WordPress at 5.0

Miles Elliott - @milesdelliott

The Status Quo

The Blogging Legacy

  • WordPress has a strong legacy as a blog focused platform and it shows
  • Everything is still called a post
  • Blogging is easy, other things are less so


  • It's your favorite web-based HTML editor
  • Well-suited to the environment of the early 2000s
  • Less so for modern, complex websites

We won't be stopped by these limitations!

HTML Entry

  • Your favorite markup language
  • Your client doesn't have a favorite markup language
  • Fragile, some stuff may get stripped out by WordPress
  • Isn't this what we were trying to avoid?

(Advanced) Custom Fields

  • An interface for developers to add fields to the post edit screen to store data in the post meta table
  • This data can be used to display content on the front end
  • Result: A lot of rows in tables and post content mixed in with post meta


  • Allow developers to encapsulate a code block that outputs to the front end using a tag
  • Less intuitive without additional plugins

Page Builders

  • Fully featured visual way to lay out pages
  • Dubious markup & performance
  • Often take over the entire edit screen
  • Often proprietary and "walled garden"


  • Fractured Environment
  • Casual users have a harder time getting started
  • Users are expecting a better experience


The GutenGist

  • A new post editor based around blocks
  • Built using React
  • Blocks structure how data is stored into html and how it can be pulled out

What Does it Look like?

It's React, Right?

  • It will feel very familiar if you are used to React
  • You don't have to know React to create simple blocks 
  • Heavy on the JSX
  • Maybe you can switch it to Vue (or something else)

Heading Under
 the Hood


An object that describe how the block will pull data from the HTML

attributes: {
	content: {
		type: 'array',
		source: 'children',
		selector: 'h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6',
	nodeName: {
		type: 'string',
		source: 'property',
		selector: 'h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6',
		property: 'nodeName',
		default: 'H2',
	align: {
		type: 'string',
	placeholder: {
		type: 'string',


Describes how that data turns into HTML.


Basically a functional react component


Includes portals to control areas

edit( { ... ) {
    return [
        isSelected && (
            <BlockControls />
        isSelected && (
            <InspectorControls key="inspector">
                <Toolbar />
                <AlignmentToolbar  />
            tagName={ nodeName.toLowerCase() }
            value={ content }
            onChange={ ( value ) => 
            setAttributes( { content: value } ) }
            onMerge={ mergeBlocks }


Similar to the edit method but the control portals are gone and the editable component is replaced

save( { attributes } ) {
    const { ... } = attributes;
    const Tag = nodeName.toLowerCase();

    return (
        <Tag style={ { textAlign: align } } >
            { content }

Saved Markup

Uses HTML comments to denote where blocks begin and end, which block it is, and some of the data. Other data is pulled from the HTML

<!-- wp:heading {"align":"center","className":"My Heading Link"} -->
<h2 style="text-align:center" class="My Heading Link">
<a href="https://ncsu.edu">
<strong>Headings</strong> <del>for</del> <em>Days</em>
<!-- /wp:heading -->

Rendered Markup

Similar to the markup in the data base but without the comments

<h2 style="text-align:center" class="My Heading Link">
<a href="https://ncsu.edu">
<strong>Headings</strong> <del>for</del> <em>Days</em>

Extending Blocks

  • Whitelists, blacklists
  • Change default block attributes
  • Add attributes
  • Replace blocks

Developing your Own Block

  • Documentation Leaves a lot to be desired
  • Create-Guten-Block is really good, similar to create-react-app
  • WP-CLI includes a block scaffolding command
  • You can also contribute to the Plugin Compatibility Database

Upgrading Existing Sites

  • Everything goes into a classic block
  • You can convert to blocks to have gutenberg try to automatically create blocks from content
  • Shortcodes go in a shortcode Block
  • Meta fields show up below the editor
  • You can download the Classic Editor Plugin to delay upgrading if you want to (but don't)

What is everyone else doing

  • Catching up with the fast (but slowing) pace of changes
  • Major businesses based on plugins are hard at work to ensure compatibility
  • Less reputable or smaller businesses might not be
  • Look at your favorite plugins to see what they are doing

Why it's good for
WordPress (and you)

  • Easier for users to create nice layouts
  • Gives developers more control over what happens
  • Standardizes development
  • Pushes development of the platform forward
  • Will be cleansing fire to destroy the vines that have grown thick as we have looked on in apathy

Block Templates

  • Much Easier than a whole page template
  • You can pass in whatever attributes you need
  • Mimics the API of React.createElement

'template' => array(
    array( 'core/columns', array("className"=>"grid-2-col"), array(
        array( 'core/heading', array( 'content' => 'Details', 'layout' => 'column-1' ) ),
        array( 'core/heading', array( 'placeholder' => 'Enter Details', 'layout' => 'column-1' ) ),
        array( 'core/heading', array( 'content' => 'Address', 'layout' => 'column-2' ) ),
        array( 'core/heading', array( 'placeholder' => 'Enter Address', 'layout' => 'column-2' ) ),
) )

Bumps along the Road

  • This represents a substantial change for WordPress
  • A lot of things are going to break
  • Just doing basic text is going to be harder
  • It raises the bar for development for good and bad
  • Gutenberg as it stands now is less accessible, and it's  going to be easy for devs to make it worse
  • It's kind of hacky in a bid to maintain backwards compatibility
  • WordPress has a lot of technical debt
  • Might cause a fork in the project (hopefully not)

Issues I am facing

  • Block Validation: they hate it when you change them
  • Migrating from old paradigms (shortcodes and ACF)
  • Quirks abound
  • User training! (There aren't going to be icons)
  • the Unknown Unkowns

for the Future

  • We can do way more cool stuff
  • Rich interaction that would have been a real pain before is now much more simple
  • Block API for internal and external use
  • Headless WordPress, using block templates to define the data

What does
this all mean?