At LexBlog we manage over 1,000 sites across nearly 30 multisite installations of WordPress. Some of these sites have been publishing unique content for over a decade while some are in their first days of writing, slowly building an audience with each post. These sites share something in common, however, regardless of the subject matter, length of time on the web, or size of the publisher: Visitors are coming to their site on mobile devices at a rate that I’ve never seen before. 

When LexBlog gave me the opportunity to join the team in the summer of 2013 as an Account Manager, one of the first things I tried to understand was the audience of each site that was under my purview. It was my job to provide advice, guide, and suggest opportunities to the publishers and managers of these sites. At the time, LexBlog was just dipping its toes into the world of responsive design and was utilizing WP Touch to serve up a mobile version of our WordPress sites for those sites that weren’t responsively developed right out of the gate. 

Some of the first conversations I had with clients was around the subject of responsive redesigns of existing properties, or trying out a responsive design project on a new publication. At the time, it was a harder sell. Apple had released the iPhone 5 the year before, and was still moving at a relatively slow pace in pushing out new models, and the Android marketplace was relatively anemic. While it was clear there was a new game in town it wasn’t entirely clear what that game was to many internet neophytes.

To our development team, it was obvious that new game was responsive design. The flexibility of this approach was attractive, especially in a world where each pixel was highly scrutinized by marketing and business development teams. 

To our clients, the chief question was why would they spend an arm and a leg on a new technology when only 10-15% of their traffic was from mobile devices. 

Fast forward to today when I got it in my head that I would take a look at our network wide traffic to see what the current trends were. Some of the key stats for 2018 include:

  • Just over 1 in 3 people (34-35% of total traffic to be more exact with that number rising to 40% on some installations) visited a LexBlog managed site on a mobile device
  • Apple devices lead the way with about 60% of mobile device visits coming from an iPhone or iPad
  • Samsung is next in line with about 8-10% of the mobile device share on our network (the S7 through S9+ are the best represented Samsung devices)
  • Google’s devices are still lagging way behind much to the chagrin of our COO and CTO, the two Pixel advocates at LexBlog

Some of this ascent is no doubt due to our emphasis on responsive designs over the years. If a site looks good on a mobile device the first time you see it, you’re more apt to return on a phone or tablet when you’re not at your desk.

Beyond that, however, Google and other search engines continue to push usability as a component of their search results algorithms, and mobile friendliness is a key part of this. If your site does not render well on a phone or tablet, you’re likely to loose a key demographic, especially considering the rise of searches conducted on a mobile phone. 

Today, the conversation has changed from, “This is why you should consider a responsive design,” to “Here is your responsively designed site” without an option for anything else. Why would we suggest a subpar product and reading experience when we know the truth? The internet is expanding to more devices, more screens, more interfaces than we ever thought possible and consumers of content are keeping up with this breakneck pace; shouldn’t your site?

On December 6th, the largest content management system on the internet, WordPress, released one of the largest user-facing updates in recent memory. WordPress 5.0, or “Bebo” as it was named, represents a major shift for the open source project and the community that supports it and so was introduced with a combination of fanfare, disarray, and resentment – aren’t open source projects fun?

While the video above is cheerful and will serve its purpose as a delightful bit of marketing for WordPress, it is certainly not indicative of the feelings of many contributors and small business owners that have made their living from WordPress. Those feelings were on full display in the comment section of Matt Mullenweg’s post announcing that WordPress 5.0 would launch with just a few days notice. 

It’s easy to question the timing of the release (right before WordCamp US and in the midst of many e-commerce shop’s busiest time of year), but many of those questions and feelings of animosity faded after watching Matt respond personally to dozens of comments on his post. Each reply exuded a sense of calm and command of the subject at hand that was impressive given that Mr. Mullenweg is the CEO of an operation of over 800 employees, managing the inner workings of multi-billion dollar company. I hope to have the fraction of his patience one day. 

