What's Up with the Block Editor?

Episode 27 October 28, 2021 00:23:49
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WP Review
What's Up with the Block Editor?
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Joe Casabona

Show Notes

There's been a lot of news around Gutenberg and the block editor as we barrel towards the November 9th feature freeze. Plus, are we getting the whole story of why the block editor exists and what it's supposed to do? 

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome to WP Review. A show that provides analysis on what's happening in WordPress and what it means for users, creators and business owners in the ecosystem. My name's Joe Casabona. And today, we're going to be talking about what's up with the block editor? There's been a lot of news over the last couple of weeks and a couple of really good blog posts. One, written by yours truly that we're going to dive into. This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. Let's get into the review. But first I do want to let you know about my membership. It's called the Build Something Club. You can sign up over at [buildsomething.club]. And over there you'll get ad-free extended episodes of my main podcast, How I built it. You'll get those a day early. You'll also get access to the live stream archive. Every week I go live on my YouTube channel once I'm done streaming. Those live streams are only accessible to members. Over the last few weeks, I have been converting my personal site, [casabona.org] from being primarily BeaverBuilder driven to being block editor driven. So I've been thinking about this a lot. If you're interested in seeing those live streams, which I'll probably also repurpose into some sort of mini course, you can get them by signing up for just 50 bucks a year over at [buildsomething.club] that's less than 5 bucks a month to see how I am using the block editor in depth as a page builder. Once again, that is [buildsomething.club]. You can sign up for just 50 bucks a year. Okay. Now let's actually get into the review. So first up today as I record this, Gutenberg 11.8 is out. According to the Tavern, it adds dozens of features including featured patterns, and automatically generated heading anchors. So this is really interesting. If you are interested in trying out Gutenberg, download the Gutenberg plugin or from the WordPress plugin directory. So, just to read from this story, the latest release includes dozens of enhancement across the block library, theming global styles, and more as we inch closer to the December release of WordPress 5.9. Some features are just making it under the wire of the looming feature freeze deadline, which is set for November 9th. Now, a little bit of editorializing here. In the recent past, the feature freeze hasn't really meant much. But I think in the last couple of releases, it's been more strictly adhered to. We'll see what happens. So spacing related controls are still working their way throughout various blocks. Block child themes now overrule parent themes via theme.json. And Block Themes now automatically opt into several themes, supported features, including featured images, feed links, and more. There is also improvements to the cover block. Again, the automatically generated heading anchors so it'll add anchors for all heading blocks, which is cool. This makes it a lot easier for you to link to a specific section of a page based on the heading. There is a table of contents block that was merged into in February, but it's still bundled with the Gutenberg plugin. Hopefully, we'll see that come into core soon. You'll be able to find featured patterns. So this is the first block patterns who appear in the insert and now come from a curated featured list. This is limited to 15 patterns in this poll from the featured category on wordpress.org. There is a plain block quote style Pinterest Oembed, and a lot more. I will link to this and everything we talk about over at wpreview.io/027. This is episode 27. So Gutenberg 11.8 out. Now, this seems like a good thing to do a video on for my YouTube channel. Will see If I can fit that into the content creation queue. Now a couple of weeks ago at this point, actually the day that the last episode came out, there was the WordPress 5.9 feature Go/No Go meeting. And so this is over on [make.wordpress.org] things that were decided in the meeting. If they would go, block themes and their template, and template part editing flows, the defaults 2022 block theme. This looks beautiful. I'll probably take a deeper look at this once we get a more actualized version of it. The styles interface a bunch of design tools like layout control, block gap, typography options, border support, etcetera. The now in the Go/ No Go, it was decided that the navigation block would make it. However, it was decided this week that they're going to punch to a future release. So they'll keep working on the navigation block, but they don't feel like it's ready for prime time yet. Improved block interactions such as lists, view, drag,and drop, that is something I'm super excited about. I love the list view and I wish that I could drag and drop from the list view. So I am weirdly excited about that part just because I think that using the list view is the easiest way to navigate and traverse through blocks, especially when you have a lot, like in a page builder situation. General UI improvements, insertion of block patterns directly from the pattern directory, which rolled out with the last release essentially, and then performance improvements. So that is. And that's what's in the Go/ No Go. The people who attended Matt Mullenweg, Matias Ventura, who's the Gutenberg project lead, Kelly Hoffman, Helen Hou-Sandi, Josepha Haden Chompohosy, Josepha…Really? Sorry. I always mispronounce your name and I listened to your podcast too, so I should know it. But I haven't internalized it yet. Chloe Bringmann and Hector Prieto. So those are the folks who attended the Go/No Go meeting. And that's what we can expect from WordPress 5.9. I don't see the schedule directly on this page actually. I'd have to, I'll have to reference that. Oh, and there it is. It's referenced right there. So what is the release situation like the Feature Freeze, as I mentioned before is November 9th. A