October 25, 2021
For those with older sites, I know the idea of converting all your content to blocks is pretty scary.
First, you may think you don't have the time or money to do that. Especially if you have an older site with a LOT of content created over the years. Maybe you don't even know what content you have and you're just afraid to break something.
Also, change itself is scary. I know people in my life that fight change.. they like to be cozy with the way things are today with their technology. But after reading this, hopefully, you'll be convinced it's not as painful as you might think — there are safety nets.
If you have the WordPress ‘Classic Editor‘ installed and you aren't making plans in 2022 to convert to blocks, you are setting yourself up for some substantial headaches down the road.. and it could end up costing you more money and time in the long run.
The Future is Blocks – On an “Entire Site” Scale
The Classic Editor was created to help bridge the past with the future. It was a way to delay the switch. It was never meant as a long-term solution. You just needed to listen to Matt Mullenweg (Co-founder and the one responsible for setting the vision and course of WordPress) in the last number of years to realize its days are numbered.
At first, blocks were limited to the post editor. Good. Simple. Just keep doing your thing. And the Classic Editor plugin was focused on just reverting the editor experience to the legacy way of doing things. No big impact. It would operate almost like any page builder would operate; just creating a different experience.
But the roadmap was always to move towards full site editing. In fact, in a few months, version 5.9 ‘could' land us in a place where it's fully realized. Maybe?.. I don't know how on track they are.
Widgets already have blocks.. that were rolled out earlier this year. Log into the customizer and you'll see the widgets are blocks there too.
That of course means your sidebars are technically Block Editors.
5.9 ‘should' introduce better navigation blocks.
So basically, everything is blocks going into next year. It's time to get used to it.
What I Understand From There
There are page builders that already allow you to edit the content right on the front-end. That's where we'll land. The editor as we know it will cease to exist and all the editing will just be done on the front end.
I imagine the customizer will play a role in this transition — maybe that's the front-end editor in its first form.
Beyond that, I'm sure they'll improve responsiveness, the block interfaces.. and just improve and iterate on this new paradigm.
What Could Happen?
What if you don't change?.. And what if you do?
Worst case the classic editor just stops working or is deprecated. OR maybe it's maintained as an alternative, but at some point maybe there's a breaking feature that WordPress rolls out that causes issues — I would imagine eventually editing will evolve in a way that there isn't even an ‘editor' per se. Anything is possible.
What About Converting to Block Editor.. What Happens?
Nothing. If you've converted a site to blocks already, you'll know that WordPress has done a pretty good job of handling that. It converts it to HTML/text. It doesn't break the front-end.
It just gets thrown into an HTML block that can then be converted into ‘blocks'. So, for example, if there are paragraphs, they'd turn into paragraph blocks.
Or you can just continue to edit as HTML.
If something goes wrong, no worries. You can revert the change; remember WordPress keeps a history of all your changes!
Staging Websites are GREAT
If you're REALLY worried about it, do what many of us do in the web development world. We create what's called a ‘staging website‘. This is a mirror install of your website on your server where you can test the changes first. Then, with confidence, you can roll them out or migrate changes.
If you need help with that, we at Unified Web Design, are experts. Whether it's translating a new design for an existing website, creating a new website or it's part of maintenance routines, setting up and managing staging sites is an everyday thing for us. It is a critical component of our processes.
I Embrace It – And So Should You
I don't see any reason why I should fight the direction of the ‘vision' for WordPress .. well, it's not just a vision, it's in full swing, isn't it?
For myself and my agency, it's a little different because we work with so many client sites. We are bound to have to work with WordPress Block Editor no matter what.
Bottom line, the longer we wait (and the longer YOU wait), the harder it might become to convert.. or issues could arise we can't predict today.
If you, as an example, decide to switch to a different theme next year, will there be issues if you're still on the Classic Editor? Who knows?
We Have a ‘Block' Mindset Already
I've been helping one of my ‘monthly maintenance' clients translate a new design (website refresh) for their existing theme. This is a VERY busy eCommerce site (100s of transactions a day) and we opted to create a roadmap to update and improve the existing custom theme rather than starting from scratch.
As we're going through the design process, I'm identifying elements and content layouts/designs that can be changed into blocks. By turning those into blocks, we can reuse these content sections and design elements anywhere we want! We aren't designing page by page; we are creating reusable elements.
So while we certainly work in legacy environments and hybrid scenarios (many sites are part classic and part block.. even part page builder), we are nudging development towards the new ‘block' mindset.
Every Developer Should Be Learning Block Development
Seriously, they need to at least have a foundational understanding of blocks today.
One of my recent hires I asked just a week or two ago, “How good are you with block development?”
He replied, “With ACF blocks I'm at an expert level and with React Gutenberg blocks I'm at an intermediate level.”
And my response to that? “Great to hear. And good.. maybe I can help you bump that up to an advanced level. “
It's THAT important.
I have to have people on my team that knows block development because:
- We may run into a website where we have to do block development.
- We may have to bug fix a custom block that someone else coded.
- We may need to develop blocks for our clients…
- Our custom themes will become more and more block oriented –> we will have a proprietary, full site custom theme framework in 2022.
As an agency, we don't know what we'll run into. We need to be prepared.
So if you hire a developer to work on your WordPress site and theme? I would start asking them about that experience.
And.. don't be afraid to make the switch. Follow my tips above, know you have histories to revert to, use a staging site if you need to AND stop living in the past. 🙂
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