Have you been thinking about launching Gutenberg on your WordPress.org website (and finally using the block editor)? Are you worried about the possible implications that it could have on your site?
Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0, aka “Bebo”, has been featured in the news so much lately, it’s hard to get away from it. For many people, it has been the cause of debates and headaches along the way.
Since it was launched back in December 2018, people are slowly starting to see the benefits of using Gutenberg. And as it’s part of a long-term plan for your entire site, we know that it’s here to stay.
But a lot of people are nervous about using it. Are you one of them?
If you are unsure whether to implement Gutenberg now, or you would rather start making the transition carefully without causing any problems on your site, then read on.
Before we go any further, I need to clarify something. This post is NOT about:
- What is Gutenberg
- Why is Gutenberg necessary for WordPress
- What were the problems associated with Gutenberg (and boy were there plenty!)
- How to use Gutenberg
No, it’s none of that.
This post will help you to get ready and to prepare yourself for the transition from the traditional Classic Editor (that you have been using the entire time) to the new block editor that is within Gutenberg and version 5.0 of WordPress.org.
But I do want to briefly tell you why you need to start using Gutenberg soon.
Why You Should Start Using Gutenberg?
Even though people have been highly emotional about this project, the fact is that this is the future of WordPress and it’s not going anywhere.
Creating block editors on your posts is the first of 3 steps that will take place to make the entire WordPress site work with blocks.
If you are not ready for Gutenberg, you are still free to use the Classic Editor plugin and update to the latest version of WordPress anyway. That way you are still able to keep using the old editor that you are familiar with.
But there is one problem; the Classic Editor will only be supported until 31st December 2021.
And what you don’t want to use on your site are unsupported products, as they can cause issues like security loopholes and broken features on your website.
You might also miss out on features that are only available on Gutenberg. For example, after initial worry and criticism, Yoast has slowly embraced Gutenberg and even created new features that are only possible with Gutenberg.
So unless something changes dramatically, it’s here to stay and you can’t ignore it.
9 Things You Need To Do Before Launching Gutenberg
Now that you are (hopefully) convinced about using Gutenberg, there is the small matter of making sure that it will be a smooth transition for you.
As the saying goes by Benjamin Franklin: “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.
1. Learn as Much as You Can about Gutenberg & the Block Editor Before it Launches
I admit that I am still in the learning phase, so I do not have the knowledge at this moment in time to help you with that. But there are plenty of resources and information out there that will help you.
YouTube is another good source of information. You’ll find plenty of videos to watch showing how the block editor works, just to give you an idea of what to expect.
You can also play around with the blocks on this special Gutenberg page without the need to install it on your site.
Of course, the best way to learn is by taking action and physically using the new editor yourself. There’s no harm in giving yourself a head start and begin to soak up some knowledge.
And I will explain how you can do that safely.
2. Make Use of the Support and Features Provided by Your Hosting Company
If you have a WordPress.org site and you are using a good, reputable managed WordPress hosting company to host your site (if not, you really should get one!), make use of the support and features available.
Most reputable providers will have excellent customer support and on most occasions, they’ll be able to help you with anything relating to their server, hosting and more.
And because they will know how to speak the WordPress-lingo, they’ll be able to give you clear and easy-to-understand directions, regardless of whether you are technical or not.
But the most important thing is to make use of their features. And the next step below is an important step that your hosting company can help you with.
3. Create Your Staging Site & Activate Gutenberg There
This is possibly the most important step in the entire process because it will have an impact on the rest of the steps below.
With the help of your managed WordPress hosting provider, I highly recommend that you go ahead and create a staging site. This is a place where you can test your website in a non-live environment so that any changes you make will not affect your live site.
This is perfect should you ever want to test anything technical before pushing it live. Because if you are worried about breaking anything, you can be assured that your live site is safe.
Most (good) hosting companies should be able to create that for you with ease. It should only take you a few clicks to create and access your staging site.
From there, you can play around with Gutenberg. Learn more about it by doing instead of reading and do some troubleshooting along the way (like testing your themes and plugins as shown in the next section).
4. Do an Audit and Test Your Theme & Plugins to Identify any Compatibility Issues
You should always think about the choices of plugins you are using before you download and activate them. After that, you should continuously monitor their performance and maintenance.
But with your existing themes and plugins on your staging site, make sure you manually check how your features are functioning and how your web design is holding up.
For example, you may have installed a plugin which will display your Twitter feed on the site. But if it’s not well-maintained or updated recently, it may cause problems and clash with Gutenberg.
You could always contact the creators and ask whether they are going to solve this issue. But if the answer is less than convincing or you haven’t heard back, then it’s time to ditch their plugin and move on.
