Support » Plugin: Gutenberg » The real problem with Gutenberg: visual vs verbal thinking

  • The uptake of Gutenberg is predictable. It’s appeal is primarily to visual thinkers, whereas the classic editor appeals to verbal thinkers. There are about the same number of people in each group – around 25% to 30% of the population. The remaining 45% use both visual and verbal thinking. These are approximations but they will suffice for the present purpose.

    Visual thinking was recognized by psychologists quite recently, compared to verbal thinking. So the likes of Wix, Squarespace and Elementor are tapping into a major market segment that was previously unserved. Matt obviously knows this, and it’s pretty clear that if Gutenberg is done right it too will tap into this market.

    What the future of WordPress really hangs on is its ability to appeal to both of these segments. How we think is fundamental. It’s foolish to think that verbal thinkers will just adapt to visual thinking, or even that they can adapt to it, because for a large part of the current WP user base visual thinking is a completely foreign way of mental processing.

    This means that WordPress will fail if it doesn’t meet the needs of both types of users. While an exclusively Gutenberg future could, and probably would, tap into a huge new market, it would be at the certain risk of alienating an equally large number of existing users. The final effect would be no net growth and a big hit on the product’s reputation.

    If Matt does not pay attention to the hord of current WordPress lovers who fundamentally need to work verbally, not visually, he will be risking the loss of something like 25% of current users (the predominantly verbal thinkers). On the other hand, parallel development of features along both lines could result in as much as a 25% expansion of the WP user base.

    I can only guess that those behind the Gutenberg idea are simply uninformed, perhaps assuming that all people think the same way — a false assumption that could cost them very dearly.

    I think that the concept of blocks has a lot of potential in a certain context, but that context does not include ordinary document creation that is just text and images. For this Gutenberg just gets in the way. But for special kinds of blocks I think that it has great potential as a kind of content templating system. While the user interface still needs a lot of work, the concept is basically sound.

    So far, Gutenberg does not look like an effective tool for the kinds of things that can be done in a word processor — entering text, formatting it, adding images, etc.

    I won’t likely use the block editor unless its default mode does everything that the classic editor does, in the old familiar ways, with blocks only serving as a way to prepackage different ways to lay out special kinds of content. That would be the best of both worlds.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by nelsonbase.
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  • Really interesting. I’m against Gutenberg in core even though I consider myself primarily a visual thinker. I build sites for clients with custom fields and some with visual builders. Some good stats here and some things I’d not considered. Shouldn’t this be a less than 5 star review?

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by catchlight.

    @catchlight – Yeh, i didn’t notice the stars feature and wondered about that afterward. How i would rate GB in the big picture really depends on the politics of implementation more than how it functions at the moment, which seems somewhat unpolished but will probably improve. Thinking about this now, although i have complaints about shortcomings i will still give it 5 stars because it’s clear that this is a big challenge and the developers are (let’s presume) trying really hard to find common ground among users.

    Hello nelsonbase,

    Those are some pretty interesting comments about visual and verbal thinkers, and strategies aimed at reducing the possible adverse effects of bring Gutenberg to WP users.
    It makes me wonder if all the functionality in Gutenberg can be presented to users in UI that matches their natural way of thinking (text or graphic or combination), even when multiple creators are working on the same page.


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