The WordPress Update: Gutenberg Grows, Plus New Features Abound

WordPress News Update September 2018

Hello, WordPress friends! We’re back with yet another edition of The WordPress Update for September 2018.

If you’re not familiar with The WordPress Update, it’s our monthly roundup post where we search the web for all the latest and greatest WordPress news, sprinkle in some of our own thoughts and analysis, and share it with you both on the blog and in the newsletter.

If you want to stay on top of the latest WordPress news and make sure you get all the future versions of The WordPress Update, the best thing to do is to sign up for the newsletter.

This month, there’s plenty of Gutenberg news and opinions. As you saw last month, the Gutenberg team is getting more aggressive with driving adoption of the new editor, which has resulted in a lot of valuable new testing data (and some brand new features).

Beyond the barrage of Gutenberg editor articles at the beginning of our roundup, you’ll also see a great resource for comparing WordPress theme performance, as well as some thoughts on ad blockers.

And oh yeah, if you host with WP Engine, you just got an awesome new bonus!

Keep on reading to catch up with everything noteworthy that happened with WordPress in September 2018.

Editor Blocks created a searchable directory of Gutenberg blocks

The upcoming Gutenberg editor brings a new block-based approach to content creation. Each “thing” in your post is its own block. For example, a text paragraph is a block, an image is a block, etc.

The Gutenberg editor ships with a large catalog of blocks by default. But you can also extend these blocks using third-party plugins.

To help you find such blocks, Danny Cooper put together a searchable directory of all the available third-party blocks. Rather than just listing plugins, the directory actually lists individual blocks (so one plugin might show up several times if it adds multiple blocks).

Give it a look to see what types of content you’ll be able to build once the new Gutenberg editor rolls out!

And if you want to learn more about the directory, check out the WP Tavern article on its launch.

You can now try the Gutenberg editor at

Still not sure how the Gutenberg editor works? To help people get a grasp on the new editor, the fine folks at added a new live Gutenberg demo.

Rather than needing to install the plugin version of the Gutenberg editor on your site, you can just head to the Gutenberg page at and play around with a full demo of the editor.

Just start clicking and typing to see it in action!

Just how popular is the Gutenberg editor? You can now see the numbers

Wondering just how many people are actually using the Gutenberg editor? Wonder no more!

The Gutenstats page displays regularly updating numbers for how many:

  • Active installations use Gutenberg
  • Posts have been written overall (only counts numbers from Jetpack or sites)
  • Posts have been written yesterday (only counts numbers from Jetpack or sites)

At the time that I’m writing this update, and Jetpack users have written over 215 thousand posts with Gutenberg.

Some users are starting to get the Gutenberg editor

Speaking of and Gutenberg, Automattic has officially started rolling out the Gutenberg editor to specific segments of users.

It’s not a universal feature yet as not all of the themes currently support Gutenberg. But as Automattic makes more and more themes Gutenberg-compatible, they’ll increasingly roll out Gutenberg to new users.

For now, the change is still opt-in. But Automattic plans to eventually make the Gutenberg editor opt-out for users.

Learn more here.

ProfitPress’ thoughts on why WordPress needs Gutenberg, and how it will affect page builders

There’s been a lot of talk about how the new Gutenberg editor will affect the existing market for WordPress page builder plugins.

In this article, the team at ProfitPress shares why WordPress needs Gutenberg, and how WordPress 5.0 will affect page builders.

In general, ProfitPress sees page builders moving more into a “customizer” experience for Gutenberg, rather than standalone frameworks.

The Gutenberg editor gets a distraction-free writing mode

To enhance the writing experience at Gutenberg, the Gutenberg team recently rolled out a new full-screen writing mode in Gutenberg 3.8.

Learn more at the WP Tavern article.

Personally, I think it misses the point of why the Gutenberg editor writing experience can drag at some points – but I’m glad the team is at least trying to address it!

Gutenberg 3.9 also adds reusable block templates

Yes – there’s still more on Gutenberg! But this is the last one – I promise!

Beyond the full-screen writing mode, there’s also another cool new Gutenberg feature:

As of Gutenberg 3.9, you can now create reusable templates from multiple blocks. This has the potential to save you a lot of time when using layouts that you’ll need to repeat across multiple posts.

Given what’s made possible with Gutenberg blocks plugins such as Atomic Blocks, this feature will be immensely useful.

And as WP Tavern points out, this new feature also lays the groundwork for Gutenberg to move into layout building in the future.

The official WooCommerce Android app is now in beta

For quite some time now, iOS users have been able to enjoy an official WooCommerce app that lets them manage important areas of their stores on the go.

Android users haven’t been so lucky, though.

Thankfully, that’s about to change as there’s now an official Android WooCommerce app in beta.

Like the iOS version, store owners can use the app to view and manage orders, see basic store stats, and perform some other functions, like moderating reviews and comments.

If you want to have some fun, you can even enable a “cha-ching” register sound for when a new order comes in.

If you want to test the currently-unreleased beta version, you can grab it at the Google Play store.

Tidy Repo created a big speed comparison of 100+ WordPress themes

Here at WP Superstars, we share a lot of different ways that you can make your WordPress site faster.

One sometimes overlooked tactic is to choose a performance-optimized WordPress theme. When I switched from an unoptimized theme to the speedy GeneratePress theme, I was able to cut one of my site’s page load times by over 40%!

So yeah – picking an optimized theme is important…but it’s also hard to do. How do you know if a theme is optimized before you actually purchase it and install it on your site?

To fix that issue, and let you easily compare page load times for popular WordPress themes before you make your purchase, Tidy Repo put together this huge performance comparison list for 100+ popular themes.

For each site, you’ll be able to see:

  • Pingdom performance grade
  • Load time
  • Page size
  • Requests
  • Time to first paint
  • Time to first byte

As you’d expect, GeneratePress and Astra were right at the top. But first place actually goes to a theme I’d never heard of – Arke. I’m not surprised either, because Arke might just be the most minimalist WordPress theme in existence!

How ad blockers affect your income, and what you can do about them

In February 2018, the Chrome browser got its own native ad blocker. Combine that with popular extensions like AdBlock and uBlock, and you get a lot of ways for people to block ads.

In this article from Kinsta, they dig into how ad blockers work and what type of effect they might have on your WordPress site. Then, they’ll share some ways in which you can address ad blockers to keep making money from your site.

All WP Engine customers now get free access to Genesis and StudioPress themes

You might recall that a few issues ago we told you that WP Engine had acquired StudioPress, including the popular Genesis framework and 35+ child themes.

Well, if you’re a WP Engine customer, you now get to enjoy the fruits of that acquisition.

As of August 29th, all WP Engine customers get access to the Genesis framework and StudioPress’ 35+ premium Genesis child themes.

This is a huge value-add, especially if you plan to use multiple themes. Each theme is now $129.95 each, which is equivalent to over three months of hosting on WP Engine’s cheapest plan.

You’ll be able to access all the themes through your WP Engine User Portal.

And that wraps up all of the most important WordPress news and articles from September 2018.

Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter by using the box below. And also check back next month for all the exciting news that’s bound to drop in October.

WordPress News Update September 2018
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