WordPress Page Builders

The WordPress post and pages editor is great for working with articles where the primary focus is on content. However when things get more complicated, for example building a more visually rich home page, it may not be enough to get the job done.

Page Builders give site administrators a way to build pages using a visual drag and drop editor, giving you far more control over how the page will look.

Additionally they will often supply pre-defined widgets and templates to allow building pages relatively quickly.

They can however be difficult to migrate away from - removing these page builders will usually, at the very least, remove all styling associated with the pages built with the plugin, and often leave the content riddled with now redundant shortcodes.

Common features shared by page builder plug-ins

Every site host has a default admin view that users see when adding content. Page builder plug-ins allow you to customize how you interact with the page and post features to add content and build your site. Depending on the style and features in your page builder plug-in, you can:

  1. Use a drag-and-drop function to arrange elements on your pages
  2. Add pre-existing elements to your page from templates
  3. Edit templates to suit your needs
  4. Move blocks on the page with a block editor
  5. Copy and insert element blocks into other pages
  6. Upload, edit, and place photos, graphics, and videos

What benefits or functionality do these plugins add?

Adding a page builder plug-in to your site gives you more control over how you style posts, pages, and site content. Instead of relying solely on the in-built visual or HTML editor on your website, you can add the features you want while adding content in a way that works best for you. 

Drawbacks & things to watch out for when choosing a page builder

Page builders will always make the resulting HTML & CSS more bloated and complicated than if these pages were hand built by a skilled developer. While this won't necessarily result in a noticeably slower site or a worse experience for the users, it's something to be aware of.

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, migrating away from these plugins can be a pain. Any pages built with the page builder are going to lose their styling and will most likely end up littered with unhandled shortcodes. Affected pages will probably need to be rebuilt using whichever plugin is being migrated to.

Are page builders necessary now that we have Gutenberg?

Gutenberg was released at the end of 2018, and overhauled the default WordPress page and post editor to give a more interactive, block oriented experience. Gutenberg is still however more appropriate for content pages rather than the stylised, visual heavy designs we expect for home pages, but the lines are slowly blurring.

There is no doubt that Gutenberg is headed towards a more full page builder experience, but it isn't quite there yet.

On the other hand, it is native to WordPress, adding in a page builder will always add additional bloat. You may want to see if Gutenberg will do the job if you want the fastest, most responsive site.

Conclusion

A page-builder plug-in offers many options for customizing your site. From easy-to-use functions that beginners will love to in-depth customization for developers, page builders allow you to take more control over your online presence. Depending on how many sites you plan to build, you may need different pricing tiers or may need to upgrade later. Whether you prefer a block editor, visual editor, or drag-and-drop functions, there is a page builder plug-in for the task. Knowing your future goals will help you choose between a yearly subscription option or look for a plug-in with a one-time fee for lifetime use.  

WordPress Page Builders

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Visual Composer Page Builder

One of the first available WordPress page builders, released in 2011, was named “Visual Composer” before being renamed WPBakery Page Builder in 2017.

The Visual Composer plugin of today is a totally separate product from what became WPBakery, though they share a bit of origin in common.

The development has moved to Visual Composer in favour of WPBakery Page Builder, we assume because outside of CodeCanyon, they can implement a subscription based payment model.

As such, while WPBakery is a fairly standard page builder (by today's standards), Visual Composer is more fully featured, offering full site editing / theme builder functionality.

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SeedProd

SeedProd is one of the more popular WordPress page builders, it has more than 1 million downloads and an average rating of 4.9 stars (out of 5) on the WordPress repository.

While SeedProd has been designed for building conversion-optimized landing pages, it can be used for building any type of page.

This plugin offers a minimal free version and several premium plans so you can pick one that suits your current needs. 

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Elementor

Released in 2016, Elementor has quickly grown to an install base of over 5,000,000. Helped in no small part by their very generous free plan, and an easy to use interface.

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Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder is a page builder plugin that lets you customize your WordPress site’s pages without using HTML or other code. It features a fully functional drag-and-drop editor.

The lite version of this plugin is available on WordPress.org, where it has over 200,000 active installations and an average rating of 4.82 out of 5 stars. However, this free plugin lacks the functions to help you develop a professional website. Beaver Builder’s paid models offer a few different features, but each plan lets you use the core plugin on an unlimited number of websites.

In general, this page builder focuses on being reliable and user-friendly for beginners and developers alike.

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Divi Theme

Divi is a multipurpose WordPress theme that incorporates a page builder. Its website boasts that over 760,000 users have purchased this product. Its developer, Elegant Themes, is well-regarded on TrustPilot: 97% of nearly 17,000 reviews gave them 5 out of 5 stars.

This theme is unique because of its price-to-quality ratio — page builders that provide the options offered by this theme are usually more expensive to use on multiple websites. It includes a theme builder, over 1,600 layouts, 46 modules (website elements), and content split testing. There is also a builder plugin if you want to create pages while using a different WordPress theme.

Overall, you can use Divi Theme to design a site from the ground up, find a pre-made layout for your site, or do anything in between.

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Themify Builder

Themify Builder is a functional, but comparatively rudimentary page builder offered by Themify.

The core builder plugin is a free download, and can be used with any theme, but comes bundled with all Themify themes.

The Themify Builder Pro plugin is the paid version, and allows customising the entire theme rather than just pages (think header, footer, sidebar).

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WPBakery Page Builder

WPBakery, one of the first WordPress page builders available, was initially introduced as Visual Composer in 2011 and renamed in 2017. (The current plugin named Visual Composer is an entirely separate product.)

In part due to its age, WPBakery has amassed over 4.3 million users. Despite being well-rated on CodeCanyon, several developers have described various issues encountered while using this page builder.

It has many features similar to other page builders, such as a visual editor, over 50 content elements, and more than 80 pre-made templates.

All in all, WPBakery is a functional page builder plugin, but it may be worth looking into alternatives first.

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Oxygen Builder

Oxygen Builder is a full site builder rather than just a page builder. While some other page builders offer full site editing functionality, few are as thoroughly integrated as in Oxygen.

As such, this plugin will completely disable any active theme - you will need to build the whole layout with it if you want to use it - it's not possible to simply use it as a page builder for example, leaving the rest of the theme intact.

They do not offer a free plan, but each plan is usable on an unlimited number of websites, and they are all lifetime deals, so no yearly subscription with this one. Plans start at $129.