Birgit Pauli-Haack, curator of the Gutenberg Times website, is hosting a Q&A session with Gutenberg’s phase 1 design and development leads on Friday, November 30, at 2pm ET (19:00 UTC). Matias Ventura, Tammie Lister, and Joen Asmussen will join Pauli-Haack to discuss their journey “Creating Gutenberg” over the past two years.
If you have any pressing questions about Gutenberg’s architecture, design, or the future of the project, this event is a good opportunity to speak to members of the team who have been building it full-time. The Q&A is free to watch but attendees who want to participate with questions will need to register. There are 100 seats available. Pauli-Haack will also be live-streaming the session to the Gutenberg Times YouTube channel.
WPCampus is seeking funding to conduct an accessibility audit of WordPress’ Gutenberg editor. The non-profit organization is dedicated to helping web professionals, educators, and others who work with WordPress in higher education. Educational institutions often have stricter legal obligations that require software to be WCAG 2.0 level AA compliant and many European institutions set the bar even higher at WCAG 2.1.
WPCampus moved to spearhead an audit after Automattic decided to forego Matt MacPherson’s proposal for Gutenberg to undergo an accessibility audit. Results of the audit will help WPCampus determine any potential legal risk for institutions upgrading to WordPress 5.0 and will also identify specific challenges that Gutenberg introduces for assistive technology users and others with accessibility needs.
“A professional accessibility audit is a large expense for a small nonprofit like WPCampus,” WPCampus director Rachel Cherry said. “Accessibility is important to all of us in the WordPress community. We’re asking for your help to fund the audit and ensure this important research is completed.”
WPCampus is still evaluating proposals from vendors and will announce its selection soon, along with an updated timeline for completing the audit. The organization has set its funding goal at $30,000, an amount that falls in the mid-range of the proposals the selection committee has received. If the campaign raises more than the amount required, WPCampus plans to designate the funds for other accessibility-related efforts, such as future audits and live captioning at conferences.
Two days after launching the campaign, WPCampus has received $3,692 (12%) towards its funding goal. The organization plans to share the results of the audit and any supporting documents on its website.
The comments published on the donations page demonstrate how strongly supporters feel about getting an audit and using that information to make Gutenberg a tool that anyone can use. The topic of accessibility is close to the heart for many donating to the campaign.
“When I was navigating stores with three small children, stores which helped me with automatic doors, wide aisles, and shopping carts for a crowd often made the decision for me as to whether I could shop at all,” WordPress developer Robin Cornett said. “As we create content and build tools for the internet, we should be doing all we can to ensure the best online experience we can for everyone.”
WordPress co-founder Mike Little also donated to the campaign, with comments on how important accessibility is to fulfilling the project’s mission.
“As the platform that democratizes publishing, we can’t allow new features in WordPress to take that away from users with accessibility needs,” Little said.
“Accessibility matters to everyone — injured, encumbered, distracted, disabled, everyone,” WordPress consultant Adrian Roselli said. Accessibility in WordPress matters to my clients because some of their people require it in order to use the tool and therefore stay gainfully employed.”
The audit proposed months ago has evolved to become a community effort funded by passionate supporters working in various capacities throughout the WordPress ecosystem. If WPCampus is successful in funding its campaign, this particular approach has the benefit of making it a more cooperative effort with more people invested in the process than if it were funded by a single company. WPCampus aims to release the audit report to the community by January 17, 2019 but the dates will depend on the arrangement with the vendor.
WordPress 5.0 will soon replace the editor with the new Gutenberg editor as part of a multi-phase project to improve the experience of authoring rich content. Phase 2 will shift focus to tackle site customization, bringing more complex layout and page builder capabilities to Gutenberg.
As this phase kicks off soon, it’s valuable to see what other platforms are doing on this front. Drupal has traditionally appealed to a more technical audience, and probably wouldn’t count Squarespace, Wix, and Tumblr among their competitors, but the project is getting more friendly towards site builders and content editors. Drupal has brought improvements to its usability, media, and layout experiences over the past few years in support of users who have demanded a more modern, simplified admin UI. The project is currently testing a visual design tool for building layouts.