The initial outcry notwithstanding, it seems that it’s business as usual now that Bebo is out in the wild. New trac tickets are being created and progress toward 5.0.1 will begin in short order. There’s a part of me that can’t shake the uneasy feeling that we haven’t heard the last of Gutenberg-driven drama, but without any hard data to show user engagement or frustration with the editor it’s just that, a feeling.

In the meantime, WordPress continues to be the dominant content management system on the internet, and the changes that Gutenberg will bring go far beyond the content editing experience. If you’re interested in a sneak preview of those changes, take a gander at this post from Matt, posted shortly after his WordCamp US talk: 

This is an exciting week at LexBlog. Not only do we have our amazing Editor-in-Chief, Bob Ambrogi, in town and a new Associate Editor joining us (Welcome, Melissa!), we have a truly thrilling, exhilarating, and delicious challenge facing us. 

What exactly is this exciting trial we must confront, you ask? I give you LexBlog’s Great LinkedIn Challenge! While this is not exactly what one would call an exhaustive marathon run or New York’s infamous Hot Dog Eating Contest, we take this challenge very seriously at LexBlog. To explain why, let me give a little background. 

If you’ve ever been to our CEO, Kevin O’Keefe’s profile, you know he believes in the important place of LinkedIn within a person’s professional development. LexBlog itself had a tagline, “Make a Name for Yourself,” to encourage lawyers and other legal professionals to embrace blogging and networking online. We still hold strongly to that principle for our network – so why wouldn’t we do our best to embrace it ourselves? 

This is how The Great LinkedIn Challenge was born. Earlier this week, I was thinking through ways to inspire a passion for networking and growing online influence among my fellow LexBloggers. I decided that the two things that universally motivate people are 1.) Fierce competition with proximate peers and 2.) Donuts (especially at LexBlog, obviously). And with that, I created this challenge for my coworkers. 

Before a deadline of December 19th, we are each tasked with completing a list of challenges. Each challenge, in some way, improves the LexBlogger’s LinkedIn presence. Some challenges are easy, such as uploading a header image. Some are more difficult, like listing bulleted details about past work experience. 

The most exciting part occurs on the last day of the challenge. In the true spirit of the sweet-filled gluttony of the holiday season, whoever completes all 11 of the challenges by the deadline receives a giant donut cake from Legendary Donuts! Just take a gander at their menu. Who wouldn’t want to win one of those? 

And so, in this time of intense rivalry among us here at LexBlog (not really), we ask that you encourage us as we embark on this journey of improving our online presence. We take donations in the form of non-cake-sized donuts and LinkedIn recommendations. 

*Updates on the winner will most definitely follow* 

After nearly a year and a half of being full immersed in the world of legal blogs and blogging, I’m leaving LexBlog to travel across the country and work for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as their Digital Communications Specialist. It’s a dream job, made possible in large part by my work here, so it seems only fitting that I close out my LexBlogger career with one final Blogging Hour.

I interviewed to intern in June of 2017, a year removed from graduating college and weary from the balancing act of six different part-time jobs. Beyond a desire for stability, though, I was searching for somewhere I could learn and grow; somewhere that could offer some guidance, but also give me room to be creative. I got all that, and so much more.

Some things I’ve learned in my time at LexBlog:

  • Break up your blog posts. It’s difficult to read massive walls of text online, so often many people don’t. Break up your writing into smaller paragraphs, or *ahem* use bullet points.
  • Connect with people, be it in person or via social media. Reach out, ask questions, build those relationships – it makes you a better employee but, most importantly, it makes you a better human.
  • Social media is a powerful tool (heck, it helped me land my initial internship here, and the new job at the HOF!). It doesn’t shrink the world down, but it does make it more accessible – you can trade gifs back and forth with a bar association in the opposite corner of the country (gonna miss you, @TheFlaBar), engage with a law firm in India, and cover a legal tech conference in London.
  • Mistakes happen. Apologize to those affected, fix the mistake and then, most importantly of all, take action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It may feel terrible initially, but ultimately it’s another learning experience.
  • Don’t impose limits upon yourself. My friends used to tease me that I operated like a Luddite, or a tech-inept grandmother. When I first took over the front page of LexBlog.com I tip-toed around the backend of the site, ever-fearful of accidentally clicking something that might make the entire thing explode in a wave of code and flame emojis. But I read some WordPress for Dummies, sent Jared far too many Slack messages, and spent a lot of time poking around and testing things out, and ultimately was able to help create and edit demo sites, fix RSS feeds, and all manner of things that once struck fear into my heart.
  • Blogging can change lives. If Kevin hadn’t begun to blog 15 years ago, there wouldn’t be six of us sitting around a table typing away merrily now. And if Bob hadn’t started blogging, well, would legal blogging even exist as it does?
  • Never make a fantasy football trade with Scott. He’s always trying to swindle you.

