Opportunities and challenges of teaching WordPress in the era of Gutenberg, the new WordPress block editor. – a discussion w/
- Angela Bowman http://askwpgirl.com tweets @askwpgirl,
- Bud Kraus http://joyofwp.com – tweets @joyofwp
- Shawn Hesketh http://wp101.com – tweets @leftlane
We talked about the great features of the block editor, plugins with blocks that augment the core editor, and the biggest hurdles to get comfortable with this new editor. We also answered a ton of audience questions from you! 💕
- Angela Bowman
- Bud Kraus
- Shawn Hesketh
- Educators’ Three Favorite Features of the Block Editor
- What are the hurdles? What are people stumbling on? Angela do you want to start again? [00:14:20]
- ‘What’s your favorite block solution for full width rows with background image or video? Do you need to have a theme in order to accomplish this?’ [00:20:23]
- ‘So how can we do what we can do with page builders without using page builders?’ [00:23:06]
- ‘The big challenge for teaching is if students are coming in with sites someone else has built, each is so different, some are using a builder, some using classic editor and some using Gutenberg,’ [00:27:05]
- ‘How do you find out how well a theme works with Gutenberg? I’m wondering if different themes that say they are Gutenberg compatible may not all be the same.’ [00:28:11]
- How would you test a theme for Gutenberg readiness? [00:29:19]
- ‘My existing theme, how do I find out if that is Gutenberg ready or at least even if it doesn’t do the full width, how can I see if all the blocks are displaying?’ [00:32:15]
- Have you built any blocks yourself? Or are you working with a developer to build blocks, custom blocks, or dynamic blocks? [00:39:22]
- Block Directory
Birgit Pauli-Haack: We are preparing to stream on the webinar. All right. It should come up now. All right. Well, let’s get this party started. Oops. Where am I? I lost my documents. Can this be? Well, good morning, good afternoon wherever you’re from. Welcome to our 14th episode of our Gutenberg Times live Q&A. I’m still looking for my notes.
My name is Birgit Pauli-Haack and I’m the curator on Gutenberg Times and your host tonight so thank you all for watching. It’s great to have you. Today is all about teaching Gutenberg and we’re gonna explore the question from all different kind of angles, what it takes to teach site owners and content creators about the WordPress new block editor. And I’m thrilled to have these three strong educators take the time out of their busy schedules to discuss this in depth with you and me.
So we have Angela Bowman, and her site is askwpgirl.com, she teaches in person, beginners and advanced workers in workshops in Boulder, Colorado. We also Bud Kraus from New York and his site is joyofwp.com, he offers workers training with a personal touch and Shawn Hesketh of wp101, who offers online courses for WordPress and via his wp101 plugin, he offers the hundreds of awesome training videos to agencies and hosts.
We do proper introduction in less than a minute, but a little bit about the format today, thank you for attending the Zoom and the YouTube. We use the chat window so you can tell us where you’re from and where you’re listening from and who you are, and we’re using the Zoom Q&A feature that you can access on the bottom of your screen. There’s a chat bubble in our Q&A kind of thing, so the chat is for saying hello and all the comments and all the background chats, if you want to do that, and the Q&A is for us to answer your questions live. In YouTube there’s also a chat and we use that for Q&A as well. So let’s use it, type where you’re from and from which part of the world you’re watching, that would be great.
Mark from San Antonio, thank you, hello. Bethany from Boulder, that might be a good friend of Angela’s. Janice from Fort Myers, Linda from Naples, hi Linda. And Adam Warner from Florida, Adam Warner, we know you. Patty of Florida as well, so there’s a lot of things going on in Florida that does not keep people from coming into our show. And Michelle from Boston, yes, okay.
So let’s start the speaker introductions, we have some awesome guests who work not only in and on their business but are also deeply involved in the WordPress community team.
So Angela, apart from training and consulting, you are also a co-organizer of your local WordPress media and you do so many other things, so tell us about yourself, where do you live, what do you do for fun, and what’s new and exciting thing you’re working on.
Angela Bowman: So I live in Boulder, Colorado and Boulder is surrounded by a huge amount of open space and so what I do for fun is explore all the trails and hiking opportunities in our area. Recently my car died and I didn’t have the heart to buy a new car so I bought an e-bike, which is kind of an electric assist bicycle, it’s a normal bicycle but I thought with climate change, global warming and all these magnificent interconnected trails in our city, why not just bicycle? So that’s kind of my new fun, exciting thing I’m exploring. And in terms of WordPress, some of you may know that I’ve started this Women in WP podcast with Amy Masson and Tracy Apps and we are having so much fun interviewing women from around the world and I just wait every two weeks with bated breath, like I can’t wait for it to drop each time, so I wish we were pushing them out faster but we’re just trying to pace ourselves so that’s my new and exciting thing.
Oh, you’re muted. I think, Birgit, she’s muted. You’re gonna have to repeat yourself.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m just talking, and talking and talking.
Angela Bowman: She’s talking to herself.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: There I am. I wanted to say, Angela, what’s the url where people can catch that podcast?
Angela Bowman: Oh yes, of course, that’s very important. Womeninwp.com, and you can get it on all of your podcasting subscription methods, iTunes, etc.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, thank you.
Angela Bowman: Thank you.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Good, Bud, what are you doing? If you’re not working on your business, are you involved in WordCamp New York City, I know. Tell us about yourself.
