatever it might be. And look there. There it is. It sits there. but it would seem that. That was not what was on offer from Gutenberg and it was communicated really badly.
But the third party developers of kind of getting rid of that problem, I think, and coming up with these blocks that do the sort of visual layout, and that is one thing that, that I think is going to be really important for Gutenberg and it's this that. The layout will be the same no matter what blocks you put into it.
So at the moment, if you, So this comes to the point of like vendor lockin single point of failure. You know, if you're using Elementor and you've built a site with element or, and you're familiar with it, that's great. Give it to somebody who's never used Elementor. They're going to struggle with that for a little period of time.
And the same for BeaverBuilder and all these other page builders, they're there, they're proprietary, they look proprietary, everything's done in a certain way. Whereas the future for Gutenberg is. Everybody can tie into it and the UI will be the same and you will have in the future just the same as we do for plugins.
There'll be a repository for blocks and you'll be able to install them within the editor. You won't ever have to go away from it. And the only difference will be a new menu item will pop up on the right hand side, and you'll be able to interact with what that block doesn't fiddle with its settings.
But the point is. Every single block will, we'll have that same UI and so we'll make it a whole lot easier to, to, to use. I think the other thing about that, getting back to the single point of failure, one, one, one hopes that the, the page builders stays stay around forever, but imagined. Good grief.
Imagine if one of them went out of business or they just weren't successful, and you've got all of your websites built with a particular page builder and they no longer operate. That's going to be a lot for you. Whereas with, if everybody's in this one WordPress system, there's no single point of failure, which I think is worth mentioning.
David Waumsley: [00:35:43] Hmm. My, I guess my fear is the, it's the mixed message. So if why, I'm sort of arguing for the page builders because we know where they are. I'm pretty sure that they are bringing people into WordPress that wouldn't be there otherwise, and that there could be a natural decline. I don't think that.
Automatic have shown any skills, particularly in innovation or any skills in marketing to be able to reach people. The page builders do that. So if Gutenberg is to become something that we can recognize that we can build our whole sites with, that everybody wants to join because of Gutenberg, it surely is going to impact on the people who have gone with the page builder.
So is there a kind of splitting of the, of the audience, is it, could it be effectively bad for WordPress overall? Could it. Get to the point where say a is growing so quickly now decides, well, you know, all I need off WordPress is quite simple, like a four kit and become my own system.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:36:39] Yeah. Because
David Waumsley: [00:36:40] Gutenberg, you know?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:36:41] Yeah, yeah. I can totally see that. And, and I, I suppose that is a point of concern is that the, the page builders grow to the, to the magnitude where one or two of them could literally just. Completely remove the ability to interact with WordPress. But I suppose in a sense, that plays into my hands because then that's a point.
That's a point of concern for people, with, with page builders who want to leverage WordPress. but even if, let's say that one of these page builders does do that, I think that would be a mistake for them because there's so much that you can't do. Without WordPress. So let's say for example, you wish to build a a, I don't know, a shop, an online shop.
Well, unless the page builder offers that functionality, which to my knowledge at the moment, you know, they, they don't, they hook into other. functionality. So will commerce or easy digital downloads or whatever it might be the it would, unless it's going to be a very, very simple service that they offer and they split off and they just do pages, possibly posts, then yeah, they could maybe do that.
But if WordPress is, one of the great things about it that attracted me in probably year was that the sky is the limit. If you can install a plugin or write a plugin or add some code, create some code, whatever. You can do all of this stuff, but you're not going to be able to do that without the CMS of WordPress behind it.
David Waumsley: [00:38:08] Yeah. Okay. Let me take one. I think it's probably the last point I can probably make. So there's always the sort of talk about what it's here and it's the future. So, you know, Matt's managed to get the horse to water, but is it drinking yet? And I think surely all the developers who've got a vested interest in making some money out of WordPress are going to invest some time.
So that's going to be obvious anyway. But will they be able to make the same kind of money through. Providing blocks if WordPress is doing so much as they could by building a whole kind of world really like Elementor has by putting everything in. Is that the same kind of money in it for making blocks,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:38:47] yeah, it's a really interesting question and one that I've actually thought about quite a lo t I'm imagining, and I could be completely wrong about this, I'm imagining at the moment we're in this period where developers. Seem to be flocking to Gutenberg because it's, it's of a maturity now where they can actually get something good to come out the other end. You know, they design a block, which I don't know, offers the capability to show testimonials that, just pick that as an example.
Now, it would appear that the, the bits have gotten Berger in place so that a testimonials block is a, is a real thing. And at the minute we seem to be going down the road of. Let's put these big packs of blocks together. So we're offering a, on the repository, there's 10 free blocks that do a whole variety of things, and we'll do another 10 and because you've trusted us with the free ones and you like those by hour, by hour, 10 in our pack, I feel that the model might be different and I feel that maybe it will be buying them one at a time.
