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John Teague Responds to the AWP Gutenberg Interview with Tammi Lister

John Teague Responds to Tammi Lister Interview

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re asking AWP Members to write formal responses to each interview of this series. See here for the full series list. The interview is embedded here first, then see the response below.

The Interview

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The Response

Today, I had the pleasure of listening in on an interview and AMA with Matt Cromwell and his guest, Tammi Lister. Tammi works for Automattic, the parent company of wordpress.com, specializing in user experience (UX) and front end design. She’s a passionate contributor to WordPress, and she took on the role as a member of the core Guttenberg editor team. I came away from this interview with a healthy respect for how Tammi approaches her leadership role in this fundamental change in how we use and create for WordPress. First and foremost, Tammi made one important point right away:

Listening is research. Research is fuel for a better outcome

A change this significant to the WordPress writing experience, and the design and development process for established theme and plugin authors, is a huge responsibility for project leaders to shoulder. I’ve been a contributor and lead developer on several open source projects over the past 14 years. So, I‘m intimately familiar with the potential minefields, distractions, and the sheer amount of stress involved in getting it right.

I was happy to hear Tammi explain how she prioritizes her approach in an open source project of this scope. Listening and being open to a wide array of ideas is a recurring priority of hers. Moreover, I really appreciated how she relies on listening as fuel toward a better design process and outcome. And let’s face it, I don’t know anyway who doesn’t want a better editing and content creation process for WordPress.

Content creation shouldn’t suck

Tammi pointed to something I have been saying for a number of years: The writing/content creation process for WordPress is, well, bad.

The truth is WYSIWYG editors for the web suck and, until recently, the best we’ve been able to do is to try and make the editing process suck less. We’ve built page builders, widgets, and shortcodes by the ton trying to overcome disjointed editing flows. But modern JavaScript libraries and frameworks now provide us the tools to help make the editing and content creation process sensible, even fun. Imagine that.

Gutenberg should make writing in WordPress easier and more consistent

As Tammi said, we humans already think in terms of blocks when it comes to the writing process. So, baking blocks into Gutenberg leverages how we naturally approach content creation and writing flow. Contrary to many of the naysayers out there, Gutenberg should reduce the complexity and confusion of creating and maintaining  themes and plugins because authors can build atop the new editor instead of having to add page builders and other heavy content features. This means less cruft, less conflict, and a consistent experience for their customers. One important part of achieving a better editor is often overlooked.

We need customer feedback

One of the most important points Tammi mentioned was how critical getting client feedback is. That means theme and plugin authors need to get their customers involved in testing and providing feedback. Customer feedback for a change this significant is not an option if Gutenberg is to succeed. Smart WordPress authors are already do that.

One final thought

It’s so easy to react negatively to change. But I think it’s important to remember that resting on one’s laurels eventually gives way to apathy and mediocrity.

WordPress has led the way in so many ways over the past decade, but we have to keep innovating to grow. Tammi rightly believes that innovation requires contribution, and that doesn’t mean just code. Contribution is providing respectful feedback, testing, and creating great tutorials and documentation.

I’m confident that with leaders like Tammi involved, were headed in the right direction. Let’s help make Gutenberg exceed expectations.

John is the founder of Theme Surgeons LLC. He began using and developing on WordPress in 2004 when version 1.2 was first released. He has over 15 years of experience developing web applications and managed hosting experience for WordPress. He is currently working on the Google Polymer project creating applications leveraging WP-REST API.

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