222 – ‘G’ is for Gutenberg

‘A-Z of WordPress’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

This is part of our A-Z of WordPress series (where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress). Today it’s the letter G is for… Gutenberg (Goootenberg!)

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To celebrate this Nathan has forced me to use a reusable (Gutenberg) block for the show notes!

I can report that it went well!!!! (Nathan wrote this regardless of how David coped!).

Yep… I’m thinking of a complete swap. Gutenberg for show notes and Google docs for client websites.


So for those of you have been busy (blissfully unaware) for the last 2-3 years. According to the repo entry for the plugin:

“Gutenberg” is a codename for a whole new paradigm in WordPress site building and publishing, that aims to revolutionize the entire publishing experience as much as Gutenberg did the printed word. Right now, the project is in the first phase of a four-phase process that will touch every piece of WordPress — Editing, Customization, Collaboration, and Multilingual — and is focused on a new editing experience, the block editor.

Do you buy this?

  • The language is kind of funny here. What do you think entire publishing experience means?
  • Is it what WordPress.com needed to compete with Squarespace, Wix and Shopify for a page builder type UI (not a bad thing in itself)?
  • We all aim to revolutionise, but often it’s one/two people accidentally stumbling on something. This is building by committee. Procedure and revolution seem at odds.
  • Would WordPress die without innovation in the core? Will lack of stability kill it and all its children?
  • The controversial manner of Gutenberg’s release. Not keeping it as a plugin was a little unusual, and ratings and popularity of the Classic Editor and the possibility that most people are using Page Builders.
  • Miss-sold? Something to help Page Builders became something to kill them quickly.

Where it is and what’s coming?

  • Block Editor
  • Full Site Editing
  • Developer support (after the initial gold rush)
  • What happens to themes (many have just added header and footer editors)?
  • Multilingual seems like an interesting idea

How to deal with Gutenberg?

  • When do you jump in? Now, or when it’s all finished in 8-9 years? There are, at the time of writing roughly 700 bugs reported.
  • What about clients? Can they cope with the changes?
  • Are Page Builders at risk?
  • What are the benefits of moving to Gutenberg now?
  • The challenge will be keeping everyone onboard – the less it does the better the chance.



I would love it if all the things I expect in a Page Builder were natively in WordPress. It would bring everyone together. Today it is not even close to what I think my clients could handle, and for me I can’t see what the endgame is to even know if one day I should use it.

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I am grateful to all who give their time to this. It is good to have another blog post editing option.

If it’s (what WordPress already calls it) a site builder, I think it is lacking and will not alone meet the needs of 2/3rd of WordPress users, but could cause issues for those who serve the rest.

I can’t think of revolutionary innovations that have come from corporate committee situations. My time in the civil service tells me they can’t innovate, but the are good at stability. In WordPress, I feel stability has gone. I don’t know what we get. The only thing is it is all open source


I think that the new Block Editor is far superior to the Classic Editor that we once had. I mainly use if for writing, and for that, I honestly think that it’s the best writing UI I’ve ever used, although I confess that I’ve not used all that many! The ability to move text around is just so very helpful, and ideas that you know are in the wrong place can be moved in a few clicks.

I think that it’s all about expectations and the fact that it’s been sold (intentionally or otherwise) as a possible Page Builder. Anyone can see that the third party Page Builders are better in almost all respects. They had a chance to finesse their products over many years, however they also came to market ready to go, which Gutenberg is not.

Automattic have some incredible goals for the project, and it’s being realised piece by piece. The problem that I foresee is that people want it to do all that it’s intended to do yesterday, which it won’t and they’re teaching their clients how to use third party Page Builder interfaces; and that’s going to be a really big hurdle to overcome, getting all those people to learn something new even though their current tools is working just fine!