Two weeks ago, Drupal founder and project lead Dries Buytaert previewed the new Layout Builder, an experimental feature that is stabilizing and expected to land in Drupal 8.7 in May 2019. Layout Builder offers layouts for templated content, customizations to templated layouts, and custom pages. These uses are especially important when building sites with large amounts of content that occasionally require template overrides and one-off landing pages.
Buytaert described how Layout Builder approaches the creation of one-off dynamic pages, which he said is similar to the capabilities found in services such as Squarespace and projects like Gutenberg for WordPress and Drupal:
A content author can start with a blank page, design a layout, and start adding blocks. These blocks can contain videos, maps, text, a hero image, or custom-built widgets (e.g. a Drupal View showing a list of the ten most popular gift baskets). Blocks can expose configuration options to the content author. For instance, a hero block with an image and text may offer a setting to align the text left, right, or center. These settings can be configured directly from a sidebar.
Buytaert’s demo video shows the Layout Builder in action. Its capabilities are similar to many of WordPress’ third-party page builders, such as Elementor and Beaver Builder.
Layout Builder Poses Accessibility Challenges
Layout Builder is anchored on one of Drupal’s stronger features – the ability to create structured content, but it faces some of the same accessibility challenges that WordPress’ Gutenberg editor has encountered.
In his post introducing Layout Builder, Buytaert made some pointed remarks about Drupal’s commitment to accessibility:
Accessibility is one of Drupal’s core tenets, and building software that everyone can use is part of our core values and principles. A key part of bringing Layout Builder functionality to a “stable” state for production use will be ensuring that it passes our accessibility gate (Level AA conformance with WCAG and ATAG). This holds for both the authoring tool itself, as well as the markup that it generates. We take our commitment to accessibility seriously.
Some contributors are not as optimistic about Drupal being able to fulfill these bold claims in time to ship the feature in 8.7.0. Andrew Macpherson, one of the accessibility topic maintainers for Drupal 8 core, has proposed Layout Builder offer an alternative UI that users can access without the visual preview UI.
“Dries’ blog post about layout builder yesterday says we’re on track to mark this as stable for D8.7.0,” Macpherson said. “I’m not at all optimistic about that, because as yet there is no feasible plan for how it can be made accessible.
“A minimum viable product for Layout Builder accessibility would be at least one method which works, for each user task, for each input/output method. I don’t think we can say we have found a feasible approach. We’re in deeply experimental territory here – there isn’t a well-established, reliable pattern we can just copy to make the current layout builder accessible. Essentially, we’re making stuff up in a hurry, for a novel UI, with limited opportunity for design validation. There’s no guarantee that users are going to understand it, or find it easy to use. That’s why I’m not optimistic about it getting past the accessibility gate in time for D8.7.0.”
Macpherson said that WCAG strongly advises against providing alternate versions but allows for them in instances where the main version cannot be made accessible.
“I think we are effectively in this situation now, although we are still exploring ideas,” he said.
Macpherson also recommended they continue striving to make the drag-and-drop, visual-preview layout builder UI accessible at the same time. He referenced emerging principles of Inclusive Design for application developers, which recommend “offering choice,” giving users different ways of completing tasks, especially those that may be complex or non-standard.
“Eventually, I’d like to see BOTH layout builder UIs being accessible, and offer genuinely useful choices for everyone,” Macpherson said. “But let’s take the time to do it well, instead of hastily bolting on fixes for one type of interaction method at a time, in a rush to ship a single layout builder UI. ”
Macpherson’s proposal is still under consideration, but it provides an interesting perspective on similar challenges WordPress contributors are facing with Gutenberg. Modernizing UIs to make the site building experience more accessible for those who don’t know how to code has to be balanced with considerations for those who may not be able see very well or use a mouse. Drupal contributors are exploring providing an alternative accessible UI as a solution to empower more users to take advantage of the new Layout Builder.
