ClassicPress: An Alternative to WordPress is Ready for Live Sites

ClassicPressClassicPress is a modified and enhanced version of WordPress (without Gutenberg) that aims to serve the business website market; the concept of this fork was launched by Scott Bowler. I’m not going to try to speak for Scott, so I’ll link to the original post he did on why ClassicPress was created .

The Mission statement from ClassicPress is:

1. If it isn’t broken, we won’t fix it

The original idea behind ClassicPress was to provide a version of WordPress without Gutenberg, a drag and drop page builder, which was slated to become part of the core WordPress code from version 5.

It is our firm belief that the original publishing experience was (and still is) a tried and tested solution complimented by a wide array of plugins to extend its functionality. In other words, it wasn’t broken, so it didn’t need to be fixed.

This philosophy is central to ClassicPress. We won’t change things for change sake – just because something has been around for a while, it doesn’t mean it’s broken (in fact, it’s probably the optimal solution).

2. Business-focused CMS

The main target market of ClassicPress are businesses and as such we will move to being a full CMS. Blogs can be a part of an CMS, the other way around is often much more difficult.

The features that we will implement are all focused around offering one of our 3 key takeaways:
Powerful. Versatile. Predictable.

3. We will facilitate democratic discussion and decision making

In order for decisions to made by the community it is essential that we provide a platform that makes it easy for every member of the community to share ideas, debate, vote and give feedback without censorship.

We will ensure the platforms and systems are in place and maintained to make this a reality.

4. We will make people’s lives better

There are many people involved in an open source project such as ClassicPress. Programmers, designers, marketers, businesses and website visitors to name a few.

It is our mission to ensure that we make the lives of the people who use ClassicPress better. For example, for programmers we will campaign for ideas that make programming more efficient, less prone to bugs and faster to do. For end users we might suggest a project to make websites load faster.

5. We will invest in the future of ClassicPress

ClassicPress will be registered as a not-for-profit company (a Limited by Guarantee company based in the United Kingdom).

We will be transparent about any money raised (or spent) and encourage the community to vote on how this money will be best used. It is our mission to ensure that we re-invest into the ClassicPress platform and any supporting systems.

In the long-term this might, for example, include hiring of a core team of developers to work on ideas voted for by the community.

I’ve joined the forums and slack channel for ClassicPress and have been both keeping a general eye on things as well as doing some beta testing for various aspects of the project. I’ve liked what I have seen so far and am seriously interested in moving my sites over to it when the first version is released (currently it is in beta).

For me the key item is that it does not contain Gutenberg (they’re open to a Gutenberg plugin that people can choose to use) and it works fine with all of my plugins (both the ones I have created as well as the ones from other developers (such as Contact Form 7).

While ClassicPress is still in beta, James Nylen, the development team lead, has given the green light for the announcement that it is safe to use in a live environment as there are no open bugs on our GitHub repository.

If they’re saying it is ready, but still in beta you might be wondering why?

The answer is quite simple; there are a few items which still need to be completed before the official version 1 launch (none of which will have a negative impact on sites using it):

  • There are a few dashboard areas which still need converting to being ClassicPress focused rather than WordPress focused (for example, they’re adding a Petitions dashboard widget)
  • There is still the occasional mention of WordPress instead of ClassicPress, such as in the README file
  • Localisation is incomplete

Full details of the announcement are here.

I’m in the process of building a new plugin demo site on ClassicPress and will be looking to migrate all of my sites over as soon as I can; in the mean time I will be sticking with WordPress 4.9.8 (plus any 4.9 security updates) as I don;t find Gutenberg to be useful (and would go so far as to say it is would have a major detriment on my blogging if i did upgrade and try to use Gutenberg.

For me, ClassicPress is the future and I am participating in the new community where I can (mainly in beta testing of the various aspects).