As I was packing my things last weekend, I found the old legal pad I used when I first started at LexBlog. Each date was carefully boxed at the top of the page, with notes from meetings, thoughts, and assignments scribbled beneath. Phrases like “shine a light,” and “blogging to build relationships” littered the early pages. It seems funny that I felt the need to write those ideas down back then – they’re concepts that are so fundamental to me now that it feels like the equivalent of writing down “breathe,” or “drink water,” or “donuts are delicious.” 

So, thank you, LexBlog. I’ll no longer be a LexBlogger, but I’ll always be a blogger.

And a special thanks to Aimee, for the glorious (gluten free!) wine and cheese spread!

This is not a new question. Not for me personally, not for the team at LexBlog, and certainly not for hundreds of thousands of site managers, theme and plugin developers, and generally interested members of the WordPress community.

Generally, as the WordPress core team prepares a new release, the question of when a new version will be available gets clearer with time. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that WordPress 5.0 is a considerably different animal. 

While 5.0 was slated for release November 27th, it became readily apparent just a few days before the majority of the United States headed toward their annual food coma that the date was not going to be met. On November 21st, Matias Ventura posted on WordPress.org that meeting the previously established timelines was not going to be possible. Without being on the team working on the project and intimately involved in the development, it’s hard to know the exact reason for the delay. Anyone that’s worked on software can make the same guesses that I would (scope is hard, triaging is hard, meeting deadlines is the hardest). 

What I find most interesting at this juncture is that it’s a legitimately open question as to when WordPress 5.0 (and, by extension, Gutenberg) will be ready. In Gary Pendergast’s post on October 3rd, a plan was articulated that seemed to indicate it 5.0 did not launch November 27th the release date would fall back to mid-January: 

We know there is a chance that 5.0 will need additional time, so these dates can slip by up to 8 days if needed. If additional time beyond that is required, we will instead aim for the following dates:

Secondary RC 1: January 8, 2019

Secondary Release: January 22, 2019

However, the core team has been relatively quiet as to the new release date. Honestly, this doesn’t strike me as the worst thing. In reading the room, it seems clear that the Gutenberg team is slowly burning out as the codebase sits in a silo, waiting to be released, while the rest of the core team seems shell-shocked by the constant barrage of complaints. It might be time to take a moment to let everyone catch their breath. 

When I’ve encountered constantly slipping deadlines, that’s generally been my approach. Why are these deadlines being missed? What could I do to manage expectations better; both for the stakeholders and the resources working on the project?

Of course, I’m not working on a project that powers nearly a third of the internet. That would fall to Mr. Mullenweg, who continues to take a strong stance on the speed and development of the new editor:

At LexBlog, our stance has not significantly changed. We’re still working to support the new editing experience, and are wrapping up the last remaining tickets to ensure feature parity with Gutenberg. This is primarily so that internally, we can use and test the new editor well before our clients do, and so that when we do have clients using Gutenberg, our team knows all of the ins and outs of the new interface. This post was written in Gutenberg, my blog has Gutenberg activated, and I continue to activate the plugin on internal properties where I can get away with it 😉 When WordPress 5.0 launches, we’ll move to update our platform as usual, but install the Classic Editor plugin so that our customers can continue writing without having to learn an entirely new interface and we can slowly introduce Gutenberg working with our publishers as we go.

