Over the past few months I’ve been using a lot of what I call Page Builders, WordPress plugins that come with a set of modules which you drag-and-drop into a grid-based layout. I haven’t used, nor could I possibly use, all the available Page Builder plugins but here is what I have played around with:
- Themify Builder (as part of one of their themes.)
- Elegant Themes Page Builder plugin.
- Elegant Themes Divi Theme (note that the page builder included in Divi is different from their Page Builder plugin. Elegant Themes is investing development into the Divi builder.)
I am not going to be reviewing the Page Builders I have used. Rather I want to share my thoughts on them after having gained some experience using them.
Colour me Impressed
Page Builders are amazing. I am truly impressed that the WordPress ecosystem has evolved to this point. Of all the CMS’ available I always felt WordPress has a community that prioritized user-friendliness. Page Builders are a natural extension of that.
Faster, Developer! Code! Code!»
No doubt Page Builders make the development cycle faster. It’s easier to whip something up to show to the client even if it isn’t 100% finalized. Changes are easier too: want a Google Map there instead of a generic image? Drag-and-drop, baby!
Build it your way…
There is no shortage of options in Page Builders though some admittedly have more than others. Change the background colour, font colour, margins, padding and more simply by typing in the new value.
…with a bit of class
All the Page Builders I tried had a way to add class names to grid rows and/or modules to allow developers to have their CSS target specific elements on the page.
Easier for clients (maybe)
I normally train my clients to make basic content updates to their website. Once they get the hang of using the WordPress Visual Editor, they predictably have the same questions about laying out elements in a grid. After all, they’ve seen it on all the websites so there’s no reason they can’t do it too.
The default WordPress Visual Editor doesn’t have this capability other than floating images to the side. Shortcodes are the way to go but it’s essentially simplified structural markup and correct nesting can prove challenging. That said, it isn’t too difficult to find a plugin that adds shortcodes to create grids.
This is where Page Builders have the chance to shine because they were built around the concept of grids. Once clients understand they are laying out rows, dividing those rows into columns and dropping modules into the resulting cell, an entire world of possibilities open up before them.
The difficulty arises in the fact that the Page Builders I’ve tried neither use nor build upon the default WordPress editor (Visual or Text). They in fact provide their own interface for building the grid and adding the modules. It’s effectively a different system for editing content on the website and I can understand if newbie users would find this confusing.
The flexibility of Page Builders comes at a price: your colours, font-sizes, margins, paddings etc… are embedded on the page itself either as inline-styles or within a <style> code block. Granted, the WordPress editor also uses inline styles to allow for different font colours so perhaps this isn’t such a big deal. It’s still good to know though.
My 2 cents
Page Builders are a definite boon to the WordPress community though I don’t see myself depending on them for the time being. There will definitely be projects and situations where Page Builders are the way to go but right now I favour standardization in the form of stylesheets. Shortcodes provide additional layout options right in the default WordPress editor without having to resort to learning a completely new system.
I like Page Builders. But they probably won’t be my go-to tool for quite some time, if ever.