Bud Kraus: Well the thing I do the most, I guess in my spare time is play guitar. I enjoy it, I just bought a twelve string guitar and I’m about to buy a ukulele because since I can’t master twelve strings, maybe I can master four. So I do that and I also, I used to garden but I don’t do as much gardening anymore because the animals have overtaken everything, they sort of won so I don’t do that. And travel is a really good thing, it’s a good way to get away from the congestion of where I live because I live really close to New York City but I love the city, where I live you don’t really feel that you’re in New York but there’s plenty of cars and traffic, that’s for sure.
As far as WordPress goes, I started teaching web design twenty years ago at Pratt Institute and I gradually morphed into teaching WordPress because it was the natural thing where everything was going and on my site, joyofwp.com there’s lots of free videos out there. I actually have them organized in two different courses and my site is sort of a huge lead generator so that you look at my course and say, “Hey, I’d like to hire Bud to work on my website,” which does happen. It’s also something for me to refer to clients, the big thing though is that if you’re interested in anything that I do and you want to keep up with WordPress, I run this thing called the WordPress Big Three, it’s a newsletter that comes out every Sunday, all you have to do is go to joyofwp.com/newsletter and sign up. It’s pretty simple. So check it out. So that’s what I do.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Awesome, thanks for being here, Bud. And Shawn your tutorials have been seen by thousands of people, so tell us a little bit about yourself and where do you live and what do you do for fun and what you’re working on next.
Shawn Hesketh: I live in hot, humid Houston so I try to do as many activities indoors and in air conditioning as a good Houstonian does. We eat at a lot of restaurants and I hang out in a cigar lounge and enjoy cigars and whiskey and these kinds of things and the fun times. Also, we enjoy traveling, my wife and I have three kids and because we homeschool them we’re able to travel so we live to spend extended periods of time in other places including Florida so we try to travel as much as possible. And we make a point of attending as many WordCamps as possible, so we enjoy travel quite a bit.
I started the original WordPress 101 video series that I created back in 2008, was recorded because I needed a resource to provide to my clients. So I was doing freelance design at the time and I needed a resource that I could leave with my clients so I didn’t have to continue doing one on one personalized training as I had done over and over and over again. I thought there had to be a better way to do this so I recorded this series of video tutorials over ten years ago, put it up as a membership site largely at the request of some friends of mine who were also WordPress developers and said, “I need that for my clients, set it up as a website, as a membership site and I’ll send my clients your direction.” That was 2008 and since then our videos have been viewed by over two million people.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Ah, not thousands, millions. Yes.
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, which just blows my mind, it’s humbling but it’s also a lot of fun.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I can only, if you’re an agency, small or big, I can only say good things about it, people like them and they discover them, I’m not always pointing them to it buy I’m always installing it so yeah.
Well, that brings us back to our questions. Let me ask you this, Gutenberg is a whole topic and I think we can definitely do a two hour series or five hours or even ten hours about Gutenberg and the good things, so you as a trainer and talking to other people and content creators and site owners, what are the three features that everybody, once they got over their hurdle and offer they got over their, “Ah, this is new!” What are the three features that they like? That kind of triggers them, “Oh, this is really cool”? Do you have an answer to that?
Educators’ Three Favorite Features of the Block Editor
Angela Bowman: I have one I can mention, I think the gallery feature is really awesome. I think what you can do with images and with the galleries is really great. I’d like to see being about to do a light box with the gallery would make it even better so I’m gonna write a little tutorial on that. I think if I want to wow someone with why they want to use it, just diving into the imaging gallery feature is the one thing.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Okay, yeah. Bud, what’s yours?
Bud Kraus: I did a talk at a meetup in New York recently on the subject of Gutenberg plugins because I think that we’re so limited by the blocks that come with WordPress by default, they’re sort of like, primitive and not really useful, like how am I gonna make a website.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s early! Early!
Bud Kraus: So I starting looking at all these different plugins that extend what Gutenberg does and of course this is a huge direction of what’s going on now with this whole new genre of Gutenberg plugins. I’m not gonna mention all the names but they’re out there, I did a whole post on this which is probably the most popular post I’ve ever written and I like the fact that there’s a lot of good development going on to extend what Gutenberg offers by default so I just-
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m kind of, what’s the feature?
Bud Kraus: Well it depends, for example, table of contents that’s dynamically created, a lot of guys are doing these shape dividers that divide sections of content, different blocks with, sort of like SVG artwork, so there’s a lot of really good stuff going out there that you just don’t get with Gutenberg.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Is there a feature that’s actually built into the Gutenberg editor that you can show off?
Bud Kraus: I don’t really like any of them that I can say-
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Alright, okay.
Bud Kraus: They sort of do the basic things, paragraphs, I will say one thing, as long as you’re asking on one feature, I do like the fact that they paid much more attention to HTML markup in Gutenberg, specifically how headings and subheadings are being used so that people are no longer using them just to make font bigger. I think that’s a really good move in the right direction for everybody. That’s one good feature.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Shawn, what do you think?
Shawn Hesketh: I hear from users that they like the links and buttons, the ability to create buttons is a relatively simple thing, right? Buttons are something we all have to use, it’s a call to action, it’s used all over the place and the fact that you can now do that with a beautiful block that allows you to change the colors and styles is really great.
