Project Gutenberg: What Does it Mean for Thrive Themes Products?

"Project Gutenberg" is the name of a visual(ish) editor that is in development by Automattic, the creators of WordPress. It is set to replace the current WordPress editor at some point in the future.

Since our core product is a visual editor (Thrive Architect), some of our users have asked us how Project Gutenberg will affect our own work and our products. This post is our answer to that question.

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The Near Future

At the time of this writing, Project Gutenberg is in beta. You can download it and try it on a test site, to get a feel for it yourself.

Originally, the plan was to include it as a core part of WordPress in the next major version update, but there have been a few setbacks on the way. First of all, the beta plugin has not been well received. At the time of writing, it has a 2.5 star rating in the WordPress repository, with the most common rating being 1 star:

Many voices in the WordPress space have also been more critical than encouraging of the project. This doesn't spell doom in any way, but it indicates that there's still a lot of work to be done before Project Gutenberg can replace the current WordPress editor.

A further issue is that Gutenberg was originally built using the React framework. This framework is created by Facebook and due to legal and licensing matters that are beyond my attention span for such things, Automattic decided to switch to a different framework.

All of this simply means that from a development standpoint, Project Gutenberg is not mature yet. When it will be ready for wide adoption is unclear at this point.

How We're the Same

In what ways is Project Gutenberg the same as Thrive Architect? Where is there potential overlap?

Right now, it's mostly the stated purpose of Project Gutenberg that overlaps with what we're doing with Thrive Architect. Project Gutenberg is ambitious and the end goal is to make content creation more visual and more intuitive for users.

Gutenberg is based on "blocks" and the idea is that theme and plugin developers will be able to add such blocks for different purposes. In functionality, these blocks are no different from short codes, but instead of looking at a page full of short codes, you'll see visual representations, which should make things a lot more user friendly.

This is similar to what we do in two ways:

  1. Thrive Architect is all about providing a true visual representation of your content.
  2. We are also working on providing more "building blocks" for rapid website and content creation.

How We're Different

In the intro, I called Project Gutenber a "visual(ish)" editor. If you try out the beta, you'll quickly see why.

The new editor has an interface that looks like a front end editor as well as some features that are reminiscent of a visual editor, but it's not really a visual editor. Here are some reasons why:

  • The editor view in Gutenberg looks kinda like a web page, but it doesn't look like the page your visitors will see.
  • The order of different text, image and media blocks on the page can be shuffled around, but there is no true drag and drop functionality.
  • There is no responsive editing and there's no real functionality for building column layouts.
  • The editor looks and feels different but currently, there's not much you can do with Project Gutenberg that you can't do with the default WP editor.

Without the backing of the WordPress team, this plugin would stand no chance in the market. Because it does have the backing of the WordPress team, we can assume it will stick around and be given the chance to mature. And eventually, it will maybe be an alternative to other visual editors worth considering. But right now, it is very far from that.

So, a major difference between Project Gutenberg and Thrive Architect is that Gutenberg is not a true visual editor and probably never will be. For Thrive Architect, true and instant visual editing is a cornerstone feature.

Apart from that, there are 2 reasons why I doubt our paths will ever cross with Gutenberg:

  1. We specialize in developing with a conversion focus and with business use cases in mind. Automattic have a track record of developing for everything but conversions. They tend to keep things simple and basic and they don't develop things with a business purpose in mind. Case in point: there has never even been a "button" element in WordPress core (there's one in Gutenberg, but it doesn't work yet...).
  2. The development pace of WordPress is understandably slow. I believe that by the time Project Gutenberg turns into a decent editor, the Thrive Themes team will be even further ahead than we already are.

The Far Future?

So far, I haven't had much good to say about Project Gutenberg. However, I'm actually very much in favor of it. Project Gutenberg is an example of WordPress moving forward and keeping up with the times. While their development pace is slow and deliberate, it is also consistent and that's one of the great things about WordPress.

I doubt that Project Gutenberg will ever impact our own products. BUT: there are millions of WordPress users who don't need the kind of business and conversion focused tools we create. And for them, a more visual and friendlier editing experience built straight into WordPress can only be a good thing.

I also predict that there will be at least one company that builds a premium extension for Gutenberg, which adds many features that current visual editors for WordPress already boast. The company that does this best will probably be able to carve out a piece of the market for itself. Thus, there will be more competition in the "visual editor for WordPress" space and that is good for customers.

I'm sure the WordPress team will overcome the early hurdles they've encountered with the project and I'll be watching the progress they make with great interest.

What are your thoughts on Project Gutenberg? Have you tried the beta? Do you think you'll use it in the future? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Shane

Author: Shane Melaugh

Shane Melaugh is a co-founder and the CEO of Thrive Themes. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome WordPress themes & plugins, he likes to geek out about camera equipment and medieval swords. He also writes about startups and marketing here.

  • Tao says:

    Hey Shane. Yes, I have installed the beta and had a play (on a test site I might add!) but didn’t see anything that made me want to move back from using more advanced tools such as TA.

