Gutenberg is Coming and Divi is Still the Best Choice

Gutenberg will change WordPress forever. It’s changed quite a bit since I reviewed it back in August. The goal is to have an interface that’s more intuitive – similar to Wix or Squarespace – that would be easier for those new to WordPress to use, add new features, and become more standardized. If the news I heard at WordCamp US 2017 is any indication, Gutenberg will change the way we see and design websites.

Users will be able to move the layout elements around to create uniform designs that they want to see. For example, if you want your browser to show the logo of every website in the bottom right corner of the screen and the menu vertically on the left, Gutenberg (eventually) will let you. This is in part an attempt to improve accessibility.

In other words, Gutenberg will control the entire screen – not just the content area. The content itself will be blocks. Each content block will have its own attributes. Content blocks such as headings, body text, quotes, etc., are built in, but we’re not limited to those. Developers will be able to create their own content blocks. For example, you can create a content block for recipes and sell it as a plugin. Even with all of the things it can do, the output of Gutenberg is clean HTML 5. It will take several phases for all of the features to be implemented.

With all of the layout options and content blocks, the question I hear a lot is how this affects builder plugins and themes such as Beaver Builder, Elementor, and Divi. Will they become obsolete? What about all of the layouts and child themes that we’ve created? What about all of the websites we’ve built? Will the future of WordPress put developers and designers out of business?

No.

The future of WordPress will not put developers and designers out of business

First, let me assure you that big-name companies that provide builder tools, such as Elegant Themes with Divi, have no intention of going out of business. They’re not even afraid of what’s coming. Instead, they’ve been learning about, and even contributing to, the Gutenberg project for a while. They’re helping to influence what Gutenberg can and cannot do. They can use Gutenberg to their advantage by creating new blocks and utilizing the blocks that are built in. And – they’ll be able to turn Gutenberg off within the theme, so they’ll still have control over the website’s design.

Second, it will take years for Gutenberg to do what Automattic has in mind. The world of web design will be much different by then. Just think about today’s tools vs last year’s tools. What a difference one year makes!

Third, layouts and child themes will work as normal (that’s the plan anyway). Gutenberg is purposefully designed to not break websites. Themes include controls for rows, columns, etc. Gutenberg relies on the themes for this data.

Fourth, websites still need to be designed and built, and builder tools will still be the best options for many designers and developers. And in my opinion the best of those options is, and will still be, Divi.

Why Divi?

Elegant Themes is forward-thinking. New features are added and older features are expanded. Everything becomes more streamlined.

The drag-and-drop builder is intuitive and powerful. It’s hard to imagine a design that can’t be done with Divi. Beginners can build nice sites easily and professionals can create designs that I can’t even imagine.

There are lots of layouts already designed by professional designers. Elegant Themes gives away a new free layout every week. The layouts include multiple pages and royalty-free images, and the ET blog even has tutorials on how to use them. My website is one of those layouts.

The number of tutorials available is amazing. Many of the developers and designers that use Divi have websites with tons of tutorials for free. You can learn how to do almost anything with Divi.

The third-party support is over the top. If you want a layout, child theme, or plugin to add new features to your website, you’ll have an easier time finding it for Divi than other themes. There isn’t another theme with the amount of products available from third-party suppliers. There are dozens of marketplaces and online stores to purchase from.

The number of people willing to help is overwhelming. If you need help with Divi, you can go to ET’s support page, the ET blog, one of the many groups devoted to Divi on Facebook, or one of the many websites that focus on Divi. Elegant Themes has a passion for this community and they want to see them grow. That’s why they give away so many layouts and images, publish tutorials, highlight plugins, write about websites made with Divi, and focus on designers. They celebrate their community.

There’s no need to switch themes. There are no design restrictions with Divi. You can create old designs or cutting edge designs of the future. If you need to update your website’s design every year or so, Divi makes it easy to change designs. In fact, you can work on a new design in the background while your old design is active, and then change to the new design when you’re ready. That’s what I did with this website.

Here’s a list of my favorite features:

  • drag and drop builder
  • frontend builder
  • header custmizations
  • layouts and child themes
  • plugins to add new features
  • customizer
  • a/b testing
  • custom CSS
  • options panel
  • tech support
  • blog
  • podcast
  • Facebook groups
  • thousands of tutorials on the web

If I use Divi, do I have to use it forever?