But I have to echo what Bud said as well, some of the real power and potential I think is in nesting these blocks so you can create reusable chunks of blocks that you might use. So for example for displaying team biographies with a photo and their social media handles and a little description. Being able to save that then as a block, a reusable block and then use that over and over again on other pages is really helpful. And there are a bunch of companies now that are making third party blocks without committing to any of those, there’s a service called Design Hub, wpdesignhub.com and these guys are just creating layouts using only the default blocks in Gutenberg and they’ve got over a hundred different layouts for all kinds of things, calls to action, testimonials, so they’ve kind of done the layout for you, nesting the blocks of you, then you can use those in your page layouts. We could never do that before Gutenberg. There’s a lot of flexibility and that’s what I hear most people love the most about it, once they get past that initial bump as we were talking about.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, what I see is that I think that the cover block, now that you can have a headline and a text and a button in there, will be very, very popular once people discover it and have it in their plugin or in their site, because right now it’s only available in 5.3 Gutenberg, which will come out with the WordPress 5.2 on April 30th. Then it will be in there.
Yeah, so now that we have the good things,
What are the hurdles? What are people stumbling on? Angela do you want to start again? [00:14:20]
Angela Bowman: Sure. I complained about this on Twitter recently but when you are using Gutenberg and wanting to do a layout, you have to get your head around the concept of rows and columns like you do with any page builder plugin, and so I try to emphasis that in my classes when I’m teaching to more of the designers who want to use it potentially for page layout, it’s like, “Okay, well you need a row, you need columns,” and what I discovered is on smaller monitors, often the built in columns with Gutenberg, I don’t recommend people use so I’m turning them onto the Ultimate Gutenberg add-ons plugin or CoBlocks, I really like the CoBlocks rows and columns feature, I think the ultimate add-on has some possibilities that I liked but it was a little too much and too confusing and hard to manipulate.
So that brings up one issue, just it being hard to figure out where you are in the block to get the to the settings, you want to get and to manipulate and it’s kind of little bit of black magic and you’ve got to do some incantations and you’ve gotta sprinkle some pixie dust on it and then maybe you can get to the place where you need to go to be able to manipulate things but one of my big complaints with the rows is that if you set them to pop out and you’re on a smaller monitor, you can’t get back to the settings you need to get to to change them because your monitor’s too small. And so you really have to have a pretty large monitor to be able to work with some of the ways that the blocks are set up right now. At least, that’s my experience, maybe I’m missing something but it’s hard.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: So these are the hurdles that you see, but what are the hurdles that your students that want to create content-
Angela Bowman: I think it’s all of that, it’s kind of like, “Where am I and how do I get to where I am?” So they’re having that same frustration with finding the settings or sometimes the settings are just randomly different. I think there’s just a lot of bugginess in a lot of the Gutenberg blocks, not just in the core blocks but in the plugins as well, so the plugin developers are still working through a lot of their issues, and so I think that’s just confusing to people because it’s like, “Am I losing my mind or is this really not working properly?” I guess that’s kind of my experience with it, is just where you need to do stuff can be really hard.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, that’s I’ve found with WordPress, period, that, ‘Is it me or is it WordPress?’ Shawn, what do you think? What are the biggest hurdles that you see? Or the most questions that come up?
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, I get a lot of complaints about columns and that’s one of the most frustrating, it definitely is buggy, right? It’s early days, we’ve kind of recognized that there are some issues, they’re being ironed out as we go along but even when I was recording the video tutorials to demonstrate columns, it took three or four takes just to have the columns behave the way that I wanted them to in the video, the way they should, right? So I had to do multiple takes in order to get that right and that’s not the best thing, obviously it’s very confusing. Getting back into blocks, once you’ve created columns, but once you’ve nested some blocks inside there, how do you select the actual block you want to edit is still a challenge.
And then we continue to have the same, I’m sure everyone who’s ever taught WordPress to someone has dealt with this, it is the abstraction between what you see in the editor and then having to jump out to front end and see what is the effect of the changes that you just made. And that disconnect hasn’t gotten any better, really, or only marginally better I think with Gutenberg and depending on the theme that you’re using and whether or not it has support for all the Gutenberg blocks, you’re having a totally different experience. So most of the questions I’m fielding now are, “Now I’m understanding what to do with the blocks, I’m building some pages in my page editor, but then I jump out to the front end and it blows all apart, what’s going on?” Well that’s because your theme doesn’t support Gutenberg. So there still is a gap that we’re having to close between the back end editing experience, what you actually see on the front end and then hopefully, theme creators are as quickly as possible building in that kind of support for this new editor because it’s really unfolding right now.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, I get that. And we’re getting quite a few comments and questions so I’m gonna go through them, Adam says, ‘Buttons for the win,’ on that earlier thing. So, ‘Why don’t people,’ I think that’s Mark having that question, ‘Why don’t people use local hosts such as Flywheel, to test Gutenberg and all the upgrades before using them live and complaining about Gutenberg? I have used it since September and have almost no problems.’ [00:19:06] People don’t test, right?
Bud Kraus: A lot of new users aren’t going to know about local and they’re not gonna know about desktop servers. If you’re talking about new users, just getting them to install a WordPress, everybody thinks it’s so easy and one thing I’ve learned as a teacher is to take out the word ‘easy’, because that word is just banned form my vocabulary when I teach, I just don’t use it.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: How about the word ‘just’?
