It’s unbelievable to think we’re now nearly a whole month into 2022. It has seemed to have gone so fast. This week also see’s an update release for WordPress. After nearly 6 months of development WordPress 5.9 will be released this week.
Before I go any further with this post I do think it’s important to note that this is a big update and please don’t update your website without backing up or testing on a staging environment. It’s also not a security update so you don’t need to rush this update. Do the update the right way, avoid clicking the update button just because you want the newest features.
This release won’t affect many business owners directly but it is trying to change the direction of WordPress. Over the last few years, WordPress has gone through a major change to its editor. And if you haven’t used an up to date WordPress site (you’ve got to keep your websites up to date people) you’ll see a big change to the editor.
The rise of the blocks in WordPress
The traditional or classic WYSIWYG editor has been replaced with the new block-based Gutenberg editor. This has brought in some basic page editing facilities similar to a page builder (for example Beaver Builder or Elementor). It certainly isn’t anywhere near the level of the major WordPress page builders but with a plugin or two (Kadence Blocks is very impressive) you get some great results.
The block editor basically treats each part of your page (or component) as a block. So a paragraph becomes a block or a list is a block. Personally, I think the block-based editor gives a much better writing experience for blog posts. You are easily able to add styles to each block without the need to add custom HTML into the text view of the WYSIWYG editor. It also has some basic capabilities to help create half-decent page layouts. You have the ability to add columns and arrange images much better than your ever could within the classic editor. But the pages can be taken to the next level with the right plugin.
Moving from a page builder to the WordPress Gutenberg editor is certainly not a straightforward task. I have recently performed this task with this very website. The website was moved from using Beaver Builder Page Builder & Astra theme to Kadence Blocks & Kadence Theme (more to come on this at a later date). The building process is not as intuitive as a regular Page Builder (at least with Beaver Builder for me) but the end results were surprising. It is certainly bringing new potential within web design at a low cost but it does bring complexity.
Can it take over from page builders? Maybe, but it’s going to take some time.
Full Site Editing in WordPress
WordPress 5.9 biggest and most debated feature is Full Site Editing (FSE). As it suggests, Full Site Editing allows you to edit the entire site using core WordPress features. The full site editor allows users to now edit parts of the website that would either need to be coded or use some third party plugins (for example Beaver Themer does this for Beaver Builder).
The simplest example of this is you would now be able to design and edit your website’s header with a block-based editor. No need for third-party plugins, all from clean WordPress install. You would need to have a compatible block-based theme, currently, there are only about 30 available. But this next stage of WordPress is very much in its infancy. The themes in marketplaces like ThemeForest will eventually be making this a big feature to the majority of their themes I imagine.
We are quite away from businesses who are using Page Builders needing to rebuild their websites within the full site editor. To be honest we’ll probably never be in the need of changing from a Page Builder to Block based theme just for the sake of it. If you’re looking to update your website in the next 12 months then this may be a consideration. We are currently developing our first client website using blocks because we see this as the future of WordPress.
I do think there could be further enhancements to Page Builders rather than their demise. After all, a bit of competition from a free feature surely must push the premium page builder plugins to become better and faster.
Page Builder or Block Based WordPress
This debate is a big one because the future/direction is likely to change in the next 3-5 years. Just like with the introduction of Gutenberg in the WordPress 5.0 release in 2018. It’s taken nearly 4 years for it mature and it still has plenty of improvements to go (although some updates in 5.9 will really help).
Full Site Editing in WordPress It’s still a relatively complex beast to tackle and I wouldn’t expect any of our clients to jump in and use it. This may not be the case in the future and I’m open to that if it’s right for our workflow and our clients.
Currently, my advice is to stick with what you know and what works for you. But, don’t rule out using the Block Editor for page layouts in the not to distance future.
P.S. If you really want to know more about 5.9 (geek out like myself) I would recommend watching Adam @ WPCrafter video on YouTube about it.