Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress 5.0 and the new Block Editor

With the big update to WordPress 5.0, site owners have reasonable questions about the new features and the impact on their site.

Here are some of the most common questions and to-the-point answers to help you move forward!

What is the WordPress Block Editor?

The first step in the future of WordPress.

The “block editor” is the biggest part of a total overhaul of the “Edit” screen in WordPress. It’s a major departure from the old interface. The way you edit words, pictures, and other “rich media” has changed forever.

The project leading to these changes was code-named “Gutenberg”, so you’ll find numerous references to Gutenberg when reading recent information about WordPress. However, the “block editor” was the result of Phase 1 of Project Gutenberg and future phases will replace or augment other parts of the WordPress admin. Phase 2 will address widget management, and future phases will tackle other improvements to “site building” such as managing content  in different languages and defining layout templates for pages.

The demo of the new block editor
The WordPress 5.0 editor. This screenshot of the new editor includes a screenshot of the new editor. 🤯

Do I have to update to WordPress 5.0 right now?

Yes! Updates aren’t just about the big changes you can see.

Keeping your site up-to-date is critical for your site’s health. WordPress 5.0 and all future updates will include bug fixes, other improvements, and important security patches.

However, you can upgrade and still not use the new editor immediately…

Do I have to use the new block editor?

For now? No. Eventually? Yes.

Sites that are incompatible with the new editor or users wanting to use the old editor can install the Classic Editor plugin to block the changes to the editor. However, all sites must update in the next few years. WordPress will eventually stop supporting the Classic Editor and many plugins and themes may abandon support even sooner.

Many sites can upgrade with few problems, but read this blog post first on how to safely upgrade to WordPress 5.0.

How is the block editor different from the “Classic” editor?

Your pages and posts are now made of many “blocks.”

In old versions of WordPress, when you wanted to edit a standard page or post, you typed all your content into a big box with some formatting buttons. Moving forward, your content will be subdivided into many “blocks.” Each block can have it’s own set of settings, formatting options, design, and special features. Some of the most common blocks are:

  • Heading
  • Paragraph
  • Image
  • Blockquote
  • Tweet
  • YouTube Video
  • Button
  • Spacer (empty space)
  • Divider (aka horizontal rule)

You’ll benefit greatly from starting to think in terms of blocks and develop a “block x-ray vision” when looking at your post.

Outlines of sections of a WordPress post. Different blocks are outlined. In order: paragraph, gallery, button, paragraph, spacer, heading

What are the best new features in the block editor?

More visual control. Use it wisely!

Some of the most obvious new features are controls for font size; text and background color; and more visual blocks like buttons, “cover image” (text over an image), and columns. Beyond first sight, certain power-user features like magic embeds still exist but are easier to find now with dedicated “blocks”. A few of my personal favorite features are warnings for misusing headings or using a text color that is inaccessible.

These features make it much easier to format and lay out a page, but proceed with caution! Some people will find themselves quickly carried away with the visual tools and forget the fundamental purpose of your site: communication.

What if I don’t like the new block editor?

Have patience. Make the best of it.

Whether we like it or not, this is the future of WordPress, and trying to avoid it isn’t a long-term strategy for maintaining a healthy website. The foundation laid by the editor will allow new exciting tools in the coming months and years.

That said, don’t pressure yourself to master it immediately. Use your first few months with the editor to learn on the basics.

Just as you should have been doing before, focus on writing useful information for your visitors and adding engaging images and videos. Once you feel more comfortable, you’ll be able to start exploring more advanced features and using the full scope of the editor.

If you’re looking for a way to transition slowly, consider using the new editor but only working in the “Classic” block that you can add to any page. That block is more or less the old editor embedded into the new one and it provides a way to convert your work to the new editor when you’re ready.

If you still don’t like it, feel free to write your words in a different program and then copy and paste them into the block editor. A tremendous amount of work went into making that work for countless programs like Word and Google Docs. While it’s not perfect, it’s good enough that you can do most of your simple content creation outside of WordPress.

Where can I learn how to use the block editor?

Lot’s of places!

One of the best things about WordPress is that there are so many amazing sources of information. Your favorite resource will depend on your learning style. Here are just a few of the options:

The official “User Handbook” is still in the works, but will also eventually be available to help you out, and Nonprofit WP will have more tips coming on the blog and Enter Your Content section soon.

Got another question? Leave it in the comments for an answer!

How to Safely Upgrade to WordPress 5.0

WordPress 5.0 is here!
This post was written with it.

It’s critical that you always keep your site up-to-date so it remains healthy and secure. That’s a little more complicated with the update to WordPress 5.0 because it contains a major new feature that may not be compatible with every plugin and theme. But you can do it! Here’s how.

