The Gutenberg editor is one of the biggest changes coming to WordPress. But how does the community feel about it? In this Gutenberg editor review roundup we will aim to find out.
Since Matt Mullenweg revealed Gutenberg at WCEU 2017, a lot has been written about it. Here on Torque alone we have a number of articles on the topic:
- What’s Next for WordPress: Why the Future is Great with Gutenberg
- Getting Ahead of Gutenberg
- How The REST API And Gutenberg Work Together
- What the Future of WordPress Development Looks Like With Gutenberg
- How to Test Your Plugins With the Upcoming Gutenberg Editor
Set to be included in WordPress 5.0, the new editor has created a ripples through the WordPress community. No wonder since it will replace one of the most central aspects of the WordPress back end and overhaul central ways of how the CMS works (learn how to customize the classic editor while you still can!).
Gutenberg has been available as a plugin for about year now and at the time of this writing has reached version 3.0. A lot has changed since the first release and many people have taken the editor for a spin during that time. Did they like what they saw? We are about to find out.
In the following, we have tried to create a meta review of the Gutenberg editor. We looked at both comments from the official directory as well as articles written on the topic. The goal is to get a feel for the public opinion on the upcoming change.
To keep it current and not talk about old versions of the plugin too much, the Gutenberg editor review roundup concentrates on feedback of roughly the last six months. That being said, some older posts will also find their way into the general opinion.
The WordPress Community And Gutenberg – A Love/Hate Relationship
In the following, we will try to summarize the public opinion on Gutenberg. First stop: the WordPress directory.
The WordPress Plugin Directory
At the time of this writing, Gutenberg has been downloaded over 200,000 times and is currently active on more than 10,000 sites. It has a rating of 2.7 out of 5 stars and received over 500 reviews with the following distribution of ratings.
From these numbers you can already see that there is a big divide on the topic. Many extreme positions and very little middle ground. It’s also obvious that the negative reviews outweigh the positive. Let’s see what they like and dislike in detail.
Supporters of the new editor like the following:
- Gutenberg represents much-needed innovation to keep up with other website builders
- It is made with modern technology and going in the direction of page builders
- Great user experience especially for noncoders (including clients), fast and easy handling
- Closer to a true WYSIWYG experience and less need for editing HTML and adding custom code
- An alternative to bloated page builders (though it’s important to remember that Gutenberg is not a page builder but a content editor)
- Page editing options are unified in one place without being locked into custom shortcodes
Of course, the positive reviews also have a lot of suggestions on how to make the editor even better. However, even among those voices are calls for leaving Gutenberg as a plugin or becoming part of Jetpack instead of merging it into core. At the least users would like to give people an easy way to switch back to the current editor if they so wish.
As is obvious from the screenshot above, many people also have less flattering things to say about the editor:
- Many are afraid it will ruin existing (client) sites, especially those that rely heavily on custom fields and meta boxes
- Blocks appear cumbersome for creating high volume content
- There is criticism of the UI and way of editing HTML with Gutenberg, some people plain don’t like the new interface
- The markup produced by Gutenberg is also not received fondly
- Many compare it to page builders and find it lacking
- Some complain about missing features that are already on the road map
- Others find it too focused on blogging and not suitable for other kinds of websites
By far the biggest fear is that opponents have is a lack in backward compatibility. Especially people working with clients express concern that it will muck up existing sites. The notion of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes up repeatedly. Many urge to leave Gutenberg out of core and just keep it as a plugin.
Overall you find a lot of hate/love approaches to Gutenberg in the directory. Very few people stand in the middle. Let’s see what the blogosphere thinks.
However, before moving on to detailed reviews of the editor, hats off to the Gutenberg developers who literally answer every single comment and actively ask for feedback. It goes to show that they are keen on involving all users and addressing concerns. Lots of respect for that!
Brian Jackson – Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Kinsta)
Brian Jackson’s tone is generally positive. He likes the “writing first” approach, beginner friendliness and ability to style every element from inside the editor. He also points out some of this favorite blocks, among them the ability to create anchors, buttons, and the table of contents.
However, at the same time, his review echoes some of the criticism from the directory, especially about the amount of HTML created by Gutenberg and some missing features. He also shares the fear of missing backward compatibility.
Overall Brian is quite impressed with the work that’s been done and calls for providing feedback to and helping the developers. His detailed post is also regularly updated as new Gutenberg versions roll out, so it’s worth checking out.
Morten Rand-Hendriksen – Gutenberg and the Future of WordPress: Conditions for Success
Morten Rand-Hendriksen has written extensively on Gutenberg in a series of LinkedIn posts. In this particular article, he gives his personal guidelines under which he thinks Gutenberg can be a success.
The first thing he stresses is accessibility. For the new editor to fit the WordPress environment and current web, he considers it a must that it fulfills accessibility standards.
The second condition he has for the Gutenberg rollout is to give the community plenty of time to prepare. In Morten’s opinion, that means several months between the release candidate and actual merge in order for users and developers to adjust, update plugins, themes and prepare their sites.
