WordPress Gutenberg: here is our take on it

WordPress Gutenberg: here is our take on it

WordPress 5.0 is here and along with it, the much heralded new Gutenberg editor. Here at Sotic, we’re holding fire on rolling it out to client websites for now. Why? Keep reading to find out.

Over the past 18 months we have been watching with interest as WordPress has rolled out a steady stream of information on their much vaunted new editor, Gutenberg. Named in honour of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, Gutenberg is a default on the most recent release of WordPress 5.0 which was released in December 2018.

So how does a change of editor affect Sotic’s clients?

Every time a post or a page of content is added to a WordPress site, it is done using the editor. The editor allows content creators to add, paste or format text, imagery, videos, links and social posts for display on the website, hence why it’s such a crucial element in the content creation process.

Gutenberg has been developed to replace the current editor interface that we, as WordPress users, have been using for many years to add content to our websites.

Why have WordPress made a change to their editor?

According to WordPress, Gutenberg has been designed to make life easier for the content creator. Matt Mullenweg (WordPress CEO) on his blog states that developers and agencies, “will be able to create interactive templates that clients can easily update without breaking things or dealing with custom post types”. WordPress is already an incredibly intuitive and easy to use CMS, but Gutenberg could empower clients with more flexibility over content editing.

Sounds great, when can I start using it?

At Sotic, we’re place a heavy focus on continual development and improving our product and service offering to our clients.
While Gutenberg has many great features working in its favour which will improve the overall process of content editing within WordPress, it is relatively untested to date and there are a number of important areas to consider before we begin rolling it out to clients.

1. Backwards compatibility and integration with Sotic’s core technologies

Given the complexity of the sites that Sotic build and manage, it is important that Gutenberg fully integrates with our technologies.

We use the WP REST API heavily in all our solutions but right now, we are unsure about the effect Gutenberg will have on it and on the way we use it. Similarly, we make use of taxonomies to drive content on, for example, match pages and player pages, and moving to Gutenberg without thoroughly testing what implementing it means for our customisations, and identifying any work needed to upgrade them, could trigger a slew of broken websites.
2019 will see us integrate a new stats API which has been developed by our in-house team. Gutenberg adds a level of uncertainty and having been rolled out just recently means we have yet to have been able to perform extensive tests to benchmark and mitigate any risks.

2. Reliance on Plugins

Sotic’s workflow allows for rapid prototyping of features from within our core Sotic Sports Theme. In contrast to this, Gutenberg appears to be a move towards doing less within the theme and instead relying more heavily on plugins which poses another challenge.
Plugin development takes longer, is more costly and hinders the ability to prototype rapidly in our production environment.

3. Capacity and resources to deploy

At Sotic we currently have over 20 clients using the WordPress CMS on WordPress sites and have placed a priority on maximising site performance and site design to meet the demands of our users.
Upgrading 20+ mega sports sites, with many thousands of pages and technical integrations, to accommodate Gutenberg will require considerable planning and resource to ensure it is executed properly, as well as the need for clients to re-learn how to edit and publish content.

4. Accessibility

With such a wide user base, accessibility must be a core consideration when implementing a change of the magnitude of Gutenberg and Rian Rietveld, former Head of Accessibility at WordPress thinks that accessibility has been an afterthought when it comes to the new editor.
She elaborates that “for users that depend on assistive technology (AT), like a screen reader or voice recognition software, the learning curve of Gutenberg is very high…Gutenberg is hard to learn.”
Thus if content creators and clients with accessibility needs are unable to fully use the new editor, then the site handover process to the client will break down.

Moving forward

Change is hard and the idea behind Gutenberg is noble. Kudos to Automattic and WordPress for taking on such a major step in the right direction, one which will help future-proof WordPress.

At Sotic, our priority regarding Gutenberg is to test the impact and architectural implications it presents to our client sites and customisations.
Once that is known we will be able to assess the work required to re-work these to adopt Gutenberg (by far the most time-consuming of all the challenges Gutenberg brings to us) and to re-train clients.

So although a transition to Gutenberg is in the cards, we are not taking the leap just yet.