If you don’t know about WordPress 5.0, take a minute to read the last post that included a brief primer on the new editor feature in this major update.

Install the Classic Editor Plugin

At this time, it’s likely that you may want to avoid using the new editor or at least choose to use it selectively. Even if you’re eager to use the new editor, it’s prudent to wait for at least a few bug fix versions to arrive like 5.0.2 and 5.0.3. If you want to be extra conservative, wait until at least version 5.1.

To defer or limit your use of the new WordPress editor, install and activate the Classic Editor plugin before you update anything else.

With the Classic Editor plugin, you get to continue using the same text editor you’re used to. Once installed, you’ll get two new options on the Settings > Writing screen of WordPress 5.0:

New options for "Default editor for all users" and "Allow users to switch editors"
The current settings for in December 2018.

Research Compatibility

Even 30 minutes of research can quickly help you determine the likelihood of problems when you upgrade.

First, check the site where you downloaded your theme. See if you can find information about WordPress 5.0 support. Look for mentions of “Gutenberg” or the “block editor” which are the same thing. If you can’t find anything, write to the theme author or post in the support forum.

The Jetpack plugin shows it has compatibility for WordPress 5.0.

Next, review the site for each plugin you have installed. Again, look to see if there’s any mention of WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg, or the block editor. If you’re looking at the public free plugin repository, check the “Tested up to” version and click the “Developers” tab of a plugin to see it’s “changelog” of recent updates.

Back. Your. Site. Up!

Another pillar of website health is having backups that you know you can restore.

Do not upgrade to WordPress 5.0 without backing up your site files and database first.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to back up your site:

  • Your Host – Both recommended hosts on Nonprofit WP—SiteGround and WP Engine—provide tools to backup and restore your site.
  • Plugins – There are lots of backup plugins including the recommended BackupBuddy (paid) or BackWPUp (free).
  • Backup Services – The backup service from Jetpack is both affordable and independent of your hosting and web server.

Even if you think you have backups, confirm that and how to restore one should something happen.

Make a Copy of Your Site for Testing

Now it’s time to test the update on a copy of the site. A copy of your site used for testing is often called a “sandbox” (fun but messy!) or “staging site” (where you prepare to launch). While there are free plugins to set up staging sites, I recommend either relying on your host (again SiteGround’s GoGeek plan and WP Engine offer staging sites) or using a paid service like WP Stagecoach.

If you use a plugin to create a staging site that is on your website’s server (e.g. your site is and your staging site is, it is important that you either keep that site up-to-date for as long as it’s live or delete it once you’re done testing. A hosting account is only as secure as it’s least-secure site. This isn’t an issue with how SiteGround, WP Engine, or WP Stagecoach work.

Once you have a copy of your site, you can update all plugins, your theme, and WordPress itself in that order safely on this new copy of your site. Many popular plugins like Yoast SEO, Jetpack, Advanced Custom Fields, and WooCommerce will work well with WordPress 5.0 but only if updated to the most recent version.

What & How to Test

Now it’s time to see how things went. You should generally explore your site as a visitor would and try to edit the key features of your site as you look for problems. You should test with the Classic Editor plugin activated and deactivated so you learn about the new editor.

Here are some specific tests and things to look for:

  • Any visible errors or warnings. You may see scary looking code or notices in the WordPress admin. Investigate each one to determine if it’s a problem and how to resolve it.
  • Visit the “front end” of your site as a normal website visitor would. Specifically look for pages that are visually broken.
  • If you are using the new editor:
    • Create a new page or post. To start, copy and paste this blog post into it! Once you publish the new page, does it look right?
    • Now write a new page yourself. Are you able to make paragraphs, links, lists, headings, images, etc.? Test every common type of formatting you’re used to.
    • Finally, open an existing page made before the update in the new editor. Is it properly converted. When you save it and view it, does it look the same?

Update Your Live Site

Once you’ve completed testing, chances are that you’re ready to update. The bigger question is how much of the new WordPress you’re ready to use. (Only testing can tell you that for sure.)

Thanks to the Classic Editor plugin, if the new features aren’t for you or cause problems, you can avoid using them for at least the next few years. Everyone should have a plan for how they will eventually use the new editor though!

Assuming you don’t identify major problems, try to at least use a hybrid approach, using the Classic Editor for all your pages but the new “block editor” for all new blog posts.

Good Luck!

Feel free to ask questions in the comments and share how this process works for you!

Once you see the new editor, you’ll experience the future of WordPress and realize the photo at the start of this article is the old WordPress editor! 😜