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Before Upgrading to WordPress 5 And Gutenberg

GutenbergWordPress 5 with Gutenberg is due for release tomorrow on 6th December 2018. While many people, on WordPress.com and other hosted WordPress providers, will not have a say about upgrading, they can mitigate the effects somewhat by installing the Classic Editor:

Classic Editor Plugin

For those with control over their sites, you can choose to upgrade to WordPress 5 or not (some postings by Matt Mullenweg had suggested that upgrading would happen automatically, but a few posts have been made clarifying that this would not happen).

Much of the community is recommending holding off upgrading until 5.0.1 at the earliest and I strongly agree with this sentiment.

Any upgrade you do, should be on a staging environment first so that you can test to verify that your theme and plugins will all work correctly after the upgrade to WordPress 5.

Whenever you do upgrade your live website, I would recommend having a complete website upgrade (database and files), so that you can roll back if necessary, and test immediately after the upgrade has completed.

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What If Gutenberg for WordPress Doesn’t Work For Me?

GutenbergGutenberg is coming. Gutenberg is included in WordPress 5 which is slated for release on 6th December 2018. This is avoidable in the short term, by preventing WordPress upgrading or by upgrading and then installing the Classic Editor plugin, but this plugin has been announced as only supported until 31stDecember 2021. After this the Classic Editor will no longer be supported.

At this point you either need to switch to Gutenberg or find an alternative to WordPress.

That alternative might be another CMS, another blogging platform, or a WordPress fork.

I mention that last as a new WordPress fork called ClassicPress has been announced which I’ve been looking into and I think it has possibilities. I’ll have more posts soon on ClassicPress as I continue my investigation.

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Stop WordPress Updating to Version 5

WordPressGutenberg is included in WordPress 5 which is slated for release on 6th Decmeber 2018. Hopefully you know what Gutenberg is and if it will work for you.

If Gutenberg won;t work for you, or you haven’t finished testing, then you have two options.

Unless you’re on a hosted WordPress, in which case you may only have one option.

The first, or possibly only option, is to revert to the Classic Editor by installing the plugin. This will allow you to keep the current editing experience (until the end of December 2021).

However, if you’re using self-hosted WordPress, or otherwise have access to your wp.config file, you can add a line which prevents all core updates:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );

One that line is added, WordPress will not update; this will allow you to remain on WordPress 4.9.x until such time as you have made a decision as to the route you’re going down.

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WordPress 5 With Gutenberg Releases Thursday 6th December 2018

WordPressAfter pushing back the release date of WordPress 5 from 27th November to an unannounced date, the new release date has, early hours of today, been announced as Thursday 6th December 2018.

This is a very soon date which gives people little time to plan.

From feedback on the announcement page, it appears the majority think the date is driven by the WordCamp US conference. An event should never be the driver for software release; the driver should be that the software is ready and Gutenberg appears not to be ready.

You can edit your wp-config file to prevent an upgrade (if you host your own site) or can install the Classic Editor to get the old functionality back.

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Is Gutenberg for WordPress Accessible?

GutenbergUnfortunately, the short answer is, no, Gutenberg is not really accessible.

This is my understanding from the Report on the accessibility status of Gutenberg post on wordpress.org.

For a new method of editing, it seems quite shocking that accessibility, in this day and age, has not been a major consideration from the start. Showing how dire the situation is, Rian Rietveld, the accessibility team lead, has resigned.

The only real recommendation is to revert back to the current standard experience, by installing the Classic Editor, but this has been announced as only supported until 31stDecember 2021. After this the Classic Editor will no longer be supported.

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What Happens To My Existing Posts When I Upgrade Gutenberg for WordPress?

GutenbergUpgrading to Gutenberg is not necessarily a choice that users of WordPress will make for themselves. If you’re hosted on WordPress.com or deployed your site via a web host, you will have little to zero say about when you upgrade.

Your existing posts will be editable via Gutenberg, and will show with the entire post in a single block; be very cautious about allowing Gutenberg to migrate them to blocks, as in my testing I have found this usually corrupts the post (this may be due to how I’ve created my posts, but the conversion appears to hate any styling.

You can revert to the standard experience, by installing the Classic Editor, but any migrated posts will remain changed. The Classic Editor will remain available via a plugin, but it has already been announced that it will only be supported until 31stDecember 2021. After this the Classic Editor will no longer be supported.

