Is WordPress 5 a big deal?
Yes. WordPress is set to make possibly the greatest change in its 15-year history – with a complete overhaul of the editor (called Gutenberg) used to create posts and pages in its backend.
This is not just a visual change. It completely changes the concepts behind how content is created and displayed. Learn more about the some of these changes at WordPress.org.
When does it come out?
While there is currently no release date for WordPress 5, version 4.9.8 will be released within the next few days. This will include a button that prompts you to try out the new editor.
WARNING: Do not click the button to try out the new editor unless you know what you’re doing!
Do I have to use the new editor?
No. You can continue using WordPress in exactly the same way you are used to.
While WordPress may eventually phase out the older editor, there are no current plans to do so – it will be supported for the indefinite future.
However, you must take action now. When WordPress 5.0 is released, a controversial decision has been made to turn the new editor on by default – and it may not be easy going back.
All you need to do is install the Classic Editor plugin on your site. This will prevent the editor from automatically changing over, as well as remove prompts to switch earlier, to avoid unintended migrations.
Will the backend of my site break if I switch to the new editor?
With the Gutenberg editor being so new, there will undoubtedly be teething issues after it is released into the public.
The aspects most likely to be affected are any plugins or theme features that directly interact with the editor. For example, ones which add their own buttons to the editor. Plugins that don’t interact with the editor at all should not be affected.
If these plugins are popular and are being regularly updated, it is likely the developers have been building in Gutenberg support – though again a large public release can often result in plenty of teething issues. You will need to check the details of each plugin individually to see what their status is.
Will the look of my site change if I switch to the new editor?
This is a tricky question to answer.
By default, when you switch to the new editor, all of your content will be in a single “block”, and your theme should be able to take this content and display it in exactly the same way as before. (There have been some reported issues where existing content gets misformatted when switching to the new editor – these bugs are things being resolved by WordPress, rather than requiring changes in your theme).
However, the new editor provides a large number of different features and “blocks” that you can add to your content. If you start using these features or blocks – and using them is one of the main reasons for changing editors in the first place – default styling will be applied. This means the output may not necessarily match the look and feel of your theme.
I want to try the new editor. What should I do?
The new editor should not be installed on your existing website until you have fully tested it and are happy with how it works. This is because reversing the process may be difficult or even impossible.
The best way to achieve this is to set up a staging site – a copy of your website where you can try things out privately.
How to do this will depend on your web host. Many hosts provide “one-click” staging site installations to perform the process for you. If yours doesn’t, we could also help set one up manually for you at a password-protected subdomain or subfolder. Either way, some various manual adjustments may still be required – for example, to prevent new posts being automatically shared to social networks!
You can then try out the new editor on your staging site, fully testing the migration process, how plugins are working, the process of creating posts, and how the results look in your theme.
How much work is involved in updating a custom theme to work with the Gutenberg editor?
As above, this is a tricky question to answer and depends how you plan to use its new features.
Gutenberg comes with default styling for all of its blocks, so this can only really be answered once you have set up a staging site, and seen how everything looks. It may not be worth spending time going through every possible Gutenberg block to customize the styles if you are never going to use them. Once you have decided what changes (if any) you’d like to make, they’d need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
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