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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 podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, Nathan Wrigley.
Hello there. And welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 222. Entitled G is for Gutenberg. It was published on Thursday, the 25th of March, 2021. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And before we get onto the main podcast with my good friend, David Wamsley, a few little bits of housekeeping.
WP Builds, produces a lot of WordPress content each week. You can find all of it [email protected], but the best way to keep in touch with all that we do is to go to WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe over there. You'll find it. Couple of newsletters that you can subscribe to one to alert you of deals.
When we hear about them and want to keep you updated. When we produce new content, there's also our Facebook group of over 2,800, very friendly WordPress's in there. There's our YouTube channel, Twitter feed, and also ways to subscribe to us on your podcast player. So that's WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe.
Another page I always mentioned is WP Builds.com forward slash deals. It's our deals page. It's a bit like black Friday, but every single day of the week, a whole host of WordPress deals, hosting plugins themes and the like, and you can get significant discounts with coupon codes thus far I've removed none of them.
So they're permanent WP Builds.com forward slash deals to avail yourself of those. And lastly, if you're a product owner in the WordPress space, perhaps a theme or plugin or block author, WP Builds.com forward slash advertise might be a good way of getting your product or service in front of a WordPress specific audience.
A bit like these two companies, the WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by Cloudways. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that ensures simplicity, performance and security. It offers cloud service from five different cloud providers that you can manage through its intuitive platform. Some of the features include 24 seven support free migrations and dedicated firewalls. You can find out more at cloudways.com
And AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split test in record time? Like in a couple of minutes, use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything.
And the best part is it works with element or BeaverBuilder at hand the WordPress block editor. You can check it out and get a free [email protected]. Okay. Onto the main event of the podcast. As I said, number 222 G is for Gutenberg. It's one of our chats. Each week we have a podcast episode, but we split them one week.
We do an interview with a product founder or something like that. And then the other week I chat. And my good friend, David Wamsley. And it's the chat with David Walmsley today. And we talk about Gutenberg, how the whole project started, how to pronounce its name, why we like it, what we don't like, how does it compete with page builders?
What's the shed you're looking like, are we going to be. Bring our clients all over to it. It's a really interesting subject. It's the biggest thing in WordPress for years and years. And there's an awful lot to talk about. I would be delighted if you were to put your comments either over on the WP Builds.com website, or perhaps find the thread in our Facebook group and comment there.
I hope that you enjoy it. Hello, this
David Waumsley: [00:03:50] is part of a eight Zed of WordPress series, where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress today. It's the letter G four. And I'm going to try and say right Nathan Gutenberg.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:04] Yes. I honestly was really reluctant to say it that way.
I thought it was Guttenberg and apparently it's not, apparently it is Guten book with a big, Ooh sound instead of an O sound. That's at least what I've been led to believe more recently. So it doesn't really matter. The point is it's Gothenburg or Gutenberg. We're fine with that. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:04:25] I know. We're from the UK and we're up North. Yes, exactly. Sounds right. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, to celebrate this, Nathan has forced me, I can't state that word more strongly, forced me to use reusable Gutenberg blocks to do our show notes. So it's going to be a complete jumble today.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:45] It's interesting because ever since we start this podcast, we've created show notes for each episode that we've done some of them more fleshed out than others.
And I might add that David does most of the preparation for us, both, which is very kind of him, but we've always used Google docs because they work really well. You've got the concurrent editing. The user interface is fine, but I just thought for this one, let's use the Gutenberg editor.
Gutenberg editor, try and get it right to flesh out the show notes. And let's, I know this is completely off piece, but how did you find that experience? It was
David Waumsley: [00:05:20] okay. Actually, I, I'd been working in it a little bit and it's fine, did the job, so
Nathan Wrigley: [00:05:26] yeah, the thing to say about our show notes is they are simply texts with headings paragraphs, and that is literally it.
Oh no the occasional link, but that's it. So we're not trying to do anything difficult or complex or innovative. Ooh, you throw in a quote. Okay. So there's something else that you found a block didn't you David, you went off to explore, to see what you could find
David Waumsley: [00:05:49] anyway. So my conclusion is that I've got to swap from now on.
It's going to be good and both for show notes and Google docs for client work.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:05:56] Okay. Let's wait, you're going to say we're going to stay with it. Are we okay? That sounds good. Yeah,
David Waumsley: [00:06:00] yeah. Okay. Yeah, it's fine. All right. Works fine. Okay. We better explain early on. I hadn't. We want Gutenberg is for those people who have been.
Kind of busy for the last two to three years and I've missed it.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:12] Yeah. Although it is possible to have missed it. If you are using a page builder solely a page builder you may have missed it. If you've installed the classic editor, you may have missed it. But but you're right. What is it?
David Waumsley: [00:06:26] Okay I'm going to take this from the WordPress repository and they say Gutenberg is a code name for a whole new paradigm in WordPress site building and publishing that aims to revolutionize the entire publishing experience as much as good Berg did the printed word.
So right now the project is in the first phase of a four phase process that we'll touch on every piece of WordPress. Editing customization collaboration and multi-lingual, and it's focused on a new editing experience. The block editor.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:03] Yes. I'm more happy usually calling it the block editor. I'm not sure what the official term is, but that seems to, it seems to obviate the need for me to say incorrectly.
We are, of course. Beyond stage one of that, the editing stage it's felt that the editing experience is now roughly where it needs to be. And I think in many regards, it is. So now we're on to let the drive to build in customization, which will no doubt come onto.
David Waumsley: [00:07:31] Yeah. I did take that from the plug-in version, so that's probably not been updated recently.
Yeah. It's tricky. I think the whole Gutenberg and block editor thing, people have a different view on this. There's a debate in this cause some people say that people say Gutenberg when they hate the project. And instead of using the correct term, which is block editor, but I see it differently.
I see it as good. And both being the new paradigm shift, if you like that, the overall thing and the block editor. Being the thing that's going to get us there.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:58] It does seem like a heady guy all though, too, to say that it aims to revolutionize publishing in the same way that the Gutenberg printing press did.
Not really well, it's quite a paradigm shift in the ability of humans to communicate with each other. I'm not sure whether that's the gravitas of that will be lived up to me regardless of how well they pull this off.
David Waumsley: [00:08:19] I know it is those kind of words. Even code name, it's sounds like usually a code name is for just people in the know secretly.