So you'll just buy you the testimonial block. I don't know about you, but I am far more likely to spend, let's say, dollars for the sake of it. I'm far more likely to spend $5 10 times than I am $50. if you know what I mean. I know that sounds silly cause it's the same amount of money, but let's make it a bigger amount.
I'm far more likely to spend $10. 20 times than I am $200 on one thing. So I think there's great opportunity for block developers to offer more affordable but profitable blocks that do one or two things. And maybe the whole, you know, the, what is it? The tide raises all the boats. Maybe. Everybody all have a sort of slightly better experience.
You'll only have the blocks that you need on your website. You won't have like 15 that you never use that are not doing anything. You only install the ones that you need. You'll potentially have spent more money, because you were more willing to open your wallet for the 10 and then the other 10 and then the other 10.
Rather than, it was no way. I'm spending $200 on that pack of blocks. I'm never going to use 90% of them. So I'm not sure. I think maybe there's, maybe there is an economic argument for Gutenberg as well for the individual blocks. I hope it goes that way. Cause I would, I would relish buying little, I mean, you and I've spoken to so many times about a plugin that does one thing well being better than a, you know, one that does 15 things. Okay. so that would be my, my counter argument there.
David Waumsley: [00:41:27] You've won me over. Actually, I've run out of arguments for the page builder itself, and maybe there was one I didn't throw in, which is presently under don't even that that holds up. But in terms of the issues reported for, Gutenberg, they're higher now than when it was released.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:41:42] Right. Yeah, I'm imagining that's, that's a simple case of there's more eyes on it. I think at the beginning people like basically just ran away, didn't they run away? And there was a lot of complaining about it and, you know, a quick install, I don't like it. And then no. And then a lot of one star reviews, which didn't actually say anything, they were just a one star review with some barbed comment about, you know, how it didn't work or it didn't suit, you know, there was an awful lot of
Very quick, rapid commenting with no comments whatsoever, just stars. And, and I think now maybe, maybe the reason that that's sort of changing is because people are just sort of getting used to it a little bit more and interacting with it a little bit more. And so the comments are a little bit more thoughtful of our time to play with it and so on. Can I make, can I make one quick point? and that is. There is a chance. It's a slim chance, but it would be, it's possible that it will kind of bring the community back together in the end. Let's say that five years from now, we've gone through the road map of Gutenberg and we can now build entire sites.
We don't know what that means yet, but we can do all of our headers and footers and everything is taken care of. Block. With blocks and it kind of feels like a page builder. It has page builder features, which we can't use at the moment in Gutenberg. Maybe that will unite the community because at the minute, what you can be sure of is that there's a lot of flame wars.
I use this page builder, I use this page builder. This one's better than that one, you know, and it's quite quite happy to sort of tear each other Tyree children, be barbed about it. Whereas if we had one solution. That might be a good thing. You know, we mentioned the day before something like visual composer.
Which kind of felt like it kicked started all this thing. Everybody was just using the same interface and it was probably a lot easier to get help. Now everybody's split up in multiple different directions and you know, we've made the whole community into little silos and maybe, maybe if gunboat I keep saying Gutenberg, Gutenberg becomes the thing that a significant proportion of users are using. Maybe it'll unite the project more.
David Waumsley: [00:44:02] It's a lovely idea, but I think there was flame Wars with themes before it came along.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:44:07] I was hoping you wouldn't notice that,
David Waumsley: [00:44:12] but, should we go to kind of final thoughts on this? Because in some ways where we were arbitrarily taking, Oh,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:44:18] yeah. Oh yeah. That's very important to say, because for every argument that you had. I could have, you know, the coin, the coin had landed in on the opposite side, I would have been making these points.
David Waumsley: [00:44:32] Yeah. And I, there's a lot I agree with, cause I'm in, I'm not, certainly, I'm not anti, I have my concerns about the page builders, which I think you kind of made as well. But I mean, I, my concern is the one that I particularly hold is the fact that if they grow so big, they got to commercially, they've got to please more and more people to keep growing, and that's going to be what they want. And that means that they're going to be more all in one, which means they're going to have to pack him more stuff all the time.
And that's my big worry about it. Where I do believe. You know, if the project is in hand, it will be less bloated and more suitable for professional uses. Where I think, I think it's really tricky for a page builders, you know, they're almost dead in the water if they don't keep growing, and if they do keep growing, they get so bloated where you would hope that this.
Good and by project will allow us to do a lot more with the core, and, and control the bloat that we've got over it. So I am kind of full of the Gutenberg, but it does. But actually, truthfully, a lot of the arguments that I made for the page builder are ones I believe in. I am a little bit concerned.