Bud Kraus: Or, it’s intuitive. Anything but intuitive. I don’t think it’s intuitive at all. I always have to remind myself what it was like when I first started teaching myself WordPress, and now we’ve added this whole layer of complexity with Gutenberg. With a whole lot of hidden UI that people just have no idea-
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well we don’t have a manual right now, have you discovered the manual on wordpress.org yet?
Bud Kraus: Yeah, but not everybody’s going to read manuals, they’re going to –
Birgit Pauli-Haack: There is one. There is actually one.
Bud Kraus: – click on things and see what happens.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, yeah. So next question was,
‘What’s your favorite block solution for full width rows with background image or video? Do you need to have a theme in order to accomplish this?’ [00:20:23]
Who wants to take it?
Angela Bowman: I could say something briefly, so yeah, you don’t. I think you need to theme like Shawn was saying, a Gutenberg compatible that will allow, depending on what Gutenberg tool you’re using to do these features, they may or may not pop out the content with your theme, so that’s the main thing that you’re gonna find, is that you want to have like a full width content piece but if your theme is kinda restricting the content width, and depending on how the block is dealing with that potential restriction will determine whether it successfully works or not, and if it doesn’t you can usually use some sort of CSS to override that. But having a Gutenberg-friendly theme that will allow that content to pop out, there’s so much that you can do with these additional Gutenberg plugins that you could do full page layouts with them, just like Shawn was mentioning with the one website where they’re doing those already.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, there is some and I hope I’ll find it soon, I was trying to maybe show a certain background but the Gutenberg handbook, and you can reach it through the Github repository, they have a whole page of theme support, how they actually explain how you can align widths in full to your theme, it’s pretty much a run line of code and then of course you need to style it but it also gives the style for it. So once you have that, the aligned width, I think you can use the cover image, the cover block to have your background image and your paragraph with it.
So Linda asked, ‘I just installed Gutenberg on our new, not yet ready site today. Yes, I hesitated for age is fear of change. What I found so great today was being able to copy and paste content from my old classic editor site into the new one and have it appear as blocks. Hooray!’ Well, congratulations Linda.
And then Adam, ‘It’s funny, am I missing something here?’ Is the question that comes a lot, in his experience.
‘So how can we do what we can do with page builders without using page builders?’ [00:23:06]
Yeah, that’s kind of a loaded question, right? You want to take that, Shawn? You were laughing so I think you have an answer.
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, I mean, what we’re seeing with page builders like Beaver Builder and Elementor, they’re doing a fantastic job of extending it, right? They’re going beyond the basic blocks. A year ago we didn’t have any other choices, if you want to do this kind of modular building page layout building style, you used a page builder. So what we’re seeing now is that they’re adapting to this brave new Gutenberg world and creating many more blocks in addition to the default blocks that are included in WordPress. There’s a lot more design flexibility but when you go down that road you’re also investing and trusting that page builder’s gonna be around. What we know about the Gutenberg project is that today we have blocks that allow us to create multimedia rich pages and posts, but in phase two of Gutenberg we’re actually gonna see more layout controls. Headers, footers, sidebars and these kinds of things. When we do that, the lines are gonna get even more blurry, for things that we turn to page builders today for. So in the next year or two, I don’t know, it could end up being that you could do a lot more out of the box with default WordPress, things that right now, today, you have to use a page builder for.
So what happens then? What happens to your site when you’ve created a lot of that content that’s relying on page builders? I think that’s a huge question to consider.
Bud Kraus: And if I can add something real quick, what this is gonna mean is people who train and teach people, we are constantly having to update our materials. We can’t just throw out something that was good right now and then, it’s gonna be a real challenge. How are you going to build your courses, build your instruction, knowing that what I’m teaching now, in three months or what you’re creating now, in three months, there’s no such thing as evergreen content, that’s certainly what I’m saying. This is a train that’s just moving really fast. And then I wonder how people will adapt to this as we go forward. It’s a real challenge, not just for trainers but for people who are just casual users of WordPress. How are they going to absorb these changes that are going on, maybe a little bit too fast. Maybe things have to slow down a little bit, I don’t know. It’s just my thought.
Angela Bowman: I wish it would either, yeah, I think it just needs to speed up a whole lot more because I just want to pull of the band aid and just, you know, we’re moving on.
Bud Kraus: Give it to us, right.
Angela Bowman: This in between place, I just finished teaching a six week theme customization course and I had just, it’s for people who want to build websites for clients, you know, so teaching them the tools that they need to know how to do robust, custom beautiful websites and like, yeah, I’m in this whole Frankenstein schizophrenia with how to teach this, so I made sure to teach them all the Gutenberg concepts and the Gutenberg tools that are there but I still relied on a page builder. But I kept reiterating over and over, this is going away, we’re moving to this new method soon, instead of these elements and these things that you’re used to seeing with your page builder, you’ll have your favorite block collection that you’ll be curating and using with your clients and you know, just trying to transition them to thinking about that but it makes teaching so hard and I didn’t teach the course for two years under the threat of Gutenberg, and I finally just, I have to bite the bullet and teach it but it is so challenging.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah and one of the big parts of page building, there is no navigation bar that you can kind of go with Gutenberg, there’s no sidebar widgets, they are just coming in and that’s the second phase and I hope that they’re getting to that.
We have another comment from Bethany,
‘The big challenge for teaching is if students are coming in with sites someone else has built, each is so different, some are using a builder, some using classic editor and some using Gutenberg,’ [00:27:05]
and that’s certainly-
Angela Bowman: Yeah, what is WordPress 101 in that context?