So it's the red Canary flies at Dawn or something like that, keep quiet about,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:08:31] yeah. I suppose it is quite a big change though. There's, you can't underestimate how big the change is and It is a very different experience and it was a very startling moment for people we're using WordPress back in 2000, yeah, 18.
I'm going to say I've probably got my numbers wrong there when they flipped. It's the switch onto WordPress five and the block editor was suddenly available. You had to go out of your way to, to make it disappear by installing plugins, like the classic editor. And there was a. There was a bit of a moment of trepidation where people were concerned that the previous work that they'd done within the WordPress editor would in some way be banned Jackson and destroyed.
I think most of those concerns proved to be baseless. In my case, there were a few bits on there. This website, WP Builds, which went wrong, but that was in most cases connected with using a short code, to embed a podcast player, which you can listen to this audio on, but the text itself, everything that I'd written came across seamlessly.
And I didn't really hear too many horror stories when that switch was flicked bots. It was a very big difference. Suddenly you went from an editor which was really familiar. You'd create a new post or a new page, and you'd have a, you'd have a field which represented the title. And then you'd have the content area where all the content would go and that content could be anything from paragraphs to shortcodes to images.
And it would all be bolted into that one editor. Whereas now suddenly you entered this. It looked like a blank page. There was literally nothing on it. No indication that the title was in fact, the title just. So you start typing here and turns out that's the title. And then everything that you wrote subsequently appears in horizontal sorry, a vertical alignment, and you would press carriage return on your keyboard and you get a new block.
And at that point, it was, I think it was quite a jarring experience. A lot of people who are not like you and I are fussy about what's going on inside a WordPress must have had a bit of a shock. I know that there was a warning that this was coming and there was certainly a lot of educational material that popped up inside of WordPress to help you through this process.
But still, it must have been a bit of a moment for a lot of people who suddenly discovered that the familiar interface was no longer familiar. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:10:59] Or do you represent that kind of camp of people who. Seeing the benefits of the block editor and got used to it. And it makes life easier. I know you said there's plenty of times.
It's so much better than the classic editor for what you're doing. There are some, what do you could see in the reviews still? They haven't changed. We've still got. Two star rating for the Gutenberg as the repository entry. And it's really hard to know what that means really. It looks, and it still is the same since it's been out for the last couple of years, it's still that kind of proportion of voting where it seems like pretty much only a quarter of people are giving it five star reviews and probably.
I would say a third of people are not happy. So two thirds of people are not really that
Nathan Wrigley: [00:11:47] happy with it. Yeah. It's an interesting one. A, because you don't really know the democratic demographic of the people who are willing to go and vent their, vent their concern. We are people who are happy with it, less likely to go and.
Great a comment. Yeah. Sibley, but also I wonder how much of that's it certainly was a one-star rating. So it's doubled, there's double the approval than that, than there was at some point, but yeah. Yeah, it certainly did draw. It was a difficult moment for the community. Shall we say that there was not only the concerns that there wasn't the preparedness people weren't prepared for it, but also that the community didn't feel that they had a choice as to whether this had landed in Korea.
It just happened. And there was also some unfortunate timing around when it happened, because. Coincidentally or otherwise the launch coincided very nicely. It dovetailed with a word camp us in which Matt was giving his state of the word. All these different concerns, people saying they didn't want it, but it was now a mandatory, although you could disable it with a the classic editor plugin, which actually was trivially easy to do, but also.
So much disagreement about it. In fact, that several people jumped away from the project fork to WordPress, into classic press, which we've talked about on a different podcast. So the, they really were genuinely disappointed in the direction that this was going. I think,
David Waumsley: [00:13:15] for most people, including me, it's not made much of a difference because I've put classic editor and carry on with my page builder and for the things that I'm using WordPress for the, it's not a big deal.
I'm starting to get used to. The block editor. And I like some of the benefits I can see where I can use it. In other cases, the classic editor is actually going to be quicker for me. But the idea that it's a choice, that's fine. I think the work that people have done is great. So I don't want to, come down on them because people are giving up their free time to do this on.
Most people are on it, but I think that's fine. The block editor as such for writing posts. It's not so controversial read, is it? It's. Effectively, you've got a choice at the moment. The one difficult thing about that is when it did come out, it, they said they were only going to support the classic editor until the end of
Nathan Wrigley: [00:14:07] this year.
Yeah. I was going to say it's that initial goal is now that the clock is ticking on that. Although maybe you've got something to add, if it sounded like you were going somewhere with that. No.
David Waumsley: [00:14:17] It was really, they have changed that. I don't think it was there originally that they added that support it as long as it's needed, we don't know how many people have got that.
It's counts up to 5 million on the repositories and it's definitely that. So maybe it will be around for a long time and you can carry on as normal. I think. The thing is really it's about where WordPress is going. This whole revolutionize the entire publishing experience. What do you think that actually means that mean for us publishing means creating websites.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:14:51] Yeah. And I think that's its goal. The real difficulty here is. Is grasping the breadth of the project over the four phases. So the fact that let's use the, I'm going to draw the analogy between a page builder, which is what this right from the beginning, this was touted as that it was going to achieve that page builder like status.
It was going to be able to drag in blocks, which would be fully customizable. They would bring in the customization of the appearance and the styles with menus on the right. Rather than having to type in CSS, you could click on a slider and round the corners of that button.
You could alter the background image by clicking on this bit of the wizzy wig editor over here. So it was going to do all of those things. The problem is it was never going to do all of those things right at the start. It was only ever going to tackle editing. And so by editing, I literally mean, creating text-based content with the occasional addition of things.
Let's say buttons, block quotes, paragraph, just the bare minimum of stuff. And I think it did that pretty well out of the block. It was a lot to be improved. There were things which the team quickly adapted and changed. One example is the ability to move paragraphs up and down that got changed quite quickly.
And now it's a really fluid experience. The ability to drag things around just little tweaks that needed to be done. And I feel that the launch that they came out with 5.0 to me was good. Totally good enough. I was able to immediately start writing in it. And within a few minutes, I was up to speed with what it was capable of at that exact moment.
Sure enough, there were things which I wished it did better. And as those subsequent, couple of years have passed, it's done those things. And now I really regard it as the best writing. Editor that I've ever used for text. I'm not talking about all of the, the adding in images and all the complicated stuff that we'll come on to, but just for pure text, I think it's really good.
