Fränk Klein from WP Development Courses

The Big Gutenberg Misconception

Published 4 months ago • 2 min read

Hi Reader,

In the previous email, The Why Behind Gutenberg, we looked at the reasons behind the changes coming to WordPress.

In this email, we'll examine how far the Gutenberg project has come and what's on the horizon.

Because there is a big misunderstanding in the community about the modern WordPress features, and this can have a very negative impact on your business.

A look at phase 1 and 2 of the Gutenberg project

Phase 1 focused on content creation and editing. We saw the outcome of this phase ship with WordPress 5.0 in the form of the block-based content editor.

Phase 2 was all about site customization. It introduced the site editor in WordPress 5.9.

And this is where people start needing clarification. For them, the second phase is about theme building. But that's only a side effect of WordPress's new customization approach.

Site editing is not about themes

When we look at the Customizer, WordPress provides the interface and a set of helpers for developers to extend it. Therefore, every theme or plugin using Customizer has its own approach.

Even if two themes use the Customizer, users lose all their customizations when they switch themes. And that's a very frustrating experience, as you have to start over whenever you change themes.

It also has motivated theme shops to invest in their customization framework. If we look at Blocksy, a popular premium theme, that's the main selling point.

Therefore, WordPress switched strategies. Instead of offering nothing built in, all the popular features like color palettes, typography controls, buttons, layout tools, etc., are available out-of-the-box.

Indeed, modern WordPress has an entire set of tools built-in that allow themes to be customized:

  • The Site Editor allows the editing and creation of templates, template parts, and patterns.
  • The default blocks cover content creation, layout design, and template building.
  • The Style Engine styles all blocks most efficiently, considering user customizations.
  • The Settings Engine allows themes to decide which customization options are supported. It enables plugin authors to customize their blocks through WordPress's built-in tools.

But you only get these benefits if the theme uses these tools. These themes are what we call block themes.

The illusion of pick and choose

Since phases 1 and 2 of the Gutenberg project introduced two different editors, it was easy for developers to refrain from using them.

Both editors had their admin screens, and WordPress has not removed any functionality. So you can still use the old editor, and themes built years ago continue to work.

But now we are in phase 3, collaboration. This makes people think about multi-user content editing, as known from Google Docs. While this is part of this phase, it's not what most users will remember it for.

Workflows is a more appropriate name. Because in this phase, all the admin screens are reviewed and improved.

Will we get a third tool for phase 3? No, because these screens are all added to the site editor. At the same time, work is underway to unite the technical foundations of the content and the site editor.

Over the long term, the Gutenberg project will replace all current admin screens. And introduce an entirely new WordPress admin based on the site editor foundations.

And with this unification of the technical foundations and interfaces, there is no more place for the legacy approaches.

Change means opportunities

There's a lot of negativity surrounding these changes in the WordPress space. Whether on X/Twitter, Facebook groups, or comments on popular blogs. But what gets drowned out in this noise are the success stories.

One could point to the White House, NASA, the Pew Research Center, TechCrunch, etc. All block-based sites. But this is dismissed as Gutenberg only being "for the elites."

The truth is that WordPress businesses of all sizes and niches are betting on blocks as the future. And they are getting rewarded for it.

In the following email, we'll explore the opportunities the Gutenberg project has opened.


P.S.: I was nervous writing this email series. Unlike technical subjects, this is a personal analysis of the situation. Based on my knowledge and experience. So, if you enjoy this email or don't, please reply.

Fränk Klein from WP Development Courses

Level Up Your WordPress Business With One Email Per Week

Every Sunday, I send out tips, strategies, and case studies designed to help agencies and freelancers succeed with modern WordPress. My goal is to go off the beaten path, and focus on sharing lessons learned from what I know best: building websites for clients. 100% free and 100% useful.

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