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The WordPress Gutenberg Editor
The WordPress Gutenberg Editor

The WordPress Gutenberg Editor

If you're the proud owner a WordPress website, you may have been seeing the word “Gutenberg” thrown around the dashboard quite a bit lately. For months WordPress has been alerting people that there are changes coming, and on December 6th those changes became the new normal for WordPress users everywhere.

On the surface, Gutenberg is a shiny new editor for WordPress. Those who have been automatically updated to WordPress 5.0, the version which brings the official launch for Gutenberg, will see the new editor when creating or editing a page or post. Gutenberg is more than just a fancy face lift, though. It's the foundation for a whole new website building experience.

The Gutenberg Editor

Let's start with the most obvious change: the editor. WordPress has removed the WYSIWYG editor (now officially called the “Classic Editor”) and replaced it with a screen that's significantly more clean and simplified. More than just an aesthetic update, this new screen uses something called “blocks” to help build more complex pages.

In the past, creating anything more than a page with basic text and images meant installing additional plugins or creating custom templates. With Gutenberg, more complex content can be added right out of the box with just the click of a few buttons in the new interface. At launch, all of the basic functionality one would expect is available: paragraphs of text, images, lists and audio and video embeds. In addition though, we've now got the ability to easily add latest blog posts, categories and recent comments – things that could only be accomplished through the use of sidebars and widgets in the past.

New Layout Options

If those new features weren't exciting enough, WordPress Gutenberg gives users more control over the layout of their pages than ever before. This new editor includes an option to add columns to pages and posts without the use of third-party page builder plugins. One button click instantly splits the current block into two columns, and a quick glance to the right reveals a simple settings panel with the capability to expand up to six columns. Though each column starts as a basic text editor, a different block (such an image or video) can be added instead.

That brings us to one of the most highly anticipated features of the Gutenberg editor – drag and drop! Until now, moving elements around a WordPress page has been complex and frustrating. This new update, however, gives the ability to pick up an element on a page and drop it somewhere else in the content, elegantly adjusting the other elements around it.

Portable Content

One of the most interesting changes to Gutenberg isn't immediately obvious from the start, but can become a very helpful tool. Each block that's created can have its own layout and its own settings, which can then be saved and reused on other pages and posts. Reusable blocks also maintain the same content, making building out pages with common elements, like calls to action and newsletter sign ups, significantly faster to create.


WordPress Gutenberg comes with some exciting features. So what are the drawbacks? The new editor has had a fairly long testing process and an equally long roll-out period, allowing users to test it before it became fully integrated into WordPress. Despite that, there are still a few things to consider before jumping on board.

  • Responsive Columns: Though the option to add columns does come with some responsive capabilities, it's very basic. As the viewer's screen size approaches mobile breakpoints, it collapses to all columns being 100% width, allowing no customization before or after that point. Though this will work well in basic layouts, more than that will likely require some custom styling.
  • Backwards Compatibility: Luckily, Gutenberg has been optionally available for awhile, giving plugin developers time to upgrade their plugins to work in the new environment. Regardless, there's no guarantee that plugins currently powering a website, especially things like page builders, will work as expected. Thankfully WordPress has provided the “Classic Editor” as an optional download for those who aren't quite ready to dive into Gutenberg.
  • Accessibility Troubles: One major complaint that users have had is the lack of accessibility support for the new editor. Though the public-facing part of a WordPress site can be made accessible through the use of dedicated plugins and themes, the editor itself is considered difficult at best for those using accessibility tools such as screen readers.

More to Come

WordPress has made it clear that Gutenberg is more than just an editor – it's the future of WordPress. Though the editor is the primary component now, the content management giant has hinted that Gutenberg is just the first of many large-scale changes to the way websites are build on WordPress. If the direction of Gutenberg is anything to go by, it's safe to assume that WordPress wants to streamline the entire process of building a website on their system, giving users more control over their content and letting them get more creative with how they present it to their users.