We’re fortunate to have that luxury. We have a great team of developers, and an even better team that directly supports our clients on a daily basis. Not everyone has a team of people working to manage their digital properties, and not everyone managing sites has a team of people behind them. It’s this community of WordPress users (and they make up the bulk of them) that I feel the worst for as we wait for updates.

WordCamp Seattle was this past weekend at the Washington State Convention Center, just a few short blocks away from LexBlog’s offices. This was my third WordCamp in four years and was a return to form (in my opinion) to the first WordCamp Seattle that I went to in 2014 (held at the University of Washington). 

Hot on everyone’s mind, and the subject of many talks, was Gutenberg, the new core editor coming to a WordPress install near you in just a few short weeks (recently, the timeline for the core update was pushed back to November 27th). In talking with various attendees, it was clear that sentiment was mixed on the introduction of Gutenberg and how it would impact their business, but there was also a palpable sense of excitement and interest around the project that I haven’t seen other major core updates garner (such as the Customizer or REST API). As I’ve said before, Gutenberg is a shot to the arm for the WordPress community, and that comes with pros and cons, but Thomas Jefferson was right:

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

By this I mean, shakeups in the status quo are a necessary part of any long-term project. If you’re not constantly evaluating and adapting, then you run the risk of stagnation. It’s more clear to me now that the benefits of Gutenberg extend beyond bringing a new technology stack to the table. It’s reengaged the community and brought content managers back into the fold as integral players in the conversation about what WordPress is and how it should move forward. At LexBlog, this is a conversation that’s near and dear to our hearts (as bloggers and managers of the largest legal blogging community in the world) and so it’s exciting to play our own little role as we map out an introduction to Gutenberg for our clients. 

As someone interested in what’s going on under the hood, I spent more time in technically-focused talks, but thoroughly enjoyed Andrea Zoellner’s talk on what Gutenberg could mean for the everyday writer. 

Like many pieces of technology, you have no idea what people will do with Gutenberg once it’s in their hands for an extended period of time. However, if her analogy holds and Snow Fall-esque (an interactive NY Times piece that set the standard for multimedia-driven articles) blog posts will eventually be achievable for the masses, then we’re about to enter a very interesting time for bloggers using WordPress. 

My other two favorite talks were from Alain Schlesser and Jon Peck.

Alain discussed how to change your way of thinking when interacting with Gutenberg, and honestly did a better job of it with his slides than with anything I could write here. The big takeaway for me was that as with all technology, there’s a path to sanity. It just might be a bit circuitous. If you’re looking for a less abstract breakdown, just go take a look at his slides! 

Meanwhile, Jon Peck (of Algorithmia) tackled a subject that is a big topic on my mind and was exciting to see someone in the WordPress sphere musing on it as well: Machine learning. For LexBlog, machine learning holds the keys to how we can effectively tag and organize content on LexBlog.com (which has over 400,000 posts and 150-200+ coming in every day). For WordPress, it could mean better ways to manage forums, create advanced applications, and continue to engage the broader engineering community. His talk was a shot in the arm and has me thinking about how to move forward on projects that include components of machine learning algorithms. His slides are also well worth the review, and there was also a fun WordPress plugin that he introduced that could be used as a scaffold for many different projects.  

In short, an incredibly fun and exciting WordCamp. Here’s to many more!

I’ve been at LexBlog for several weeks now and it has been more interesting than stressful. I have a simple job really. I have only been given one task: find all the blogs from all the attorneys in the United States. This seems like a daunting task, but for someone like me, it’s a massive logic puzzle, a game of Sudoku. I pride myself in finding things, anything really. It is a skill I have built over a decade of curiosity and education. So, you can see why I would jump at the chance to put my searching skills to the test. I would be asking myself “What is acceptable redundancy?”