Really like it. But we've still got three of the phases left and we're embarking upon what I think is the most difficult bit. And that's the full site editing the headers, the footers, the customization, all of the things that, that you and I associate a page builder with. And when we got our page builders all those years ago, we started looking at Beaver builder and obviously there's all the others element or divvy and all the other.
Slew of them. They came out on day one, totally ready to do a complete design job on a page. And this didn't and I think people quite understandably. Misunderstood that it was going to take years. And I think the messaging around it, probably with a bit of hindsight, it should never have been touted as a sort of, here's what we're going to do in the future, which should probably much more on right.
We're doing editing. That's all that it's going to do for now when we've done editing, we'll think about some of the stuff, but that's not what it is, but it felt like it was from day one. You're going to have a page builder inside a WordPress. We had all those discussions are page builders dead.
I chatted to the guys from being the builder and I expressed my concern for their roadmap and their business in the future because obviously Gothenburg, it's going to be this page builder experience. Many years have passed since that interview and we still haven't got there. So it's a drawn out long process involving a large community of people trying not to break backwards compatibility.
And so we've been spoiled with our page builders. They do some incredible stuff out of the box and they did it on day one. And so I think sometimes the comparison between a page builder and the block editor, maybe in five years, four years, three years, I don't know. Maybe there'll be a good comparison there, but right now, no, she knew I can't do that.
David Waumsley: [00:19:07] I got my take on it. Yeah. Is almost the opposite of that. I felt that they came out just saying, we're going to be moving to these blocks and it starting with the block editor and they didn't talk. I don't think they talked for a long time about the 10 year plan, which we haven't mentioned so far.
This is, I think that. I think it was almost a year before you said I'm looking at this as a 10 year plan and we're two years into a 10 year plan. And I don't think I heard that in the first place. I know there was a lot of people and I think there are still a lot of people out there. Just think the block editor is for posts.
It doesn't affect your. Page builder. And one of the first questions I was asking when I was doing my rating of the plugin was about isn't this going to kill page builders. But when I was doing that, it was me interpretating. These kinds of. Words like revolutionize and things like thinking. Yes, because of another state of the word address that Matt did some years before this, where he was talking about how WordPress wouldn't be.
It wouldn't continue to compete against the likes of the third party. Builders out there, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, those kinds of things. So it needed to change. So I felt that all we were promised in the first place was this kind of block editor that needed to change. And we all interpreted where it was
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:31] really going to go.
I think the biggest jarring thing about it was just the complete. Sudden difference between what we had and what we then got. For example, just picking a different editor. So I'm going to go with Google docs just because it's something that everybody's familiar with. The change. There has literally been incremental changes in Google docs, but it's very hard to spot the difference from one day or one year to another, so if you looked at a Google doc from five years ago, I guarantee that the UI is probably utterly.
Not totally different, but I bet the significant changes, but it's taken place piecemeal one tiny little step at a time so that you barely even notice, whereas with Gothenburg and the block editor and WordPress 5.0, you suddenly have this moment in time where you went from one thing, which you probably spent a good deal of time.
If you're a regular blogger getting used to, to this. Other thing, which is really like chalk and cheese. They have, they are totally different and. The disconnect and the sort of, that moment in time must have been really jarring again, bearing in mind that most people who use WordPress are probably really disinterested in WordPress.
It's just a conduit to get their text onto the screen and press publish. And they're off that. Must've been a pretty horrific moment. And even with all the messaging that WordPress tried to put out, I still think WordPress is a thing that you could completely avoid. The wordpress.com.
You could know nothing about it. You could know nothing about the fact that there's this company, automatic. You could go know nothing about the fact that there's a community of developers and volunteers and all of that. You just use it. And so you would never have known this was coming. So you update what.
What it, what is this? How does this even work? This is a disaster there must've been a, this is a bug what's happened. Yeah. So I just think the messaging was really hard. And like I say, I think it got confused with being a being. The roadmap for a page builder out of the box. And of course that is where it's going.
And we can see the fruits of people's labors around custom blocks and these block packs and reusable blocks and block patterns and all of this it's calming. Yeah. But we're not there yet. You have to be a bit of a devotee of WordPress to even know that it's coming rarely.
David Waumsley: [00:23:03] Yeah, I think so. And a new editor when it came out, they did do testing after it was out, which kind of seemed too late and people didn't do too well.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:23:13] Yeah. That was hard to watch some of those user tests because it just failed repeatedly to meet people's expectations. And I think. That a lot of that has now been fixed, yeah. But even then we still get unusual things happening, like the full screen editor being switched on by default and how jarring that must've been for people.
Where's my WordPress menu gone. What, yeah. Little things like that, which again, people like you, and I notice maybe people that are just casual users of WordPress don't, but still incremental updates. I think the real difficulty is the messaging. Is the fact that, there just isn't necessarily a connection between the user of WordPress and the organization let's call it that the wordpress.org in this case behind it, if I sign up to Squarespace, have my email address, they know who I am.
They can write me an email and say, we're about to update our. Platform, you're going to notice this new bottom. There is no way that anybody using WordPress can guarantee to be contactable apart from through the UI. And for obvious reasons, WordPress are very reluctant to put pop-up notices in the UI because that's just a jarring thing, which nobody really wants to see, but that was the only real mechanism they had to do it when they updated to WordPress five and the block editor.
David Waumsley: [00:24:36] Yeah. And I think you really do need to be a to this. If you're to understand all the things that have come in, which are part of the bigger plan. What we've got reusable blocks, that's a concept that people have to get their head round, where that sits, how does it look over a usable block?
What is that? And then we've got patterns as well, which are going to. Really play a key part, in the full site editing for using those for headers and photos. These are really difficult concepts to get your head
Nathan Wrigley: [00:25:03] around. Yeah. And I think the biggest diff the biggest constraint they've got is the way of surfacing this stuff.
Not just surfacing that it's coming down the road. I don't mean that. Literally surfacing it in the UI. And I think there's an awful lot of conversation going on at the moment. And again, you have to be a real devotee. And obviously I produced this week in WordPress thing. And so I follow it quite closely largely by looking at WP Tavern's coverage of the whole thing.
Yeah. Is a lot of work of people trying to figure out, okay, how do we get people to install new blocks? Where should that fit? Do we want there to be a separate blocks? Page where you go and see what blocks you've got or should it all happen inside the block editor? How big will the thumbnails be for that?
