Support » Plugin: Gutenberg » Aiming to improve the UI – Missing the mark completely

  • One of the primary stated aims of this plugin/project is to “make people start to love WordPress” according to the github page. The plugin in it’s current state doesn’t deliver at all that experience.

    We run over 80 WordPress sites for clients and have build hundreds of sites over the years and trained site owners to use WordPress to manage their sites.

    The Good:
    The publishing controls across the top of the page and fixed in that position – easily accessible and I think users will find an approach like this much better than the old version

    The Bad:
    Excessive UI – Gutenberg seems to want to simplify the interface yet it presents more clutter than Tiny MCE. It all looks great when you don’t have content but as soon as you add content and mouse around you are met with a confusing array of boxes, arrows, tool bar options, trash cans and settings buttons that follow you around. It distracts the eye, takes the focus off the text and makes proofing the content a challenge. This is particularly bad if you need to use short paragraphs (e.g. a few words), in that case the content is completely lost in the editing UI. There has to be a way to get the effect you are looking for without overloading the person editing the content visually. I can tell you from experience that this interface will terrify the majority of our clients and they will be clamouring for the old one to be returned. The will be confused about the tool bar options. They will not discover the way to convert a paragraph into a heading and will wonder where the “heading size” options have gone (they won’t realise that it needs to be a heading block, they’ll just wonder why the options aren’t available). TinyMCE by contrast only presents the options once, at the top of the editor. If you are writing long form text then it’s where you expect the editing controls to be and you can just get on with the writing and worry about the formatting later. Compared to TinyMCE the new editing paradigm is terribly disjointed.
    Far too many types of blocks by default – The editor seems to want to focus on giving you absolute choice and freedom to create all kinds of content but in doing so presents 18 different block types and then all the widgets at current count. Again coming back the our clients – they are just going to be super confused as to which is the right element to use. Giving people too many options by default causes bloat and confusion and forces clients to think too much about the content editing process. I can see that plugins should be able to extend this list but the default editor needs to be simple if you really want people to “love” it.
    Existing meta boxes are conflated with block settings – when you click “settings” you get the exisiting sidebar metaboxes by default. IN a tab you can switch to the block settings. It’s not intuative that the settings for the entire post are mixed with the settings for one heading, image or paragraph.
    Settings are collapsed by default – Because things like featured image, and categories are collapsed by default it requires several clicks to tell if a post actually has a featured image set or categories added. I can tell again from training hundreds of clients that many people will NEVER discover these options on their own.

    The Ugly:
    What’s the plan with custom metaboxes???? There doesn’t seem to be any concrete plan about how to deal with custom metaboxes. Yet this is the cornerstone on which 99% of custom WordPress sites are built. Plugins like The Events Calendar, Woocommerce, ACF and many more allow complex websites that control publishing flow and allow standarised display of content for all kinds of data from products, events, portfolio items, business listings and many more. On github there are some suggestions are outlined here – However none of those options seem to treat metaboxes as a first class citizen. There is a real danger here to WordPress as a whole that by setting the scope of the editor too broadly or not ensuring backwards compatibility that the types of use cases WordPress is good for are significantly narrowed. WordPress is our CMS of choice because not only is it easy to use, it is also powerful and flexible. If it stops being powerful and flexible then we will stop using it. The new block editor DOES NOT allow for us to setup a publishing flow that requires certain information and choose how to order that information on the edit screen. For non post or page content scenarios the block editor is not enough in its current form. Also any option to treat metaboxes as separate or auxiliary information are broken too as often the primary most important details for a product or event are things like price or date not the description which is what would be entered in the block editor like gutenberg. There seems to be a SEVERE lack of planning or vision here that is fundamentally worrying for us as developers and many other developers we are talking too.

    Update as at Sept 2018
    It’s still a confusing mess – user testing with non technical clients is a disaster – they can’t understand the logic of the editor, work with images, sizing and columns at all and are complaining to us that it’s hard to use and illogical – Quote:

    “having difficulty with the logic of the blog editor.

    I have set up the 3 photos as we talked about and….when published, only one photo appears…..hence my confusion.

    Plus I am not sure of how to get the photos to align and look good together. For starters the photos ideally need to be the same size, but setting this in place is not easy”

    This is not ready for the prime time at all at this stage – We’ll definitely be leaving it off for the forseeable future.

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  • Plugin Author Tammie Lister


    Thanks for taking time to write the review, every review matters no matter what form it takes.

    It’s worth stating that the plugin is still heavily in progress, so the vision isn’t totally there yet. But, feedback now is what will help the project get there. So again, thanks.

    With regards to the excessive UI, there is work happening to declutter and this will continue. As the project reaches a complete vision and technical base, the iteration, smoothing of flows and refinements come.

    Your point about too many blocks is a challenge that testing and refinement hopefully can conquer. It’s not a complete project and this is one area that absolutely needs to be looked at, as things scale.

    On the subject of meta boxes, the discussion is still ongoing. At the simplest end, you will be able to ‘turn off’ Gutenberg in some manner, this hasn’t been decided on yet – plugin, option… what is all being considered. I’m also personally optimistic there are some pretty amazing people discussing about meta boxes and a solution will develop.

Viewing 1 replies (of 1 total)
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