Real-Time Collaboration in WordPress: Here’s What to Expect

Bringing real-time collaboration or collaborative editing to WordPress will be the focus of the third phase of the Gutenberg project. It started off with the block editor in WordPress 5.0 and has by now progressed to Full-Site Editing aka the WordPress Site Editor. Adding real-time collaboration will be the second-to-last phase, while the final phase will add native multilingual capabilities.

Lead Architect Matias Ventura recently posted a preliminary outline of what is planned for Phase 3. The planned changes will not only bring new functionality to WordPress but also necessitate rebuilding (large) parts of its interface. The developers also predict that collaborative editing is going to be the most challenging to build due to the scope.

Reason enough to take a detailed look at what we can expect. In the following, we will go over what real-time collaboration is, what’s planned for this update, and the consequences for the WordPress platform. We will also go over ways you can already try out more collaborative workflows on your WordPress website right now.

What is Real-Time Collaboration?

If you have ever worked on a Google document together with other people, you already know what collaborative editing is. It is the ability for several users to edit a document at the same time, comment on make changes to other people’s work, and use shared assets together.

This allows you to work on a single document collectively instead of giving each person a separate copy and combining their individual input later. You are also able to assign different roles to users that decide whether they can only see, comment on, or edit the content.

Doing so saves time and effort, improves communication, and allows you to divide the labor. It can also result in better outcomes and makes the current work product available to every team member at the same time.

Other software solutions also offer this functionality. Examples include Canva, Sketch, and Microsoft Office 365. However, it is currently not possible in WordPress, at least not by default. While you can work on content pieces together, it’s only possible to do so one user at a time. When one person is in the editing screen for a particular page or post, anyone else who tries to access it gets locked out or needs to kick out the original editor.

“Supporting these workflows is not just about concurrency, though, but also about lifting restrictions that have been present in WordPress for a long time, such as locking a post when two people try to edit at the same time,” Ventura said in the post.

wordpress content blocked while being edited

With the planned real-time collaboration, it will be possible to work on content together as a team instead — right in the WordPress interface.

Why Do We Need Collaborative Editing in WordPress?

Yet, why is it the goal to implement this? After all, you could already simply use a Google document for the collaborative part and then copy over the result.

However, copying and pasting content from Google Docs to WordPress does not always work perfectly. It can lead to errors and need reformatting before you can publish the content. In addition, any images included in the document first have to make their way over to WordPress. With a native solution, none of this would happen.

In addition, there is a bit of a lack of collaboration tools in WordPress overall. Unless you install plugins for that purpose, there is no way to leave comments or feedback for other authors and users. Therefore, you often need to rely on other, asynchronous tools, like email or Slack to coordinate.

asynchronous collaboration tool email

Doing so will also often result in one person having to implement the suggestions from the rest of the team. Seeing as many websites and content strategies are run by teams, giving people tools to collaborate directly in the environment they are working in would go a long way in making the creation process more seamless.

Plus, since the WordPress block editor can do both content and design, it would also help designers and content creators work together better. While one person can take care of the written part, the other can already start prettying it up.

Finally, offering real-time collaboration is also simply a good way to improve the WordPress CMS and make it into a more modern piece of software.

What Exactly Are the Developers Planning?

In his post, Matias Ventura lays out the preliminary goals and ideas the developers are focusing on. Here is a breakdown of what they include.

1. Real-time Content Collaboration

Naturally, this is the centerpiece of the entire phase. The goal is to provide the necessary infrastructure and UI to allow multiple users to work together on the same content simultaneously. To create, edit, and customize web pages and posts as a team.

2. Asynchronous Collaboration Tools

However, working together on content doesn’t just mean the ability to be inside the editor at the same time. You also need tools to communicate effectively about what you are doing. Gutenberg Phase 3 also aims to provide those, including things like:

  • Draft sharing
  • Inline block commenting
  • Assignment review
  • Improved version control
  • Task management

Some of this is currently already possible through plugins but the goal is to make it native.

3. Improved Publishing Workflows

Another goal is to provide better tools for creating, editing, reviewing, and publishing content within WordPress. This can include features such as:

  • Defining editorial requirements
  • Setting customized goals, e.g. a certain number of words or images
  • Prerequisites to complete before publishing is unlocked such as setting a featured image, etc.
  • Support for multiple preview contexts (e.g. members vs no members)

The plan is not to necessarily include all of this in WordPress Core. However, Phase3 will provide the infrastructure to make it possible to implement this in the editor.

4. More Powerful Post Revisions

Naturally, to accommodate the added complexity, you need a more detailed post revision system. The plan is to make it “more visual, aware of individual blocks, and explore adding the ability to schedule revisions across multiple parts of a site”.

What does that mean?

First of all, it would add the ability to revert singular blocks to earlier versions, not just entire content pieces. Secondly, you would be able to update several content pieces at the same time, for example that belong to the same campaign.

5. An Enhanced Media and Asset Library

Another piece of WordPress that the developers want to work on is the media library. They want to provide not only a place for managing visuals but also blocks, block patterns, styles, and fonts.

As part of this, it is necessary to enhance the media library’s design and functionality. Historically this is a part of WordPress that hasn’t seen a lot of work, so it would be exciting to find out how they can improve it.

6. A Global Search and Command Component

The final component that Matias is talking about in connection with real-time collaboration in WordPress is a command prompt such as Spotlight in MacOS.

macos spotlight example

It would allow users to navigate directly to content or different admin areas as well as run commands like “create a new post” or “insert pattern”. This is also in response to the surge in AI and to introduce functionality that is prompt-based. A Github repository for this already exists.

Consequences of the Proposed Changes

From the above, it should already be obvious that this will not just be simply another feature that’s added to WordPress. These changes will make it necessary to rebuild and change parts of the WordPress user interface. As Matias says in his post:

To accomplish this, we’ll be looking beyond the editors at the rest of the admin experience.

Especially the library will likely see a lot of work. Other areas include update admin notices and UI design components as well as the admin list views used in posts, pages, categories, templates, comments, and by hundreds of plugins. Those should receive a more modern design and better support for interactivity and extensibility. You can find early concepts here.

Related articles

Interaction to Next Paint (INP): WordPress Optimization Guide

Interaction to Next Paint or INP is the latest...

How to Add Widget Areas to WordPress (Block & Classic Themes)

container.before_widget and after_widget — Same as above but...

7 Must-Have Pages Every Website Needs (+ 11 Optional Ones)

What are must-have, essential pages for every website?Every website...

How to Improve First Input Delay (FID) on Your WordPress Site

We recently started off a new series on Google’s...

Case Studies

Finance and Budgeting Blog

Easy Extra Dollar is your trusted source for valuable insights into finance, budgeting, and investing. The platform is dedicated to helping individuals and families...

Marketing Gamut – Marketing Blog

Marketing Gamut is the ultimate platform for marketing enthusiasts, offering valuable insights, engaging content, and thought-provoking discussions on all things marketing. The client needed...

Business and Marketing Insights Blog

Business Analysis is a platform dedicated to decoding the complexities of business and marketing through comprehensive data analysis and strategic planning. The client required...