Where do we put them? How many do we align horizontally with one another? How do we get people to save reusable blocks? Where should in the navigation block? Where, how should we interact with that? Do we need a menus page, which you have to go to and then come back to the block editor or does it all happen in the UI?
And all these things are. Very difficult to innovate around because currently the sort of page builders they can ignore all that because it's just you build your menus inside WordPress. Then you come back to your page builder and it'll just be there. The theme will have taken care of that for you.
Whereas if we're going to be in a themeless WordPress the block editors got to take care of all of that. And so there's an awful lot of really revolutionary work going on. And I guess it's. It's just little steps trying to figure out what it would look like. And for my part, the biggest problem is trying to satisfy all the people all the time, because there's this tiny little group of people who are either employed succonded to the WordPress project by their company or by automatic, who are helping out, but also there's the community, but that community is.
Is much smaller than the user base, like a tiny fraction of the people who are trying to push WordPress forward are the user base. And that's, that must be really tricky, trying to manage the expectations of all the users who only see the fruits of their labor when it's finally switched on and then say I don't like that.
It shouldn't have been done that way. And the difficulty is you did have a chance to put your voice in, but most people don't know that they can do that. And B don't have the time or the willingness to do that as well. And I think that's a really difficult thing for the guys innovating here.
David Waumsley: [00:27:35] Yeah. There's plenty of stuff in this project, which is easy to criticize because background, the idea of it testing after you've put it out. The idea of design by committee, which is what's happened in here, generally not seen as a good thing, but I think looking at the whole good both project has, it's announced this thing.
That's going to revolutionize everything. I think one of the. The things and I'm split on this. There's one side of me that thinks, and it's because I worked at the civil service where they could never innovate anything, but they were very good at keeping systems stable because that's what kind of committees do, they're not big, individuals innovate usually by accident and they will rise to the top if they're good.
And so I see this as a reversal of what this type of organization. Does best. So we've lost the stability cause it's out there, but I don't, I'm not sure how it's going to innovate, but why I'm split is that I also wonder whether there was any choice. So if we go back to when Matt was talking and it is word of mouth, The opposite.
We're state of the word that's right? Yeah. He was talking about what's changing and the competitors that aren't open source out there. And at that point, if he's looking at how do we move and it does need to move that direction. Yeah. If you were to go with what I'm saying, you can't do that. And WordPress has never done that before.
It was already a fork of something that was existing and built by, just a small number of people. And it's only gradually developed over many years and it's still very simple software. How do you go from being that into building this entire kind of page builder? When really all you did is keep a very simple CMS running that didn't change.
But what other options are there? Could you with an open source community say, Oh, we'll just stick as we are. And then everybody chooses the options that are out there with all the different page builders, particularly in a commercialize. Kind of WordPress setting that we've got now.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:29:39] Yeah, I guess the, I guess it's really difficult to know if we go back to the beginning of the project, you know what, by that, literally they beginning before any of us knew it existed, that it was being worked on.
Even presumably those kinds of discussions took place. Look, we see a. We see a growth in these third party, SAS platforms, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, and so on. And one of the things which really stands out when we log into our accounts and try to create content is their editor. Their editing experience is so different to ours.
And the chatter that we're getting is that it's superior to ours. We're stuck with a legacy. Free piece of software, tiny MCE. We've adapted it for WordPress's needs and it's worked and it works absolutely fine, but we can see a time when that's not going to cut it anymore. And I think there's a lot of truth in that, certainly from my point of view.
I was longing just not the whole of the WordPress admin area, but just that one thing that, that the classic editor that, that content editor, whatever it was originally called, I forget that did look out of date and it was frustrating to do really simple things that you could let's say, for example, doing Google docs, like putting an image in a Google doc was just trivial.
You just drag it in and the second it comes in, you can drag it around and resize it and put a board around it and, make it look a bit flashy. All of that stuff was really difficult and it was just a massive shortcodes and it was, trying to figure out why the link didn't work. You had to go in and fiddle with the text and why we've all been there.
There was frustrations there. Whereas, what we've got now is much more akin to what those third-party platforms have got. The ability to highlight a piece of text and Chaka link on top of it, without having to think about it, you'd have to go and do anything. It just figures out it's a Lincoln.
Does it for you. Image blocks. You can just put those in, video blocks, testimonial blocks. They're all coming down the pipe and it feels like a. A much more mature system. And the other point that I would make is it, we've got a really difficult decision to make community about where the authority and the direction is, because on the one hand we've got the community who are saying we want a say in everything and we want to know what's going on bots.
As we know, most of the people who say they don't like this thing. Probably don't make their voice heard because if they had presumably things would have been done differently. But the, again, the problem there is, only the people who can really afford to can show up that might be a four too, in terms of time or money, literally you need money to take time out, to devote to the project.
And there's that problem. And also we have the problem that If you think about a page builder, elemental Beaver, and so site, they can just go in whatever direction they want and they can just decide by diktat. This is what we're going to do. And let's just really hope that our users having tested it will like it.
And if not, we'll just roll it back and we'll implement something else. Now, as soon as Matt did things by diktat, that was a problem. Because the community suddenly felt well, hang on a minute. We can't have this. We can't allow this to suddenly go in. And so it's really difficult.
You're damned if you do and damned if you don't, you innovate and. And push it on the community version 5.0, and this complaints you dung to have eight and there's complaints because you're being left behind really difficult path to tread and it's yeah, the burden and the nature of open source software.
You don't have the, we all expect to be able to contribute freely. We all expect our voices to be heard. And yet if you paid Squarespace $20 a month, You'd have no expectation of having your voice heard. You'd have no expectation that, hang on a minute. I don't want that feature. How dare you?
It's just Oh, they put a new feature in. I'll make use of it, or I won't, I don't like it. I'll ignore it. It's such a difficult proposition and it is the nature of open source software who knows.
David Waumsley: [00:33:43] Yeah, I think the criticism would be that it was lost upon people who didn't want it. All the indicators were with the reviews on it that people didn't want it to happen and it was pushed in not really ready.
And it's been out there for some time, but yeah. Then if you're going to insist that it goes out there. Because you're taking charge of it, isn't it also with that your responsibility to continue to show are you in charge of it and they clearly lay out what is going to happen. And that, and I think that's where the problem is.
