Interview with Rich Tabor of GoDaddy: How the Gutenberg block editor changes the editing experience
Agiledrop is highlighting members of various open-source communities through interviews showcasing their work and their stories. In this particular series, you'll get to learn more about members of the WordPress community.
For our latest interview, we talked with Rich Tabor, Senior Product Manager of WordPress Experience at GoDaddy and (co-)founder of several Gutenberg-related projects. An early adopter and a huge proponent of the block editor, Rich spoke to us about his work with it and the impact that blocks will have on the future of site building in WordPress.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself. What is your role in the WordPress community and what do you do professionally?
I’ve pretty much always had a knack for making stuff: websites, products, WordPress themes, WordPress blocks, Photoshop resources, and the like. In short, designing, building, launching and scaling products is what I enjoy doing — especially in the realm of WordPress.
I’m probably most known for my early foray into Gutenberg, having launched a number of products for the block editor — most notably CoBlocks, Block Gallery, and Iceberg. As well as writing and sharing everything I learn with Gutenberg on my blog.
Currently, I’m a Senior Product Manager of WordPress Experience at GoDaddy where we’re making a real difference on how millions of folks use WordPress everyday on GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress platform and beyond. It’s a trip and I’m enjoying every day!
2. How and when did you first encounter WordPress? Is there a particular moment that has really stuck with you?
My first foray into WordPress started as a designer at a local marketing agency right after college in 2011. I knew early on I needed to understand what I was designing for, so I asked one of the engineers if he’d like to trade skills — where I teach a bit of design in return for a bit of development. From there I started a WordPress blog, PurtyPixels, where I explored design and gave away Photoshop resources while I was at it.
I was pretty much hooked and soon enough I started designing, building, and selling WordPress themes at my shop, ThemeBeans — which I did until last year, when GoDaddy acquired the shop and I joined their team.
3. The recently released Gutenberg block editor introduces a streamlined way of building WordPress websites. What is your stance on Gutenberg? Can you tell us a few words about your first experiences using it?
Well, I’m a believer in where WordPress is headed. I saw that Gutenberg would be a cataclysmic, likely controversial, but superior editing experience, and I jumped on it early.
As one of the first block plugin authors with CoBlocks, I suspected that Gutenberg would spark a new era for WordPress – one that is user-focused, experience-driven, and much more modern than typing in a text field, using shortcodes, and filling in sometimes countless meta fields (i.e. the Classic Editor experience).
4. To you, what are the main advantages of Gutenberg over the classic editor?
To publish modern and beautifully content-rich pages in core WordPress, we needed to re-think the editing experience as a whole - moving from a text-first approach, to block-first. These blocks are the catalyst for the launch of Gutenberg, and the start of a new era of WordPress.
Bringing a block-based editor to WordPress enables folks all over the world to publish engaging content without the need for extraneous plugins or technical knowledge. Combined with a proper theme, like the Go theme my team and I built, the block editor experience is much more visual, flexible, and empowering.
5. How would you compare the two when talking to someone who is not familiar with WordPress and just wants to build their site in the simplest way possible?
Simply put: Do you want to publish text, or publish a beautiful page on your website? Realistically, Gutenberg can be as involved as any other page builder out there, or as simple as the Classic Editor.
6. How much adoption of Gutenberg are you seeing in the community? What would you say are the main reasons for this (lack of) adoption?
Well, Gutenberg is being used quite extensively overall. According to GutenStats, it is actively in use on over 45.1 million sites. Now in the professional WordPress community, it's anecdotally maybe 50/50, though I suspect we will see that number continue to grow as the block editor grows.
As with any major change, there’s a number of headwinds to face dead-on, which are hard to overcome. The block editor has made massive steps towards becoming a full-fledged site editor and there’s still work to do – but I’m confident it's on the right track.
7. In your opinion, what is the one thing that would really significantly boost the adoption of Gutenberg among WordPress developers and site builders?
I’m a fanatic of the upcoming Block Patterns, which are actually landing in the next major version of WordPress. These patterns are thoughtful arrangements of blocks that deliver entire sections of a page, with just a single click. I believe when folks start building and using patterns, we’ll certainly see a shift in sentiment - as patterns empower page building quite drastically.
8. What are some cool things or innovations we can expect for Gutenberg going forward?
I’m particularly keen on the new image editing tools, where you can crop, zoom, and rotate an Image block within the editor on the fly. I’m also impressed by the efforts to modernize the design of the editor with what’s dubbed “G2. It’s quite sharp.
9. Finally, are there any other projects and/or initiatives in WordPress, besides just Gutenberg, that you’re excited about or looking forward to and would like to highlight?
Totally! A few things. First, Jeffrey Carandang and I recently launched Iceberg, a beautiful markdown editor for crafting posts with the WordPress block editor. Iceberg allows you to write within the WordPress block editor in a way that feels much more natural than working with “blocks.” Now, I appreciate what blocks bring to the table — when I’m building a webpage — but when I want to write, I want it to be free of distraction. And that’s what Iceberg does at its core.
Secondly, over at CoBlocks we’ve been working hard at building what we’re calling our Layout Selector. Essentially, it’s a way to quickly start with a full page of blocks that are beautifully designed and laid out for you. Combined with our Go theme, the Layout Selector is a massive win in site building.