No. You can move away from Divi and still retain your page and post layouts by using the Divi Builder plugin. However, they won’t look the same as they do with your Divi site. Your layouts will keep their modules, but they will live within the confines of the new theme. This means they won’t look exactly like they did with Divi, but they’ll still work. You’ll still have forms, text areas, code modules, etc., but if your new theme has a sidebar your layout will live within the content area next to the sidebar.

This is mostly useful if you’ve created your blog content using the Divi Builder to add elements to the blog posts. If you intend on retaining the exact layout for your page design, then you really should keep Divi anyway. So yes, you will need to do some design-work with your new theme. But, you’ll have that issue with other themes, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Anyone who has changed more than a theme or two has seen broken content. This should be expected no matter what theme you’re moving from or to. To say this is a problem with Divi is to misunderstand the nature of WordPress themes.

Fortunately, with Divi there’s no reason to change themes. If you want a new design, simply design something new, grab a layout pack, buy a child theme, or hire a Divi designer (there are lots of them and they’re easy to find). With Divi you’re not stuck with one design. Creating something new is what Divi’s for. Divi is powerful enough to create any design you need. There’s no need to switch themes, so this isn’t even an issue. You can change your design as often as you want and do it with Divi every time.

I recommend Divi even with Gutenberg on the horizon.

Queue the question: “But you write for the ET blog, so did they pay you to say that?”

No (but like most blogs I will get a kickback if you use my affiliate link – which I appreciate). I’m a freelance writer and I write for a lot of companies. If they needed me I would write for Beaver Builder, Elementor, Avada, X, Make, Genesis, etc. No matter who I write for, Divi is my WordPress theme of choice. I don’t like Divi because I write for Elegant Themes. I write for Elegant Themes because I like Divi and the Divi community.

The bottom line:

Gutenberg will not do away with the need for builder themes and Divi is the best out there as far as I’m concerned (and I’ve tried a lot of them in my WordPress writing career). Even with Gutenberg coming, Divi is still the best choice to design and build your WordPress websites.

Let’s hear from you! What do you think about Gutenberg and Divi? Let us know in the comments below. 

I’m Going to WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee December 1-3

This year’s WordCamp US is near my home in TN, so I can’t pass up the opportunity to meet the amazing Elegant Theme’s crew in person. I’ve written quite a few articles for the Elegant Theme’s blog, so meeting Kenny Sing, Mitch Skolnik, B.J. Keeton, Jason Champagne, Nathan B Weller, and Nick Roach at the Coffee and Pastry Meet and Greet is kind of a big deal for me. I’m also looking forward to meeting many of the Divi developers like Tim Strifler, Tammy Grant, Leslie Barnal, David Blackmon, Josh Hall, Terry Hale, Adam Inlay, Daniel Dye, Nathan Duvall, SJ James, Shannon Shaffer, Cory Jenkins, and many others (I apologize if I’ve left your name off the list. There are many others I’d like to name). I highly recommend you check out the meet and greet event they’re planning. They had me at “coffee” (although I’d go anyway… but still… coffee). There will be photos.

There’s also some guy by the name of Matt Mullenweg, who’s going to say something about WordPress. I’ve heard he’s kind of a big deal, so we’ll see. There will be a lot of talk about Gutenberg, design, development, and even a few things about running a business with WordPress. I’m hoping to see a few things about blogging, such as blog management, writing, etc. (but that’s the writer in me).

I’m currently planning to go Friday and Saturday (although Saturday isn’t guaranteed). I plan to meet as many sponsors and website owners as I can. I haven’t fully decided on the sessions that I’ll attend (I’m actually more excited about meeting the Divi crew than attending the sessions, not that the sessions aren’t exciting). Most likely I’ll have a hard time making a decision of what the see and I’ll just roam the halls (I plan to a little bit at least). I’ll take a few photos too.

After WordCamp US is over, I plan to post my thoughts about the event and the State of the Word. Oh, and photos. I’ll post lots of photos.

What about you? Are your going to WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville? I hope see you there!

Gutenberg Editor – Review

I don’t often review something in beta, but the Gutenberg Editor is getting closer to becoming an integral part of WordPress, so it’s time to start digging in to see what it can and cannot do, what’s good and what’s bad, and what it means for the future of WordPress.

What is the Gutenberg Editor?

The Gutenberg Editor, named for the creator of movable type Johannes Gutenberg, is an upcoming replacement to current TinyMCE design. The current format has been the editor that everyone has gotten used to for many years. It’s intuitive and easy to add text, media, links, HTML. Themes and plugins that use text modules, like Divi, use TinyMCE as the editor. It’s gotten streamlined over the years and many feel that it needs an update.