It's like this first stage is there and then it's put out to the community. So it's what's that mean, it always feels a little bit like everybody who's, even when I've read, make.com. I think that's the right places to make.wordpress.org. Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Yeah, the discussion say, it's got, some of the kind of leading lights in WordPress the Yost guy and other people like that, but it's still trying to get clarity on where things are.
Or go in, and th they clearly must be coming from the very top. They must be coming from Matt Mullin work, but people just don't understand what's happening. So that's the whole difficulty with all of this. There's a sense of instability about it, because I don't know what that end product is supposed to look like.
And I don't know. Who it's for entirely aware, it's going to stop, so as a, as somebody who needs to build websites, then some of the key things that I want to have now is the ability to be able to place on my pages, dynamic content in WordPress. And that's something I've got used to with theme builders being out there.
So it's is it looks planned to get to that, but up until recently, we had no idea that was. On the cards as
Nathan Wrigley: [00:35:33] far as I understood. Yeah. It's interesting. Cause I think a lot of this stuff has been taken on by third parties. Hasn't it? So you've got people like Elliot Condon at ACF. Who've done a lot of work on his ACF blocks.
You've got the guys from toolset who are also, that they fully thrown themselves behind the block editor and they've got blocks for all of the components of their software so that you can bring in those dynamic fields as well. It's just a difficult proposition in terms of.
Communication I think is the really difficult thing here. And I wonder if we replayed history and maybe it would play itself out in the same way, but I wonder if we replayed history, if this would have been an easier journey, I'm not saying that the product would be better or different, but would the journey have been easier if this had been a plugin, which we could choose to put in at our leisure?
Or was it a sensible thing to just say. Let's just break with the past. Let's do it the opposite way round. Let's make a plugin, which will disable the new thing as opposed to a plugin, which will enable the new thing. I think it was quite a brave thing to do. He, Matt really did line himself up for a lot of criticism, Matt Mullenweg.
Yeah. And certainly the criticism seems to have been less, maybe the criticism has just gone elsewhere. Maybe those people have either, their voices have been quieted by the more recent updates and they can see that there's a roadmap here for excitement and exciting things.
I can see third party plugins, which are beginning to offer an experience, which is easy to use and easy to understand, and really innovative. You can create pages quite quickly, reuse sections that you've created have global styles and color palettes and things like that. If you're using these third party add-ons so I don't know, would there have been the same development?
And the same bright looking roadmap. And I actually think there is a bright looking roadmap for the block editor. If it had of been a choice to put it in, would people got behind it and said, actually, let's go with this or do they just set out it's a project. It'll go away. Leave it alone.
David Waumsley: [00:37:45] Yeah, not anything they would have ignored it.
That's why he's forced it out there because it's the only way to get its attention. But the other thing though, that I do, I think, obviously he was right. I think about the potential decline, which you predicted in WordPress. I think it happened and I think the only way I can see it is in.
Google trends because obviously then people using WordPress has increased over the time. But I think the, it had gone into decline because if you do any kind of search and look at Google trends for WordPress, how to use WordPress, any connected WordPress trade in anything to do with it, there's been a huge decline from about 2014, and there's been a huge increase in kind of.
The individual page builders forward press. So I think they're bringing people in. So it's really hard. I think to judge how this is being received by most people, is it that a lot of the people that are coming into WordPress and they're not really even needed, a lot of the people who use WordPress.
Don't blog at all. They don't need the editor. They'll just use their page builders. So they have no interaction with it. So like me not much has changed over this last two years, apart from when I decided to go and delve in and take a look or get involved in the conversations that are going on
Nathan Wrigley: [00:38:59] about it.
Yeah. I think this is a podcast episode, which will date horribly. Because the rate of change is going to be. Pretty remarkable. Where I just think where it literally one of actually that's not true. I think if you go back six, six to eight months, we were at a period where. It was really difficult to see what was going to happen.
You had the roadmap, but there wasn't this interest. You couldn't see these third party block packs coming yet. They hadn't arrived. And so you couldn't quite detect what was possible. Certainly, the stuff that's supplied in WordPress core is not as exciting. You can't do all the whizzbang stuff that you might like to do.
But now we've got these block packs, I'm thinking of things like cadence and qui blee and stackable and all that. Oh. And generate blocks all of these things. And there are people who have embraced the underlying architecture, it innovated their own solution inside of it. And it just gives me real.
Light at the end of the tunnel. And don't forget, we are, we're on the cusp. Now it's an aggressive roadmap. This is, this episode will really go out of date because of this. There's a roadmap to have everything calm inside, the full site editing experience. And I think it's quite likely that experience will be a rough ride.
That there'll be things that they release on day one. That even though a proportion of people have tested it in its beta stages, there'll still be people hang on a minute. What, how does this is a crazy way to do it, but then just the editor that we've got now that has improved over a couple of years, that will improve over a couple of years.
And and then we'll have full site editing freely available in a completely downloadable. Forcable version of WordPress, you'll be able to edit your website and that, that will be like nothing else. But the problem is it's not going to land overnight. And at the minute we've got third party solutions, which offer all of that stuff and it works right now.
There's no friction, you just works. And as soon as you figured out how to make it work in that system, you're off to the races. That's not where we're at. We're going to have a longer bumpy ride, but at the end of it, We'll have something which benefits everybody for no cost at all.
David Waumsley: [00:41:19] I'm gonna, I thought we had be negative on this, another thing, which is a challenge, I think for this project is there was the initial kind of gold rush.
If you like to build things for Gutenberg, seeing got to burgers if you like a page builder where there's a tradition of building ad-ons for it. And I think most of those packs that came out. Took that approach with it. They were going to build you modules for that. It's seems out of place.
Now you be to grab whatever modules you like from the interface itself, whether that concept was a good one. And whether those people who did those initial packs, whether they're going to suffer as a result of that. But there's also clearly the communication isn't there because. The customized has been around for a very long time, but it's only really in this year.
And in fact, just recently, I've seen some themes just to add in their header and footer builders from the customizer, I've never seen so much in the customizer by the new themes Blocksi and cadence and Astros adding more. Just at a time when full site editing means that the customize is going to go, if it's a success.
So just telling me, and I think there's one of the difficulties for people trying to develop around something, which, we'll continue developing for the next eight years or perhaps more where previously you could build what you like with the certainty. That this face, simple CRMs core remained fairly stable.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:42:44] Yeah. And I think that is the real crisis for the community now, isn't it is that longstanding uses of WordPress. One of its biggest benefits is stability. It just works. It, we've got a set of standards. We stick to them, things that were legacy will be preserved, but now. We've not got that. And so maybe that's a part of the mix as well, that we're just used to it behaving in a certain way.
