The Gutenberg Challenge: How & When to Switch to Gutenberg

WordPress Gutenberg Challenge

The #1 question we get from WordPress users and professionals is, “How and when do I switch to Gutenberg?”

Change Is Hard

We all hear that Gutenberg is “the future of WordPress” but what does that mean? When you’ve been using the same theme, page builder, framework, etc. for years and it still seems to be working fine, it can be hard to think about switching to Gutenberg.

In essence, it just feels like a lot of work and risk with little value if you’re a user or work that you won’t get paid for if you do it for clients.

How to Think About Gutenberg

For context, here’s a quick reminder on how to think about Gutenberg (see the long version here).

First, WordPress does basic things that most users want: pages, posts, user management, etc. Plugins and themes add a flexible layer of customization that fill the gap between what WordPress does and what users want.

To use an example that’s most relevant to Gutenberg, let’s talk about page builders. Page builders are a type of plugin that adds a flexible interface for advanced customization that’s easier and faster than building a custom theme, using custom post types, etc.

Unfortunately, there are dozens of page builders and multipurpose themes with built-in page builders, which makes for a lot of complexity, bloat and incompatibility.

What Users Want vs. What WordPress & Page Builders Do
What Users Want vs. What WordPress & Page Builders Do

Let’s think about page builders today: “page builder” is a description of “how” page builders work, not “what” page builders do.

For example, page builders provide a flexible interface (modules, drag & drop, etc.) that gives users an advanced layer customization beyond what WordPress natively provides. The flexible interface is only relevant because it enables the customization–the customization is what users want.

What WordPress page Builders Do
Page builders had to provide a flexible interface in order to provide customization. Gutenberg is changing this.

The only reason page builders provided the interface (via their own frameworks) pre-Gutenberg was because WordPress didn’t. They had to provide the interface in order to give users the advanced customization they wanted.

But now, this new Gutenberg block model natively provides this flexible interface. This is WordPress’s new foundation, upon which everything else will be built.

Gutenberg: Everything is a Block
Gutenberg-ization: Everything is a Block

So, to continue getting the most out of WordPress you’ll want to start using Gutenberg when it works for you, which gets us to the question….

How & When Should I Switch to Gutenberg?

The most important thing to remember is that there’s no rush to start using Gutenberg. You should switch at some point, but it isn’t urgent.

Why? Because Gutenberg is still in its early days. For example, in Gutenberg Phase 2 sidebars, footers and menus will also get Gutenberg-ized (blockified?), which will be another fundamental shift.

If you’re nervous about switching to Gutenberg, we recommend waiting until at least the fundamental phases are done.

Ok, But How Do I Know When to Switch?

Ok, ok, I’ll get to the point. When to switch is different for each person, so we recommend using the Gutenberg Challenge.

So, what’s the Gutenberg Challenge? The Gutenberg challenge is a simple way to periodically test out Gutenberg and see if it meets your needs. Here’s how it works:

1Try using Gutenberg at least every 6 months. Start using it for simple use cases like basic blog posts, then progress to more complex use cases like landing pages and home pages. Here are some examples:

  • Try writing a blog post with Gutenberg.
  • Try writing or updating a simple page with Gutenberg (e.g. About Us, Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, etc.).
  • Try writing or updating a complex page with Gutenberg (e.g. homepage, landing pages, etc.).
  • Try your next simple website project or rebuild with Gutenberg.

2To save time, use the recommended free set of components (theme and plugins) we recommend below.

3Once Gutenberg meets your needs, start using it exclusively for blog posts and simple pages.

4When Gutenberg meets your needs for complex pages (e.g home page, landing pages, etc.), try using Gutenberg for your next full project or rebuild.

5If Gutenberg doesn’t yet meet your needs, please share feedback on what’s missing in the Gutenberg Challenge feedback form. We’ll share this feedback with the WordPress core team and use it to improve our recommendations here.

That’s it! Think of it as an investment in building familiarity with Gutenberg to continuously improve your skill set and keep your skill set relevant until you switch to Gutenberg.

Take the Gutenberg Challenge

If you’re interested in taking the Gutenberg Challenge we set up a dedicated site for it here. Not only is the site built 100% with Gutenberg, but we’ve included the recommended components to get you started fast!

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