WordPress 5.0 will ship with a code block in the new editor but it doesn’t include syntax highlighting. The code is currently wrapped in pre tags. During the earlier days of Gutenberg’s development, the HTML block had syntax highlighting but the team was not satisfied with its implementation and decided to pull it until they could provide more consistent behavior across blocks.
For now, users will have to depend on a plugin to get syntax highlighting. SyntaxHighlighter Evolved is one of the first plugins of its kind to add Gutenberg support via its own block.
The plugin currently adds syntax highlighting to source code on the frontend only. Nevertheless, it’s a great use case for Gutenberg, as the plugin previously required you to remember how to structure the shortcode in a particular way in order to use it.
Ian Dunn contributed the Gutenberg support for SyntaxHighlighter Evolved. In the PR for this feature, Dunn said he wanted to give existing users a way to continue using the plugin after WordPress 5.0 is released:
The syntax highlighting only works on the front end, due to the nature of SyntaxHighlighter. Details are documented in the edit() function’s docblock.
Because of that, this isn’t the ideal syntax highlighting block, but this provides a way for existing users to continue using the plugin without having to migrate old posts to a different plugin.
Another limitation is that this PR only supports the language attribute of the shortcode, because I ran out of time/energy. This lays the groundwork, though, so the rest of them can easily be added in a future iteration.
SyntaxHighlighter Evolved is active on more than 40,000 installations and is also used on WordPress.com, so this update to the plugin should help those who rely on it to be able to use the new Gutenberg editor without having to switch back to the old editor when they need to add code to their content.
There is still some debate about the best way to provide syntax highlighting in Gutenberg. Another implementation called Code Syntax Block by Marcus Kazmierczak, extends Gutenberg’s existing code block to offer syntax highlighting, instead of creating a new block for it. It also uses PrismJS syntax highlighter.
Shiny Code is another approach that adds a new block for code and provides a preview inside the Gutenberg editor.
In the official plugin directory, the Enlighter plugin, which has 10,000 active installs, offers experimental support for Gutenberg that is being actively developed on GitHub. Kebo Code, a relatively new plugin with fewer than 10 installs, was created to offer syntax highlighting for Gutenberg and currently supports 121 languages and two themes. Users will have to switch to the frontend to see the code rendered with the theme selected.
SyntaxHighlighter Evolved does not yet provide a way for highlighting existing code blocks or transforming a core code block to use the plugin’s syntax highlighting. Converting all existing code blocks might take some time for those who have been using it extensively. Alex Mills, the plugin’s author, said he is considering all of these issues and welcomes patches on the GitHub repository for the plugin. Plugin authors may change their approaches over time, depending on where Gutenberg goes in the future, so users will want to evaluate available plugins periodically to see which ones suit their needs.
The countdown has started for WordCamp US 2018 in Nashville. The event is just 10 days away. If you cannot attend, watching via the livestream is the next best option. Anyone can join the livestream for free, but viewers will need to sign up for a ticket on the event website.
This year’s schedule includes sessions in two tracks: Banjo and Guitar. Matt Mullenweg’s annual State of the Word address is scheduled for Saturday, December 8, at 4:00 p.m. CST. Livestream ticket holders can tune in to any of the sessions and may also want to participate in the conversations on Twitter using the #WCUS hashtag.
Jetpack 6.8 was released today, introducing the plugin’s first set of blocks for Gutenberg. The necessary infrastructure was added in version 6.6 and all existing features that touch the editor are in the process of being ported over to blocks. This release includes blocks for payment buttons, forms, maps, and markdown.
The Contact Form module is one of the plugin’s most popular features and one that users often enable on new websites. This block removes a major barrier to implementing a form on WordPress sites – new users will have no need to try to understand the concept of shortcodes in order to collect feedback on their sites. Creating a new form essentially works like adding blocks inside of blocks:
The Simple Payments button block is slightly different in that it already has the form fields set up so the user can fill them out for whatever they are selling. This block is available for users on the Jetpack Premium or Professional plan.