In the last several weeks I have started and restarted “the master search” multiple times. My master search sheet, of which there are 3, has gone under building and rebuilding. It the first instance I focused on law practices by state. According to the Martindale database there are 386 law practices. That may just be how they narrow “practice” down, but there are definitely more. A search on Martindale for Alabama attorneys returns 54,339 practice areas with a total of 19,222 attorneys. My first problem was finding enough attorneys in a given practice. There may be more attorneys practicing child custody cases, but fewer child protection. For an outsider to law like myself, it feels like splitting hairs. The second problem was many attorneys are apart of firms and those firms cover multiple practice areas. I wanted to be specific; therefore, I needed to start from the beginning.

The second iteration of the master search focused on all states simultaneously, but focusing on a single practice. Using the 386 practice areas, this would result in 19,300 separate searches for all practices over all 50 states. The issue: some practices are not a focus in some states. While that may seem obvious, a genuine lack of maritime lawyers in Oklahoma, the problem was more complicated than that. It meant that law firms may define their law practice outside the definitions of Martindale and I already had my suspicions from the first iteration. It would also mean that I would be going over the same law firms over and over. I am a hard worker, but I’m not going to double, triple, or multiply my efforts times 386, if I’m not required.

I decided to make the ultimate filtering tool and go from there. I revised my second iteration and made an excel that would color coat across all states and all law practices based on a series of duplicates. Red text equals multiple states. Green background means websites with blogs in multiple practices. I think you get the point. This meant that I could cover every search without worrying about overlap. After a few hours, I realized I would again be covering the same firms over and over again. This process still did not resolve the multiple-practices issue. Not the best idea when time is valuable. I wanted to make every search meaningful and cut down on redundancies as much as possible.

My most current master search has lead me to using the most basic and simplified search. I went to the Alabama State Bar(ASB) and discarded Martindale. According to the ASB, there are 13,552 registered attorneys. Makes me think Martindale has some cleaning up to do with their 19,222 result. I went through each attorney,  copied their law firm, and did a basic google search for each firm. It took me an afternoon to go through 1800 attorneys. I found 438 law firms (removing companies, educational entities, and government entities). 287 of those firms had websites without blogs and 154 with blogs. 103 of those with blogs have written a post in the last year. This means that the ratio of attorneys to active blogs is about 1/18. The quality ratio is much lower, but for both those of good quality and poor. Most of the blogs are fairly typical. The amount of time in this process is so far the most ideal. Each lawyer could only ever be covered once and law firms were auto sorted to remove duplicates. I would save sorting by practice for a much later date.

Estimating my time, I should finish sorting Alabama attorneys to their firms in about 35-45 hours. The firms to their website with or without blogs should take another 40-50 hours. This process has been drastically cut down, but I’m sorting the sand from the flour. It is a task that needs to be done and should be completed. Especially if Lexblog ever intends to make bread with these blogs. It may seem like a tedious task, but the reality is much different. I have found some hidden blogs. I found blogs that only a person like me could find. They are tucked away in pages lost in the depths of a website. It is a great feeling finding these treasures. Some of these small blogs are fantastic reads and the authors could really add to the cannon. I hope I can bring these blogs the attention they deserve.

There is a long-running discussion at LexBlog about the benefits and perils of third-party solutions. This discussion has been going on for so long that if you look closely enough, you can find evidence of it in this A List Apart post from 2014 by our own Scott Fennell. This post, is also the subject of Scott’s WordCamp Portland Maine talk this year, so the battle clearly rages on (shameless plug for Scott/WordCamp Portland Maine here – he’s in some rarefied air with this speaker list!).

As with most things, I find my opinions on this subject to be complex. On the one hand, I’ve personally seen what happens when a site manager grows accustomed to a WordPress plugin only to see the support for it slowly fade as the developer (or company) behind it slows their involvement in supporting and managing the codebase. On the other hand, I’ve npm install‘d my way to freedom from more issues than I’d like to admit.

Today was a day where I was saved by a third-party solution. WP Crontrol, a plugin from John Blackbourn, is a handy tool that provides a user interface for CRUDing WP-cron events. Typically, the problems that plague the WP-cron elude us as WP Engine provides a true cron that we use on all of our environments to ensure that scheduled actions take place when our publishers (and us) expect them to. However, this isn’t a perfect solution as long-running crons can cause a bottleneck to appear at the top of the cron stack with those cron jobs stopping others from firing.  This is a pretty frustrating issue for someone that just wants their scheduled post to go live without worrying, and difficult to troubleshoot as cron events are held off in the database without a great way to manage them.

