Gutenberg is currently evolving rapidly towards full site editing. What does this development mean for the future of page builders? What should WordPress agencies and freelancers be prepared for? Which tools will support you? A guest article by GREYD.
When WordPress introduced the Gutenberg editor in 2018, the project was (rightly) ridiculed for its lack of possibilities. "At some point, Gutenberg will surely become better, or perhaps even the new standard", we were assured by enthusiastic early adopters. That has indeed come true, because that time is now.
If you're not up to date on the development of Gutenberg, and WordPress is vital to your business or agency, then perhaps you'd like to give the following article a close read. To understand why the development of Gutenberg seriously threatens the existence of Page Builder Plugins, let's take a quick look at the history of the new WordPress editor.
The development of WordPress Gutenberg
At the beginning, the Gutenberg editor was still very cumbersome to use, to put it kindly, at least compared to the possibilities of well-known WordPress page builders, such as Elementor or WPBakery. In direct comparison to the classic WordPress editor (TinyMCE), which was more suitable for writing blog articles than for designing beautiful websites, Gutenberg was a real quantum leap.
With the introduction of the Gutenberg editor, WordPress has in any case clearly shown that blocks will be the future in the web design of the content management system. However, as the roadmap of the project Gutenberg shows, the editor in the backend was only the start. Phase 1 of a total of 4 phases, which will extend over several years.
Where Gutenberg stands today & why it's getting close for WordPress Page Builder
Currently, we are in phase 2, which focuses on full site editing, block patterns (templates for Gutenberg blocks), the block directory and block-based Themes. This phase alone deprives some half-baked page builders Plugins of their raison d'être, which basically consisted only of adapting the various elements of a website (such as buttons, images or contact forms) in detail.
With the Full Site Editing function, which is currently being introduced, Gutenberg takes up a notch. This enables it to adapt the entire website - including the header and footer - directly in the editor. For comparison, with many popular page builders, you need a paid premium version for this. WordPress provides us with this option free of charge.
The aforementioned block patterns also seriously compete with the template libraries of Elementor and the like. The idea behind ready-to-use design templates was particularly well received by the target group that is not too well versed in modern web design. A few quick clicks and you have a website that is almost ready to go, with only the finishing touches and the right content to be added.
With Block Patterns Directory, WordPress is now entering the field of ready-made templates. With Block Patterns, however, you do not have to directly adopt the design of an entire site, but can choose from a large number of individual sections. Once you have found what you are looking for, simply click on "Copy" in the directory to paste and adapt the design in your Gutenberg editor.
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Page Builder, PageSpeed & WordPress Hosting
Apart from that, there are also Plugins - for example Gutenberg Template Library & Redux Framework - which offers you a large selection of complete templates for Gutenberg. "But why should I go for Gutenberg when I might get even more templates from other page builders Plugins?" The magic word is PageSpeed.
I don't know how you feel about it. But if I have to wait too long for a website to load completely, I forget my manners pretty quickly. It is no longer a secret that page builders Plugins drive the loading time of a website towards infinity (and beyond). This is largely due to the bloated code added by the Plugins.
This review from a frustrated Elementor user sums it up pretty well:
Somehow, things don't seem to be getting any better with the page builders in terms of page speed. You constantly have to find workarounds to display the website a little faster. The Gutenberg editor spares you the problem of unnecessarily bloated code. Since Gutenberg is the in-house product of WordPress, you inevitably have the minimum amount of code.
By the way, this is also one of the main reasons why we have put such a strong focus on the native integration of Gutenberg when developing our own GREYD.SUITE. It can also be due to the WordPress hosting if the loading times of your WordPress website are too slow - despite lean codes and 100 percent use of Gutenberg. In this case, you should definitely rely on a strong managed WordPress hosting to avoid this.
Tools - GREYD, Gutentor, Stackable & Co.
Although Gutenberg is now so strongly positioned (and although the editor is getting better and better) it has not yet reached the status of "perfection". There are still some weaknesses and shortcomings that require external solutions.
External solutions in this case are tools, such as Premium Themes, which are based on Gutenberg. Some of these Themes are unfortunately more like page builder Plugins, as they completely ignore the Gutenberg editor, stamping their own functions over the existing WordPress core and thus also unnecessarily bloating the code.
We wanted to avoid this at all costs when developing our own suite. That's why we developed the first software that has Gutenberg 100 per cent integrated, and not only offers the option to switch back and forth between Gutenberg and Page Builder. This also ensures particularly low loading times for the WordPress website.
Other practical extensions for Gutenberg, if you don't necessarily need a comprehensive all-in-one tool for professional WordPress agencies, are plugins that extend the existing editor. Good examples of these are, among others:
- Gutenberg Blocks - Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg
- Theme Kit for Twenty Twenty-One by Twentig
- Gutentor - Page Builder for Gutenberg Editor
- Gutenberg Blocks and Template Library by Otter
- Stackable - Page Builder Gutenberg Blocks
Granted, these solutions are not necessarily perfect, but they are better than typical page builders that introduce their own editors.
One disadvantage of Gutenberg keeping many agencies from using the editor from the outset, is that at the moment no attention is paid to responsive web design. However, since we believe that responsive websites are indispensable, we have integrated easy-to-use controls in numerous places in our suite. With these, mobile responsive websites can also be easily created with Gutenberg.
What does this mean for WordPress agencies?
WordPress will not leave the stage as the most popular content management system any time soon - although WordPress has to keep up with the trend of headless CMS. By specializing in WordPress, you have already made a very good choice with your agency (or as a freelancer if you work alone).
However, if you make your business dependent on page builders Plugins that do not use Gutenberg, you will miss one of the most important trends in WordPress history. Now, this poses a dilemma for some professional WordPress agencies. On the one hand, we know that Gutenberg will outpace external solutions in the long run. And on the other hand, the Gutenberg editor (as briefly mentioned above) cannot be used in 100 percent of cases for world-class web design.
You could cling to the outdated solutions for too long, accept poor page speed and later not be able to catch up with Gutenberg. Or you could immediately jump to WordPress Gutenberg and accept some weaknesses in the detailed design. Both sound like a rather suboptimal solution, in my opinion.
This is exactly the problem we faced with our own design agency, with which we build WordPress websites for major clients. That's why we know it's never a pleasant situation to always have to choose the "lesser evil" (performance, functionality or appealing design).
Better switch to another CMS?
This is not a good idea! As a statistic from W3Techs shows, WordPress websites already account for more than 40 per cent of all websites on the internet (let that sink in for a moment). And the trend doesn't really seem to be slowing down. Quite the contrary, as user statistics indicate that WordPress will be used on relatively more websites in the future.
Of course, this does not mean that you are making a bad choice with TYPO3, Joomla!, Squarespace or other CMS. It is only meant to make clear that with WordPress you will still have a secure basis for your website and the work with your agency in the future. And that in this context you are also using the best solution (=Gutenberg) within WordPress when building websites.
Foresight is always good
If you continue to ignore the development of WordPress Gutenberg for working with your WordPress agency, you will soon become an endangered species! However, as an immediate switch is often a problem due to the lack of options and intuitiveness of Gutenberg, the use of external solutions that specialize in the Gutenberg editor is recommended.
Either you rely on special themes (let's not forget that block-based themes play a central role in the current Gutenberg phase) or on extension plugins for Gutenberg. I have introduced a few of them to you in this post.
In any case, you should not only passively observe the development of the WordPress Gutenberg project, but actively be at the forefront of it. Then you will also benefit from it for a long time as a professional WordPress service provider.