The map block makes it easy for users to embed an interactive map within the content of posts or pages. After signing up for a free Mapbox Access Token, users can select a location directly inside the new editor and preview it live with different map theme options and a color-picker for the marker.
Some of those who have tested Gutenberg may not be a fan of its current writing interface, but after you see some of these blocks in action for things like maps and payment buttons, it’s clear that this is a superior interface for these content types. Modernizing the interface for content that previously relied on shortcodes is where Gutenberg truly excels right now.
Development on the Gutenberg plugin has been so active that it makes sense that the Jetpack team waited until WordPress 5.0 RC to release any blocks. Jetpack users can take advantage of them now if they have Gutenberg installed, or wait until 5.0 is officially released. The Jetpack team is also working on a number of other blocks for existing features. You can follow the progress on upcoming blocks at Jetpack’s GitHub repository and log issues with blocks that have already been released.
Jetpack 6.8 also restores the Publicize module to the pre-publish sidebar, so users can continue automatically sharing posts after WordPress 5.0 is released. This version ensures compatibility with Jetpack’s widgets for those using the Twenty Nineteen theme. Check out the release post to see more blocks in action and the changelog for a full list of all the enhancements and bug fixes.
WordPress 5.0 RC 1 was released over the weekend after a string of five betas that began in late October. According to the Gutenberg stats page, more than 1.1 million sites have the Gutenberg plugin installed and users have written more than 980,000 posts using the new editor. These numbers are conservative estimates, as the numbers only include WordPress.com sites and sites running Jetpack.
Most of the changes included in the RC were outlined in the Gutenberg 4.5 release post last week. An update published today shows 12 PRs waiting for review in the 4.6 milestone, 14 open issues in the 5.0.0 milestone, and more than 150 issues open in 5.0.1 and subsequent releases. Dev notes for 5.0 have been published and tagged on the make.wordpress.org/core blog.
WordPress 5.0’s official release date was set for November 27 but after further evaluation the date has been pushed back. Last week WordPress core core committers, contributors, and former release leads made strong, last-minute appeals to hold off RC and defer the release to January. Development is moving forward desipite the pushback. A new release date has not yet been announced. The current plan is to monitor feedback on the RC and the team will make a decision from there.
Mullenweg Responds to Critics on Twitter, Reiterates Vision for Gutenberg
Over the weekend, Matt Mullenweg responded to critics on Twitter who voiced concerns about his leadership and communication throughout WordPress 5.0’s development. One particular post titled “Let’s Take A Very Serious Look At Gutenberg,” written by WordPress developer Cameron Jones, sparked conversation. In response to Cliff Seal, who urged Mullenweg to “re-cast the vision of WordPress in a way that accounts for the apparent urgency of this effort,” Mullenweg responded:
Many people who try to start publishing with WordPress fail; those who don’t struggle with shortcodes, embeds, widgets; those who can toggle to code view to do basic tasks in the editor, and for clients set up elaborate meta-field and CPT based schemes to avoid catastrophe.
Gutenberg aims to solve these problems, improve the WP experience for all its users, and open up independent, open source, beautiful publishing on the web to a class of users that couldn’t publish with WordPress before.
It may seem rushed to people unused to this pace of development and improvement in the WordPress world. However this has been a pace sustained for almost two years now, and we still look slow compared to some modern software. Speed of iteration is enabled by the new tech stack.
It bothers me at a deep, moral level to hold back a user experience that will significantly upgrade the publishing ability and success of tens or hundreds of millions of users. It hasn’t been ready (for core) yet, so it’s not released. I hope it will be soon!
This may all look very quaint in retrospect, when we look back three or five years from now. It’s a tough transition but the foundation Gutenberg enables will be worth it.