beta one is the 16th too as the 23rd release candidate. One is November 30th and December 14th is when 5.9 is to be released. I expect that we could expect to stay to the word around that time as well. And then finally, a story, again, this is a couple of weeks old at this point. It was 10 days old at this point. But Gutenberg contributors proposed renaming reasonable blocks. I have talked about how bad I think the name reusable blocks is. I understand why they did it in the beginning. But now, it doesn't. It makes a lot less sense since we have block patterns. The name that was proposed is Synced blocks. I left a comment on this discussion saying that I don't think synced blocks is a good name. I think that something like global blocks probably makes more sense. I'll just read my comment. So I agree with the previous contributors who have stayed in global is a better term than synced. Synced as noted makes it seem like you're moving the blocks to and from some other server. IE cloud syncing global is a term that's been used by lots of page builders and other tools. And I think it will properly invoke the idea that this is a block that when I change it here, it changes everywhere. So again, Synced maybe is better than reusable. But I don't think it's the best name. Still I am glad that this is at least being discussed because in my own educational content, and on my YouTube videos or people are commenting, there's a lot of confusion around exactly what reusable blocks are and how to use them. So, or really how to use block patterns better. And in the last episode I recommend it. Block my stair, which is a great plugin to allow you to create block patterns without code. And speaking of that, if you are a LinkedIn learning member or you're just interested, I have a new course on LinkedIn Learning that's basically a block patterns cookbook. So I teach you how to build a block patterns plugin, and then we go through and create 10 or so block patterns, styling them and the like. So definitely check that out If you're on LinkedIn learning. Again, I'll link it in the show notes over at wpreview.io/027. So those are the main stories. Before we get into the main segment, I'd like to tell you about this episode sponsor, this show's sponsor GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro is an experience tailored specifically to the needs of web designers and developers, and helps them more efficiently manage their work and deliver results for their clients. Combining website, client and project management, GoDaddy Pro is an integrated solution made by and for web professionals. 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Access all of your client accounts with single sign-on through a tailored shopping experience by products that help clients grow their business like powerful ecommerce stores Using WooCommerce. You can always reach dedicated knowledgeable customer support 24/7. On top of that, you'll find a thriving community of web designers and developers who share advice, insights, and learning opportunities. And the best part, GoDaddy Pro is free to join. Head over to go.me/wpreview to get started. That's go.me/wpreview. Thanks to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring this and every episode of WP review. All right. Let's get back to it. So the main segment today, what is the plan for the block editor? And my friend, Justin Fairman wrote a really good piece last week called Matt page builder. And he talks about how he remembers when Gutenberg was announced. He heard the news of the classic editor and WordPress were going to be replaced. And he was pretty happy about that. And I am in agreement here. The classic editor was so dated. It was becoming embarrassing. And so, by 2018 he says it was more enjoyable to write in a Google doc. And wordpress was ready for an upgrade. But he talks about how there's no clear path. There's no clear purpose for Gutenberg. From day one, it was sold as a front end page builder and not as a writing tool. And you'll hear people say like, “Oh, this is a much better writing experience.” I generally, while I'll get to my thoughts in a minute, but it's not a really good writing experience. And he points out, is the writing experience better than platforms like medium and sub stack? No medium knows what they're doing and knew they wanted to create a superb writing experience. Gutenberg was a, essentially I said this from the very beginning, Gutenberg was a reactionary response to sites like Squarespace and Wix that were allowing people to edit the full site through a backend editor. And so you're kind of ham festing this thing that's replacing the content editor at first, but you can't build pages. So now people are expecting a better writing experience. But they're also expecting to be able to build pages and they can't really do either extremely well. Again, I've been fighting with this, this for the last few weeks. There are tools like Kadence. And Kadence blocks and claims box pro that do a really good job of kind of turning the block editor into a page builder. But it's still more frustrating than say Beaver Builder. And so the quote that stuck out to me most in Justin’s article is ‘I have to believe that there is a long-term plan with the editor experience that we are not privy to in the WordPress community.’ This feels especially true, given the large amount of investment to come Automatics way in Richer in recent years. But to be fair, long term plans are never shared from corporate. Two and three year plans, maybe but not five to seven year objectives. And so he continues to talk about the community has mostly adopted Gutenberg, but it feels forced. Elementor continues to crush it. I'll just keep quoting this article. This is starting to create an awkward scenario where Matt's homegrown page builders losing out to a third party page builder for WordPress. It's not a good look currently, but I do think that the gap is starting to narrow. So this quote stuck out to me the most because in my opinion, a community driven project, the WordPress open source project that is constantly, constantly asking for people to contribute, it should be a completely open process and it's not. And Gutenberg has been marred with these issues from the very beginning. The whole release was basically based on when Matt wanted it to be released. And I'm a little bit biased. I spoke to Matt on the phone and told him all the reasons why I don't think they should be rushed. And they went ahead and did it anyway, because again, that's what Matt wanted. The same thing happened with the full screen view in a later version of WordPress. Right? I think it was 5.4. This was after the Feature Freeze. But Matt wanted it, so it happened. If you are asking companies to contribute with Five to the Future, right? 