However, in the end, he calls for quite a revolutionary step, which is to fork of WordPress at version 5.0 into “classic WordPress” and a new version. In that, he sees a way to conserve sites that can’t or won’t make the switch and an opportunity to modernize and eliminate technical debt from the Gutenberg fork.
It’s one of the most extreme positions I have read but he gives a good rundown of his arguments.
Iain Poulson – Is Gutenberg the End or a New Beginning for WordPress? (Delicious Brains)
Like many other reviewers, Iain points out that he likes the new editor as a piece of software and finds it well made. However, he takes issue with the motivation behind implementing it in WordPress core. He sees Gutenberg mostly as a measure by Automattic to compete with other site builders. To him, it’s a turn away from the WordPress philosophy and a move that neglects more important issues the platform has.
His other main concern is that Gutenberg will break a lot of things when it is merged. The effect of this will especially be felt by people building and running sites for others. The editor also raises the barrier for developers to keep their plugins up to date and will render many non-functional. The latter will affect the WordPress ecosystem as a whole.
As a solution, Iain proposes a longer timeline for integrating Gutenberg into core and leaving it as a plugin for longer. Also, he advises to turn it on by default only for new sites and not legacy websites. Combined, this would give people more time to prepare for the huge change.
Jeff Starr – Thoughts on Gutenberg
Developer Jeff Starr also gives his take on Gutenberg. The gist of his review: leave it as a plugin. He doesn’t not see the need to add it to core since there are better page builders already out there. Therefore, the decision should be up to the user.
Aside from that, Jeff also stresses the problems of lacking backward compatibility and says Gutenberg will cause a lot of work to make existing extensions comply with it. Therefore, users should be allowed to choose to use it or not.
He also offers a bit of advice to make the transition into core smoother, yet overall is not the biggest fan.
Vova Feldman – What Gutenberg Means for The Future Of Commercial WordPress Products
As a product builder, Vova Feldman reached out to CEOs of some of the most popular page builders (Beaver Builder, Elementor, Visual Composer) to get their thoughts on the new editor. He also offers his own insights.
Generally, their view of Gutenberg is quite positive. They praise its innovative approach and think that it will help WordPress’ success in the marketplace by bringing in less technical users. Of course, if the user base grows, so do commercial opportunities.
There will be a need to adapt but the post expresses general confidence in being able to do so. It also encourages those dreading the change to look for opportunities the change offers. However, the overall opinion is one of caution to not rush merging Gutenberg into core.
Below are opinions from reviews that came out when Gutenberg first hit the shelves. However, they still contain valid thoughts so that’s why they are included here:
- Brenda Barron (WPMU DEV) – The post is titled “please don’t include this into core.” You can already gather where she stands on the discussion. Brenda likes the interface but doesn’t see Gutenberg as an improvement to the status quo. For that reason, she would prefer it as a plugin option.
- Josh Pollock (Torque) — Josh is a fan of the UI and thinks Gutenberg is a great option for writers and bloggers. However, he is not sure it’s a good idea for everyone else. His review also mentions the issue of backward compatibility. While he is all in favor of eliminating technical debt, he is not sure this is the way to go.
- Chris Lema — In his review, Chris also cautions that Gutenberg might be too blogging centric and a step away from WordPress as a CMS. While he likes it for creating content, it lacks abilities for designing pages and entire websites. In his opinion, the new editor should actually go a step farther and become a true WYSIWYG experience for the front end.
- Colin Newcomer (Create and Code) — Like many, Colin likes Gutenberg as an editor, however, he has concerns about its value as the standard WordPress option. He also stresses backward compatibility concerns and is in favor of keeping it as a plugin.
- Matt Cromwell — This review welcomes the change coming to WordPress in form of Gutenberg. He loves the writing experience and echoes Chris Lema on moving even further to a true front end editor. He sees Gutenberg as a great opportunity for WordPress to catch up to competitors.
Gutenberg Review Roundup – The Verdict
The impact that the Gutenberg editor will have on WordPress should not be underestimated. Even before it’s ready to ship, it has become one of the most divisive issues the community has ever encountered.
Proponents declare that it’s high time WordPress innovates its content creation module to stay competitive and attract new users. They are looking forward to the modern technology, unifying editing experience and moving further to a true connection between content creation and the end product.
The biggest fear on the side of those opposed to Gutenberg is that the editor will break a lot of existing sites, plugins and workflows. Especially people working with or for clients. Aside from that there is a lot of criticism of missing functionality (that may or may not arrive later) and whether Gutenberg isn’t just for bloggers and content creators.
Because this is such as divisive issue, there are a lot of calls for keeping Gutenberg out of core and as a plugin, possibly part of Jetpack. Alternatively, there are even ideas for forking WordPress into a classic and updated version. At the very least, people want the implementation to be more gradual so the community has more time to prepare.
This topic will likely continue to evoke passion. Hopefully, in the end, we will find a way to address the main concerns and find a middle road that will work for most people.
What’s you opinion on Gutenberg? Where do you stand on the discussion? Let us know in the comments section below!
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