Crafting a professional site is never easy, even if you are a professional that learned coding from a very young age. Yet, in a full speed tech world, no one desires to build a website in time-consuming period, because we all want something fast, yet effective.
I have been tackling to the subject of WordPress drag and drop page builder plugins and tools for some time now, yet there were always some obstacles holding me back from writing a blog about it, because such implement are not that popular among most of programmers and web developers; furthermore, they always have some constructive points to criticize these kind of tools. In a contrast to arguments I meet more and more customers who do like to use page builders with drag and drop options, so why not to give an independent try and look for some nice solutions available.
Let me mention that such tools are really handy in a sense of complete control of your content. Drag and drop page builders become really popular recently and some, still assist that these types of plugins could be the future of web content publishing. Although I am not going to argue with this and jump into the future without knowing how the things will progress in fast forward technological world, I will speak about some pros and cons for page builder plugins at the end of this article. But before that the army that uses or wants to give a try to use page builders are really vocal in a sense of productiveness and practicality, especially for those who have minor understanding about coding, CSS or HTML. Yet, with some basic WordPress knowledge, page builder plugins allow users to build stylish and professional looking articles, posts and even websites, with a user-friendly interface. In a contrast with the traditional working area of WordPress, which is pretty basic to be honest, with not a big collection of options to position different sides of your post, change some areas and lines, page builders are tools that are coming to help.
The main criterion when choosing such plugin with a variety of drag and drop options are these
- Possibility to edit layout by drag and dropping whole blocks of HTML content
- Editing padding, spacing, borders and other areas of your post
- Responsiveness and compatibility with themes
- Slider and image widgets
- Multicolumn layouts
- Social network widgets (the more – the better)
- The bigger the plugin the more widget customizations are included
These are the main aspects you want to consider when choosing such plugin. And in a big research of mine I came to this conclusion that almost each and every plugin is pretty much similar to another one, when speaking about functionality and options to achieve final goals. The core is built with collection of widgets including images boxes, maps, forms, social media icons, sliders and forth, allowing to place these ‘widgets’ on a post or a page with ability to move independently, edit them using side bars and widgetized areas with flexibility and proportion. The great things about these features are that you don’t need to move back and forth from front to back end. Newbies of WordPress love such tools too, so these are mainly for such kind of audience. Yet there are still some Pro tools included in Premium plugin platforms, having big content for much prospective websites.
I have to confirm, that most of such widget bundle solutions generate code layout automatically, yet can still bring some conflicts with themes and you will need to contact support teams couple of times in order to sort some things out.
Another important thing to consider is that such page builders pretty much take control of your website , so after installing page builder plugins you have to follow the rules of the plugin and learn couple of new things about posting or creating a page, which sometimes can differ from traditional rules of WordPress.
Page Builder from SiteOrigin
This guy can fairly be called the most popular page builder for WordPress. Why so? First of all because it has GPLv2 (or later) licensing agreement and available on WordPress.org. A major thing that misses from other similar plugins, which are placed on third party websites. I shall recommend Page Builder by SiteOrigin for new users who have less knowledge about how page builder plugins works. Why so? Because developers took care about creating simple and easy to understand video tutorials, explaining how the plugin works both on back-end and front-end of a website. I liked the live demos on official website too. Very informative.
I also enjoyed reading their forum or as they call it ‘Thread’. Anyone can start a Thread, by asking about functionality, questioning some missing features and seeking for solution. the answer normally comes within a day or two.
The plugin claims to be theme independent, meaning that all CSS and class field changes shall not come between the theme you are using. Even upcoming updates shall not make any changes.
Among nice features of the plugin is live editor, both from back and front end, allowing to have a sleek preview without leaving the page; the plugin speaks the very common language of WordPress, which is nice and helpful as well. I really liked the history browser with ‘Back to the version’ option. So let’s say you have made a post or edited a lot of widgets, changed spacing and want to return to the previous steps, this guy allows it to happen.
Free version which is available in WordPress directory has around 600,000 active installs and the official website claims to have about 3,692,763 downloads. Impressive number for a post builder.
Yet have to admit that the plugin is pretty much unique on WordPress and has no equivalent analogues. In the line of future competitors are Beaver Builder , Live Composer Page Builder, Page Builder by WooRockets and Aqua Page Builder with a number of 10,000+ active installs for each.