Enter WP Crontrol. After installing this plugin, I was able to easily see a list of cron events that clearly should have fired by now. After deleting the oldest cron, the rest cleared up in short order. 

Now, Mr. Blackbourn is a well-known quantity in the WordPress realm. We use his plugin Query Monitor regularly, he’s a core contributor, and works at Human Made, a highly-regarded WordPress agency. This is a far cry from the sorts of solutions that Scott or other members of the LexBlog product would typically have concerns about.

But where do you draw the line? As I eluded to above, npm is something I’ve grown accustomed to using, and many of those modules have dependency chains that stink to high heaven. LexBlog taps into a number of third-party plugins that are now a core part of our product offering. WordPress itself is a third-party solution that we have built our business upon. There is no escaping the power of these tools, and I wouldn’t want to even if I could. 

The trick, as Scott so eloquently puts it at the end of his post on A List Apart, is knowing when to leap into someone’s helping hands, and knowing when to take a stand:

It’s not that third parties are bad per se. It’s just that the modern web team strikes me as a strange place: not only do we stand on the shoulders of giants, we do so without getting to know them first—and we hoist our organizations and clients up there, too.

So look before you leap. It’s never as easy as just installing and forgetting. 

Unlike recent point releases, WordPress 5.0 represents a major shift both in the underlying technology and user experience. Some other releases stand out in my mind – 3.4 brought the theme customizer which is now the foundation for all the theme work done at LexBlog, 3.8 changed the look and feel of the WordPress administrative area, and 4.4 introduced a REST API into core – but this update dwarfs those and most others. 

For as long as I can remember, writing a post or updating a page in WordPress was done through the visual editor built on TinyMCE.  This experience has been a more consistent part of my life than anything else. I’ve changed jobs, left my home in Montana, made a new home in Seattle, and gotten married all while the WordPress editor remained unchanged. As of WordPress 5.0, that will change as the new Gutenberg editor replaces the traditional publishing interface. This means that we’ll go from the ubiquitous WYSIWYG editor:

The old TinyMCE as it appears on the LexBlog Platform currently

to one that looks like this:

And is based primarily on the notion of “blocks.” Every discrete piece of content (paragraphs, images, embeds, lists, blockquotes, etc) is considered to be a content block in Gutenberg.

As this is not a post that’s designed to be about the differences between Gutenberg and the current experience, I’ll skip over most of those details, but if you’re really interested, I’d advise visiting Testing Gutenberg where you can play around with a demo of the new editor.

The first inklings that the editor as we knew it was on its way out was January of 2017 when Matt Mullenweg (WordPress’s benevolent dictator/founder and Automattic’s CEO) posted on WordPress core’s development blog that the editor was a primary focus for that year. In the nearly two years since, the GitHub repository that hosts the current iteration of Gutenberg as a WordPress plugin has seen over 8,000 commits and 300 contributors. The team behind Gutenberg represents some of the most committed and talented WordPress developers, and more join the ranks of contributors every day.

Gutenberg has also been the subject of countless posts that vacillate between critique, praise, and everything in the middle. While the introduction of WordPress’s REST API was no stranger to controversy, the forward-facing nature of this change has opened the discussion to the entire community. The WordPress community has grown far beyond freelance developers and solo bloggers looking for an easy solution to setting up a site. It now includes small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, digital publications, e-commerce shops, newspapers, and countless agencies, plugin/theme developers, and entire marketplaces.

WordPress enjoys a marketshare unlike anything before it with 32% of the web and nearly 60% of all sites that use a known content management system relying on the open source project. If Facebook is the town square of the internet, WordPress is the roads and sidewalk, and like the roads and sidewalk of any city, if there are potholes or uneven edges, people will complain and complain loudly. Unfortunately, there is plenty to complain about with Gutenberg. Automattic’s accessibility lead just resigned amidst complaints that the project was leaving behind the central tenants web accessibility standards. The documentation of the APIs and ways to interact with the new editor are sorely lacking. The core team’s attempts to engage the community have been ham-handed at times.