Shawn Hesketh: That’s a question that I get every single day actually.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: But I must say, I migrated a website that somebody else had built and make it ready for editors to finally use and we kind of kicked out 26 plugins and just used plain Gutenberg with a few, the first go-to block suite that I installed was Atomic Blocks, by Mike McAllister, whose theme shop is Array Themes, you might have heard of him. And he got just bought by Genesis. By WP Engine. So that’s certainly available through that.
So our next question is,
‘How do you find out how well a theme works with Gutenberg? I’m wondering if different themes that say they are Gutenberg compatible may not all be the same.’ [00:28:11]
What’s your advice on that, Bud?
Bud Kraus: Well, I’m a simple person. I would start out, if you’re not really sure, use 2019 as sort of your baseline to see what, because we know 2019 is gonna play nicely with Gutenberg and show off some of the core Gutenberg features so I would start there and be weary of all these theme shops that say Gutenberg. There’s a whole lot of discussion going out, what does it mean, ‘Gutenberg compatible’? What the heck does that mean? I’m not really sure that I can answer that or anybody can answer that, that’s really up for debate. John
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, it’s not a binary thing either.
Bud Kraus: If you’re really starting out, you’re just not really sure about the capabilities of these plugins whether they’re core or with the Gutenberg plugins. Start with 2019, because I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Shawn,
How would you test a theme for Gutenberg readiness? [00:29:19]
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, I was gonna say, first I would visit the homepage for the developers because if they put in the time and effort to make their theme Gutenberg compatible, believe me, they’re gonna be advertising that, because it’s no small amount of work. Supporting one block, like making the cover images as we talked about, full width, may be one line of code but if you have support for all of the blocks, that’s probably something that they’re gonna lead with so I would look at the homepage for the theme and typically we’re seeing support rolled out a lot quicker from more established theme shops. So you mentioned Mike McAllister and Atomic Blocks which is a fantastic theme and also their own plugin that extends the blocks, one of those third party block tools that we were talking about earlier, but also the Studio Press family of themes. There’s a lot to choose from in there, so when you pick a theme framework like that or a theme shop that’s got dozens and dozens of things, you know that it’ll be supported.
Less likely in the larger marketplaces where you’ve got thousands and thousands of themes created by people all around the world who may or may not have the time and bandwidth, like a full-time development shop or team to be able to bring all their themes up to date, so the best thing to do is to find more information about the theme, visit the homepage, they’re bound to be singing that feature set, that compatibility from the rooftops, I would imagine.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Angela, anything to add?
Angela Bowman: I’d say, you know, it’s hard when you’re going to buy a theme because then you’re having to invest in it before you can try it out so like Bud said, with the free themes you can play with them and see how they’re working and compare them to the default theme. With the paid ones, I just ditto Shawn, I’d stay away from those places that have a lot of trees…
Birgit Pauli-Haack: They’re also not GPL, so… We’re not going to talk about that.
Angela Bowman: Right. And yeah, definitely going for, I think, I’m curious about the popular themes like Generate Press, there are some free themes on the repository, Generate Press, Astra, Ocean WP, you know, and then the Studio Press, those bigger places, but a lot of people who are new to WordPress don’t know the difference between any of these themes. Those of us who have been here for awhile, we know that the ecosystem of WordPress and we know who are the good players and we know the more, kludgy kind of setups and so I think it’s more a general education about where do you find reputable themes in general? And then when you get into that space then maybe you’re gonna find your more Gutenberg compatible ones that truly play by the rules.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I get a lot of questions like,
‘My existing theme, how do I find out if that is Gutenberg ready or at least even if it doesn’t do the full width, how can I see if all the blocks are displaying?’ [00:32:15]
Rich Tabor, a very early Gutenberg champion, and the CoBlocks that Bud mentioned are from him, he has a plugin called a Block Unit Test, it sounds techie but it’s actually a plugin that you can install and it gives you, and I shared the link there, it creates a page on your site with all the blocks in there and you only have to click on the preview button and it shows you how your theme actually manages that, and I think that’s the fastest way to find out if your existing theme works and that also, if you don’t know if it’s really compatible or if the blocks really play well. Use that as well and you’ll at least get something up and running. So that was one of the questions.
Shawn Hesketh: I get that question a lot, actually, because people have older themes or older sites that are well established and last time they installed a theme was years ago, potentially, and so now if the theme is not compatible their question is what do I do with that? So we’re sending a lot of people to Codeable to have them add that type of customization, they can do it very cheaply, very affordably. They add support for Gutenberg blocks, and I’m sure there are other companies that service this as well, but right now we’re referring a lot of people to Codeable to have that kind of work done to make these older themes compatible, it’s a little bit of reinventing the wheel because now it’s unfortunate that a site owner would have to pay to bring their theme up to date and then how many other people are using the same thing, potentially doing the same thing, right? Paying the same cost over and over and over again to add compatibility. So again, it kind of comes back to Angela’s recommendation to find, if you have the opportunity to change your theme, or you’re starting a new site, make sure you’re doing that with a reputable theme at the very beginning, some people just aren’t so lucky. If you have an existing site, probably gonna end up having to hire somebody to add some code to make your site compatible.
