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Flexible Content vs. Blocks?

  • I am still in no hurry to move to Gutenberg, which is something I’m sure will catch up to me at some point… 🙂

    I’m looking at redoing a post-type/template to allow for more flexibility for the folks creating the content. As it is now, it’s just a number of ACF fields in a fixed order with very limited options (no rearranging of fields, very stripped-down WYSIWYG, etc.).

    It looks like I can either go with Flexible Content or ACF Blocks. At first glance, Flexible Content looks easier, faster, and will allow me to reuse some of my existing “modules” (for example the page header, a carousel, full-width video and image sections, and small post grids are all going to remain). Just a tiny bit of busy-work is needed to bring these in and then I can focus on new sections.

    ACF Blocks looks interesting for forward compatibility, and would certainly look a bit cooler on the backend, but there are huge chunks of the site that are not going to Blocks/Gutenberg anytime soon and having editors moving between two types of editors seems… not friendly?

    My main concern is whether the ACF folks will be continuing to support Flexible Content for the foreseeable future or if it will be deprecated in favor of ACF Blocks. For example, looking for docs, I’m not seeing a whole lot for Flexible Content – the main page doesn’t even have info on options like the “block, table, row” selector at the top level of the Layout section. My mind goes to “is it lightly documented because it’s sort of being abandoned?”…

    I guess another question here is performance – is there any great difference here between Flexible Content and ACF Blocks?

  • I am not the developer, I just work here on the forums answering questions, but I do know a lot about ACF.

    There are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of developers like me that will avoid moving to gutenbug. The reason for this is that my clients do not want be able to edit how content looks on the site. All of my clients are larger companies where every page must look like every other page, every paragraph must look like every other paragraph. If they add an image gallery then every gallery must look and work identically. Most of the time those that are adding the content are not the site owners but people that my clients hire to do the content adding and they do not want or need these people to have any ability to alter the look and feel of anything. I also do not use classic editor even for simple page content. My feeling here is that ACF will always include a WYSIWYG field and this it what my clients want to use. All of my clients are used to using Word Processors and this is how they want to edit pages.

    I do not foresee either the flex field or the WYSIWYG field going anywhere any time in the near future.

    But like I said, I’m not the developer, just the guy that works this forum. To get an answer from the developer you’d need to contact him, he does not spend a lot of time on this forum, that’s why I’m here so that he can concentrate on fixing and improving ACF. You can try contacting him here https://www.advancedcustomfields.com/contact/

  • I wonder how common feelings like yours are in the development community? I am not in any user groups or other WP-related forums and such, but I’m kind of surprised at how radical a departure gutenberg is. I feel like there’s plenty of folks that will need to jump up their skills AND apparently learn React just to start working with gutenberg. It seems incredibly misguided, and I’m really hoping automattic doesn’t just drop the “classic” editor when they’ve decided everyone should be in gutenberg…

    I really appreciate your input, and the sites I’m thinking of are very similar – we want flexibility to piece elements together but we don’t want all sorts of random styling and such.

    I’ll try the contact form and see if I hear anything back regarding the long-term viability of Flexible Content.

  • You have it exactly. Our clients want to be able to add and move around various elements but they want each of the same type of element to work and look exactly the same every time they are used and they don’t want their employees putzing with design elements and they also don’t want to put many hours into training them on their company’s design guidelines.

    The issue with dealing with React is that it is a completely different development process that increases dev time, especially when you have a team of one. When you’re in a business where you need to deliver a web site at an affordable price, and withing a short timeframe, increasing the development time increases cost to the client and increasing cost to the client means that you do not sell custom web development.

    Many developers, from what I’ve seen and read, are either doing what I’m doing, using some other page building plugin/application for WP, or they are just leaving and many that can do so are going to ClassicPress. I would do the same but the company I work with also depends on several plugins that will not work in ClassicPress and there isn’t any plans to make them work, so I’d have to build anything that I need, once again increasing cost that we need to find a way to pass on to the client. Yes, there are some people using blocks and they are using ACF to help them achieve this because Elliot has taken part of the pain out of the equation by adding blocks capabilities to ACF. My biggest issue with doing this is the fact that my clients are businesses that usually need advanced sorting and filtering capabilities and blocks store all of their content in the “post_content” row of the post, making sorting and filtering based on these fields nearly impossible without jumping through a lot more hoops.

    The thought of WP dropping the classic editor is why I don’t use it. WP includes a classic block, this means that as long as this exists TinyMCE will be a part of WP. As long as TinyMCE is part of WP there will always be a WYSIWYG editor in ACF.

    As far as the viability of the flex field. The biggest reason that ACF Pro is popular is because of the repeater. A Flex field is actually a fancy repeater that allows different sub field for each row. While a Group field is actually a cut down version of a repeater that always has exactly one row. If you take the repeater out of ACF then there’s really no Pro. The death of the repeater would likely mean the death of ACF.

  • Just wanted to follow-up with an update.

    I raised a support ticket about the long-term viability of FC and got a reply from Elliot – basically, yeah this stuff is staying around and being actively developed/improved, and part of the ACF model is to fix an imperfect CMS basically… Really great to hear!

    Also opted to go with FC over ACF blocks for the project that brought all these questions up – there was some debate, but we’re OK until WP nukes the Classic “block”.

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