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Gutenberg Reactions: Mixed Feedback?

WordPress 4.9.8 was released last week and Gutenberg plugin installations have rocketed because of the ‘try Gutenberg’ prompt that was included. This post on WPCouple shows some of the fantastic positive reactions Gutenberg has received.

Of course, it’s not all rosey. Look at the Gutenberg plugin reviews and there’s a lot of negativity. Many, many, 1 star reviews have appeared. At the moment Gutenberg reminds me a lot of Marmite, you either love it, or you hate it (FWIW I love both Marmite and Gutenberg).

Whilst I like Gutenberg there’s a lot of good feedback within the negative reviews, if the Gutenberg team can read between the lines and see the underlying reasons for the hate – and they can take action on those – then the project will become a lot better because of it.

However, I have a few thoughts on the feedback and how the release went.

Firstly, there’s a large contingent of people who seem to think Gutenberg is finished. They don’t realise this is an in-progress plugin and that things will continue to change and improve. This probably could have been made clearer. People are being asked to test the editor, but it’s not mentioned that it’s not final.

Secondly, a lot of people are giving feedback in an offensive way and this makes me sad. Not liking something doesn’t give you the right to be nasty to people. Whether you like the plugin or not real people are putting a lot of time and effort into making this thing. If you want them to take your feedback seriously then you should be respectful of that. Give constructive feedback. Explain what the problems are but try to keep emotions out of it. The more useful information you can give the more likely they will pay attention to you. Ranting and swearing is not constructive.

Thirdly, I’ve read quite a few of the reviews now, and a surprising amount of people are WordPress developers – many with clients – and this is the first time they have tried Gutenberg. One even went so far as to say he was aware of the project but ignored it because he was “too busy”. I don’t understand why you would ignore something that will directly affect how you work! Surely as a business owner you should be considering the future?

There’s definitely some concerns with Gutenberg that are very valid and it’s a shame that many of these concerns are being brushed under the carpet, often with a “use the classic editor plugin” response. The classic editor is a stop gap. I think there needs to be more effort explaining how Gutenberg will affect things, and how it will develop in the future: more community outreach.

As a side note: the classic editor plugin has only slightly less installs than Gutenberg and is growing at the same rate.

My gut feeling is that for the majority of sites nothing will change. There will be a new editor to learn but the site will look as it always has. Only a small percentage will have problems because of extreme or unusual customizations/ plugin conflicts. The bigger issue, I feel, is for people with clients who they will then have to provide training and support to.

Core developers are now going through and replying to 1 star reviews asking for more feedback (often suggesting users create Github tickets). Whilst this it’s great that they are trying to engage I imagine many giving feedback either won’t read the comment, or won’t have a Github account/ the desire to learn a new platform in order for their voice to be heard. I think the team will need to triage the reviews and create tickets themselves from what they can learn. It’s a nice idea that people will do this for them – but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

People say that to be involved you have to show up, but that’s easier said than done. I’ve created a number of Gutenberg issues, and even submitted a pull request, and they’ve all been closed without a satisfactory resolution.

There are some things I’ve managed to do that have affected (what I consider) positive change, but it’s been a hard slog, and I don’t have the mental energy to keep trying so unless I feel really strongly about something I probably won’t try to get involved again. For context I’ve been involved with WordPress for over a decade and know a number of the contributors. In a couple of cases I was asked directly for feedback on tickets, and I still find it hard work. If you’re new to the project then I can only imagine how intimidating/ demoralising it will be when you create a ticket and have it closed pretty soon after.

Anyway; the short story is that feedback is very mixed. If you don’t like it then don’t be nasty, but do be constructive and clear so that things can (hopefully) be improved.

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

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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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