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What Are Gutenberg for WordPress Blocks?

GutenbergIn the last post, I mentioned blocks a fair bit, but maybe didn’t explain blocks well enough. WordPress has an FAQ which describes blocks:

What are “blocks” and why are we using them?
The current WordPress editor is an open text window—it’s always been a wonderful blank canvas for writing, but when it comes to building posts and pages with images, multimedia, embedded content from social media, polls, and other elements, it required a mix of different approaches that were not always intuitive:

  • Media library/HTML for images, multimedia and approved files.
  • Pasted links for embeds.
  • Shortcodes for specialized assets from plugins.
  • Featured images for the image at the top of a post or page.
  • Excerpts for subheadings.
  • Widgets for content on the side of a page.
  • As we thought about these uses and how to make them obvious and consistent, we began to embrace the concept of “blocks.” All of the above items could be blocks: easy to search and understand, and easy to dynamically shift around the page. The block concept is very powerful, and if designed thoughtfully, can offer an outstanding editing and publishing experience.

Basically, every section of a post is a block; headings, paragraphs, images, lists, galleries are all separate blocks. WordPress also recommend that all meta field and shortcodes are upgraded to blocks (this last is more one for plugin developers).

Unfortunately, blocks, unlike current standard plugins, are not created with PHP, but Javascript and a framework such as React JS (which Gutenberg itself uses).

This massively decreases the accessibility of creating extensions for WordPress as PHP is easier to learn than Javascript. Whether you think this is a good or bad thing depends on your view of the world. People often deride PHP, but it has meant a proliferation of plugins available so almost any requirements you might have can be met by an existing plugin. Unfortunately, not all of these plugins are high quality, so some care must be taken with the plugins used.

The bar has been raised for accessibility in that Javascript is harder to learn than PHP, so some of the poorer developers may drop out, but it also means that the slightly better developers will be writing bad Javascript blocks, so the overall quality may not change at all.

What you’re likely to have is less plugins providing blocks.

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What is Gutenberg (for WordPress)?

GutenbergDo you use WordPress? Are you Gutenberg ready? Do you know what Gutenberg is?

For many people who would answer yes to the first question, I think there are probably many who would answer the second question I pose above, by asking (my third question) “what is Gutenberg?”

I’ve been aware of Gutenberg for quite a while now, as I am a hobbyist WordPress plugin developer, but it has been down my list of things to deal with.

Unfortunately, while I am still not ready due to other things I need to deal with, it’s time for decisions to be made. “Why?”, you ask; because Gutenberg is almost here.

Ok, time for a definition:

Gutenberg is a take on a new editor for WordPress. It is named after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented a printing press with movable type more than 500 years ago. The current visual editor requires a lot of us to utilize shortcodes and HTML to make things work. Their goal is to make this easier, especially for those just starting with WordPress. – Kinsta.com

This definition is a fairly common one that you will see; stating that Gutenberg is a new editor.

But, this isn’t actually accurate. Gutenberg as an editor, is phase one of the implementation of Gutenberg in WordPress. Introduced initially as a plugin, the description of the plugin starts with this:

Gutenberg is more than an editor. While the editor is the focus right now, the project will ultimately impact the entire publishing experience including customization (the next focus area). – Gutenberg Plugin

When WordPress 5.0 rolls out, it has just hit Release Candidate status, but the release date for the final is now not known, Gutenberg will become the default editor as it is rolled into the core of WordPress and ceases to be a plugin. Gone will be the old editor, unless you choose to install the Classic Editor plugin. This will only buy you a certain amount of time though, as that plugin is only officially supported up to the end of 2021. However, in the three years until then, later phases of Gutenberg will be created and integrated into the core of WordPress which will further change the experience.

And as the statement above shows, it will impact on every aspect of the publishing experience including customisation.

My big issue with Gutenberg (actually I have several), is that it mixes content with structure. In a later post, I’ll expand further on this. I’ll also do some other posts around Gutenberg including on blocks (going to be important) and the actual experience.

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