    As you said, it is more geared towards “standard” WordPress users and I think it will benefit them. It’s past time that WP caught up with more mature editors, even like more minimalist options like Medium.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thanks for your comment!

      It’s true, the current WP editor does feel quite ancient compared to pretty much every other solution out there. I guess Gutenberg is a step in the right direction.

  • Jose says:

    Thanks for the info, Shane. Personally, at no moment I thought Gutenberg as an alternative or ‘threat’ to Architect.
    For me the choice is quite clear.
    Regards!

  • Doug L says:

    You guys have stayed so far ahead of the curve for years. I have complete confidence that when Gutenberg releases, you’ll already be ahead on the next iteration of ‘visual editing’ — perhaps you already are ahead of where they’ll end up.

    As long as you continue innovating, you have my membership.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you, Doug! We have every intention of keeping up the innovation. And what’s more: we’re always trying to accelerate the pace at which we develop.

  • Anil R says:

    Reading your post is enough for me. I may try it if i remember at some point in time and as someone mentioned i thought project ‘wouldn’twork’…sorry gutenburg would pose some sort of a threat from a technical standpoint. If that’s not the case and it’s still maturing, i’ll leave it alone for now! Thanks for the insight Shane!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Yeah, it’s not a technical problem at all. Gutenberg and our products will just continue along on separate tracks. :)

  • Luis Carlos Eskay says:

    Thank you for the explanation Shane, I was not even aware of this…

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment. As you can see from the other comments here, you weren’t missing out on much. :)

  • Alain F says:

    In a post you last month I thought I understood that Thrive is working on a plugin or another way to improve the 10 existing Thrive themes, or do not think to develop or create new templates?

  • Bryce+MacCabe says:

    What you guys create is so much farther than I think Gutenberg will ever get. I love using your tools and the more I use them, the more I get excited!

    As a suggestion for a future plugin (sorry this is kinda long), you guys are super focused on conversion and I think it would be very helpful to create a plugin that provides conversion reporting features. Specifically, I would like to be able to see the analytics from all of your different plugins in one place and I would like to be able to easily integrate conversion reporting into Google Analytics/other reporting tools. E.g. I would love to be able to see my quiz statistics from Quiz Builder alongside my opt-in rates from Leads along with my results from Headline Optimizer. Right now, everything is pretty spread out and it doesn’t integrate nicely into Analytics.

    An issue that I’ve come across is that I’m not a very good programmer, but I’ve managed to piece together some Analytics conversion reporting using the Class/ID feature in Architect, then sending over to Google Tag Manager, then over to Analytics via the fired tag. It would be amazing if you had a plugin that integrates with the rest of your suite where you could just take and element and say “mark this as this type of conversion and send it over to Google Analytics for analysis.” That would be a game changer for people who wanted to be able to look at their data and see which pages/offers/marketing tactics/etc. were really making the difference for the business. I haven’t seen anything like it on the market and would love to see it.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my suggestion. You guys are the best and I love working with your tools!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment and your vote of confidence, Bryce. :)

      I like your suggestions. What I can tell you is that we have a concept for a “unified reporting area” similar to what you describe.

      I also like your idea for an analytics integration, but I have to say: I’m afraid of going there. Analytics are highly complex and difficult to sell, so I’m not sure that would be a good thing for us to focus on.

      • Bryce MacCabe says:

        Thanks for the insight Shane. I’m sure it’s a difficult beast to tackle with dozens of unknowns so I can certainly appreciate that Analytics integrations may not be feasible at present. Thanks again for all you guys do!

  • Art M says:

    Thanks for the video! My concern was any conflict between the 2, but happy to hear it will be cool! After using Thrive I do not wish to use anything else.

  • Roy says:

    A plan was presented in June 2018 that indicated that WordPress v5 will change the default editor to Gutenberg later this year. Can Thrive coexist with Gutenberg? How is the behavior of Thrive affected? I would not want to purchase Thrive and find that it did not work when v5 is released.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Yes, there will be no conflict between Gutenberg and Thrive Architect or other Thrive Themes products.

    • Devin says:

      Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, there was a catastrophic technical error of some sort caused by mixing Gutenberg and Thrive.

      So catastrophic it brought upon the Internet a WordPress cataclysm of epic proportions that melted down hundreds of servers, leaving content creators screaming and running in circles.

      If that very unlikely event were to happen there is no doubt in my mind Thrive would saddle up and bring the heavy guns to save our asses.

      That’s why I choose Thrive and, without hesitation, renewed my membership last month.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      We’ve already made our tools Gutenberg compatible a few weeks ago. :)

  • aniruddha2907 says:

    It is being said that Gutenberg will be there in WordPress 5 update. I understand from this post that thrive is basically a lot sophisticated as compared to Gutenberg. But I am curious about compatibility issues if at all I decide to use both thrive and Gutenberg together.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      We’ve already made sure that Thrive Architect is compatible with Gutenberg, so no worries there.