Angela Bowman: One thing we decided to do with our meetup is an hour before our meetup we’re gonna start doing these site audits for people because you know, Bethany, who’s one of the participants here, teaches a WordPress 101 class and she’s struggling with like, ‘What do I tell these people? I can give them all this instruction but they can’t do anything actionable with it if they don’t know what condition their site is in.’ So I said, ‘This is kind of a community problem, let’s make it a community problem,’ so I’ve got like, four or five volunteers to come in for an hour and just check people’s sites out and kind of tell them, you know, what PHP are you on? Can you even upgrade to the latest WordPress and then, let’s check out your theme and how old it is and just, but a lot of people, even just to make that transition, need someone who’s a little more senior and professional just to even look at their site. That’s a huge challenge, that’s a big hurdle to overcome.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And there is actually, there are quite a few, I’m just doing a little self-plug here, in the Gutenberg Times, there are two articles, one is how you test your theme with a lot of instructions in there, and also how to actually create a test site. If you are migrating an older site or an existing site that you depend on for your livelihood, definitely use a staging site. And I have an article with very basic instructions on how to create a staging site for free with Pantheon and the instructions are actually tested by my 84 year old friend, who is not a techie but she is, kind of gets over any of the new stuff but she follows directions, and she said, ‘If you don’t watch the videos, you’re not gonna watch the videos, then the instructions are fine.’ That’s kind of how can then, your older site, it migrated over with all your content and you can adjust it with your content.
So, Bethany said she appreciates the site audit, thank you Angela. ‘Do you recommend,’ next question from Mark, ‘Do you recommend using the most basic updated themes for copyright changes, the used templates – ?’ I’m not getting that question. Sorry. ‘Do you recommend using the most basic, updated theme for copyright changes that use templates for that point on?’ Oh, that you want to change the copyright for it. I don’t know, you don’t have to change the copyright because the copyright normally is yours, yeah? On the site, yeah? Any thoughts on that?
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, that may not have been typed the way that he intended there but I think we are seeing a trend toward the most basic themes, that are just barely there, because what they’re really supporting is blocks and they’re kind of creating every page layout the way that you want it to be so these days if you’re starting a new site then you can use a very basic default theme, like again, Atomic Blocks is one, there’s others that you can use, just kind of covers the very basics and then you are using page layouts, custom page templates to create the templates for future content so I think that may have been what he’s getting at there, Mark you can correct me. Okay, good.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, yeah, and props to the core contributor. There was a team that actually back ported all the Gutenberg readiness back to 2011 theme, and I find this really remarkable that people would actually go back and make those default themes also Gutenberg ready so people who are using those can actually also be working very well with the new block editor.
Shawn Hesketh: That was no small task either. That is hats off to those guys for sure.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.
Shawn Hesketh: And Mark, just to piggyback onto that question too, I think we’re seeing a trend away from these gigantic all in one themes that can build any type of site you can imagine and more towards themes that are more basic, right, but support for more blocks. So Elementor is one of the most prolific, I think, block creators or tools out there right now and so finding themes that support Elementor is probably a good place to start.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Good yeah, I’m just going to put in those links in there that they’re asking about, the two articles that I mentioned. So glad that we covered what Mark wanted to know, excellent. So one question is:
Have you built any blocks yourself? Or are you working with a developer to build blocks, custom blocks, or dynamic blocks? [00:39:22]
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, we are, actually. We’re creating a tool that we needed in-house, and that’s basically to create a very simple project roadmap for client projects. This is just a very simple series of checklists, when something’s gonna be done, proposed times, so we actually took a stab at creating a plugin that creates a block for that so we can actually drag in blocks for an individual project. It’s still really rough and we ran into a lot of issues along the way so I’m not sure, we’re not gonna show that to anybody right now. It’s an in-house tool, kind of a playground, but we’re having fun learning how to do that.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.
Shawn Hesketh: Definitely not in a space where I’m ready to start teaching that, too much is changing so I’m not about to dive into teaching people how to create their own block so other people are doing a fantastic job of that. I’m gonna stick with the 101 and helping beginners learn how to use Gutenberg to do what they want to do. It’s interesting.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Mm-hmm (affirmative). There is actually a plugin, I don’t know if you came across it, Bud, when you were doing your research, but there’s a plugin called Block Lab, and it was built by the developers from, I think XWP, who are an enterprise level worker’s agency and they worked pretty closely with WordPress VIP group, so you don’t have to know a lot about ACF to actually know how block would work but that is in the block builder Block Lab, that’s one where you don’t have to know coding to create blocks.
Bud Kraus: I haven’t seen that one but one that I thought had a lot of promise, at least I’m hoping and sort of pulling for it is the Gutenberg Cloud Library, because I think it’s such an interesting idea, it’s sort of takes the WordPress way of doing things and allowing people to download the block that they want to use for their site. It’s not ready, it’s really kind of early stages for this thing because every time I look at it it’s like, come one guys, this is not where I want to see it yet. But the concept is really interesting.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, there is actually an initiative and they’re asking for comments to build a block directory through WordPress.org and Alex from Australia has put in a proposal and the developers are kind of figuring it out. I think it’s on WordPress.org/core, somewhere in the latest update but these sites change so often that you’ll kind of find that even if you’re just a week behind you kind of need to scroll though, you have 10 or 15 posts before you can actually find something there.
Are we running out of questions? I can’t believe this, audience.