The Gutenberg Editor is more similar to the editor you’ll find in web-building platforms like Squarespace. It creates paragraph blocks where you choose the content type from drop-down box and then place your content within the block.

The first thing I noticed that I don’t like is no access to the Divi Builder. My preference of content creation is to write in the TinyMCE Visual Editor, add all of my images last in their proper locations, and then copy the content and paste it into my custom blog layout. That’s not possible with the Gutenberg Editor (at least with the beta version).

I started this post in TinyMCE and then did a copy and paste into the Gutenberg Editor. Each paragraph and header pasted as its own block. I like that.

It is easy to create the content blocks. Just hit enter. Each paragraph is its own block. You can also insert blocks by clicking Insert in the upper right corner of the screen.

Drop Caps

If you want a drop cap simply click on Block to the right with your cursor placed on the block that you want to have the drop cap. Click the switch to On and you have a drop cap.

Uploading and Placing Media

Media such as images are placed into content a couple of different ways. One is to click the image icon at the bottom of the content. You’ll have to click the arrow to the left of the content block in order to move it into place. It’s a tedious process. Image alignment still works as expected.

Another way is to click the Insert button at the top right and choose what to insert. The block will be placed at your cursor’s position. The image above was placed using this method. Using the insert feature you can place common blocks, formatting, layout blocks, and widgets.

Cover Image

The Cover Image feature is interesting. Insert a Cover Image and then add your text over it. Choose Fixed Background for parallax and Dim Background to darken the image so your text stands out. This is one of my favorite features so far. 

Classic Text

It does have a Classic Text block that brings in the familiar features of TinyMCE’s Visual Editor. It doesn’t include the Text tab or a media feature.

Plugins that add shortcodes to TinyMCE do not appear within the menu. Hopefully this is due to the plugin still being beta. The Insert drop-down box does include a shortcode block, but you have to paste in the shortcode.

Settings Sidebar

To the right of the screen is a list of options with tabs labeled Document and Block. Document includes the expected options for publishing, choosing categories and tags, setting the featured image and excerpt, allowing comments, choosing the post format, and ads a new feature – viewing the table of contents.

The Table of Contents shows your headers in an outline form. Clicking on one takes you to that header. I like this feature a lot.

Text Tab

Changing to the Text tab in the upper left corner reveals a few tags you can add to your content. This works like the Text tab of the TinyMCE editor.

My Initial Thoughts About Gutenberg Editor

There are a few things I like about the editor. I like the drop cap feature and the clickable Table of Contents. The Document area to the right is cleaner than the current settings area. I like the ability to insert a widget for latest posts, categories, or shortcodes into the content. I like being able to choose the author from the editor. I like the auto-save feature. I also like the multi-column feature in the Insert drop-down. I love that it can display cover images with text overlays in parallax.

Unfortunately what I do like is far outweighed by what I don’t like. There are no SEO adjustments for my favorite SEO plugin. I can’t use the Divi Builder (my building tool of choice). I can’t publish without a sidebar like I can with Divi and Extra. Hopefully this will be fixed before it’s added to WordPress.

It doesn’t show my my word-count. This is important for writers who charge clients by the word or someone that tries to target a word-count range for their posts.

Overall the Gutenberg Editor feels awkward to me. I’m not even sure what the goal is, but it doesn’t seem to be to make the UI easier to use. I like the idea of a clean UI, but I don’t like common features turned into blocks as options to insert into different locations from a dropdown box. I found the old method of showing them at the top of the editor to be more intuitive.

The content being broken up into blocks makes my content feel disjointed. There’s no drag and drop feature, so you have to move blocks around with the arrows. It’s actually easier to copy and paste the content than it is to move it. The worst part is I can’t use the Divi Builder to create my layouts.

Matt Mullenweg has stated that the Gutenberg Editor will replace TinyMCE in WordPress 5. I think at the most it should be an option – not a replacement. Let those of use that want to keep the editor we’re used to have our choice. Don’t turn WordPress into Squarespace or similar UI just to be changing it. WordPress doesn’t have to be like those editors.

TinyMCE is simple to use. The Gutenberg Editor doesn’t feel like an improvement. Instead, it complicates the process by adding steps that are not needed. I want tools across the top like a ribbon – not in a drop-down box that adds disjointed elements to the page. This isn’t the kind of word processor I would use to write with. It just makes creating content more difficult or confusing. The user interface should never get in the way of creating content.