Visual Composer: Page Builder for WordPress
The biggest and probably the most developed plugin is called Visual Composer: Page Builder for WordPress, costing $34 for a regular license and with $170 with an extended one. Yet, as I mentioned earlier no WordPress license and obviously Free version available. The only platform to try the demo is envatomarket or its own website.
Visual Composer includes the highest number of widgets and options. The ones that caught my attention are ‘Third party map shortcode’ integration, allowing to place any maps with a short code over your post or a page, 100% comparableness with all Premium themes placed on envatomarket, user role options, multi-language support, including Italian, German, French and Russian languages and video background options. A nice tool for big business companies or websites with much higher traffic and income.
Pretty much popular tool that claimed to be revolutionary, yet stands pretty close to the basic post editor plugins. MotoPress replaces default WordPress editor as the other ones, with visual editor, very simple plugin, beginner friendly and intuitive with drag elements around it.
The one thing that I liked about MotoPress page editor is the YouTube channel with a lot of video tutorials. Have in mind the fact that these guys are developing mainly 2 plugins, yet they have a lot of awesome video tutorials to see how to customize a page, edit and use the post editor plugin. Why am I mentioning this, is because lack of video tutorials was caught on all post builder websites. You really shall have clear and easy to understand guides, helping users to build their website. Another nice thing about MP is its Help Desk, which is FAQ and Troubleshooting page; a lot of topics answered nicely and in a helpful manner. In a contrast to that Forum is not the most popular platform for them.
Free Live composer
Free Live composer is a nice thing to give a try, as it comes for free and has the main tools of similar post and page builders. It is worth to try especially for those who is planning to go bigger, yet want actually to download something available without subscribing to a plan or buying a premium plugin. After installation Live composer brings you to its page on back-end called ‘features control’ (such option is available in most of the plugins and shall be viewed right after installation). The page offers users to choose from back-end which areas of their website they want to allow codes to be overwritten, whether it is a thumbnail, text, image, button and more.
For ‘Go Free’ users I have to share the fact that most of page builders coming with collection of themes include couple of free themes with basic layouts, in order to showcase simple clean portfolio posts. They normally call such themes ‘Blank’ allowing to build a website from ground zero, from header to footer via tools that come with plugin.
Integration with themes
Some modern theme developers are working on flexible integration of drag and drop options for different parts of theme menu, allowing newbies to move layout elements of a theme on front end option menu. This literally saves a lot of time. Such WordPress themes allow users to define content placeholders with drag and drop layout widgets, move columns, adjust the size, color, style per page. As an explanation they would suggest to make changes from back-end using default WordPress layout or other page builders. The reason they don’t suggest to use such themes is the fact that aforesaid options and functions include a lot of coding and affect the load time and weight of a website.
SEO aspects of long codes
The trick is that 80% of drag and drop plugin developers write massive codes with long commands. This is far behind Google’s preferences, as it is a common knowledge for Google to hate long and messy codes for both front and back ends. So this can be one of negative factors affecting rankings of one’s website. I will suggest giving a try and reading the codes of demo websites before buying a plugin.
Depending on your client’s preferences and the agreement; or the contract you have between third parties, you have to bring website for, decide how to let client to use websites in the future. Of course, such tools as we mentioned in this article are a perfect solution to newbies and those who are not going to learn coding and just want to keep their website up to date with rather minor posts. This is true for local businesses; let it be a flower store or a cafe shop, show-room, food delivery or a law agent. Such websites do not require of adding daily or weekly content, yet a nice page builder shall help customers to have couple of visuals for adding articles and make changes right from front end. And in this case they are not going to disturb developers in most of the cases.
I have to admit that I do enjoy using themes or plugins built with drag and drop options. I really do. But depending on your need and preferences you have to be more realistic, that currently this is not a 100% solution to build a project or a big website. Yet small and medium platforms can surely stick with such resolution. On the contrary, have in mind the fact that there still are some advanced and premium plugins with a lot of options, allowing to integrate page builder with massive websites and e-commerce solutions.
Another thing you want to have in mind is the fact that most of page builder plugins will push you to subscribe or buy themes and add-ons, ‘powered by their company’. This is rather a commercial step, yet not big news in CMS industry. This means that you still are going to take advantage of demos and add-ons of such products, whether you want it or not.
On the other hand, for those who want to use advanced widgets customization tools as their main content building instrument, without walking through back-end of WordPress or coding, such plugins can become must haves.