Matt Medeiros, another vocal critic of Mullenweg’s leadership on WordPress 5.0, recorded a video, expounding on his concerns about transparency and the rushed pace. He summarized the frustrations that inspired him to make the video.
“While I agree WordPress needs innovation to reach new users that desperately require freedom over their content, especially within the context of today’s social networks, I don’t agree and am also discouraged by Matt not sharing the product vision with the community,” Medeiros said. “It’s polarizing to build software under the guise of openness with a mission to democratize publishing, but not give the same people volunteering to ‘Five for the Future’ a voice for the future.
“Lack of communication, not Gutenberg or the team developing it, has lead to the current divide and we’re left asking — why? WordPress has always had a branding problem and this continues to muddy the lines between open source project and WordPress the ‘product.’”
The 5.0 release is heading into the home stretch but Gutenberg has several phases ahead with many more years of development. Mullenweg’s responses on Twitter over the weekend indicate he is interested in keeping the lines of communication open throughout the process. He said he plans to dedicate more time to responding directly to feedback.
“One thing will try: I’m going to open up some listening office hours in the next week so people can talk directly,” Mullenweg said. “I want everyone to be and feel heard, as they have been since the beginning of this process in 2016.”
WordPress core committers, core contributors, and former release leads made strong, last-minute appeals on Monday for the 5.0 release to be deferred to January. RC was expected Monday but those urging its delay cited the large number of open issues on the milestone and the fact that many confirmed bugs are being aggressively punted to followup releases.
“I do not see how we can seriously ship a release candidate today,” Joe McGill said. “In doing so, we are either saying we’re ok with shipping a major version of WordPress with this many known issues, or that the term ‘release candidate’ does not actually have meaning. I would suggest that we revise the schedule to push back RC for at least 4 weeks so we have a reasonable deadline and, in the mean time, continue releasing betas.”
Nearly every contributor involved in the discussion was enthusiastic about Gutenberg but urged release lead Matt Mullenweg to allow for four weeks of RC and code freeze to give the community to prepare.
– Building site with Gutenberg – Find bug, go to GH to file an issue – Find the ticket already exists. – Bug has already been punted to "5.0.x Follow Ups" – Find all the other *known* bugs planned for 5.0 launch
Contributors said they don’t understand the rush to get 5.0. Several noted that Gutenberg seems to be measured by a different rod of success than previous releases where headline features were held to a different standard in regards to shipping known bugs.
“We’re fast approaching a million (Jetpack tracked) posts made through the editor, with the non-tracked number probably a multiple of that,” Mullenweg said in response to contributors’ concerns. “There’s been an explosion of plugins building on top of Gutenberg and some things like the work ACF and Block Lab have done that seem really transformational for WordPress. For those whom the editor is not a good fit they can opt in at any point, including post-5.0, to Classic and continue using WP exactly as they had before until at least 2022 and likely beyond.”
Mullenweg identified a few questions he sees as “good measures of success for Gutenberg:”
Are people, when given the choice, choosing to use it over the old editor?
Can they create things they weren’t able to create before?
Are new-to-WP users more successful (active, happy with what they create) than pre-Gutenberg?
Are interesting things being built on top of it?
Interesting plugins are being built on top of Gutenberg but they are breaking with every release of the plugin. Gutenberg 4.5 was released yesterday, matching the first 5.0 RC feature set. It includes a large number of changes and bug fixes that have gone relatively untested by the community at large. Most notably, 4.5 introduced a regression that caused a white screen of death when trying to load custom post types in the classic editor, forcing a 4.5.1 release earlier in the day. Every release introduces changes that cause plugins to break, requiring immediate updates from plugin developers.
Our new #gutenberg development cycle 1) New version of GB is released 2) We cross our fingers 3) Find out GB breaks stuff 4) Fix GB issues 5) Issue release 6) New version of GB released repeat process
Gutenberg technical lead Matias Ventura posted an update today, confirming that WordPress 5.0 will miss the planned November 27 release date but did not offer a secondary date.
