Almost everything on a site adds to the whole User Experience (UX). While you could argue for how important the theme is, the choice of WordPress editor is as crucial for UX.
WordPress offers flexibility, so this means there are many editors to choose from. While you could stick with the Block Editor, it may not be the best fit for the client, or your working methods.
In this post, we’ll help you help your clients with their choice of WordPress editor. We’ll look at the options available, and how to have the discuss early on in a project. First, let’s discuss the editing ecosystem within WordPress.
A Primer On Editing Within WordPress
Since the first release of WordPress in 2003, it’s used the TinyMCE Editor. This is an open-source word processing module with basic functionality. The cool thing about the TinyMCE editor was how lean it was – six lines of code was all you needed. Also, it was extendable, which suited WordPress’ ecosystem:
WordPress turned from a blogging platform to a full-fledged Content Management System (CMS). At this point, other blogging platforms also brought along a better editing experience.
Platforms such as Medium gave users a gorgeous, intuitive, and modern editor. In contrast, WordPress’ editing experience looked a little long in the tooth.
There were many WordPress developers who saw a gap in the market. Page builders have become big business. Solutions such as Elementor have huge teams and millions of users:
As such, the WordPress team needed to drag the editing experience into the modern age and claw back users.
Enter the Block Editor
The WordPress Block Editor was released to the public in 2018. It was code-named “Gutenberg” at first, and this name lives on the the public beta plugin of the editor.
At first, the Block Editor only offered a basic level of content editing. After almost three years of work though, you can begin to create layouts and structures. In fact, the Block Editor is entering a new phase.
Full Site Editing (FSE) is coming to WordPress. This has put other developers with editing products on notice. We’ll talk more about this throughout the article. For now, let’s chat about why your choice of editor is important.
Why the Choice of WordPress Editor Is Important for Everyone
Given how important design and content is, the right WordPress editor for the job is vital. For your clients – i.e. the end user – there are a lot of consequences in choosing the right one:
- They will get the right functionality for their needs.
- The whole UX will suit their workflow.
- It offers the client self-sufficiency – an important part of a developer-client relationship.
- The right editor could keep costs down, especially if it’s ‘forwards-compatible’.
For you as the developer, there are also a few points to note:
- It may be easier to develop for one editor than other.
- You may struggle with products that have a natural ‘End Of Life (EOL)’ if the client wants to stick with it.
- An editor without the right functionality will need more patching and extending.
- The client could end up spending money with you that could go into other areas of the project.
The last point is worth digging into further. On the surface, more money for you is a good thing. In contrast, and as we noted, the client’s self-sufficiency is more important.
In other words, you should make decisions based on whether your client can carry out tasks without your help. This is a business decision that skews wider than this article though. In a nutshell, client self-sufficiency tends to earn you more money in the long run.
Your Options for Editing in WordPress
We’ve touched on the options for choosing a WordPress editor already. Let’s break down each one:
- The Block Editor. As we noted, this is the default WordPress editor that has a bright future.
- A dedicated page builder plugin. These can come in many shapes and sizes. There are solutions such as Elementor and Beaver Builder, and older plugins such as SiteOrigin Page Builder.
- The Classic Editor. This is the TinyMCE Editor we discussed earlier. It got its new name once the Block Editor became part of WordPress.
It’s worth talking more about third-party page builders here, as we’ve mentioned the other two already. They arrived to combat the subjective poor editing experience of WordPress. The idea is to give end users a ‘no-code’ way to build layouts for their site.
There are a multitude of options depending on the specific solution. The usual features include customizing typography, colors, column margins, images, and much more.
At this point, they’re more powerful than the Block Editor because of the ability to edit an entire site. With some solutions, it’s more accurate to call them theme builders. For example, Elementor provides a blank starter theme that you build on top of using the page builder:
Also, the Block Editor is introducing Full Site Editing (FSE). This means the gap between third-party tools and native WordPress is narrowing. This compounds your choice of WordPress editor, both now and in the future.
How to Discuss Whether the Classic WordPress Editor Is Right for Your Clients
Before we move onto how to discuss the right choice of WordPress editor, let’s talk about the Classic Editor.
Many developers and end users love the Classic Editor. In fact, WordPress’ development team had to release it as a plugin for users who wanted to stick with it.
This made sense early in the Block Editor’s development for a few reasons. Though, at this point, almost three years into its life, the Block Editor is as robust as the old Classic Editor.
What’s more, the Classic Editor has an EOL date set. This means there’s a ticking timer for clients and developers who want to still use it.
Even so, the Classic Editor is going to be right for some clients in a few outlying cases. We suggest asking a few questions of your clients about why they want to use the Classic Editor:
- What functionality does the Classic Editor give you that’s important to your workflow?
- Do you use any plugins with the Classic Editor that won’t be available with the Block Editor?
- How long do you see your site using the Classic Editor?
- What is your plan for when the Classic Editor reaches EOL?
The answers here will dictate whether you stick with the Classic Editor, or discuss alternatives. Regardless of the client’s response, the latter two questions on using the Classic Editor long term are the most important.
Even if the client doesn’t want to change right now, you’ll still need to make a plan for when EOL creeps up. Highlighting the security and stability concerns of using an EOL tool in production should be a leading factor.
How to Help Your Clients Choose the Right WordPress Editor
Our final section gets to the nub of the topic. Your clients need to choose the right WordPress editor for their needs. It’s your job to help them get to the right solution, and to do this, you can ask a few questions:
- What functionality do you need on a day-to-day basis?
- Do you envisage needing more functionality in the future?
- Where do you spend the most time on your WordPress website – posts or pages?
- What are the skill levels of those using your WordPress back end?
- Do you write content in an external app, or direct into WordPress?
You can combine the answers you get to reach a conclusion. For example, if the client has a low skill level and only creates blog posts, the Block Editor is perfect.
You may also choose the Block Editor if you’re using apps such as Google Docs or Hemingway. It’s great at importing that type of content – much better than the Classic Editor.
Of course, the waters can still become muddy. For example, if the client uses Google Docs to write landing page copy, and also handles the design, a page builder will often be a better fit. This is despite the issues a third-party page builder will have when importing Google Docs content.
On the whole, the right WordPress editor will be what the client wants to use. We’d argue against trying to railroad them into your preferred solution. If you ask the right questions, the best solution will become clear.
The editor you use on a WordPress site impact many aspects. Of course, ease of use for the client is crucial, as is functionality. As such, choosing the right WordPress editor is a conversation you should have early on in a project.
On the whole, if a client has no specific needs and their chosen theme is feature-rich, the Block Editor is ideal. For more complex needs, a dedicated page builder might suit them better. Though, you should steer clients away from the Classic Editor unless there’s a real need for it. Also, your own preference of editor should be a secondary concern.
Do you have to help you clients with their choice of WordPress editor, and if so, how do you approach it? Let us know in the comments section below!