Author’s Note: Gutenberg is scheduled for release on Thursday, December 5th, 2018.
We’re at a very exciting time for WordPress. WordPress 5.0 is set to be officially released on Tuesday, November 27th and it’s arguably the most anticipated update of WordPress’ 15-year lifespan. The Gutenberg project began in January 2017 and has been worked on, tested, and improved by thousands of members of the WordPress community. Gutenberg has also been tested on more than 600,000 sites, making it the fastest growing plugin in WordPress history. If you’re still nervous or feeling unprepared for the update, we’ve done our research and want to help you get confident about updating to 5.0.
While it’s sure to be a major point of discussion at this year’s WordCamp US, we wanted to shed some light on the update beforehand, straight from the source. Matt Mullenweg, a WordPress co-founder and Gutenberg project leader, stopped by WordCamp Portland to answer questions about the upcoming 5.0 release and Gutenberg specifically. We’ve included some important takeaways from the Q&A session with Matt below.
When 5.0 comes out, do I have to use Gutenberg? Can I stick to the Classic Editor?
MM: When 5.0 comes out on the 27th, every WordPress user will be able to choose what happens with their site. You can install the Classic Editor plugin today, which was created and is maintained by the WordPress team. Once installed, this plugin will automatically enable the classic editor and turn Gutenberg off for your entire site, even after you update to 5.0.
If you want to experience 5.0 ahead of time, you can install the Gutenberg plugin today. When 5.0 is released, the Gutenberg plugin will be deactivated and nothing will change about your editing experience. Both of these options are fully supported and WordPress users are encouraged to do whatever they are comfortable with.
There are plans to update the classic editor in order to give users more fine-grain control and flexibility. Instead of using the Classic Editor plugin as an all-or-nothing experience, sites will be able to turn on the classic editor or Gutenberg according to user, post-type, etc.
There’s no denying the uncertainty around Gutenberg. What do you see as the tipping point for favorability of Gutenberg over the Classic Editor plugin?
MM: Part of giving users the option of the Classic Editor plugin or Gutenberg was to remove uncertainty for people and allow them to choose their path well before the release itself. The hope is that the 5.0 release day is the most anticlimactic event ever. However, I do think we can do better with communication.
The Gutenberg team is working on marketing materials that will be distributed with the release. A huge component of this is an informative and instructive video. WordPress.org/gutenberg allows you to try out the new editor just in your browser. Gutenberg is officially the most widely tested rollout in WordPress history. We are very close to rolling out 5.0 on WordPress.com. Usually, a rollout onto WordPress.com reveals some browser bugs that can be fixed. There are various backup release dates in case of any obstacles.
However, the team feels that the software is pretty ready. Over the last six months, the team has released an update of Gutenberg every two weeks and that will not stop after the release of 5.0. That means feedback and requests can be incorporated within a week or two. We hope this continues to remove uncertainty among users.
What is your take on the unfolding discussions about accessibility and Gutenberg?
MM: Accessibility has been core to WordPress from the very beginning. Adoption of web standards and accessibility guidelines were a big part of why WordPress was created in the first place. We did, however, have some project management fails during this process. Some members of the team of volunteers felt disconnected from the rapid development of Gutenberg. There’s definitely some things we can do better there.
In the future, it might make sense to have accessibility as a separate process from the core development. Accessibility is something that needs to be integrated at every stage. A lot of work has been done in regards to accessibility within Gutenberg in the form of region navigation, keyboard shortcuts, ARIA elements and more. The Gutenberg team has closed more than 200 tickets in regards to accessibility and has even been able to fix accessibility problems that have plagued WordPress from the very beginning. There are still many parts of WordPress, aside from Gutenberg, that really need to be worked on and made better. This includes widgets, parts of the Customizer and codemirror. However, new progress from the WordPress community and Automattic will ensure that the next version of codemirror is accessible.
When inaccessible aspects of WordPress, like nav menus and widgets, are replaced by Gutenberg, they will start to benefit from all the work that has been invested in the new editor. When you think about accessibility, you want to think about the holistic user experience. So, we not only want to think about core but also about plugins. As Gutenberg starts to replace widgets, shortcode and the other aspects of core, a consistent interface will be established. We hope this provides opportunity and accessibility for users who’ve never been able to develop with WordPress.
If users find that Gutenberg is not compatible with certain plugins or inaccessible, the Classic Editor plugin allows users to continue using WordPress as they always have. With the Classic Editor plugin, people with accessible needs will experience no change in their editing experience or ability to publish on November 27th.
The plan is for Gutenberg to become the default editor. After WordPress 5.0, is the name Gutenberg going to stick around?
MM: Sometimes codenames take on a life of their own. I think Gutenberg will always be the name of this project. It will always be the repo on GitHub. Gutenberg is starting to be adopted by other CMSs, so they’ll need to call it something as well. Partially because it’s starting to become more widely adopted by more general users, when we do marketing we will just call it the WordPress editor. This is the new WordPress. If we mention Gutenberg it will just be in passing and in the core interface. We’ll also, for distinction purposes, refer to it as Gutenberg in the Classic Editor plugin. Brand new WordPress users already expect what Gutenberg offers. They’d probably be surprised if it wasn’t already a part of WordPress.
With the adoption of React for Gutenberg, what would you like to see happen with WordPress and React in the future?