Gutenberg Compatibility for Web Developers: What’s Going to Change?

by Ronik Patel

Gutenberg Compatibility for Web Developers: What’s Going to Change?

WordPress 5.0 is going to be a major milestone for web developers everywhere. The main reason why can be summed up in one word: Gutenberg.

Gutenberg is the name of the new WordPress editor, which uses an innovative block-based system to create media-rich posts. This block-based system is intuitive and easy for new users to understand – which is a good thing overall.

But web developers know that even the best updates come with complications. Professional developers are already concerned about plugin compatibility and other issues that will pop up as soon as Gutenberg is implemented.

For some, these issues will be relatively minor. For others, they may require major time-intensive workarounds. The more you know about how your current workflow fits into the Gutenberg environment, the better equipped you will be to handle any unexpected issues when they occur.

Gutenberg Plugin Compatibility Concerns

By and large, plugin compatibility is the immediate main concern developers will have concerning Gutenberg. Many developers live by their plugins. Having an update come along and break them is troublesome – especially if nobody knows how to fix them yet.

Fortunately, there are ways to test plugins in Gutenberg’s pre-release version. By their nature, these tests cannot be comprehensive, since any one of the results could change by the time WordPress actually releases Gutenberg, but it’s a useful bellwether for developers to start planning with.

To this end, one developer created a Gutenberg plugin testing platform as a research project. Unfortunately, the project ended as of April 2018 and is no longer maintained. However, the project’s final summary does offer useful insight. Of around 800 WordPress plugins tested:

  • 25.5% are guaranteed compatible.
  • 60% are likely compatible.
  • 3% are likely not compatible.
  • 4.5% are definitely not compatible.
  • 7% have inconclusive results.

Since this testing period used an earlier version of Gutenberg than the beta that is currently available, these statistics are likely no longer valid. However, we can see a clear majority of “likely compatible” plugins, which means WordPress appears to be broadly successful in minimizing collateral plugin damage.

How Web Developers and Designers Can Prepare for Gutenberg

So far, there are a number of common integration points that Gutenberg’s early build seems to mishandle:

  • Rendering edit_form actions after the title field.
  • Incorporating certain media buttons.
  • Certain editor toolbar button functions.
  • Using jQuery to act on all possible fields the WordPress core outputs.

There are many other minor issues going on as well, such as a WooCommerce bug where Custom Product Description fields don’t appear. However, these are reported bugs in major plugins WordPress is obviously aware of – the tricky part is predicting how Gutenberg will treat custom in-house plugins.

If your web agency builds its own WordPress plugins, you may have some serious work on your hands in the near future. Before you hit the panic button, perform the following test to see what kinds of issues you are likely to face:

  • Install Gutenberg in a sandbox environment.
  • Systematically review your plugins one-by-one.
  • Create a spreadsheet identifying which of your plugins work and which ones don’t.
  • Start comparing your codebase to the way Gutenberg changes the editor experience.

Yes, that last step might turn into a major, time-intensive issue. This is especially true if you have lots of custom plugins to test. When it comes to custom plugins, it will be difficult for web developers to create automated solutions for testing Gutenberg compatibility. But this difficulty may be less intimidating than the prospect of manually testing hundreds of plugins.

Right now, it may be too early in the game to start rewriting plugins for compatibility with Gutenberg’s pre-release beta. However, it isn’t too late to start running tests and documenting the results so that you have a clear idea of where you stand in terms of compatibility.

As the release date inches closer, you can revisit your compatibility tests and document changes as they occur. This will give you the raw data you need to predict just how much work you may actually have to do when WordPress 5.0 goes live.

You Can Help WordPress Test Gutenberg

On October 10th, 2018, WordPress put out a call for Gutenberg 4.0 Pre-release testing. If you’re concerned about Gutenberg compatibility, you can help the community identify bugs and other issues on the latest version. Currently, the testing team is focused on testing the following functionalities:

Take a look at Gutenberg 4.0’s changelog to get an idea of where the current stage of development is. This will be your starting point for determining Gutenberg compatibility so that you can adjust your workflow to match.

Need Help Accommodating Gutenberg In Your Workflow?

If it turns out that Gutenberg is not compatible with your agency’s arsenal of custom WordPress plugins, you may have a steep climb ahead of you. Fortunately, it’s not a climb you have to go alone.

White label web development can be a powerful asset for ensuring plugin compatibility for Gutenberg. Entrust your mission-critical plugins to reputable Gutenberg experts to ensure that they remain compatible in the post-WordPress 5.0 world.

UnlimitedWP has the knowledge and expertise you need to ensure plugin compatibility with Gutenberg. Schedule a call with us and find out how we can help!


Have questions? Leave us a comment, we’re here to help.

Ronik Patel – Co-Founder, UnlimitedWP

Ronik Patel

After building my web agency JD Softtech in both Boston and Ahmedabad, India, I wanted to find a way to help other agencies.

So we took our team of highly qualified website developers and web designers and launched UnlimitedWP, a white-label WordPress partner for growing agencies.

If you’re frustrated by how much time working in WordPress takes, consider

For one low monthly fee, you can create and assign an unlimited number of tasks to our team of WordPress experts—with a typical turnaround time of 24–48 hours.

Leave a Comment

Apply Today

Need to outsource wordpress development work?

We can be your wordpress outsourcing partner offering a professional white label development service.

First Timer Here?

Sign up to receive 20% off on your first month with us.