What Gutenberg Means for The Future Of Commercial WordPress Products

What Gutenberg Means for The Future Of Commercial WordPress Products

I just returned from two weeks of intense traveling, which started with WordCamp Riga, where I gave the opening keynote – A Crash Course On Building A Sustainable Plugin/Theme Business in The Subscription Economy spiced up with a trip to Nashville for WordCamp US. While I’m tempted to write about how awesome my trip was, the friends I met, yadda, yadda, yadda – the usual WordCamp recap – after Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word at WordCamp US, where we watched a 15 min live demo of the “Future of WordPress”, I decided that it’s time we covered Gutenberg from the perspective of the commercial products space.

Here’s the live demo by Matias Ventura, the project lead:

Since my expertise is in monetization and does not specifically relate to the WordPress editor, I decided to reach out to the founders and CEOs of the most popular page builders: Beaver Builder, Elementor, Divi Builder, and Visual Composer.

Luckily, I had spent a few days with the Visual Composer team at Riga, and I know the Elementor team before Elementor was even born. Robby and I hung out together in multiple WordCamps, and I had met with the Divi team when I was visiting San-Francisco in 2016.

Page builder WordPress plugins CEOs at WC US discussing Gutenberg
From left to right: Kobi Sela, CEO at Web Media Group, Nick, CEO at Elegant Themes (Divi Builder), Michael Makijenko, CEO at Visual Composer, Raitis Sevelis, PM at Visual Composer, Luca Fracassi, CEO at Addendio, Yoni Luksenberg, CEO at Pojo (Elementor), Vova Feldman, CEO at Freemius

The picture above is quite legendary and was taken after the WordCamp US’ after party. Unfortunately, the ”Beavers” were not around to make it complete. So here’s the complementary one of Brent and Robby from Beaver Builder, and Yoni from Elementor:

Gutenberg competition? Brent and Robby from Beaver Builder, and Yoni from Elementor

To Gutenberg, or not to Gutenberg, that is the question…

Gutenberg is an important move for WordPress’ market growth. I’ve been saying it for a while, and mentioned it on my interview on Kinsta from June – I think that WordPress is already the go-to solution for most web agencies and freelancers – tech-savvy users. The thing is that most of the users out there are not web developers and are not considered as “power users”. The WordPress interface ease-of-use is far behind WiX, Squarespace, and a dozen other WYSIWYG website builders. You don’t need to be a UX expert to tell that the WordPress admin dashboard is overwhelming. And that’s why I think we see the gold rush of page builders.

Yoni Luksenberg“It has been a year and a half since we first introduced Elementor to the WordPress community.  We are glad WordPress is also making progress with the Gutenberg project. This brings an important functionality to millions of users, and new challenges for theme and plugin developers.

I believe that Elementor’s unique vision of design is just in its early stages, and there is a lot of room for innovation. We will find the best path to work alongside the new editor, and keep leading the field of WordPress design.

My estimate is that the Gutenberg project will contribute to WordPress’s continual growth as the #1 CMS in the world.

 Yoni Luksenberg, CEO & Co-Founder at Elementor

Moving towards a WYSIWYG approach with Gutenberg helps seize the “mom and pop shops”. This is great news for commercial plugin and theme developers because we are going to see more people using WordPress!

More users -> A larger market share -> more $$

Generation of “Block” Plugins Is Around The Corner

Gutenberg introduces a new concept of blocks where users can embed widget-like blocks anywhere they like in the page. It’s still hard to foresee all the possible use-cases, but it will definitely make an interesting ecosystem with a new breed of micro-plugins.

Time to Seize Your “-block” Slug from WordPress.org!

The current terminology for widgets or page elements that are used by Gutenberg is “blocks”. It’s too early to know which exact phrase will rule when users will be searching for Gutenberg components, but this is the best time to bet and capture a lucrative slug on WordPress.org and hopefully piggyback on the organic traffic that it will generate.

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I covered the WordPress.org SEO topic profoundly, earlier this year, and the slug is still very important to the ranking of your products! So for example, if your WordPress plugins business is in the forms space, capturing the slug contact-form-block can be great for you (assuming that “block” will be the terminology that will catch on). Obviously, you can’t just capture the slug, you’ll actually need to submit a functioning plugin. That said, it can be an initial/alpha version 😉

Plugin Developers – Get Ready!

Matt is pushing Gutenberg ahead in full-power. If you are a plugin developer and still haven’t explored Gutenberg – now is the time! Moreover, start preparing for the Gutenberg era — if your plugin won’t be compatible with the new editor your product is going to stay behind.

