Blog Post

Gutenberg or Classic editor? Why not both?

WordPress 4.9.8 was released last week, and it is the first WordPress release that includes the dashboard callout for testing the upcoming editor, codename Gutenberg.

I have written about Gutenberg a few times already, and the fact is that it is getting better. It is not still very stable or usable for live websites. but over time, it will be. I like the general direction this new editor is heading, but, I don’t like the fact that Gutenberg has taken WordPress hostage, and the stand core developers have about it: WordPress 5.0 will be released only when Gutenberg is ready. And that is wrong on so many levels, that no wonder there are a lot of WordPress users and developers that are against including Gutenberg in the core in the first place.

Current State of WordPress

Last major WordPress version was released last year, and with current progress around Gutenberg, I doubt that WordPress 5.0 (with Gutenberg) will be released this year. Current 4.9 branch of WordPress has seen the most minor releases from any other WordPress versions (before next major release is ready), and some of these minor releases should have been a next major version. But, because of the stubbornness of the people making decisions about WordPress, we are now in sort of a limbo, for the first time in who knows how many years, there is not even a proposed released date for the next major WordPress, no roadmap for anything other than Gutenberg.

Gutenberg... or not?
Gutenberg… or not?

WordPress 5.0 should have been released instead of 4.9.6 that introduced major changes to WordPress for security and privacy purposes, and a lot more of the core developers should focus on WordPress and few hundreds of open tickets in TRAC, on some of the major features that are more important then editor (Fields API, REST API and Media Library, JavaScript Libraries, to name a few). I know, WordPress versions are just numbers, but, over the years the WordPress community has learned what numbers represent minor and what major releases and many people are organizing development, maintenance based on these numbers.

Few days after Gutenberg callout

So, WordPress 4.9.8 with the dashboard Gutenberg callout was released on August 2, 2018. This callout is introducing Gutenberg, and offering the alternative – plugin to disable Gutenberg once the WordPress 5.0 is released if you decide that you want to use the old editor instead of the new one.

Gutenberg Callout
Gutenberg Callout

And, in the past 4 days, the number of Gutenberg downloads (and installations) has spiked. And, the same happened with Classic Editor. Right now, Gutenberg has over 70.000 installations, and Classic Editor has over 50.000 installations. But, more interesting numbers are reviews of the Gutenberg. Even before the callout, Gutenberg had a very bad rating and an overwhelming number of bad reviews. So, what has changed?

On August 2, 2018 (using Wayback Machine) Gutenberg had 185 5-star reviews and 286 1-star reviews. And today, on August 6, 2018, Gutenberg has 202 5-star reviews and 420 1-star reviews. 2, 3 and 4-star reviews have changed also, but not significantly. So, in 5 days, the plugin has gotten only 17 new 5-star reviews, and 134 1-star reviews. Most of these reviews are from the users that have installed the Gutenberg for the first time after the callout. I have read most of the reviews posted since the callout, and yes, there are many reviews that are not helpful, just people expressing their disapproval, there are many substantial reviews that offer very valuable insights against Gutenberg, from users with a lot of WordPress experience. Here is one of the ‘best’ (well, most detailed) 1-star reviews: I was really ready to give this a good shot, and I suggest you go through other reviews too and see how Gutenberg is currently seen by the users.

Is Gutenberg ready (or, when it will be)?

No, it is not. I am using Gutenberg to build a website right now, and it is still not ready for that. And, the way development is going on right now, it will not be ready for at least another year. Developers are still adding features, moving things around. Gutenberg should be frozen for any new things, and for the next 2-3 months, only fixes, accessibility improvements and workflow changes need to go into Gutenberg. And, the documentation for developers needs to be created, because current documentation is completely useless (just like all the other JavaScript documentation for WordPress). For as long as the Beta versions come with anything new, Gutenberg will be farther away from ready.

It might be possible to have WordPress 5.0 with Gutenberg ready by the end of the year, but it will require a lot of discipline from developers to stop adding features, and only fix things. But, realistically, I don’t believe that Gutenberg will be ready (like, really ready) for at least another 6 to 9 months, based on the user feedbacks, opened tickets on GitHub and the current rate of development. And, once the reports from broken plugins increase, fixing/improving Gutenberg will be even harder.

What about themes?

Themes are not ready. Sure, all themes will render Gutenberg generated content, but it looks bad with most themes I have tried. And, users expect that if they create something with Gutenberg, that it will look close to that on the front end. Put aside a few themes that were made for Guttenberg, 99% of all themes available are not Gutenberg-ready, and it will take a long time to make an even fraction of the themes ready.

It is unbelievable that default WordPress themes are not ready!

Classic editor

A lot of people don’t like Gutenberg. And, that’s OK, because you don’t need to use it. Once WordPress 5.0 is released, you can simply install the plugin called Classic Editor, and it will disable Gutenberg, and revert WordPress to current (then classic) editor. So, everything is OK then? Well, no it is not. As it stands right now, WordPress 5.0 will make this transition unnecessarily complicated, and in the process will alienate a lot of users, a lot of people will have to face broken websites (there is no way Gutenberg transition will be error-free, simply no way that will happen). Even if 1% if websites have errors, from the estimated 40.000.000 websites, that is almost half a million broken websites.

And, there is a very, very simple way to avoid all that. And, no, I am not talking about leaving the Gutenberg as the plugin only (that is also a valid and excellent suggestion). Simply, make WordPress 5.0 (and next 5.1) with both Gutenberg and Classic Editor built in. Then, leave Classic editor active by default, and include a checkbox in the Settings to switch to the Gutenberg. And, at the same time, have a play area for the Gutenberg so that users can use WordPress as they have used to (like the current plugin version does), and have the Gutenberg somewhere where they can safely test and evaluate. In WordPress 5.2 (and 5.3) make Gutenberg default editor, and in 5.4 or 5.5 remove the Classic Editor. This will give theme authors enough time to update themes, users to adopt the new editor, and developers to understand how the Gutenberg works and how they can develop for it.

If this would happen, I am pretty sure that all users will be fine with the slower adoption and the choice inside the WordPress about the Gutenberg. No extra plugins, complicated methods to disable it, just a plain choice.

Gutenberg will add a lot to the overall size of the WordPress installation (currently 9.1MB ZIP archive), and will push it well over 10MB, so including the few extra files to have classic editor included is nothing (Gutenberg plugin ZIP archive is 1.3MB, and almost 6MB unpacked, Classic Editor is 130KB and 440KB unpacked).

What now?

Well, that is very hard to predict (or put into roadmap). I am looking forward to seeing Gutenberg in the core, but the current stubbornness from the Gutenberg core team is just pushing end users away from Gutenberg adoption. And, all the talk about Gutenberg taking on every aspect of WordPress, that are just dreams that will never get realized, unless the Gutenberg is accepted by end users.

What do you think?

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About the author

Milan Petrovic
Milan Petrovic

CEO and Lead developer of Dev4Press Web Development company, working with WordPress since 2008, first as a freelancer, later founding own development company. Author of more than 250 plugins and more than 20 themes.

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