The Economic Impact of the Timeline of the Gutenberg Rollout

Editorial note: This post was written in 2017 and has now been converted (2021) to a post using Blocks. The tech was never my bone to pick with Gutenberg. It was the timeline.

As a business-oriented marketer, my perception of Gutenberg is not about its beauty or ease of use. Rather, I am very concerned (and have been since June 2017) about the economic impact of the tight timeline of Gutenberg given how quickly it is being iterated.

I am very concerned about the economic impact of the tight timeline of Gutenberg given how quickly it is being iterated. Share on X

What is Gutenberg?

In my words, Gutenberg is a structural and visual change to WordPress’ editing and publishing experience. Its interface is very much like Medium and I found it very easy to use. This project or editor will roll out in WordPress 5.0 which is slated for April 2018.

If you are unsure about Gutenberg, please read this article by Morten Rand-Hendriksen.

“The core concept of Gutenberg is every item you add to WordPress is a “block”. Every heading, paragraph, image, blockquote, list, and other content you add is a block, and every block has unique properties and settings. That means when you create content, you can work with and customize each individual block, move those blocks around, and even make individual blocks reusable so you can build them once and use them in different locations and different views.” Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Also, Josh Pollock has an overview post State of the Word on his site here that is worth reading as well.

“While I worry about backwards compatibility for metaboxes, I think my biggest concerns are addressed or will be addressed. I do think storing Gutenberg’s raw content in the existing post content column as a string is a mistake that will have to get fixed later with a new column and proper content object, but we’ll get there.” Josh Pollock

Also: Here is the GitHub Repository for Gutenberg.

My Huge Disclaimer

I am the Marketing Team CoRep for Make.WordPress, I am a business owner, and have formerly worked for a very successful plugin development company and advertising agency that both rely upon WordPress for their business model. Though I will write about this on my own blog, I thought I would put my money where my mouth is and be an official voice instead of a behind-the-scenes voice.

I commented on #3902 but the economic concern is separate and deserves its own issue.

Does Gutenberg Break Backward Compatibility?

It is my understanding that WordPress, as a project and community, is committed to backward compatibility. To be fair, I’ve mostly heard this discussion when considering back-end compatibility with PHP. And I understand the frustrations with developers wanting to use PHP7+ functionality.

However, PHP developers are able to wrap the depreciated code. The new Gutenberg experience (editor) puts a large-scale burden on plugin and theme developers in a short, four-month period.

Without a doubt, #Gutenberg will require work to make what are not being called legacy or WordPress classic sites compatible. Share on X

We need a SWOT Analysis

To assist in the marketing strategy both inward (Make Teams, WordPress Developers) and outward (clients, end users, agencies), a SWOT analysis should be made by us.

Here is an example:

Strengths: Ease of use, modern technology, possibilities with VR, etc.
Weaknesses: Accessibility, SEO issues, compatibility.
Opportunities: New developers, new customers, modern technology, better UI.
Threats: Attrition (loss of WP to Wix, et al), Economic impact, loss of volunteers.

Is WordPress Attrition a Threat

Attrition is a real risk. I shared Morten’s article from LinkedIn and an affiliate marketer began having a conversation with me that I think we should listen to. 29% of the internet uses WordPress. The rollout needs to manage expectations, educate, and give people time to learn.

Attrition is a real risk. The rollout needs to manage expectations, educate, and give people time to learn. Share on X

We’re not Apple. We don’t dictate and expect people to adapt. We believe in democratizing publishing. This is key to our culture as a software.

Economic Impact of Gutenberg’s Tight Timeline

Businesses run on fiscal year budgets, not timelines for software releases. It’s easy for us on the inside to become excited about amazing features and great possibilities only to forget about the small business owners, the plugin and theme developers, and the bloggers.

Plugin and theme developers, for example, have to shift budgets from marketing (how will this affect WordCamp sponsorships, for example) to product development and support. They need to train themselves and their developers to deeply learn JavaScript and React and Vue (possibly) in order to create compatible metaboxes.

Plugin development companies also have to decide if they are going to support their legacy clients. Should they decide to support both, the technical debt now becomes financial in nature as they spend more hours (time) and/or budget (money) keeping current clients. Should they not, they risk losing current clients through attrition.

Granted, people like Josh Pollock of Caldera are excited enough to get their plugins ready now. As a Caldera Forms user, this makes my heart sing.

Agencies who use WordPress often have year-long contracts. The site is built and then used to publish content on a regular basis for lead generation, SEO, and business development. The agency will have to ensure their clients’ sites either remain on 4.9.x or are fully compatible to Gutenberg. Many agencies build custom themes on frameworks or with ACF. Those themes will need to be worked on (that translates into budget shift). Personally, I’ve recommended many of my agency clients and friends to prepare for this last October. Many have added to their budget to be prepared.

Businesses don’t make decisions based upon community loyalty; they make decisions based upon finances. Share on X

Small businesses often come to WordPress for the reasons we promote: technical SEO, ease of publishing, owning your own data. Convincing them to stay, when another option may be cheaper (WIX, Squarespace, even Dot Com), may become a challenge. Businesses don’t make decisions based upon community loyalty; they make decisions based upon finances.

I love WordPress. Here’s a Possible Solution.

I would love to see the version that will be shipped with 5.0 set sooner than later. This will allow WordPress educators, agencies, businesses, the Make Team, and development shops to prepare the general public for the rollout with marketing materials, documentation, and, of course, compatible code.

I love WordPress. I want it to thrive. Keep iterating. It should iterate. But the economy that relies upon WordPress needs time to learn and accept.

Thank you for your time.

(A shorter version of this was originally posted on GitHub 12/11/17 #3926) There are probably a lot of great comments there.

11 responses to “The Economic Impact of the Timeline of the Gutenberg Rollout”

  1. Thanks for sharing your concerns. I see where you’re coming from, but I feel that businesses don’t always need to be at the bleeding edge of technology. They can stick with the classic editor and wait for the market to settle before deciding to switch. That’s what I plan to do.

  2. I think Gutenberg will create a whole market and give the new generation the opportunity to be creative and get rich 🙂
    I’m so excited about it

  3. I absolutely see the potential of Gutenberg, and how it will serve certain buyer persona very well. Our colorful mosaic of buyer persona have such different needs, wants, hopes and dreams that, in a way, it is a miracle that they are all generally happy. [soapbox] If we do not want to crash this train in a concrete wall of fear, misunderstanding, overwhelm and resistance, we need to start listening to what the market is telling us. Too much change, too soon, too much pressure. Slow down, folks! We’re a train, not a Ferrari. Start regarding getting people to adapt to Gutenberg like getting Google to start trusting your website. Plant lots of seeds, provide just enough water, sunlight, fertilizer and love. Give it time to sprout, grow, flourish and bear fruit. [/soapbox]