But how it was forced upon us and about how that automatic might understand the market and how people would use it. I think they've got a developer's mentality over it,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:45:46] right? Yeah. Well, I'm not going to disagree with that for sure. I think it was, it was done in a way which, which divided. and I think, I think everybody acknowledges that it could have been handled differently, I think.
I think maybe. With the, with the benefit of hindsight, there should have been a period of time in which it was simply an optional plugin. You know, maybe give it a year or 18 months to the point where it had developed and it had, got a life of its own. And people had filed bug reports, but I suppose they just wanted to kickstart it.
And. but I think there's regret. I think people are pie. Probably think, yeah, we'll have a think because it's split. It's split. The community, you know, quite wide open and all sorts of things happened. You know, we had classic press, which came around a complete hard fork of WordPress. I don't know quite how that's doing.
But then we also had things cropping up, like the WordPress governance project because people were irritated by how this had been handled and the feeling that their beloved CMS had been hijacked by powers on known and unseen. in order to. To further the project in ways that they didn't really understand all of it came down to communication.
If it had been communicated differently, then it probably wouldn't have caused so much angst. And Aja w one thing that I see the page builders doing, and particularly DV and element or is they are very, very, very good at communication. They release something. I don't know. you know, and then they spend an absolute fortune on producing quality documentation, quality videos to explain how it works.
They've got a ton of developers and a ton of interested users who then create further tutorials and online stuff. And I think that that would be a really useful thing for the WordPress project to invest money in. Have a bunch of . Experts who are good with documentation, who are good with video and so on, making videos to show, here's Gutenberg version 8.9, this is what's come out this month.
In the same way that they do that with, you know, the releases of WordPress. Every time you update WordPress to an, to a, you know, a new version, you get the, the little, video communications key. And I think they dropped the ball on that.
David Waumsley: [00:48:16] Yeah, absolutely. I think if, if Gutenberg is, as this debate is really about, but may not even be true, that it's kinda good to Bogle take over from the page builders, then it really is going to need to communicate that and if it's not going to make it easy for people to make money out of it, it's going to have to, within WordPress, find that money to communicate it else something's going to get lost along the way.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:48:36] Right, right. I think, yeah. Yeah. I think so. So our first debate is over. I feel like I totally whooped you. Waumsley. No, I'm joking. I feel...
David Waumsley: [00:48:47] Do you know what? I think that I maybe agree on this one. This one kind of is a draw cause it might be a false. dichotomy really with this one.
Yeah. And I think that the ideal for me would be the conclusion that it was page builders and Gutenberg, you've got the choice to use your page below. L Lynn came, we'd Gutenberg beautifully, and you can use all the good stuff that's in Gutenberg if you choose
Nathan Wrigley: [00:49:11] what a nice position to be in, what a nice position to have, to have the page builder built on top of WordPress, which is also offering you should you like it.
A free version, which does some of the stuff, but not quite all of it just yet. So yeah, I would agree there's, there's no right answer. But it was interesting chatting cause it got a lot of stuff out. You know, a lot of stuff that we've been alluding to for many, many years, which we cover by the way. We on the news that we do on a Monday, we do cover a lot of this and you know, I cover.
Cover the ground. That Elementor seems to be, you know, making up and what Gutenberg are doing and breezy and all of these other page builders. And so we, we sort of try to keep up with it and it feels to me that, Gutenberg is making some significant inroads largely with these third party providers providing blocks. So, yeah, the future I think is bright.
David Waumsley: [00:50:03] I think that's a perfect place to end it.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:50:07] Well, I hope that you enjoyed that slightly new format, a bit of a debate. Instead of a discussion, we'll be carrying these on over the next few weeks and seeing how they go. But please, as always, drop us a note either in the Facebook group, WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook or you could actually go to the post on the WP Builds websites and use the comments at the bottom.
Let us know what your thoughts, if you agree with anything that we said or disagree or. Perhaps you thought we, you know, you're not enjoying the new debating format, or maybe you are, it's entirely up to you. But we'd be very much appreciated if you, you keep in touch because, you know, it's just nice to know that people are listening and getting something out of it.
The WP belts podcast was brought to you today by WP and UP one in four of us will be directly affected by mental health related illness. WP and UPs supports and promotes positive mental health within the WordPress community. This is achieved through mentorship, events, training, and counseling. So please help enable WP and UP by visiting WP and UP.org forward.
Slash. Give. Okay. We will be back on Monday. Every Monday at 7:00 AM UK time, I release a roughly 30 minute audio little podcast all about the previous week's WordPress news. I call it the WP Builds, a weekly WordPress news, and then at 2:00 PM UK time. We will be having a live version of that news and other words.
We use that news as a us, the talking points, and I'm joined by three or four guests live on the screen. It's really enjoyable and we certainly enjoy interacting with your comments. So that's all happening anyway. If I don't see you for any of that, maybe we'll catch you back here next week and all that remains for me to say bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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