Robby McCullough“We’ve been keeping our finger on the pulse of Gutenberg’s progress and do our best to jump in and help lend our expertise to the project when we can. Gutenberg has the potential to disrupt the markets that we and our users serve, but its success is important to the WordPress project. We want Gutenberg to be successful as much as we want WordPress to be successful.

We’re looking at different ways we can embrace and extend Gutenberg and we have the benefit of being a fast and agile team. It’s still unclear exactly what the final product is going to accomplish (are we trying to be like Medium or Squarespace?), but we’re ready and prepared to adapt as needed.

During the State of the Word, I was impressed with the Gutenberg demo and it was encouraging to hear the excited rumblings in the crowd. The perception of Gutenberg is slowly shifting from fear to excitement in the community.

Matt mentioned that they’re designing Gutenberg for new users. I think there’s always going to be another level of customization and features that Page Builders can provide. Hopefully, Gutenberg will successfully increase WordPress’ market share. When those new users are ready to take their designs to the next level, we’ll be there!

Thinking about how Gutenberg might affect the commercial theme market, we’re excited to learn more about the new core Gutenberg Theme. The core team is obviously thinking far out into the future in their approach to building Gutenberg. Seeing how they envision Gutenberg interacting with a Theme will hopefully shed more light on their idea of best practice and what the WordPress “theme” of the future might look like.”

Robby McCullough, CEO & Co-Founder at Beaver Builder

Is Gutenberg Going to Kill Commercial Themes?

I had LOTs of discussions about Gutenberg with key people in our community. Some say that commercial themes will become obsolete in a year. I don’t think that’s the case.

Michael Makijenko“With opinions like Joost’s out there we couldn’t agree more about the unnecessary rush from the Gutenberg team to push editor into the core. The results may be dramatic for the end customer who will suffer from multiple compatibility issues. At the same time, we are excited about the modules to allow a standardization of things. That would probably be a good step to take, before the entire Gutenberg project.

As Gutenberg is not really a frontend editor, builders like Visual Composer will still keep the strong position in the market. Of course, we expect to have a small drop upon initial release. At the same time, with all the focus on builders, the community seems to forget that the next step is the Gutenberg base theme, which may hit a much larger group of WordPress professionals out there.”

Michael Makijenko, CEO & Founder at Visual Composer

I (Vova) think that the typical user who starts a website is always going to start with a “pretty design”.  Non-tech-savvy users (which comprise most of the ecosystem) don’t care about Gutenberg, the customizer, or page builders. They focus on finding a theme that visually addresses their needs.

In my humble opinion, commercial themes are not going anywhere. What I do think is that we are going to see more and more themes built on top of frameworks. Whether the framework is Gutenberg, Genesis, Visual Composer, or any of the other builders, it will become way easier to turn PSD designs into functional themes. While it means that we’ll see a growth in the WordPress themes inventory, this is great news for website owners, since editing the theme will become a simple WYSIWYG task.

Conclusion

Since its initial announcement, we’ve all been following the development of the Gutenberg project in awe. Some of us have been worrying about how it may affect their WordPress-based commercial product business, while others are wondering where it is all going, and what the future holds for the wonderful WordPress ecosystem. While I can definitely understand those who may be showing signs of stress and concern, I tend to look at these things differently, and instead of fearing the head-on collision of Gutenberg with my WordPress product business – I would try to understand how to turn a threat into an opportunity.

If you’re a plugin developer and are like me in that aspect then I suggest you get to work, or at least get to thinking about it. I’ve provided a few of my thoughts and predictions above, and I think commercial WordPress plugin developers would be wise to check those out and consider acting upon them (before someone else does). Should you create a WordPress “block” plugin that extends one of Gutenberg’s capabilities? If so, which capability/problem will you focus on? Can you pick out something that is important enough for people to need to use on their websites, but at the same time isn’t likely to be handled by the core Gutenberg team anytime soon?

If you’re a theme developer who has not yet upgraded their development workflow into the new, fast and improved manner of creating page-builder-based WordPress themes, I suggest you consider doing so. While you’re at it, definitely examine the perks of the Gutenberg editor and how it is going to affect the process of developing new themes, so that when the day comes you already have your surfing board all waxed up and all that’s left to do is catch the big wave.

Vova Feldman

Published by Vova Feldman

Freemius CEO & Founder, a serial entrepreneur and full-stack developer since age 14, propelled by a pursuit of excellence, embraces a holistic approach to life shaped by invaluable lessons in hard work and discipline.

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