Trying Gutenberg

I’ve worked with content management systems like Drupal and Wordpress for about 12 years. I’ve been registered on for over 10 years. It’s been very interesting to see how the technology and its user experience has evolved time. In this post I’m giving Gutenberg a short ride.

The idea behind Wordpress’ new content editor Gutenberg is to bring more technical structure to the content. Instead of each post being a single blog of text/HTML, a post is made up of blocks of different kinds. A block could be a paragraph of text, an image, or a list of the latest posts.

Technically, the concept of Gutenberg is very similar to how the Drupal module Paragraphs works. However, the user experience of Gutenberg vastly outperforms Paragraphs.

Why does content need structure?

In today’s day and age content is king and it’s what sets a digital presence apart from others. A solid content strategy will focus on serving content to consumers in the right context, at the right time. For someone interested in following politics that could be:

  1. News read-out from Amazon’s Alexa when having breakfast in the morning
  2. Reading short-form news on a phone while on public transport to work
  3. Reading long-form news on a laptop over lunch at work
  4. Getting push notifications to the mobile phone for breaking news

Technically structured content is important, because it gives the content a higher meaning for computers that wants to do useful things and the right time with that content. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to produce one single piece of well structured content for the four contexts above, than writing four different pieces all together.

Why doesn’t HTML provide enough structure?

HTML is a phenomenal markup language and provides a great deal of structure to text. However, HTML is primarily meant to provide structure to content that’s rendered in a browser. There are better ways to provide structure for computers and machines that wants to do other things to the content, like playing it through Amazon’s Alexa. In a sense, Gutenberg’s blocks are higher-level structure, and HTML is just one of many possible renditions.

HTML is also unnecessarily complicated for computers to edit on-the-fly. For example, a computer might want to change the order or appearance of content blocks depending on what device the content is consumed on. This is another reason why it makes sense to provide higher-level of structure to content.

In a sense, Gutenberg’s blocks are higher-level structure, and HTML is just one of many possible renditions.

D. Olsson - while writing this post

Reusing blocks

Here’s a screenshot of what the reusable block functionality looks like.