December 3, 2017

This weekend marked the annual 'national' WordCamp, WordCampUS. Developers and WordPress enthusiasts from all over the world made the pilgrimage to my hometown, Nashville, to connect, swap techniques, and gather for Matt Mullenweg's 'State of the Word' address, given at the end of the conference.

This year, Matt made a strong commitment to Gutenberg, and using Gutenberg as the point of focus for the three initiatives of WordPress: 

  • Gutenberg editing
  • Gutenberg customization
  • Gutenberg theme

What IS Gutenberg, Really?

Before this weekend, there was a strong chance that if you asked someone what Gutenberg was, there would be a variety of answers. Matt (along with Morten Rand-Hendriksen), did live demoes of the Gutenberg experience, and gave a very clear picture: Gutenberg is the future of WordPress, and as early as April we should start seeing it make its way into the Core.

Gutenberg's been the source of many a debate in the WordPress community. There are several opinions on what Gutenberg is, what it should be, and how it's going to shape the future of WordPress both as a community and as a platform.

The end goal of Gutenberg is simple: a one stop place to edit every aspect of the site. Currently, it's an editor replacement. But that's just the beginning.

The Gutenberg Experience

If you've used a system like Medium, then the concept behind Gutenberg shouldn't be new – it's a system that takes the traditional content model and breaks them into 'blocks' .

If you haven't used a system like Medium, this experience can be… a little daunting.

Screenshot of Gutenberg

There's a few options that are pretty intuitive, but you definitely need a bit of insight (and maybe even a bit of training) in order to utilize the system to its fullest. Which, actually, is fine – the only concern is making sure that these tools to learn Gutenberg are as accessible as they want Gutenberg itself to be.

Starting to type, you'll start to see other various options if you click on the + contextual menu. 

Different content blocks for Gutenberg

Options for headings, images, galleries, lists, and even columns appear. For new users, this is a stark departure from 'Word Processors' like Word – since content there is flowing and linear, there's no need to know about a 'modular' concept.

But Gutenberg is not linear – it's modular. It will take a bit of retraining to get people into the mindset to think in blocks instead of paragraphs.

On the right side, as you click on modules a "properties panel". Adobe's recently introduced this similar concept into its CC software suite. As you click around on various modules, the settings you need to shift or modify come up in an easy to use layout.

In case you didn't realize it, I've actually installed Gutenberg on this site. It works out of the box. I have the ability to use columns, rows, modules, blocks, and whatever else I need in my content, and all it took was to install the plugin.

A Deeper Drive

On the surface, Gutenberg adds quite a bit of functionality and offering to a WordPress site. But, to be honest, the front-end if not where a lot of the controversy lives; it's behind the scenes, in how the data is stored. On the next post, we'll dive into how data is stored, and see why it's such a point of contention.

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