The Gutenberg WordPress editor is the revamped page builder that has been at the center of many debates ever since the announcement of its release. Experts are arguing about what it holds for the future of WordPress and are still pretty much divided.

How it will pan out in realistic applications is yet to be seen but, as with all updates, if you're a WooCommerce store manager you might want to hold your horses and be aware of what Gutenberg could mean for your store.

Gutenberg is being touted by some as a revolutionary update and, as such, some developers might want to push you to switch to it as soon as it releases. However, before you do that, there are a few things that you have to bear in mind.

Let's have an in-depth look at what I mean when talking about the need to be careful before going all in with the installation and integration of Gutenberg in your store.

4 things you might have to consider before switching to Gutenberg

WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg should be released in the latest part of this year, however an exact date has not been given. Despite the hype, WooCommerce store managers should practice some patience and not jump on the Gutenberg bandwagon as soon as it'll be released. As WordPress developer and Codeable expert Ashley Shaw explains:

Gutenberg is obviously what WordPress is going to want to push for rich page building. The software is still in a state of flux, and massive changes are happening on a regular basis, so I'd definitely steer clear of this right now. However, I would recommend gaining an understanding of what is happening with Gutenberg and an introduction to what Gutenberg is, as a good start.

The idea is to have your in-house developers, or even yourself, familiarize with the "new kid in town". Here's the documentation on GitHub and a good resource from Kinsta from which you can start.

Make sure your current theme is compatible

It is important to be 100% positive that your current WooCommerce theme will be compatible with Gutenberg. The new WordPress editor helps in developing rich content that makes pages more appealing but if your theme doesn’t support Gutenberg, you might get issues on your store. Ashley further points out in this regard:

The first thing you want to check is theme compatibility. It's more likely than not that your theme is not going to support Gutenberg to start with. So, trying to switch to using Gutenberg because it's the latest and greatest would, in my opinion, be a bad idea, unless you are 100% certain that your theme is well supported and you'll not have many styling issues.

Try it in a staging environment first

It is very important not to risk a live site for an upgrade that is new and has no substantial tests or reviews available yet because it is a risk that you don’t want to take with your WooCommerce store. On this aspect, Ashley highlights:

Test the way Gutenberg works in a staging environment before even considering changing anything on your live store. You might find with some small tests that it's a lot of work to integrate Gutenberg, and if your budget doesn't allow for that right now, then you can include it as part of your projected budgets for future work.

The importance of testing any updates in a staging environment can't be repeated enough. It allows you to anticipate issues that might have surfaced later on on your live store. To start testing Gutenberg, you need to download it as a plugin from here.

Any advanced customizations will require a WooCommerce expert

With things still twisty turvy about the future of Gutenberg, experts and involved subjects are shying away from making detailed speculations. However, there are a few recommendations on custom functionality you might need. As Ashley points out:

On the database side of things, if you want specific functionality to be available in the Gutenberg blocks, those would need to be developed by a WooCommerce expert. They may, or may not, require some functional coding. If it's just the standard Gutenberg functionality what you'll need, like page columns, images, etc., that should not require any kind of further development because it's all going to be WordPress standard functionality.

Do the switch only if you have a proper plan

This is very crucial. Plan things out before you actually start switching to Gutenberg when it is released. Especially, think how your pages will need to look and feature, what functionality you might need in the form of Gutenberg blocks, as Ashley recommends:

If you're looking to build enriched versions of your pages using Gutenberg, you should plan out the pages before you even think about the technical side of things. Plan out the content, plan out the structure, maybe even create a mockup. That gives you a guideline and through the process of generating the content, you'll see what you're missing.

Depending on your technical knowledge, you can always do some testing yourself and just try to build something. If that yields a result that isn't good enough or doesn't respond the way that you expected it to, well there's your answer: for that specific area or block, you will need to hire an expert for custom development. Or, you could simply jump on a call and ask questions to an expert.

Wrapping up

Gutenberg will be a huge upgrade to the WordPress and WooCommerce universe. There's no doubt about it. That's why you're encouraged to get more comfortable with it and get your feet wet through a proper testing phase. That will give you an enormous advantage in respect to when it'll be released as a core WordPress feature.

This blog post features Ashley Shaw who is the founder of LightSpeed, a web agency that has been developing WordPress websites for over a decade. They can take care of and manage different areas of any business, such as frontend or backend development, WooCommerce support, MailChimp and Systems Administration.