I suspect that if TinyMCE is removed from WordPress we’ll see lots of third-party plugins that will add it back with even better features than before.

The majority of this article was written in the Gutenberg Editor. I did start to get the hang of it but it never felt as intuitive as TinyMCE. I ended up pasting the content back into Divi to publish with my Divi blog layout.

Let’s Discuss

  • Have you tried the Gutenberg Editor beta plugin?
  • Do you prefer Geutenberg, TineyMCE, or would you rather have something else?

Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading and please subscribe if you haven’t already.

Featured image Munich – Deutsches Museum, from Wikimedia commons

Designing for Your Audience – Identifying the Target Audience

One of the balancing acts of designing a website is finding that happy medium between what the client wants and what their readers need. The design shouldn’t just be a client’s wish list. It should also consider the end user’s wish list. After all, the website should actually designed to meet the needs of the end user. In order to know who the end user is, you must first identify the target audience.

Since a website is often constrained by budget and time, not every item on the wish list will make it into the website before time for launch. It’s a good idea to list the client’s top 3-5 items that are the most important, as well as listing the top 3-5 items that are the most important for the end user. This determines the content and features of the site.

Identifying the Target Audience

In order to know the top 3-5 things the readers need, and to help inform your website design, you’ll need to identify the target audience. Knowing the target audience will also help determine the types of graphics, animations, navigation structure, images, and other features that the website will need.

The best way to identify the audience is to create a checklist of questions to ask your client. Your client’s will need to provide a detailed description of their industry, trends, customers, and competition.

Have a meeting with your client with a prepared list of questions. Questions will be different for each project, but it helps to have a template to work from. Questions can include:

  • What types of customers are you targeting?
  • How would you describe each type of customer?
  • What is unique about each type?
  • What are their specific needs?

Customer Profile

Create a profile of each type of customer. Many designers like to create a mockup customer complete with name and biography. This is often called a persona. This will make the customer seem like a real person with real needs. The website can then be designed to solve those needs. This should be modified as needed in order to help improve the website’s design.

Scenarios

Once you have the personas you can build scenarios that will help you determine how they will use the website and the type of content they will need. The result will be a website that’s designed to meet the needs of the end user.

Let’s Discuss

  • How to you identify your target audience? 
  • What types of questions do you ask?
  • Do you develop customer profiles? 
  • Do you develop scenarios?

Thanks for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

Featured image by Chad Kirchoff on Unsplash

The Steps of Developing a WordPress Website – Step 5 – Maintain

Once the website is deployed, as in seconds after, it’s time to maintain the website. This includes the backend, the frontend, and content. This is also when you should start implementing additions that were not ready or available during the first four steps. A maintenance schedule with items in a checklist can help keep the schedule on track.

Under the Hood

It’s important to keep your WordPress installation up to date. This includes the WordPress core, themes, and plugins. The majority of updates are security patches that fix holes. A website that hasn’t been kept up to date will be a security risk for the server and anyone that visits the website. If the server gets malware the website can be blacklisted.

First, always keep an updated backup. Never perform a software update on your live website without a recent backup. I prefer to perform the updates on test sites first. Once you’re sure the updates are safe it’s time to update the live site.

I recommend running periodic tests for speed and usability to ensure your website is loading correctly.

Frontend

The frontend also needs to be maintained. This includes colors, styles, design elements, images, animations, etc. You don’t want your visitors thinking they just stumbled into the way-back machine (unless it’s a retro design on purpose).

Not only do design elements need to be maintained, but also calls to action, button arrangement, colors, etc., need to be changed as needed in order to get the best results. I don’t recommend changing at random though. One of the best ways to know what to change and how to change it is to use a/b testing. This will show you which colors, styles, buttons, etc., are the most productive for your website.

Content

News, products, offers, prices, images, articles, ads, etc. should be kept up to date. Your site would not look very professional if product prices were several years or weeks old. How many times have you driven by an old gas station with prices from years ago on the sign? What are your thoughts when you see that? You automatically assume they’re out of business. A website with old content looks like it’s out of business.

The same goes for articles. How many websites have you seen where the last post was “I’m Back!” and that was three years ago? You don’t have to post every day, but the more often you can post the better. Set a schedule and stick to it. At least 4 posts a week is ideal for the best traffic results.

Lets Discuss

  • Do you use a maintenance schedule?
  • Do you implement updates on a test server first?
  • Do you use a/b testing to see what is effective?
  • How often do you post?

Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already. 

Featured image by Igor Ovsyannykov