The list of grievances against Gutenberg could go on and likely constitutes a post unto itself, but one thing is certain: Gutenberg is merging into core whether we like it or not. The only question left is when.

Practically, what does this all mean? Ultimately, that depends on your situation. Many site managers, agencies, and plugin/theme developers are scrambling to activate the Classic Editor plugin (which deactivates Gutenberg) to avoid the onslaught of hard conversations between them and clients as various pieces of functionality may break with the introduction of the new editor. Others are diving headfirst into creating new blocks and building entire themes around the experience. However, if you’re like the majority of website owners, the update will come as a surprise as one day (thanks to the curse and magic of automatic updates) the visual editor updates to Gutenberg. 

At LexBlog, this is clearly a huge deal. The vast majority of our clients interact with the post editor and only the post editor. We are, after all, a community of publishers. Fortunately, we’re also a company that’s built our platform on WordPress, and we take new technical developments quite seriously. Over the course of the past two years we’ve reduced the number of third-party integrations that touch the WordPress post editor, limiting the chances that a third-party solution that hasn’t updated to integrate with Gutenberg will cause an issue for our customers. We still have a few third-party plugins that interact with the post editor, but they’re among the most well-known plugins (such as Yoast) or developed by highly regarded individuals (Co-Authors Plus) and have already been updated to support Gutenberg.

For our own plugins and themes, we’ve gone through a multi-pronged approach of:

  • Front-end visual regression testing (just to be safe)
  • Extensive review of our codebase for integrations with the existing editor 
  • Functional testing to unearth issues

We’ve certainly found problems and are working to address them (or have resolved them already). Unlike many site owners, we’re fortunate to have a great team who are capable of finding problems, organizing them, and fixing them one by one. We’ve activated the Gutenberg plugin on our internal properties (including this one), allowing our entire company to get used to the new interface and find issues before our customers do.

We will also straddle the line that many are walking, only perhaps with slightly different motives. At LexBlog, we’ve long believed that our customers are not guinea pigs for new changes, but instead take a pragmatic approach where we allow the broader community of users and developers to find issues and solutions for such developments. This will be no different. While the proposed WordPress 5.0 schedule has targeted a November 19th launch date (with an alternate deadline where 5.0 is shipped January 22nd if some project slippage happens) LexBlog will delay the introduction of the Gutenberg interface beyond that, activating the Classic Editor plugin and working with our customers to slowly introduce the new interface. This should help eliminate confusion and give our authors a safety net for learning how to use Gutenberg. 

How exactly we go about this is still a work in progress. There are many of the pieces of the puzzle we’re still working on, and those pieces will shift and settle as the picture from the core WordPress team crystalizes. Until then, stay tuned!

The longer LexBlog has maintained a product discipline, the more disciplined I’ve tried to become in evaluating new ideas and business. This often puts me in the place of saying “No”, which, contrary to some popular beliefs, is not a word that I personally enjoy saying. I find it unlikely that anyone enjoys telling someone else that their idea is not worthy of working on immediately (or ever), but it’s a necessary part of running a product.

A product is (hopefully) not a compilation of random ideas. It is the final result of days, months, or years of hard work. It is rarely the thing you thought it would be when you first started building. While many beautiful products started as offshoots of a larger product and eventually became the product (think Instagram), even these are carefully defined as the team behind the product learns and responds to it’s users.

Products are unsuccessful for reasons that are often far outside of the control of the team engaged in building the product. I can not understate the value of marketing and sales. However, when the product team allows their systems to grow unruly in scope and size, it’s nearly impossible for the product to succeed. This process of maintaining focus and delivering the largest value to the widest group of people is just that, a process, and it requires intense focus.

It feels a bit trite, as a product manager, to quote Steve Jobs, but this quote from the co-founder of Apple rings especially true as I think about the process of working on a product:

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.