WordPress 5.0 is scheduled for release today (December 6th, 2018), which is a huge overhaul for the editing system of WordPress, amongst other updates. The star of the show in the new release is what they’ve called the ‘Gutenberg’ Editor.
In short, it’s a shift to the ‘drag and drop’ system of editing that has become popular through hosted website builders like Wix and Squarespace. It uses a system of blocks, which makes it easier than ever for a novice without coding experience to build a website from scratch, and even create their own themes.
Of course, there are quite a few page-builder plugins available that have been around on WordPress for a while. To name a few of these: Elementor, SiteOrigin, Beaver Builder, Divi, and my personal favourite – Oxygen (although it’s more of a site builder than page builder).
While Gutenberg might not match these options right out of the gate, as it improves and becomes more established, it may dissuade users from using them in the long run.
Don’t worry, if you’re really anti-change, there’s still the option to use the ‘classic’ builder with a plugin.
What this means though is that website designers are going to have to acquaint themselves with a new interface and methodology of site building. Also, as has been the case with WordPress releases, there are third-party plugins that expand the capabilities of Gutenberg blocks – take Otter Blocks, for instance.
Also, creators of themes and plugins are going to have to work swiftly to ensure their products are Gutenberg-compatible. Otherwise, they could risk losing a lot of users as they switch to the new editing experience. Plenty of developers are ahead of the game though, such as Neve and Hestia; we’ll also likely see Gutenberg-specific themes being released too – take Atomic Blocks, for example.
Other changes include a change in release schedule, or the removal of scheduled releases. This is to ensure that updates are only released when there’s a significant change in WordPress, rather than smaller changes for the sake of meeting a release deadline.
The WordPress Rest API is also being improved, making it easier for developers to send and obtain data from your website. This adds up to it being easier for developers to create feature-rich applications.
Of course, while the release is scheduled for today, it could be pushed back until January 22nd, 2019 (to deal with bugs of outstanding issues).
Sure, this shift away from a system that has become engrained in WordPress users may come as a shock, but I believe the change in direction is positive. It opens up the platform to a wider variety of users and will make the platform more user-friendly in the long run. That means more people using it, and more people taking their first steps into website development.
Sure, it will probably mean an even more competitive market for website designers, but then that should push us to become better at what we do, in order to stand out from the crowd. This means offering better customer service and working harder to offer unique features for our customers.