      Basically, Gutenberg will be a bit more powerful than the previous WordPress editor, but Thrive Architect is still on a totally different level. So if you want real design freedom, Thrive Architect is the way to go.

  • Dale Y says:

    WordPress 4.9.8 came with the option to try Gutenberg or install the “classic plugin”. Will Thrive products be compatible with Gutenberg on release or is it best to install the classic plugin?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Dale,

      Thrive Architect is already compatible with the Gutenberg editor and the other products aren’t affected by it. So you can go ahead and choose whichever option you prefer.

  • Ivan says:

    Hello Shane,

    I hope it will not be a silly question, but I’m a beginner in WordPress and I’ve heard about the forthcoming release of the Gutenberg project, but I’d have a question as a blogger for the first time or as a creator of a personal / commercial site: why do you need the WordPress platform? Why not build a personal platform such as WordPress, if you already have a great and useful site builder to build a site from A to Z?

    Why can not Thrive Architect Builder turn from a WordPress “plug-in” into a framework to install independently of wordpress.org and use it independently of wordpress to build my site?

    Thank you in advance if you give me a little of your time to answer me.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment. There are 2 main reasons why we build on WordPress. The first is that using WordPress as the backbone of our system means there are some big things and thousands of little things that we don’t have to spend time on. That means we can spend more time and focus on marketing and conversion features, instead of spending that same time getting the basics sorted out.

      The second reason is that the WordPress ecosystem makes all kinds of things possible that wouldn’t be possible with a “Thrive only” platform. For example, maybe you want to use one of our high converting landing pages to book coaching clients. You can use our landing page and a booking plugin to make that happen. So, you can benefit from tools and plugins created by other vendors to piece together the perfect system for your business.

      • Ivan says:

        I will take advantage of your kindness to answer me and I will still ask you something about an almost impossible scenario (but never say never): if I buy Thrive Architect to build a site for a client and after a year I do not renew my license what will happen with client’s site? I know that I get updates for my whole life for this license, but if you grow up and start on a different road than WordPress or as a protest against Gutenberg’s forcing into the heart of WordPress, how does the site of my client look like? Will it be a total mess (in html code, or in style, or maybe in functionality) and I must pay damages to my client for an unfunctional site? I will have to rebuild the site? Or only a new css file so it can still be used? What impact would have the non-use of Thrive Architect Builder on my client who would like to update his site and maybe your builder would no longer be approved by WordPress?

        I do not want to offend you in any way with this question, but I would like to know directly from you, not the affiliated sites, what risk if I can not use your TA builder again (and not that I do not want, considering that the updates are free of charge for my whole life as you say in your offer, different and interesting in opposition to other competitors)?

        And if I choose to buy a license for a single site I will be able to create header and footer for a personal theme (from scratch)? Can I use them globally so I can change them once from one place for the entire site?

        If I were to choose between co-installing Gutenberg plus a plug-in that was created to extend its editing capabilities, a plug-in that may over some time to be updated and which by its disappearance would leave my site in a mess, the option to go with an already mature plugin / framework like Thrive Architect, with the same risks of not being updated for various reasons, I would choose to go with TA. At least to be a trip along with the winners.

        I look forward with great interest to your answers to my above questions.

      • Shane Melaugh says:

        So, the site you use Thrive Architect on will not suffer any such disaster unless you take some action to make that happen. For example, if you use Thrive Architect to build many pages and then uninstall and remove the Thrive Architect plugin, of course the site won’t look as nice anymore. We have built Thrive Architect in such a way that the result won’t be disasterous and all your content is preserved, but of course the result is not optimal.

        But if you simply keep the plugin installed, it will keep the website working and looking as expected for a long time to come, even if you don’t update it. And in the case of an update being needed, that option will always be available to you.

  • Sahar says:

    Hi Shane,

    Now, that WordPress 5 is out and with it the Block editor, I think it would be beneficial to WordPress users and Thrive Architect users if you publish an up to date article about the differences between Thrive Architect and Gutenberg, maybe with some use cases and a comparison table.

    I myself, found Gutenberg promising, as a core part of WordPress, mainly due to the long term plans of Automatic, which is to replace almost anything with blocks and minimize the use of themes and plugins. Having said that, I don’t think it’s even fair to compare Gutenberg to Thrive Architect as Thrive Architect is much more advanced and mature in my opinion, when it comes to freedom of design, on the pixel design and in terms of being convertion oriented suite.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Sahar,

      Thank you for your comment! I agree that an update for this post is a good idea. We are watching the development of Gutenberg with interest and indeed, the stated goals are ambitious. However, from what I see so far, the core message in this video is still true: there’s not that much overlap between what Gutenberg aims to do and what Thrive Architect does.

      Gutenberg blocks are, so far, kind of like Duplo to Thrive Architect’s Lego: you can build things, but in a very basic and “blocky” manner. I do think it’s a step up from the old editor, though.

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