Angela Bowman: There was one question in the Q&A.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Okay, yeah
What is the most difficult thing about Gutenberg? [00:43:11]
Bud Kraus: What are they hearing from their students, clients, users, about something, what is the most difficult thing about Gutenberg? Maybe that’s too general a question but is there sort of thing that you’re starting to see as a unique stumbling block? For example, I think finding how to remove something can be really difficult. And if you remember earlier versions of Gutenberg, you may recall it used to have a little trash icon at the end of the block and now it’s hidden. And I wish that trash icon were at the end of the block so it would be just so much easier, then you don’t have do like, two clicks. I don’t know, anybody have anything like that that they could share or talk about? That they know is a stumbling block for everybody?
Shawn Hesketh: Beyond Gutenberg itself?
Bud Kraus: Not just within the confines of Gutenberg.
Angela Bowman: I think that’s a common one, I think that getting to know what the differences between those optional settings that show up on the side versus the options that show up on the top, how do you get the options to show up at the top? Because sometimes you just have to click in this magical way to get those top options to show. And then what Shawn was saying, what block am I in? How do I get back to my block and my nested blocks? It’s those basic navigation things.
Bud Kraus: Yes, I agree.
Angela Bowman: That are the basic kind of settings and functions and getting to where you need to go that’s challenging, yeah.
Bud Kraus: I agree.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, but that’s what you have with any user, new user interface. It’s kind of all crowded and it’s all, ‘where am I?’ I’m having a structured place where you can look up the different things. I think what helps a lot of people is when they’re not using the block toolbar on every block, because it can confuse things and it kind of is a little, yeah. So to use the top toolbar option, which is on the right hand side, the three dots, and then you go further down and then click and then the toolbar is right on top and any block that you then click on has the toolbar right on top. And it moves with you.
Bud Kraus: In my opinion, the block toolbar should be at the top by default and then if you want to have it for every block, you should be able to switch it so that – you disagree. It’s the first thing I always do, is move the toolbar to the top.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I think it’s a 50-50 chance that people like it, so it’s one of those things, do we make it default or not? But there are, Angela actually answered all the questions in the Q&A-
Angela Bowman: There was one question, a woman, but look at that, look at what she said, maybe put that to the group.
For a new site: Classic or Block Editor?[00:46:00]
Birgit Pauli-Haack: So Linda has a question as well, listening to these experts discussing bugginess, natural with something so new, is a non-techie user better to stick with a classic editor until more bugs are worked out?
Well, I don’t think so, my humble opinion is kind of stick with the new thing, figure it out and you’ll learn so much every time. But then also Linda said, an hour later, ‘OK, done, guess that means I keep going with Gutenberg on the being developed site.’ Definitely, Linda, if you are doing a new site, yeah I would do Gutenberg all the way. There is no sense in going backwards.
Bud Kraus: Absolutely. You know, think of it this way, remember when the cell phone first came out, it was sort of buggy and they only had a few apps, think about, we’re sort of in that era. Cellphone 1.0 and they’re not going back, this is gonna be reversed and we’re gonna have a classic editor, it’s not going that way so why, especially during New Years, why even think about it that kind of thing?
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, yeah.
Shawn Hesketh: We always create videos that support the default, out of the box experience, so we’re only going in one direction with our training and that is the brave new world in which we find ourselves. I think ultimately that’s the best way to ensure you’re gonna be supported for years to come.
The good news is you don’t have to do it today, so you can install the classic editor plugin, that’s gonna be supported through 2022, the year 2022, so you’ve got a couple of years then, if you want to prolong that decision and not dive in right away. A lot can change in two years, so if you install the classic editor plugin today, that might buy you some time to be able to think more clearly about a strategy that might allow you to build in a new direction.
But we typically encourage people to jump in, play with it, because what we’re finding is as soon as they do, if you just start off and create a new page or a new post, there are more moments where you go, ‘Oh okay, this is really great, this is better.’
And just in terms of the page layouts that you can create today that you weren’t able to do before Gutenberg, there’s a lot more flexibility. It takes a little bit of experimentation, there’s a much sharper learning curve than we used to have. Our WP 101 video series used to be 20 videos. It was 20 videos for nearly ten years and this is the first time we had to significantly redo that and we rewrote the entire course from the ground up, right? 34 videos, we had to add 14 new videos, just to cover all the features and functions in the block editor and there are new blocks coming, right, with every new release and so that’s the first time we’ve had to significantly change and so my comment and the reason for sharing that is because I think it’s easy to get lost in the weeds because there’s so much you can do, there’s so many new features, so many new blocks, and if you install a block editor like Elementor, you’ve got hundreds to choose from, potentially, blocks to choose from.
So you have to be really clear about what you’re doing and why. So I think as educators we kind of, we’re kind of focused on the objective. What are you trying to do, first of all. Then we can talk about how to get there, what is the best method for getting there, what are the best tools that you’ll need to accomplish that goal, but at the end of the day, objective based or results based teaching, I think, is the best approach. The tools are gonna change, they’re always gonna change, they’re gonna continue changing for the next who knows how many years if we’re all still lucky enough to be doing this. We’re gonna be teaching totally different tools five years from now. So the quicker you’re able to adopt these tools to accomplish your goals, then the better off you’re gonna be.
If you were teaching a WordPress 101 class, would you teach the classic editor? Or would just only teach Gutenberg? [00:49:54]
Angela Bowman: Shawn, I wanted to just piggyback on that with Bethany’s question, if you were teaching a WordPress 101 class, just like a set number of hours in front of people in person, would you even teach them the classic editor? Or would just only teach Gutenberg?
