Support » Plugin: Gutenberg » The key issue is blocks – not everyone thinks that way

  • So after following the back and forth on make.wordpress I finally installed Gutenberg and tried it out. Oh such fail. I think the core issue is really simple – as a writer I don’t think in blocks. Ever. This forces me as a writer to conceptualize my writing in a way I just don’t want to. Here are a few illustrative issues:

    Paragraph to bullet
    Sometimes I’m not sure when I’m drafting whether I’m going to flush out a thought into a full paragraph or just leave it as bullets. I write in the bullets and maybe come back and write more or maybe just highlight all of them and choose “list”. But currently a carriage return makes a new block and you can’t multi-select blocks… Ugg.

    Inserting a photo into a paragraph

    Drag and drop of text

    I just don’t fundamentally understand how this is “simpler” than what we had before for the user. It may be simpler under the hood. It may make it simpler to connect content to a CMS on the back end. But in no way is this simpler for the user. And here’s the kicker – 100% of the stated goals of this project could be achieved in a vastly simpler way if you got rid of the concept of “blocks”.

    Distraction free writing? Move the TinyMCE controls to the sidebar.
    Want to format large sections of text together (like a block)? Click and drag the text and you get controls in the sidebar.
    Contextual controls? The ribbon in MS office does this just fine without needing to split text into “blocks”.
    More advanced layout without needing to code themes? Again, MS Office has all sorts of layout options that don’t necessitate breaking everything into blocks.

    The issue here isn’t so much that Gutenberg doesn’t have a good goal in mind. Nor is it an issue with implementation. It’s a higher level issue with strategy. Block editing is a dead end that only appeals to a vocal subset of content creators. This should NEVER be included in core and I’d love to see a competing project that tries to achieve the same ends without the blocks.

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  • Plugin Author Tammie Lister


    Thanks for taking time to give a review, all feedback matters and helps make Gutenberg as a project.

    It’s a great insight to share your writing flow. Thank you for doing that. There have been some discussions around to improve this and I’m going to add your thoughts to those. If you are interested, I added it to – I understand it’s on GitHub though and not everyone follows that. The projects uses that system to track issues.

    Thread Starter Matt McLaughlin


    I’ll add more color on GitHub, but I thought I’d reply here. Based on what you took from my original comment I’m feeling as though I didn’t fully express the issue. The core issue to me is the degree to which the UI surfaces the “blockness” of the underlying data structure. I just don’t understand why it’s necessary or considered useful.

    I went through each block and 100% of the options available on a per block basis are doable in MS Office without ever surfacing the concept of “block”. You want to apply special formatting like Pull Quotes or Quotes or Lists you just highlight the text and click a button. Want to put in a table or embed? click Insert. Want to move a block of text or image or whatever around on the page, highlight it and click and drag. Want to create a template where the user can’t change the formatting but can type over the lorem Epsom? Totally straightforward in MS Office.

    Now that doesn’t mean that under the hood MS Office isn’t on some level dividing text into “blocks”. When you take a bunch of sentences, highlight them and select “list” it’s certainly doing some behind the scenes tagging saying, “this whole thing is a list”. And when you look at the contextual menus in the ribbon it’s clear that Office is applying some semantic meaning to the different structures so that they can bring up the correct contextual functionality. The difference is that MS Office doesn’t surface this structure because it is entirely unnecessary for the user to know how the program is thinking about the data structure. The user just needs to see their text/images/etc.

    I think it would be a useful thought experiment for the Gutenberg team to ask, “How much of what we want to achieve is achievable while making the concept of ‘blocks’ totally invisible?” My guess is that with not too much design effort the answer would be 100%, and the project would be much better off for it.

    Plugin Author Tammie Lister


    Thank you for your comment. It’s definitely food for thought. I think we have to be careful drawing a line between Gutenberg and MS Word. They are 2 different things. However, there is lessons to be learnt from every interface.

    I think you need to erase that “drawn line” between Gutenberg and MS Word. Word (or Google Docs) is, literally, the gold standard for creating content. That interface should be driving the Gutenberg team, not Medium.

    Everyone on earth – literally, EVERYONE – uses a program like Word or Google Docs to create content. It is universally understood and accepted. Why wouldn’t WordPress, a platform where unfamiliarity and lack of usability is a constant and driving problem, not embrace a universally accepted interface standard for document creation?

    The biggest issue with Gutenberg isn’t blocks – it’s the chosen interface. The current Gutenberg interface is simply not good. Everyone comments on this. Even in the tech reviews you see that – people like the vision, like the blocks concept, can see where its going, but hates the actual editor itself.

    Please take this seriously. The editor is what needs to be fixed. Everything else, blocks included, should all be under the hood and never seen outside of developers. It should be seamless to the user, just like Word/Docs is.

Viewing 4 replies - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
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