This post was written using Gutenberg, the code name for the WordPress core team’s effort to overhaul the WordPress post editor.

One of the things that we strive to do at LexBlog is help data drive decision making processes. The fetishization of data in business is somewhat akin to the fetishization for new specs and frameworks in development, but data is still a helpful tool (just like arrow functions in ES6) and should not be ignored. And so we track actions in the admin – clicks, navigating to a certain page, performing an action – all the data that a product manager like myself craves. One thing I’ve noticed in watching how our customers use the LexBlog platform is that people post. A lot.

That simple fact shouldn’t be surprising. We run a network of digital legal publications. Lawyers are trained writers, so they write constantly. Basically, if you give a lawyer a blog, be prepared to see them log in, go to Posts -> Add New, and begin writing away. So when I heard that Matt Mullenweg included the editor in the list of primary focuses for the core team, my interest was piqued. When I saw Aaron Jorbin’s post on using Gutenberg last night, I had to try it out for myself.

My first impression is that it’s pretty and unobtrusive, two things that the current post editor is not. If you take a look at the post editor page that I’m used to seeing:

LexBlog's Post Editor
LexBlog’s Post Editor

and compare it to Gutenberg’s post editor:

Gutenberg!
Gutenberg!

it’s pretty easy to see the difference.

Gone are the countless meta boxes (although, as Jorbin points out, if developers have to find a new way to hook in meta boxes it’s gonna be interesting) and WYSIWYG buttons on a monolithic TinyMCE instance. Replacing them is a clean white screen with just a few buttons.

It’s when you start interacting with Gutenberg that it comes to life. Each click or hit of the return key triggers the UI to give you options for adding content blocks (Gutenberg is built on the notion of content blocks – an image is a content block, a blockquote is a content block, an embed is a content block) and you can add them to your post by clicking “Insert” or a small “+” icon that appears on the left hand side of the post, under each block. Doing so, gives you a plethora of blocks to add.

Available content blocks
Available content blocks

The fun thing about this notion of content blocks, is that it’s easier to make things look pretty! To the left, you’ll see a screenshot of all the options for adding a new content block, and each block comes with it’s own set of options.

An unexpected part of using Gutenberg was finding just how much I had to relearn. I found myself struggling to add an image and unordered list as my cursor couldn’t help itself but to go to the top of the editor in search of an “Add Media” or bulleted list button.

And not surprisingly, there are a fair number of UI quirks and bugs that have to be ironed out. Gutenberg is definitely a work in progress, and while it’s work that web developers have been doing for years (Medium has a similarly slick editor UI), it’s all new to WordPress.

It’s difficult to distill my thoughts about Gutenberg in a single post, so I won’t even try. What I will do, however, is write every post in Gutenberg from here on out. That’s going to mean a lot of local drafting and CMD + C & CMD + V’ing, but if this is the future of the post editor, then I want to see it on a regular basis.

At LexBlog, my team is responsible for keeping a lot of sites up and running. We help manage the reputation of lawyers and law firms, where each pixel matters. As a result, our product team performs a host of functional tests before launching updates, and we lean on test driven development practices to catch things that functional tests cannot.

An unfortunate blind spot is that humans aren’t machines. We’re prone to miss simple things, and after staring at a screen for hours on end, our brains and eyes get tired. To help catch things that we may gloss over, we use an internal application built using Node.js, React, and Selenium that integrates with the WordPress REST API and an external service, Applitools.

Continue Reading Building a Visual Regression Testing Application Using React, Selenium, Node.js, and the WordPress REST API

A few weeks ago, Matt Medeiros published a post on the Matt Report that is still making some waves in the comment section on his blog, as well as over on Hacker News. The tl;dr version of the post is that WordPress isn’t easy, in fact very little on the web is, but WordPress confuses the issue by seeming so easy.

On Hacker News, the argument, not surprisingly, is different. In front of a more technical audience, WordPress, and the professional services market that taps into  the software, is quickly the source of derision for any number of reasons:

  • Outdated technology stack
  • Slow (see above)
  • Prone to security issues
  • Spaghetti code programmers
  • Etc., etc., etc. (read the entire thread if you’re interested, but some of the comments are downright silly, so I’m not going to rehash them here)

Continue Reading Nothing on the Web is Easy

REST stands for Representational State Transfer. Defined and described by Roy Fielding in his doctoral dissertation while at the University of California, Irvine, REST is the underlying architectural style of the web as we know it today. RESTful systems, specifically APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) in the context of this post, are those that follow four (or five) basic principals:

  • Stateless
  • Make use of HTTP verbs
    • PUT, GET (hence the capitalization of the ‘GET’ in the post title – hilarious, I know), DELETE, POST, UPDATE
  • Provide a uniform structure/interface
  • Properly formatted responses – JSON/XML
  • Responses are cacheable

At LexBlog, we make use of a variety of different RESTful APIs – Cloudflare, Twitter, Typekit, and MailChimp to name a few. These APIs allow us to tap into deeper levels of functionality that are only exposed through APIs – an end user that was not aware or capable of using these systems would have a difficult (or likely impossible) time replicating this functionality.

Continue Reading WordPress GETS Its REST On…. Sorta

The oEmbed standard is a wonderful development if you’ve ever had to struggle with taking clunky <script> tags or <iframe> embeds and add them to a piece of content. Essentially, the technology makes it possible for a consumer (that’s you!) to add a request, usually in the form of a link, to the provider (such as YouTube or Twitter) so that a piece of rich media can be displayed within a webpage. In layman’s terms, it means that to embed a YouTube video on a WordPress site, all you have to do is add a link to the post, and voila! You have Rick Astley, making sure you know he’s never gonna give you up.

In WordPress, this standard has been implemented in a pretty slick fashion. Not only does WordPress do all the heavy lifting for you in recognizing when a request is to a known oEmbed provider (you can check out the list of “whitelisted” providers that WordPress supports in the Codex), but the UX for actually adding an oEmbed to a post is fantastic.

Continue Reading oEmbeds and WordPress

The order of questions in the title is important. From general to specific. Why blog? Why am I blogging?

First off, I like to hear myself talk. It’s a failing, vanity at its worst, I know, but the sound of my own voice and thoughts is something that’s soothing. A child of Montana, being alone and in my head is a comfort. Blogging, in many ways, affords that same comfort. My internal voice gets a chance to stretch its legs while writing – a meditative exercise.

This is also a natural progression. After working at LexBlog full-time for going on three years, going from Account Manager to Technical Product Manager, my lack of a blog has always struck me as hypocritical – especially since I truly do believe in the power of blogging. For me, this blog is purely about love and knowledge – love of knowledge? Either/or, really. As my understanding of various technologies has grown, so has my desire to keep track of all these bits of information that come my way. Beyond being a place to record my thoughts, this blog is a way for me to grow professionally through writing about the subjects that are near and dear to my hear. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you feel the same way about these things that I do.

Continue Reading Why Blog? Why WordPress? Why LexBlog?