“The date for 5.0 release is under consideration, given it’s not plausible for it to be the on 27th,” Ventura said.
WordPress 5.0 Will Ship “When It’s Ready,” Contributors are Focusing on Getting Release Candidate out ASAP
When the second set of November dates for release were missed, many assumed WordPress 5.0 would fall back to the secondary dates in January, but that has not yet been confirmed. The previous scope and schedule Gary Pendergast outlined said the November dates could slip by up to eight days if necessary and that if additional time was required, they would aim for the January dates:
Secondary RC 1: January 8, 2019
Secondary Release: January 22, 2019
During the regularly scheduled core developers’ chat today, the discussion regarding WordPress 5.0’s release date became heated, as contributors continued to push for a January release. Pendergast suggested that December might have a viable date, to which Yoast CEO Joost de Valk responded, “I’m going to raise hell if we do December.”
WordPress plugin developers and agencies are trying to plan for upcoming holidays and want to have staff available when the release lands. Many of those who attended the meeting were hoping to receive confirmation on the release being pushed back to January.
“Please also consider the plugin shops that are rearranging their priorities to have blocks ready for 5.0, only to have had to fix them several times in the last few weeks,” Kevin Hoffman said. “The success of 5.0 depends just as much on third-party support as it does core.”
“There’s agreement on that from all sides, that the amount of code churn and missed earlier deadlines means that the 27th is untenable,” Mullenweg said. “RC is still possible soon, but please don’t assume that implies a final release date until we see how that goes and pick one. I hope that it shows that we are willing to change decisions based on new information, it’s not about being ‘right’ or sticking to previous plans blindly.”
This statement indicates Mullenweg may be considering dates that were not included in the original schedule, as he later said,”If y’all can take the data without freaking out about what it means for the release date, there have been 8 major releases in December, it’s actually been 34% of our last 23 major releases.”
Several contributors agreed that getting an RC out ASAP would finally force a longer code freeze for Gutenberg’s UI, API, documentation, and features. This would give the community more time to prepare.
“As part of the development team for almost two years now, I’d love for us to draw the RC line soon for the sake of everyone’s fatigue,” Matias Ventura said. “And think it’s ready to be drawn. I am concerned with letting us do ‘one more little thing’ and pushing the stability line further down, in an almost endless process.”
Contributors are now wrapping up the last few tickets and the plan is to get the release candidate out tomorrow during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Given WordPress’ global contributor base, releasing on the holiday shouldn’t be an issue. The team is also still investigating the possibility of bundling the Classic Editor plugin with updates for existing WordPress sites.
“Our focus right now is on a great RC,” Mullenweg said. Throughout Gutenberg’s development Mullenweg has said WordPress 5.0 would ship “when it’s ready.” No release date will be announced until the team has had time to evaluate the release candidate.
“It is true that the primary thing is whether it’s ready, and it’s not currently ready,” Mullenweg said.
In 1928, John A. Shedd published a little book called “Salt from My Attic.” It included a saying that U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper said was influential in her life: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
Shipping a major overhaul of WordPress’ editor has brought a fair share of uncertainty and frustration to contributors and the community that depends on the software. After mission-critical issues have been resolved, it seems to become a cycle of fixing and breaking things that could continue indefinitely. Although the holiday timing isn’t ideal, if Gutenberg stalls much longer it’s going to be burning daylight. At some point the ship just needs to push away from the port and see how it sails.
In a post titled “Open Source Has Won,” EllisLab founder Rick Ellis explained why ExpressionEngine is going open source after 16 years. The content management system is an evolution of the pMachine blogging software first released in early 2002. EllisLab previously required a license fee to use the full version of ExpressionEngine, which is built on object-oriented PHP and uses MySQL for storage.
