Much has been written about Gutenberg, the next major evolution of WordPress. (I’ve written a few posts myself, explaining what it is, how this is a pivotal moment for WordPress, and the best way to respond when Gutenberg is released in late November.) This is a contentious topic in the WordPress community, and it has a lot of users speaking out both for and against it, but one thing I noticed recently is that all the posts I have read shared a similar flaw in their focus.
Everyone seems to be talking about how Gutenberg will impact self-hosted WordPress.org sites while at the same time completely missing how sites hosted on WordPress.com will be affected.
I was just talking with a friend today, and I realized that Gutenberg could be the best thing that has ever happened to sites hosted on WordPress.com.
WordPress.com is the single greatest concentration of WordPress sites anywhere, but it is still often overlooked when everyone is talking about the future of WordPress. It is easy to see why; there are so many restrictions on WordPress.com sites that if you want to do just about anything then you have to use a self-hosted WordPress site (or pay through the nose). With much of the developer and designer community focused on self-hosted sites, they naturally forget to consider sites hosted on WordPress.com.
And that myopia extends to the discussion around Gutenberg.
I don’t mean to criticize anyone; TBH, I only really started thinking about how Gutenberg will affect WordPress.com sites this afternoon.
While I plan to keep Gutenberg as far away from my own sites as possible, I am really looking forward to using Gutenberg to build sites on WordPress.com.
Do you know my chief gripe about Wordpress.com? It’s the fact I can’t edit a theme to add custom features requested by clients. What can I say, I don’t like saying no to clients, but Wordpress.com forces me to say that all the time.
Gutenberg is going to fix that frustration, or at least lessen it.
Gutenberg isn’t much of anything right now, but one of its long-term goals is to be a full-featured page builder for WordPress sites. That is something we don’t have right now for sites on Wordpress.com. Instead, we’re stuck with what the theme’s designer decided, and if we are lucky we can make a few minor changes.
When Gutenberg is fully deployed it is going to free WordPress.com users from the limitations imposed by a theme’s design by giving us the opportunity to make unique page layouts.
Do you want to add a banner image and several columns of text on your home page? You can do that with Gutenberg.
Do you want to put a Google Maps widget next to your contact form? You can do that too!
Gutenberg is the end of cookie cutter blog layouts on WordPress.com. What this means is that we will no longer have to look for a theme on Wordpress.com that _does_ most of what we want; instead we will look for a theme that looks good and gets out of the way so that we can _build_ the site we want.
I know that this doesn’t matter to those who only want to blog on Wordpress.com (trust me, I know how you feel) but speaking as someone who also builds sites there, I could not be happier.
This will free me to do more for my clients, and that is a good thing.
P.S. To be perfectly honest, I still can’t stand using the Gutenberg interface. It annoys the heck out of me. But I still firmly believe that this is a net positive for WordPress.com users.