If you have a custom built theme or plugin, you will need to reach out to the original creator of those products or get a highly experienced WordPress developer to get them updated and ready for Gutenberg. There is nothing that you or your hosting company can do in that department.
And while you are at it, delete any themes and plugins that you are not using. Even if it’s deactivated but still installed, it is still technically on your site and could have an impact on your site in some way.
5. Test Your Website Using the Health Check Plugin
If you are technically-minded and you want to get really specific with the technical “health” of your WordPress.org site, you can use the Health Check plugin (or you could pass that to someone who does the technical side of things for you).
This was created by the WordPress.org community to help you gain some valuable debug and troubleshooting information about your website.
It involves anything from configuration errors and checking your PHP and MySQL versions, to extensions you may need, and its site security, etc.
Whether it’s for Gutenberg or not, the plugin can also help you to identify which combination of plugins might be causing technical issues with your site.
If the plugins are not the problem, then you can move elsewhere.
6. Manually Test Your Website
While you are in your staging environment, get out of the WordPress dashboard and visit your site.
Check as many pages and posts as possible, look at how they are laid out, make sure the links are working and test any features that you have installed.
If you have the right themes and plugins, your blog posts should appear as normal even with Gutenberg installed in the staging site. You may still experience minor errors here and there, but these can be easily fixed.
If you have spotted major problems, you might want to do some troubleshooting to see whether you have anything installed that is incompatible with version 5.0, e.g. a plugin which has not been updated for years (seriously… just delete it!).
7. Backup Your Website Before Launching Gutenberg Live
Again, a good hosting company should either allow you to do that manually and/or is doing that for you daily.
But it is also recommended to have your own backup too for extra assurance and security.
And I’m not just talking about backing up your pages and images either. I’m talking about backing up everything that is not initially visible to you on your site, such as all the files and databases that are running in the background.
As well as the backup by the hosting company, you can use tools like BackupBuddy to provide additional backups, which also gives you the option to manually restore your site to its original position.
Sure, if your hosting provider can do that, then that’s a good thing. Keep using it.
But by using tools like BackupBuddy, you will have full control – you may want to backup and restore instantly instead of contacting the hosting provider and waiting for them to do it for you.
8. Update Your Site… Safely
If you are comfortable that everything is working smoothly, then you are ready to go live.
The first thing you should do is immediately backup your site. Make sure all of your plugins and themes are up-to-date, and then you can do one of the following:
- After making sure that your staging site is the most recent replicate of your live site, update to the latest version of WordPress core and/or remove the Classic Editor plugin, if appropriate. You should also have the equivalent of the “Push to Live” feature via your hosting provider. This is the step where it will push the staging site to your live site so that all the changes will appear.
- Or you can install the latest version of WordPress core and remove the Classic Editor plugin on your live site.
Whichever one you choose, carry out an audit and check your site again to make sure that everything is working fine.
9. After Launch, Only Use Well-Maintained Themes & Plugins
This goes without saying when you are maintaining your WordPress site, regardless of what version you are using: always use well-maintained theme and plugins.
But if we are to stick with the Gutenberg topic, it is up to the creators of those themes and plugins to make sure that they update their products so that Gutenberg functions smoothly.
Just because the new block editor has launched, it does not mean that there will not be future updates. New features to be launched continually, there will be security loopholes to be fixed and bugs that need to be squashed (no pun intended).
And don’t forget, there are future plans to expand the use of block editors across the entire WordPress site and not just on the pages and posts.
Be aware that not all plugins and themes are owned by big companies with multiple employees. Some of the most popular plugins out there are run by a small team or perhaps by a solo developer that also has a day job.
They may not be the quickest to make the necessary updates, but those who care about their products and customers will eventually do it.
So give them time and be patient.
I can’t stress how important it is to test your site before using WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg. This is the biggest update to WordPress that we have experienced in a very long time,
If you are using the Classic Editor plugin and have already updated to version 5.0+, then it’s likely that you have not tested the site without using the Classic Editor.
But if you follow the steps above and take precautions along the way, it should be a smooth process to install it on your site.
After that, the learning process begins over the use of the new block editor.
I should warn you that if you are experiencing accessibility issues (a topic which caused many heated discussions in WordPress), it is advised that you continue to use the Classic Editor until the new editor has resolved the situation.
Will the Gutenberg project be a successful one? Only time will tell, but whatever you do, make sure you take advantage of the staging environment and test it fully. It will save you a huge headache in the long-run.
Question: if you haven’t started using Gutenberg’s block editor yet, what is stopping you from doing so?
I am very curious to know so please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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