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Getting Ready for Gutenberg on Pantheon

We began offering WordPress hosting back in 2014, and have witnessed a lot of evolution in the WordPress ecosystem since. Everything from customizer improvements, to the inclusion of the REST-API and WP-CLI as official parts of the WordPress project. However, the largest and most impactful change we have seen yet is on its way. It is called Gutenberg.  

This isn't a new tool for new sites, it's a large update that will affect every developer, content editor and (ultimately) end user in a profound way. Here at Pantheon we are doing everything we can to make sure we support all of our users, old and new, through the adoption process.

What Is Gutenberg?

The WordPress.org project page for Gutenberg introduces it as a “new publishing experience” for WordPress. The current focus on the editing experience foreshadows a major philosophical shift in the way we think about delivering content.

Gutenberg moves away from the familiar concept of stuffing blobs of HTML code into a single body field. This takes us into a world where every individual page component is a ‘block’.  Blocks are a shift to modular components that can be used in the editor in the short term and site wide, in areas such as sidebars, in the long term. This makes WordPress content much more transportable and consumable by all manner of devices and user experiences.  

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What We Know so Far on Pantheon

This Is Not Optional

One of the major factors that makes this change a concern for many users and developers is that this change to a new editor is currently planned as a forced upgrade with the next major release of WordPress, estimated for the spring of 2018. Gutenberg will be set as the default editing experience, rather than being opt-in. Users will find a whole new look and feel when they update to 5.0.

Fortunately for those who need more time to make the transition, there is the Classic Editor Plugin, which can be installed to override Gutenberg as the default editor. You can even install the Classic Editor Plugin in the must-use plugins folder so it is automatically enabled for clients who would be disrupted by the new editor. While this might be a good short term plan for legacy sites, it is not a great long term strategy.

The earlier you start testing this upcoming change to the editor, the easier the transition will be and the sooner you can start delivering content in new ways. Pantheon is here to help. Here are a few ways we think we can assist.

Experiment with Gutenberg on a Free Pantheon Sandbox

Spinning up a new site on Pantheon is quick, within minutes you can be testing a new WordPress installation with the Gutenberg plugin. This sandbox site approach is nice since you can get as experimental as you wish without any worry about running out of installs on your server or doing anything that might affect any other site you own. Pantheon’s containers are dedicated and isolated, so test away!  

Test Out Gutenberg on a Copy of Your Existing Wordpress Site

The Pantheon Migrations plugin from BlogVault makes moving a site to Pantheon quick and easy. Just install the plugin on your current site and enter in your Pantheon machine access token—the migration plugin will do the rest. Afterwards, you’ll have a copy of your site on the Pantheon platform in a free sandbox, ready to test out Gutenberg!


Pantheon’s Multidev feature allows users to spin up cloud development environments with the click of a button.  This is Git feature branching with automated environment provisioning. Multidev is available to users with Pantheon for Agencies, Pantheon EDU, and Pantheon Enterprise, as well as business plan and elite customers.

This environment works exactly like the other Dev, Test and Live environments. We even visually track how far ahead or behind you are from the code commits over in Master on Dev. We give you a single push button option to merge changes back into Dev. And when new code is committed in Dev, you can easily merge those into your MultiDev branches.

Aside from managing the code, Pantheon lets you clone your database and media files from any environment as part of the Multidev creation process, so you can immediately get to work on an exact clone of your production site. Combine this power with tools like WP-CFM for configuration management, you can make major changes in this isolated environment and push only the tested, approved changes to production without overwriting your database.  

Leveraging Multidev will let you implement Gutenberg on a real production site without fear of interfering with your Live environment or even your regular development process.

Pantheon Office Hours

Every week the Pantheon Developer Relations team has a free, no registration required, Zoom meeting where you can ask us any questions about using the platform. This is an ideal time to come bring us your questions and feedback about your experience with Gutenberg on Pantheon. Learn more here.

What’s Next?

Our team is working behind the scenes to help even more. We will produce documentation and blogs as we ourselves experiment with the editor and continue learning what developing with it means for our users. We’ll round that content up for you here. We’re also going to be more proactive. Here is a taste of what you can expect to see from us in the coming weeks:

Example and Template Blocks

We are creating example repositories of new custom blocks. Lead by Andrew Taylor, who has worked on The Customizer and helped develop Gutenberg, these example blocks will hopefully serve as best practice guidelines for developers, but also can be directly used in your projects. First up, we are working on a CodePen integration, a Google Maps block and a Custom Gutenberg Block template. The template should let you drop in your favorite functionality without too much stress.  

Couch Coding

Our informal webinar series, Couch Coding, was designed to help developers up their skills. We will focus on Gutenberg in upcoming sessions and look forward to seeing you there. As we get closer to the release of Gutenberg, and we get feedback from the community, we will be fine tuning the topics. Keep an eye out for registration announcements.   

A New Day Is (Almost) Here

The goal of WordPress is to “Democratize Publishing.” To meet the needs of more and more users, we need to continue to evolve better and more accessible tools. Gutenberg is a giant step in the direction of getting more people online and their voice out there.

Pantheon is here for you through this next transitional step. Our multiple environments will make testing Gutenberg simple, well ahead of its release in WP core on new sites. More importantly our platform provides a safe way to experiment on your existing sites, testing what this means for current content.

Let us know what questions you have and how you think we can help. We are all in this together!

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