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GutenReady for the Gutenpocalypse – Educating Gutenberg

It was WPCampus last weekend, an education focused WordPress conference. There’s a lot of talks about using WordPress in Universities and other educational establishments – but there’s also a lot of more traditional WordCamp subjects.

One presentation in particular caught my eye: GutenReady for the Gutenpocalypse, a presentation by Jennifer McFarland and Brian DeConinck. (Sidenote: I actually noticed it because of David Bisset, @dimensionmedia, and his Armchair WordCamp tweets).

Now, I haven’t seen the presentation, I’ve only read the slides; but that alone was enough to get me thinking about Gutenberg and what it will mean outside my personal bubble.

Some of the key points I found most interesting were:

  • The usability testing that happened and how people responded to the interface
  • The confusion around the volume & variety of blocks being included in core
  • The requirements of large organisations for transitioning all of their content & knowledge to the new system

As a theme seller who is pretty technical and has been following Gutenberg since the start I have a decent insight into how to use it. In fact I have been using Gutenberg on my personal site for a couple of months now, and on my development environment since the start. This has given me a good head start over many – yet I have been hitting some of the problems detailed in this presentation.

The user testing the team at NC State university ran in January (for those outside the USA NC is North Carolina) was really interesting. They have a blog post dedicated to their findings. Some of the things they found issue with are the same things that confuse me when I use Gutenberg.

For example, what block should I use in certain situations? Should I use a blockquote or a pull-quote? Heading or Subheading (and why should I use a subheading over an h3)? Why is there a video block, a youtube block, a vimeo block etc – why not just a video block that does everything? What is the verse block for?

Now I know that there is a discussion about removing the pull-quote block and adding it as a style variation for the quote block – but the volume of blocks is confusing for me as an experienced web designer. I can only imagine how confusing it will be for less technical users.

Mobile menu ‘choices’ by Luke Wroblewski

The second thing is the interface. There’s a lot going on in Gutenberg, and a lot of it is hidden behind a kebab menu, or in a slide out drawer. And there’s a lot of stuff that takes some fiddling with to get them working as you expect. For example switching between block types can be confusing, or even adding a new block of a specific type involves creating an empty block, then pressing the add button and selecting the block type.

Then there’s the whole different change of mindset. I’ve been using desktop text editors like Word for over 20 years so getting used to a totally different process is going to take some getting used to.

Despite being reasonably confident that I can build the layouts I want to with Gutenberg the process is never as smooth as it is with the current editor. Hopefully that will improve with time and a lot of iteration.

Besides the user testing there’s also a number of slides about managing the transition to Gutenberg for a large organisation. I’m really pleased I don’t have to worry about anything like this, but if you do then there may be a few pointers here you can take to improve your process.

All these things said, like the team at NC State, I am still positive about Gutenberg and the new WordPress editor. I’ve said for a long time that it has a lot of potential, I just hope the team can pull it all together properly before it gets merged into core.

This story first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals.

Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

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