Questions written in the new WordPress Editor: What is this? Where am I? Is this thing on?

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!

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