Shawn Hesketh: I would teach Gutenberg, I would dive right in to building your first page, let’s start with an ‘about’ page, that’ll give an opportunity to learn how to use the various blocks in a very creative way. That’s the way that I would teach it. That’s the way we do teach it.
Bud Kraus: I’m starting two new classes next week, all online, I guess I don’t teach in classes anymore, all online, like classes and I will hardly mention the word classic editor, because it doesn’t mean anything to these people. It’s Gutenberg.
Angela Bowman: I think it does in the sense like, if you have people coming to class and you do have them coming in with a classic editor, one thing that they do need to know how to do if they want to convert that content, how to take that classic editor block and convert it to blocks and be mindful that sometimes that process doesn’t work and maybe they need to copy and paste into the front end into fresh blocks or something, there’s some strategies for converting over so I think it is a little bit of a challenge because in a way we also have to teach them how to get from here to there.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: – It’s a big hurdle there, yeah. And also for people, okay, Gutenberg is not gonna touch your old content, yeah? Unless you want it to convert so yeah, it’s not gonna do anything with it and using it for, some plugins actually don’t use the Gutenberg editor yet for adding new stuff to it, like a team or an event or something like that, they have fallback to the classic editor anyway. They are built in WordPress 5., the current WordPress field so the custom post type that those plugins kind of register they say, ‘don’t use the Gutenberg, I’ll stay with the old one,’ and then it will automatically come up.
I think that’s all, do we have questions we missed… list ordered or numbered problems. Mark, there is a fragment there, I think I only get the tail end of it, so list ordered or numbered problems? I think you want to use the newest plugin because they really fixed some of the hiccups there with the lists. I think that is all the time we have, we don’t have any questions anymore, I think?
Angela Bowman: I think their message says ‘can you talk a bit about the difference between the menu for editing the blocks versus style this page menu?’ I don’t know what that means.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: and style this page? Oh, that’s probably one of the third party-
Angela Bowman: Page builders?
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Page builders, yeah. I don’t have any experience with that page builder except that I’m throwing them out. Migrate them over, so Denise, are you still on the site? If you could clarify that a bit then maybe the others can help you out with that.
Shawn Hesketh: I’m pretty sure that is in reference to a third party plugin, page builder plugin.
Angela Bowman: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Alright. Well, seems that’s all the time we have, I asked Shawn, Bud and Angela to kind of take an hour and a little bit, but this has been fun. This was a great show and there’s so much wisdom in all of your heads, I wish we could do another three hours and we probably would fix Gutenberg right away. But if people want to get in touch with you, I only have two more questions for you three, if people want to get in touch with you, how would they best do it and do you have any announcements that you couldn’t talk before or that you didn’t mention before? This is your chance. Shawn, you want to start?
Shawn Hesketh: Yeah, sure. Well obviously you can find us at wp101.com, on all the socials we’re also wp101. My personal Twitter handle is @leftlane, so you can find me there. And then we just launched a brand new version of our WP 101 plugin that we talked about earlier, just in this past month and it adds a lot of new features and capabilities, we’re really proud of it, we completely rewrote the plugin from scratch so this is kind of a recurring theme, we redid our entire WordPress 101 video series from scratch and then also the plugins so you can check out that plugin. That’s perfect for installing on your client sites if you’re an agency or a host. Definitely check those out. Also last year I spun up a new business because apparently I had too much free time so I actually launched 101videos.com and I’m really excited about this. This is a custom video tutorial service, I’m partnering with a couple of phenomenally talented educators in their own right, Brian Richards of WPSessions, Joe Casabona of Creator Courses, so the three of us together are tackling some really fun video projects, creating video tutorials for other WordPress products and services. So we’re excited to see where that goes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Awesome, thank you so much Shawn, Bud?
Bud Kraus: Well you can reach me at email@example.com or just go to my site, joyofwp.com, and my email address is over there. And I’m also on Twitter and my handle is @joyofwp so it’s kind of simple to remember.
Shawn Hesketh: Love it.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I put it in the wrong things here so I’m sorry, I’m gonna do it again. So Angela, how can people get in touch with you?
Angela Bowman: On most of the social networks I’m askwpgirl and my website’s askwpgirl.com, I hope to be writing more. And if you’re going to WordCamp Europe we’re hoping to do a live show or at least an interview at WordCamp Europe of Women in WP and I hope that men and women would take an interest in the podcast and suggest guests and sign up to be a guest.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: That’s awesome, yeah. I’m looking forward to whatever comes out of WordCamp Europe, I have a lot of FOMO for that and this weekend is WordCamp London, that’s a another FOMO event for me, so I’m trying to catch the live stream there.
Thank you to all our viewers and listeners for your great questions. If you have more questions you can always send them to me via email at Pauli@Gutenbergtimes.com. A recording of this show will be available in a few minutes on the YouTube channel and we’ll publish the transcript later on on Gutenberg Times and for the next show, we’re taking a break in April, this is the last show in April and it’s only April fifth, the next show will be on May 10th. And the show’s sponsored by Pauli Systems and our generous supporters on Patreon.
Thanks again to Angela, Bud, Shawn, it’s been a great joy talking to you and having you on the show. Thank you so much and that’s it for now.
Bud Kraus: Thank you.
Angela Bowman: Thank you.
Shawn Hesketh: Thank you, it’s been great.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: And good luck, bye.
Angela Bowman: Bye.