And so really for the first time, it's not following that model, we've got something really disruptive, really different. My feeling is it had to change my feeling is if it had stopped with the classic editor, it at some point maybe already by now, maybe in five years, I don't know. It would become.
So much of a dinosaur that nobody would take it seriously. You would open it up and look at the way that you interact with text and the way that you interact with images and just think, wow, there's just superior ways. Every which way, just anything is better than this. So they had to start and they had to break things and they had to disrupt things and they had to mess things around.
And when you've got a CMS, which at the time was about 30. Four ish percent possibly of the internet. You know that that's, the slogan is always the internet, but probably the top 10, 10,000 sites or million size or whatever it is. And now we're pushing 40%. That's a big thing to do. I don't know what the numbers are for square space, but I'm guessing that it's nowhere near that.
And so it's a difficult thing, but you've got to innovate. Otherwise the competition will start to. To leave. And you only have to look at the growth of those third party platforms and you realize that they must be doing something right. We've got something free over here and yeah, it costs money over there and people are flocking to them.
So I think it was the right time, but a difficult thing to navigate and probably the most difficult era for the project so far. I think
David Waumsley: [00:44:49] it depends on what WordPress has been and where wordpress.org is. So it's something that we installed too. By usually premium products to add on top of this.
And we still feel we're part of the community. I don't think I've ever really felt like my connection is with WordPress itself. Other than that, there were other people out there and I think that's what, the whole organization has done. What Matt Mullenweg has done well is managed to create this community sense around it.
But I think with this, where you're breaking from it is that. He needs to have, he needs to have his own Squarespace. If you like, that is WordPress. That does the job itself. Where for many people, certainly me, I never ever saw it that way. Anyway, it was just a simple code and other people brought their own solutions.
So when it came for the need to innovate, actually it didn't because it's a very simple, in my view, the innovation happened by the people who added to that. The who decided to choose that as their home. Yeah. And that's where I was looking for the innovation. So I didn't think it would stagnate because it really, what pressed really didn't do much itself.
Now it has to do a lot, but before the innovations all came from the people who built for it.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:45:59] Yeah. I guess we've. They've taken on that burden because there's a whole element to this conversation that we've carefully steered away from it, which is the.com side of things which is a significant part of this conversation.
But probably time constraints are gonna prevent us from getting really into it. But clearly that the superior editing experience is needed. Inside assess website service. The wordpress.com side of things has to have something like this. And then if it's on the wordpress.com side of things, does it make sense to have two separate things running concurrently, IE, the old editor [email protected].
It probably makes more sense to just concentrate all the efforts on the one thing. And make sure that it's working because wordpress.com is literally competitor to the likes of Wix and Squarespace. And we have no insight into those numbers at all, but maybe there were key metrics and complaints coming from their customer base saying look what we can get over there, have to innovate.
Otherwise we're going to leave to somebody that has.
David Waumsley: [00:47:08] Exactly. And I think that is, it had to happen certainly from from wordpress.com perspective. I think there's no doubt about that. And it's, you could argue, I've heard this said, all they needed to do is to buy out one of the existing page builders and have it ready there.
And then, but I don't think. That, that didn't, to me seem like an option. How did, how would you move that into the wordpress.org is the general, maybe it'd be difficult. So I can understand the pressures that led to where we are at now. I think that can we move on to how we would deal with it now? It is here.
And how are you dealing with the fact that it is here?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:47:46] As most of my interest in building pages comes from a page builder. So if it's a page where there's any element of design, then it really all I'm using Gothenburg for is to create the title and to create the slug. And then I click update and then launched my page builder of choice and I'm off to the races, but on WP Builds, I've been using it for forever since it dropped really, actually that's not true.
I think it was a few months where I had the classic editor switched on just in case. And now I use it that there, I don't create anything on WP bills, which is a post without the block editor, but for. Pages like the homepage that's done with with a a template from a page builder, because it's got the, we've got things floated left and right.
And it's got dynamic content and so on. That's all taken care of, but I really can see the day where I w I wouldn't necessarily have to use a page builder. Yeah. Th the moment for me will come when it just, it doesn't matter. And when I say the moment will come, I, Y I should rephrase that. The moment may come where I see that the utility of the page builder is equal to the block editor.
And when that moment arrives, however far into the future, that is. Even if the interface is different or not quite as intuitive or just not the same intuitive, I've had to learn a new way of doing it in the block editor in the same way that I had to learn a new way of doing it inside that say Beaver builder, if the two are basically equal, then yeah.
Then it's probably a moment to flip into the bulk editor, but we're not there yet we keep touting how easy these page builders are. And of course they are, but if you put my. My mother in either interface, block editor, page builder, there's failure. At the end of both of those roads, none of them are so easy that it's just dead obvious.
It's only obvious because we put the time in at the minute, you can't do what you can do in a page builder in the block editor, but maybe a year from now, you will, and you've just got to relearn it. And That's maybe the path that we're taking. I can't see these third party page builders going away though.
Not only have they got the legacy of sites that they've already built, because it doesn't make sense with an existing client site. That's ticking along nicely to just say, actually, do you know what, for no money at all, I'm going to rebuild it in the block editor and you're just not going to do it.
So you're going to be paying those licenses from that point of view, but also that you're just going to have a preference. There'll just be a, I just like element or more. I like divvy more. I like, BeaverBuilder more, I just don't get on with that block editor interface. But for those people who have just downloaded it for the first time, it's something and it's something that will work and they'll get used to it and it'll become their way of doing it.
And they'll figure out the bumps along the way.
David Waumsley: [00:50:51] One thing that comes with premium page builders is support and, I've run one of the groups with beginners and I'd say 90% of the questions from beginners are cash related. You still need to break it down. It's actually nothing to do with the page builder itself.
There'll be nobody to do that unless you're on the road. The wordpress.com side of things, to get that kind of support. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:51:10] That's an interesting point and not one that I'd really considered in all honesty. Yeah. That is an interesting point. And so paying for the support might be another, just, maybe if the argument is no longer that we've got a superior editing interface, look at all the things that you can do over here.
