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Custom Fields vs Gutenberg Blocks

  • Hi, this is just an informational thread. I’d like to hear opinions on the convenience of using custom fields vs Blocks when creating custom content.

    • At first sight, Gutenberg block seems to be a little more user friendly for those who need to create contents, in that they can see what the resulting layout will be like.
    • And Gutenberg Blocks alone seem to create a more unified user interface.

    And that’s all I can think of advantages of working with Gutenberg.

    Custom Fields seem to:

    • Keep data at reach from wherever you are and easy to query whenever is needed (which is a big plus)
    • They are much less cumbersome to create and to deploy on a template. Speed is vital.
    • The one negative I see is that in the current state of WP backend, I cannot help it but feeling that the interface of Gutenberg blocks plus custom fields is like a Frankenstein filled with weirdly fitting parts. No offense meant to anyone, that’s the nature of the organic development of WP

    SO, is there a big reason why someone should use one development method over another (Gutenberg vs Custom fields)?

  • My opinion, however, my opinion is bases on the needs of my clients.

    I see no advantage in using gutenberg. My clients come to me to build them a web site. They don’t want to worry about how the content will look on the front end of the site and 99% of them do not particularly care if it looks the same in the editor as it does on the front of the site. On top of this I work with companies that have rules and guidelines for all marketing materials that are produced and the last thing they need is for everyone to be able to “tweak” the content. They hire me to ensure that whatever content they enter will meet their content guidelines and that every page of their site has a consistent look and feel without them needing to worry about how that happens. My clients also do not want to “play”, they just want to enter content and be done with it as quickly as possible. They have better things to do with their time than to fart with an interface. I create the styles for the site and the last thing that I want is for someone building the editor to decide how that content should look on the front of the site, overriding my carefully built styles based on the companies style guide. On top of this the sites I build for clients are usually far more complicated than can be handled with a single content field. If I’m building a site it’s because there are special features that are not available elsewhere or I am constructing fields and data in order to build custom searching features based on that data, something that cannot be done if all of that content is stuffed into “The Content”

    What am I doing. Right now I am disabling guberbug and I am instaling classic editor, however, I am not even using classic editor, I only have it installed to disable guberbug. The reason for this is that WP will eventually remove support for classic editor. Instead of any WP editor I am replacing all content editing with ACF fields. I will continue to ignore the WP editor into the future, no matter what they do with it. I believe that ACF will continue to provide a tinyMCE type field in any case and I can continue to use that where needed. As time goes by I will just keep figuring out how to keep guberbug disabled and build intuitive admin interfaces for my clients using ACF.

  • Thanks John. I appreciate your honest feedback.
    I have the same opinion. No matter how I look at it, I still cannot see the advantage of Gutenberg Blocks on larger sites. For small blogs or personal sites they might apply well; it gets WordPress closer to Squarespace or Wix.

    I watched a couple-years old video where Blocks were introduced. I did an honest attempt to share the enthusiasm of the speaker but I still find the direction unnecessary when using WP as a CMS.

    Another issue I found is that creating blocks is quite time consuming, and it might require extra plugins to speed up the process. It all seems quite backwards.

    Thank you!

  • Another issue I found is that creating blocks is quite time consuming, and it might require extra plugins to speed up the process. It all seems quite backwards.

    Building custom blocks that can do all the things that can be easily accomplished using ACF would indeed be time consuming, not to mention requiring a new build process, both being more time consuming. This is another reason for not doing it. To make a profit building custom sites I’d need to increase my rates for a site to a point that I would have a hard time selling them and it would just put us out of business.

    As you say, for simple sites, use gutenberg or some theme that uses gutenberg. People don’t need me if this is what they want to do.

  • Two advantages of Gutenburg that both of you seemed to miss:

    • Gutenburg loads faster than ACF, and will continue to load faster as it becomes more part of core
    • ACF (or any additional plugin) adds a dependency, increases the attack surface, and adds more requests than would be needed if you were just using something already in core

    These might be comparatively small advantages, but over time it seems they will become bigger (and may already have done since this conversation).

    I’d be interested to know what either of you would have to say about those points.

  • BlakeHampson,

    You are right at naming those good points about Gutenberg.

    To me, this discussion boils down to what one wants to do with WordPress. If one is planning on creating a site with a scope that is similar to what one could do with SquareSpace or Wix, then Gutenberg is perfect.

    However, if one is planning on using WordPress as a CMS, managing a complex tree structure, with an intricate layout, where every bit of information must be available through WordPress queries from anywhere, in or outside the site, as discrete bits of information; and where, sometimes, one needs to import from an old site hundreds of pages, and precisely direct each old content type onto specific places in the backend (and the database), then Gutenburg is not your friend.

    It is not WordPress fault, nor Gutenberg’s. Many of us starting using WordPress for something it wasn’t built for. That’s how ACF came into the picture. It solves the need for a feature rich CMS.

    This debate has prompted me to look for WordPress alternatives. And in indeed, it is very difficult to find a CMS that is easy on the server, easy to update, with big community support, safe, user friendly, feature rich, longeve, and… that doesn’t cost an arm a leg on monthly fees.

  • Two things I forgot to write: Yes, ACF is not perfect, and, from what I’ve read, one pays a performance penalty for relying heavily on it.

    And when I have tried other CMSs, it’s been difficult to find one that has an interface that is as simple to use and elegant as ACF is.

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