It is inevitable that when we publish a story on the Tavern that is remotely related to the block editor or the Gutenberg project, we receive negative comments. Despite sprinting along in its second year as part of core WordPress, there are still those who liken posts on the editor to Soviet-style mind manipulation and propaganda for certain unnamed companies.
It is not all negative. Far more comments are from people who are ecstatic about the current editor and the upcoming features that will expand the block system to other areas of WordPress.
However, I felt the need to address a recent request that we stop covering the block editor. While I cannot speak for our entire staff, there are two simple truths about why I write about blocks.
Truth #1: Blocks are Here to Stay
The block system is not going anywhere. WordPress has moved beyond the point where we should consider the block editor as a separate entity. It is an integral part of WordPress and will eventually touch more and more areas outside of the editing screen.
Frankly, it would be poor journalism to not cover stories related to blocks.
Some of the most exciting things happening in the WordPress ecosystem is around what developers are doing with blocks. Whether it is a fun T-rex game, a block-ready theme, or a team of block developers being hired by a major company, there is always something interesting happening in the world of blocks.
Every day, more users are embracing the block editor. Even the percentage of holdouts still running WordPress 4.9, which was the last version without the block editor, is decreasing. Currently, only 12.8% of WordPress installs are on 4.9. Nearly 73% are running WordPress 5.0 or newer. Some of those users are running plugins like Classic Editor, which has maintained a steady growth rate in the neighborhood of 0.5% – 1.0% in recent months. Currently, the plugin has over 5 millions installs, which is a drop in the ocean in comparison to total WordPress sites.
At the moment, WordPress.com and self-hosted Jetpack users are creating content via blocks on 44.5 million WordPress sites. Yesterday, those users wrote 302,000 posts in the block editor.
Blocks are the future of the platform. What we need to do as a community is avoid putting our heads in the sand or railing against the powers-that-be. Instead, we should ask ourselves what we could do to continue improving the system. How can we move forward? How can we present our ideas, even dislikes, in a constructive manner? How can we create better software?
Criticism of the editor is fair. Make it constructive so we can dissect and address that criticism. That is an essential part of building great software.
Truth #2: Love of Blocks
Believe it or not, I actually love blocks. While I may criticize some decisions about the editor, summoning an internal facepalm emoji at times, this is the most excited I have been about WordPress in years. But, it is not about me. I have enough familiarity with dozens of editors that I can live with even the most mediocre of experiences. And, if I am not satisfied, I can build my own.
What it is about is seeing the face of an inexperienced WordPress user light up for the first time because they get it.
For years, I helped an older family member run an outdoors site. I had no interest in hunting, fishing, or most other topics covered on the blog. However, he was passionate about what he was doing. I wanted to help fuel that passion in any way I could. The problem? He simply never learned how WordPress worked. He never had that lightbulb moment. His face never glowed when he finally figured out how to lay out his content in the editor.
He had big ideas and no way to accomplish them.
At the time, most page builders were little more than shortcode soup, which I knew would eventually mean I would be the one to clean up the mess. There were few options other than the classic editor. My older cousin stuck it out for longer than most. After a few years, he finally let the site go.
Even some of what I would consider the most basic of things were too frustrating for him. It was also frustrating for me because I could not understand why he could never learn what I was teaching.
However, the block editor changed things. He was thinking of starting a new site but was asking about non-WordPress platforms. I spun up a demo install and a basic block-ready theme for him not long ago. Suddenly, this guy who routinely broke links and accidentally made all of his blog post content bold — twice — was piecing together media-filled content with few issues. That initial passion that he had all those years ago seemed to come back. Maybe, just maybe, WordPress might now be the CMS for him.
I am fully aware that this is not everyone’s experience. However, what I have found working with new and less-than-tech-savvy users is that the block editor is a stepping stone toward them being able to create the sites they want more easily. Right now, those users have far more control over their content than ever before. In the future, they will have that control over their entire site.
When I share a story about blocks, it is because I am excited about them. More so, I want to share that excitement with others who are on this journey. Whether they want something on the wacky and weird side of things or want to build custom patterns for reuse in their posts, I want them to find those tools.
If I am a bit optimistic about the future at times, I will not apologize for that. I look forward to the next block-related story that we have the opportunity to cover here at the Tavern.