If it's not that. Then maybe support is the win for them. Not only do we have something that's as good or we think it's better, but we'll support you. Cause we've got a ticketing system and that won't be the case. You have to go for community support, which is, it is what it is.
David Waumsley: [00:51:43] I think the tricky thing for people like us who build sites, who we're trying to guess what we need to be building with in the future for our clients.
That's the tricky thing. Do you, when do you jump in with Guttenberg? Do you, this has always been my dilemma, so I always want to keep my hand in because ultimately I want this to succeed and in some ways it has to succeed. So there's an incentive there because it's gotten, the genie's out of the bottle and it really has got to.
Fail or succeed. So I would like that. I would like to do away with page builders, even though I love mine, because it would just not be such a unifying thing. Wouldn't it. If we had this huge WordPress community or working with the, exactly the same tools, how fabulous would
Nathan Wrigley: [00:52:28] that be? Yeah, it would be fabulous.
How. How unlikely as that as well,
David Waumsley: [00:52:34] but, so I'm with it, but when you jump in, because those really at the moment, because it's all about marketing, it's very commercialized WordPress because of the numbers. Everybody is building for Gutenberg is built in themselves as a way to move on to the future.
Yeah. But whatever you think that they're going to be built in is likely to be succeeded by Gutenberg itself. It's going to eat its own children. Rarely.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:52:59] That's an interesting way of describing it. Yeah. And of course, w there's still quite a lot of crystal ball gazing here as well, because we've got two, two phases, which we haven't even touched upon.
We've only talked about editing the Nia customization launch, which is coming soon. But we've also got this endeavor to have collaborative editing. The idea that you can edit rather like a Google doc. So your updates appear in real time on my screen and so on and so forth.
That's going to be. The endeavor is to make that happen. I'm sure that technology will be more than in the purview of what they can do. I'm sure that will happen. So that will be quite amazing because that was one of the interesting things that we hit today. You'd written the show notes in the block editor and of course, I can't see them because you've locked the page.
So I had to open it on a preview. And so I'm looking at the front end, you've got the backend. And so that's a point of contention that will be brilliant if we can have collaboration, but also multi-lingual. As well, yes. The ability natively to put your site into every which way every, which language you can think of.
These are big goals. They're not, I feel the biggest goal of all was a getting the editor launched and B the customization, which has coming up, it feels like the collaboration and multi-lingual lesser bricks in that wall, but. Still big things and really interesting endeavors. And once all of these parts are in place and we've got through the teething period, I'm really bullish about it.
I'm very happy with the way it's going.
David Waumsley: [00:54:34] Yeah. I'm well, I do think, if it's in core that it's held up to a higher criteria, So things like that, the multi-lingual aspect of it. I don't, the, obviously there are commercial plugins that add that, but it's a kind of clumsy way of having to add it, and these are things that a page builder probably wouldn't see, it was worth it. Wouldn't be profitable to build this thing into the page builders themselves. That's the same may be true to a certain degree. Although I think in the market has taken care of it the same with accessibility.
I'm sure using the editor in a page builder isn't as accessible as Gutenberg will need to be all the block editor
Nathan Wrigley: [00:55:13] will need to be. Yeah. Yeah. And these are constraints that are invisible in the background, but really matter to the team building it. The fact that they've made everything as it is as accessible as possible, although.
You were the real discussions about whether that was in any way achieved right at the beginning, but quite a bit has happened. All of that stuff is hidden in the background. You didn't even know that's a difficult thing that the team have got to tackle, but yeah, honestly, I'm really bullish.
I think if we replay this conversation in five years, time less, let's go for three. Then I think a lot of the points that we've just raised will have been. Addressed dealt with overcome hopefully. And maybe WordPress, by that point, we'll be up to I don't know, 50% of the internet as a result. That's my hope.
David Waumsley: [00:56:01] Yeah, that's very optimistic. I still think that it's growing because of the page builders and the demand that there is just generally for that. And they're serving that. So it's going to be interesting. I think this year is going to be particularly interesting because of the full site editing. It's coming very soon.
The minimum viable product for that is going into core. Isn't it in April. Yep. And so that's moving and that's going to shake up a lot of stuff. I
Nathan Wrigley: [00:56:26] think. Yeah, I think we'll see the introduction of an awful lot of new developers into the community. Leveraging that stuff, to figure out how to get there.
I don't know their block packs their innovations into it. It'd be interesting. You never know. There might be some sort of. I don't have a business just from a navigation block. You might be able to have a business just selling a navigation block that you just do this really cool navigation menu with I don't know, I'm going down a bit of a path here, but I just think that there's so many possibilities in the future.
And and I'm hopeful play this back in the year 2024. I realized how wrong I was.
David Waumsley: [00:57:13] I think we've probably done this
Nathan Wrigley: [00:57:14] subject, haven't we? Yeah. So much more that we could have talked about. Honestly, I think we could literally have gone off in a billion different directions and it would have been equally long, but I think for the purposes of this we're onto 57 minutes.
So yeah, we should probably knock it on the head, but that was lovely. Really interesting chat. Great. Okay.
David Waumsley: [00:57:34] See you soon.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:57:35] I hope that you enjoyed that. It's always fun. Chatting to my good friend, David Wamsley. It's interesting because we come at this subject from such different perspectives. I'm largely sold on Gutenberg.
I use it to do all of my writing for WordPress these days. I found the interface to be sublimely good. But obviously now that we're moving into full site editing territory, the muddies get a bit watered. Is it as good as current page builders? You can decide that for yourself, but certainly they're making large inroads into that space and only time will tell, but it's a very exciting project.
If you've got anything to say, please leave a comment either on the WP Builds.com website. This is podcast episode two, two, two, which you can find in the archives or perhaps leave a comment in our Facebook group. Go and find the thread over wpbuilds.com forward slash Facebook.
The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by Cloudways. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that ensures simplicity, performance and security. It offers cloud service from five different cloud providers that you can manage through its intuitive platform. Some features include 24 seven support free migrations and dedicated firewalls. Go check it out at Cloudways. dot com.
And AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split test in record time, then you AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes. Use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is it works with element or Beaver builder and the WordPress block editor. Check it out and get a free [email protected]. Okay.
We will be back next week. Next week. It will be an interview with some plugins theme author, or perhaps just somebody in the WordPress community because we rotate our episodes one week and interview. And then another week we chat with David Wamsley, just like we did today. I hope that you enjoyed it. I hope that you got something out of it.
Have a good week. Stay safe. 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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WP Builds WordPress Podcast



WP Builds WordPress Podcast
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