Support » Plugin: Gutenberg » The Editor is Incredibly Awkward to Use

  • I’ve been testing the latest version of Gutenberg (1.9.1) and while some improvements are happening and bugs are being squashed, the editor itself – the actual concept of the editor – is not changing. And it needs to.

    I’m not griping about blocks or whatnot – that’s fine. I actually like the block concept. I’m talking about the mechanics of the editor itself. Which is, to be perfectly frank, absolutely abysmal. It is confusing, difficult, ugly, and unnecessarily complex.

    Bottom line: There is a reason no word processor on Earth is block based.

    The current text editor with WordPress (TinyMCE based) is no prize, but it is functional. I feel like Gutenberg should have expanded and corrected this editor, not completely thrown it out.

    The key issue with writing content in WordPress is not drag and drop or an ugly editor – it is that the editor itself is made for web users and not for actual users. WordPress should be focusing not on an entirely new interface but on making the interface easy, familiar, and comfortable to use.

    The gold standard for writing documents online is Google Docs. Everyone on earth knows how to use this program. They are familiar with its layout and its functions. It intuitively makes sense. My third grade children use it (Google Docs) at school. Everyone knows the basics of this program and layout. It is incredibly familiar and anyone who sees anything like it will instinctively know what to do and how it works.

    When writing in Google Docs, you see everything in real time, just as it would appear when published. It is actual WYSIWYG – back end or front end doesn’t matter, when you are creating a document in Google Docs you are seeing the finished product unfold.

    In Google Docs you simply type you document. No blocks, no choices, no weirdness – you just type. Paragraphs are paragraphs. It’s natural and instinctive. It is what we all do – practically every day of our lives.

    When we want to insert something into the document (image or whatnot) we do so. And, once done, the user can drag it around and reshape it in the document. No special blocks, just go to the “Insert” tab at the top and select “image” (or whatever) and voila.

    Metaboxes and specialty items should be via a menu item, same as “Page Options” in Google Docs. They do not need to be all over the editing screen. They have been always placed there because the basic WordPress editor has no other organization or structure – they are a relic of past poor design, nothing more.

    Gutenberg needs to be like Google Docs and not like Medium.

    I like the “blocks” concept, but blocks should just be things (images, form, table, etc) that get inserted into text, not a structural element of composing the text. The current iteration of Gutenberg is incredibly unnatural and confusing to type in. It’s really terrible and I completely dread the experience. There is a reason MS Word/Google Docs are not “block” based editors. In fact, there is a reason there are NO block based document systems in existence anywhere. Because no one writes that way, and no one wants to start writing that way.

    I completely realize this review and my comments will likely have no impact whatsoever on the freight train that is Gutenberg. You all are going to move forward however you want – it’s obvious the team has little regard for the WordPress community at this point.

    But, if there is some room in the development cycle to alter the approach to the Gutenberg Editor, it should be taken. I’m not saying get rid of blocks or whatnot – that’s fine. I’m referring to the specific editor itself. The actual interface and methodology of composing pages and posts.

    Please steer away from the Medium-Like “Block Based Editor” and instead consider Google Docs as your guide. A full screen editor, menu bar and options at the top, native and natural typing, and an actual live view of the page as its created (pulling styles from the theme).

    That is where the WordPress editor needs to be heading. Blocks should not be the basis of content creation, they should just be items that get inserted.

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  • Plugin Author Tammie Lister


    First of all thank you for writing your comment. I wanted to ensure you that those of us making Gutenberg are listening and I myself read every comment.

    It’s interesting when you talk about Google docs. The natural and instinctive feel I absolutely agree is one that Gutenberg is right now being refined to get towards. I also agree it’s not there yet. But, it’s not a finished product.

    From a design perspective there is a lot to learn from Google, I absolutely agree. I do also think though that there is a lot to learn from Medium and other interfaces that do expose the blocks similar to Gutenberg.

    The ‘blockiness’ of Gutenberg is being reduced a lot, it already has in the iterations to this point. There are some improvements I think you’ll like coming up in keyboard navigation, that I think will feel more natural to you and more processing like. I also think features like nested blocks will combined with the keyboard focus, make the blocks feel less dominating as an approach. To go a step more towards that natural feeling you describe.

    Again, thanks for leaving a review. Every review is important and listened to, thanks for taking the time.

    I appreciate your reply, Tammie. When I saw you were involved with the project, I knew you would be able to help. I remember fondly our work together in the initial launch of ThirdScribe.

    I’m glad to hear you are taking some inspiration from actual document editing programs, I really feel that is the right direction for actual content creation. Medium is not a good concept for WordPress – it is the wrong direction. I would stay away from it –
    to quote Admiral Ackbar “It’s a Trap!”

    Blocks work best behind the scenes. I have no idea how Docs works, I only know it as a user. Concerning WordPress and “nested” blocks, I would think that perhaps all text should be in one giant text block and everything else is a nested block inside of that. That way you get to keep blocks but the user has no idea and is never impacted – it’s all “under the hood.”

    I’d like to test drive the next version of Gutenberg, but currently I’m having significant difficulty just getting it to load up – haven’t been able to for two days. It just shows me a blank white screen where the Gutenberg editor should be (the classic editor works fine). Not sure what that is, but it’s yet another bug to be squashed. Once that is figured out, I’ll give the next round a go.

    Another aspect of Google Docs to consider, besides the “ribbon” menus and such at the top, is that it is actual WYSIWYG. Gutenberg isn’t even close to that right now – will it be? Whether its front or back end means little to me – I (and my clients) want a much improved visual of what we’re making. It should look like the real thing – not kind of like the real thing. This is really important and shouldn’t be ignored or delayed.

    Also, everything – blocks, shortcodes, etc, etc – need to be visible. It all needs to resolve when in a visual editor mode (obviously not necessary when in HTML mode). This is not currently happening with Gutenberg – will it be? Again, if we’re going through all of this trouble and expense (and it will be an expense, for me and many others) then it needs to be a significant improvement.

    DO NOT treat the community so poorly as to force us to invest so heavily in WordPress and provide a substandard solution. That is deeply unfair to us. If we’re going to invest so much time and money rebuilding plugins, themes, documentation, etc then the Automattic team needs to pull through as well – this editor, when it’s done, better be worth it. Right now it’s got a ways to go. A long ways.

    Blocks alone are NOT an improvement. Not as far as the end user is concerned. A better, more intuitive interface that is easy to use and provides true WYSIWYG is an improvement. Anything else is… a waste of time and money.

    Thanks again for your reply and your hard work. I’ll be keeping an eye on all of this, of course. But, truly, the actual content editor needs to be a better editing experience with a much improved UI/UX.

Viewing 2 replies - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
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