With WordPress 5.0 getting closer and closer, I know a lot of people are worried about Gutenberg and what that will mean for their themes and plugins.
Most Themes Will Be Fine
The majority of themes, every single one you can download from WordPress.org, and the ones from reputable theme shops like StudioPress, will be just fine. Nothing will break, and other than getting a new editor experience, there’s no change.
What will happen, and yes people will call this breaking, is that not all features will be supported.
Right now, most themes don’t support some of the more outré block types. And a lot of themes don’t support text columns like this:
And then again, Genesis? Does!
This is a left column
This is a right column
And every theme is going to support repeatable blocks which means you’ll be able to build out some nice defaults and standards.
The reason for all this is that if you’re just using Gutenberg as an editor, not a whole lot has changed with your content. It remains the same as it ever was, just with a fresh coat of paint.
There are exceptions, like themes that rely heavily on features that alter the post editor. I’ll get there in a minute.
Most Plugins Will be Fine, Too
Here again, unless your plugin interest with the post editor, you are going to be just fine. You use Jetpack to publicize your posts? Cool. No change. AMP? No change. Go look at most of your plugins. Caching? No changes. Google Analytics? No change.
The reason here is, again, most plugins don’t mess with post editing. I should know. I review them.
I know what you’re thinking, though. What about plugins like Yoast SEO, which add in a bunch of extra boxes at the bottom and sides of a post? The boxes are called Meta Boxes, and they’re already supported. Plus Yoast went to the extra effort of being on the forefront of Gutenberging.
The colours to indicate how good your post’s SEO is, however, are missing right now. So is the field to customize your Jetpack publicize content. Basically everything that went on that sidebar on the post edit screen (the Publish Box) isn’t done yet.
Which brings me to…
The Exceptions Will Hurt
Okay. I won’t sugar coat this. If you use a complex post editor, like Visual Composer or Bold Grid, or if you use a plugin with a lot of custom meta boxes, the world will be very different, and probably unhappy.
Now that said, Visual Composer will work with Gutenberg! And so will ACF and CMB2 is well on it’s way. But. The problem is people who have bundled those plugins in their themes. And those themes will have to update their packages and make sure users update.
Anyone who just had a mental image of how many premium themes bundle Visual Composer and tried to calculate the number of users who don’t properly update themes regularly… welcome to my world. I’d like to say I’m ‘against’ the bundle, but the reality is that I’m against premium products using libraries and then not managing those libraries properly. Not that it’s easy, and that’s a different topic.
The problem in the exception is that there will be a non-insignificant number of people who have no idea they’re using a problematic library that needs an update.
Where Do We Go From Here?
This problem is WordPress’ own doing, make no mistake. If the ability to add custom meta boxes and settings and the like was less complicated to begin with, we wouldn’t have needed tools like these to work around it. We still have no decent meta box API, and the settings API is something I regularly call “as intelligent as a bag of wet hair.”
But. Innovation is necessary. We can’t just not move forward because we didn’t do things right the first time. And in WordPress’ defence, there was no way to know or even write the ‘right’ way back 15 years ago when all this started. The best tools didn’t exist. And all those ways we built to hack around the problem made it more clear what the right way needed to be.
Which brings us here.
Most of what you do won’t be impacted by Gutenberg. What is adversely impacted won’t break most things, but it will be really annoying. And then those rare edge case exceptions? Well. We’re back to the words (paraphrased) of Hecht.
When infrequently used systems break, they do so in big ways.