“Although open source was a viable licensing model when we launched our first CMS back in 2002, it was not apparent then just how dominant open source would become on the web,” Ellis said. “It wasn’t until Eric Raymond wrote The Cathedral & The Bazaar that open source would even begin to enter the general public’s consciousness. Since then we’ve watched the open source market grow rapidly and continuously.
“Today, over 90% of the CMS market is open source. In fact, it’s nearly the de-facto license model for all-things web. Stunningly, the market is expected to triple in revenue within the next five to ten years, and it’s estimated that over 70% of businesses worldwide rely on open-source software. To say that the internet is open source would not be an exaggeration. It’s that dominant.”
Ellis said he had wanted to migrate to an open source license for a long time but had not yet found “the right strategic and financial partner to enable the full vision of what we hope to achieve.” The first part of EllisLab’s business plan is to build a successful services model and then branch out from there.
Prior to licensing ExpressionEngine under the Apache License, Version 2.0, EllisLab’s commercial license imposed severe restrictions on what users could do with the software. Users were not permitted to do any of the following:
Use the Core License (free) for any client or contract work.
Use the Software as the basis of a hosted blogging service, or to provide hosting services to others.
Reproduce, distribute, or transfer the Software, or portions thereof, to any third party.
Modify, tamper with, bypass, or in any way impede license registration routines in the Software.
Sell, rent, lease, assign, or sublet the Software or portions thereof, including sites in your multi-site license.
Grant rights to any other person.
Use the Software in violation of any U.S. or international law or regulation.
Additional stipulations encouraged users not to share code by keeping their repositories private, and to make sure they were paying for commercial licenses if they were being paid for their work.
There was simply no way ExpressionEngine could capture any significant amount of market share with this kind of restrictive licensing and its usage has steadily declined over the years. It is currently used by 0.3% of all the websites whose content management system w3techs can detect. By this or any other measure of market share, ExpressionEngine stands as a sobering monument to the importance of giving a project a license that empowers its community to continue adding wood to the fire.
“The community is mostly gone at this point and I don’t even think its related to them charging for the software but they just stopped responding people and helping them in their forums,” reddit user @netzvolk commented on the news.
“I have paid EE multiple times in the past but considered NOT paying anymore because third party developers are gone, the community members are gone, the tutorials and books are gone….EE 2 was the best version so far. Moving to yearly releases also caused more harm than good in terms of building a stable ecosystem around the product.”
ExpressionEngine’s new open source licensing is a major win for its remaining users. How much further down the road would the software be if the decision was made years ago? There’s no way to know, but moving forward users will have more input and influence over the future of the software.
“I suspect open sourcing EE is an approach to get that community and developers back,” @netzvolk said. “EllisLab can still make money with consulting, support and add-ons.
“But all those suffer if nobody is using the product anymore. This is more about expanding reach to stay afloat than anything else because some of their past bad decisions are what created alternatives like Craft. EllisLab turned an amazing product into a forgotten one in just a few years. I hope this means some change, and maybe, maybe one day the old developers and hard core EE community members come back.”
Users can only speculate on why EllisLab is making this move after 16 years of keeping its software locked down under restrictive licensing, but Ellis makes it clear in his post that the market decided long ago.
“Open source has won,” Ellis said. “It’s not even a contest anymore.”
Figma, an online collaborative interface design tool, has donated an organizational membership to the WordPress project. The browser-based application helps designers and developers collaborate more efficiently and is used by organizations like Microsoft, Slack, and Uber. It provides design tools, prototyping, previews, and real-time feedback, all in the same place, and is often described as the “Google Docs for designing apps.”
Figma aims to match the way designers work today in collaborative roles, with features like shared component libraries, versioning, live device preview, and Sketch import. It was created to offer “one single source of truth for design files.”
“Where we may have used multiple tools in order to support all the parts of the design process, Figma incorporates many of the core features of other tools all in one product for a more efficient and powerful workflow,” Alexis Lloyd, Head of Design Innovation at Automattic, said in the announcement on the make.wordpress design blog. “I’m excited about the possibilities for how Figma can make the WordPress design process more collaborative, robust, and efficient.”
