Will Most WordPress Users Be Prepared for Gutenberg

Within the WordPress community, we have been abuzz about Gutenberg (the new, upcoming editor) and, in a perfect world, the need for every WP user to be prepared for it. But having taught thousands of users over the years, my experience is that in most cases WordPress is just another one of their tools. And no matter how much a piece of technology will change with an update, often most users are happy to just wait until it happens. They don’t pay attention—until they have to They simply are not going to test it via beta or install a plugin to get a feel for it up front.

Myself, I will need to get use to this new editor with as much as I blog here. But I want to give most WordPress users credit. Life on this planet earth will not end as we know it.

I understand all the challenges devs, designers and others are facing, and I sympathize. But in the end I truly feel we will all survive this update. As with Any Piece of Technology, Will Most WordPress Users Only Deal with Gutenberg After It’s Released

Speaking as someone who runs WordPress meetups, among other things, it’s likely people will upgrade to Gutenberg without even knowing it OR knowing about it. We are talking about the majority of users, which honestly don’t come to the meetups and WordCamps, and are not part of our inner circle. The majority of people if given the choice will opt to stay with what they know vs. something potentially better but that has a chance of breaking things on their site (in their mind).

It’s important to make a clear differentiation between the different types of website “managers.” Professional development teams, freelancers, and consultants are more inclined to invest in testing new releases upfront and ensuring that stability is in place. This is their job, regardless of whether they freelance across several clients or work full-time in-house. And maintaining the web presence of a business is their prerogative, contingent on being able to handle upcoming updates.

Unlike other professional self-hosted CMS, WordPress is often compared to site builders and DIY solutions like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace. Solopreneurs, hobbyists, small business owners often take the initiative of building their web presence alone. While this may seem doable, it’s often a risky move in the long run. Same goes for one-off website purchases with no ongoing maintenance on a subscription base.

In those cases, clients are often clueless as to what upcoming updates will look like and what the impact would be. WordPress is known to be backward compatible for years to come, and introducing an opt-out feature replacing their existing content may cause friction and dissatisfaction toward WordPress. Given our limited statistics of about 300 DIY non-technical site builders, over 80% of them have not tested Gutenberg yet and won’t have the time to do so until version 5.0 is out.

I believe that the majority of non-developer users of WordPress – the ones we consider our clients – are using WordPress as a means to an end. They needed a website to promote a service, sell a product, publish on a topic, display a portfolio, or any number of other use cases, and WordPress (for better or worse) was the tool they used to get there.

Maybe they set it up themselves, maybe they had a trusted professional do it for them. Either way, their investment in the tool is the same investment they have in other digital tools – their phones, their browsers, their software, their smart TV, their voice assistant. They want it to do what they got it to do, and sometimes it will update, and sometimes it will change, and when that happens it will either be a better experience (delightful) or a worse experience (frustrating). But they’re definitely not the kind of people that are anticipating the change happening, reading up on it, or preparing for it. They’re too busy doing their actual jobs. Which is why, if they’re an active client, it’s our job to take on that responsibility and make sure future transitions are as smooth as possible.

Yes, the vast majority will not see Gutenberg until their site auto-updates. When that happens, a significant portion will think “something happened” to their site, either someone changed it or it was hacked or the hosting company did it or a plugin was installed etc. They will try to figure out what happened, and they will be confused until someone they consider an authoritative source (not one of the regular WordPress outlets) tells them otherwise. Just because of how humans are hardwired, there will be an immediate backlash, and how the WordPress community handles that backlash will set the tone for the future.

Also because of how humans are hardwired, that backlash will wane after a few weeks or months and things will fall into a new normal. How we handle communication with all those people BEFORE, during, and after release will decide how WordPress as a brand fares as this transition takes place. Persistent, well crafted, empathetic, and educational marketing is necessary.