5% of their weeks to contributing to WordPress. When you're asking people to freely give their time, you need to be open and honest about your plans. But that doesn't happen. Even the Go/No Go meeting. Right? If we look at that and who attended that, it's mostly people, well, I need to do the research on this, but from what I understand, it is mostly people who are on the Automatic or some other Automatic related payroll. And, you know, I don't…Maybe that's the way it has to be, because these are the people who can give their time. But I think that if there is a bigger plan for the block editor for Gutenberg, it should have been stated in the beginning. It should continue to be reiterated. We have the roadmap, but we don't really have why it was such a rush to get Gutenberg out when we did. And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I am misunderstanding the plan. Maybe this stuff has been made public and I just missed it. But I've been following it pretty closely. I'm generally somebody who questions what's going on. And I don't know. I guess that line just stuck out to me. Now, as far as my piece, which is maybe less controversial, I talk about how we really shouldn't write in the WordPress editor. Anyway, I don't think the WordPress editor was ever really a good writing experience. Because even when it was the classic editor, if you lost internet or your browser refreshed, you would lose that writing. There was maybe a small amount of time where the classic editor was there and there were enough auto saving and browser backup features that you could reliably write in it. But, I don't think if you're doing long form writing, I don't think you should be using the WordPress editor still. I think that you should be using a separate writing app, a dedicated writing app. And there are lots of really good ones out there. And the reasons I outlined in my piece are that it's an actual distraction free writing. You don't have like tabs distracting you. You don't have any other part of the WordPress interface distracting you. You have local backups so you're not relying on a WordPress database for a year, for a year pieces for your articles. You can organize it the way you want, instead of just having like categories and tags. Ulysses is great. I love Ulysses. And then you can write once and publish everywhere. Right? So you can write it in whatever app you want. And Ulysses allows you to publish directly to WordPress host and medium. And then you can also export as a word document or a PDF or just mark down. So I think there are a lot of better writing experiences out there that allow you to sync or publish directly to WordPress. My favorite is Ulysses. RAFTS is another good one. iA Writer is another good one. And then MarsEdit4 is also a…those four are the ones that I've used and I can recommend. I write all of my blog posts in Ulysses. So, those are my general thoughts. I think from the very beginning, the block editor was absolutely meant to replace page builders even though we were told that's not really the case. I think that it was originally designed to compete with the Squarespace and Wix of the world, which is I think a misunderstanding of why people use WordPress versus one of those. But now that's why we're in the situation we're in now. I'm really excited about full site editing. Don't get me wrong. And I know that WordPress has moved away from being just a blogging platform. It's now an ecommerce platform. It's an online learning platform. But having a nice way to write, still, you know, I think that you shouldn't write in the WordPress editor. And maybe you never should have. Maybe Matt knew this, but he's never said it. I bet If you asked him, he'd say he writes in the block editor, all of his blog posts. But there could be a better way. I don't think we need to tell people that they have to get used to writing in WordPress if that's where they want to write. I'll always recommend against it, but people are going to write where they feel most comfortable. And I think in that regard, we kind of probably, I agree with Justin. Gutenberg is betwixt in between two things. Trying to be both, not doing either particularly well. I'm happy to see that full site editing is a slower rollout though. That the folks behind that particular part of the project are taking their time and making sure they do it right. And they're not just rushing features out the door for the sake of being able to announce them. So we'll see. All right. I need to come up with a recommendation for you all. I just recommended a bunch of writing apps. And honestly, that's kind of where I've been living lately. I've been, I think that's probably my best WordPress related recommendation. Try writing app. Try something other than the WordPress editor. I know some people have said that they write in Notion, but they also talked about the pains of writing in Notion. I would encourage you if you use an Apple device to check out Ulysses. I think it's amazing. And I use it. I've written books in Ulysses. if you are on windows or Android, you can try iA Writer. Really clean writing experience that also integrates with WordPress. So there you go. That's my challenge to you. Thanks so much for listening. You'll be able to find all of the show notes over at wpreview.io /027. If you want to get even more insights and tutorials mostly for creators, but I use a bit of WordPress there too, you can head over to [buildsomething.com]. And sign up for just 50 bucks a year. That's less than five bucks a month. And if you liked this episode, share it with a friend. Thanks to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring. Until next time. I'm Joe Casabona, and I'll see you out there.

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