Figma launched in 2016 but has quickly gained popularity due to its seamless developer handoff exports and cross-platform compatibility. Many teams inside the WordPress community are already big fans of using Figma. 10up has been using the tool as part of the company’s design process. The SketchPress library that 10up created, a collection of WordPress admin interfaces, symbols, and icons, is in the process of being converted into a shared team library for Figma so that WordPress contributors can take advantage of it.
If you have held back on getting involved in designing for the WordPress project because of archaic collaboration tools, working with Figma may improve your contribution experience. Designers can get access to the WordPress.org Figma team by signing in with a WordPress.org Slack account using the invitation link. New users can upgrade their default “view” capabilities and get access to edit files by requesting permission in WordPress’ #design Slack channel.
Block Lab is a new tool that provides an admin interface and a templating system for creating custom Gutenberg blocks. Rob Stinson, Luke Carbis, and Rheinard Korf, all employees at XWP, kicked off the project in their own time with the goal of removing the relatively steep barrier to block creation. The plugin is now available on WordPress.org and Stinson said their target audience is WordPress developers ranging from junior to experienced.
The Block Lab admin screen lets users select an icon for the custom block, enter keywords, and choose from a variety of input fields.
Rendering the custom blocks in the editor and on the frontend requires simple PHP functions that most WordPress developers are probably already familiar with. Here’s an example for a testimonial block from the plugin’s documentation:
The plugin makes it possible to build custom blocks in a matter of minutes, as demonstrated in the video below.
Block Lab Puts Block Creation Inside the WordPress Admin
Block Lab differs from existing block creation tools in that it aims to provide a Gutenberg-first solution directly inside the WordPress admin. With the exception of the template creation, developers are not required to write any code when using it to create blocks.
“Ahmad’s create-gluten-block is an excellent solution, but is more focused on streamlining block creation from the ground floor,” Stinson said. “As I understand, it’s a development framework. Block Lab is about letting the developer kick off from the 10th floor and does this by offering a super simple WP Admin and traditional templating experience.”
Stinson said ACF’s solution was one of the inspirations for his team but that Block Lab tackles block creation from a different angle.
“ACF is amazing as well – easily one of our all time favorite plugins and one that has inspired us,” Stinson said. “Block Lab is a Gutenberg-first solution. Where ACF is a meta data first solution. They both arrive at similar destinations but get there by very different means, both technically and as far as UX goes.”
Developers and users who adopt Block Labs should be aware that if the plugin is deactivated, the custom blocks they created will also be deactivated. They are stored in the database and the templates are stored in the theme or child theme. Switching themes means users will lose the blocks as well.
“Adding templates to a stand-alone plugin is the most effective way around this,” Stinson said. “Either way though, the templating is simple enough that copying template folders/files from one theme to another is pretty easy. I did this exact thing yesterday in about 5 minutes.”
Data portability isn’t a guarantee for users right now, but Stinson said his team has some ideas about how they can reduce barriers even further to include an in-admin templating experience.
Block Lab’s creators have plans to offer commercial extensions eventually, but at this stage they are focusing on solving the problem for users in the free plugin.
“Once we better understand what folks are needing, we’ll find a way of gracefully offering premium stuff,” Stinson said.
There are still many unknowns about how the larger community of WordPress users will react to the upcoming 5.0 release, but Stinson is convinced that Gutenberg will have a positive impact on the plugin ecosystem and users’ experiences with extensions.
“Gutenberg is going to, ultimately, change things for the better in the plugin ecosystem,” he said. “There is no doubt it’s going to be bumpy for the first little while, but the net effect is that WordPress will have a better editing experience in general and one that gives plugin developers a stronger baseline for extending the editing experience. Even as we explore what we can do with Block Lab we’re discovering really cool things that we would never have thought of unless we just started using it. I think this will be the larger experience by most people in the WordPress community.”