What makes this WordPress pagebuilder different from all the other ones?
- What’s the UI & workflow like?
- What features does it have?
- Is it worthy of taking market share from the competition?
- What’s the pricing?
I run this recently-released Gutenberg sitebuilder through my gauntlet of skepticism.
Who is Cwicly?
Their CEO is Louis-Alexander Désiré.
I tried to do some research and couldn’t find him anywhere. No public history in WordPress commercial development or any WordPress development. No company page in LinkedIn. I don’t know who he is or what he’s done. I also don’t know anybody who knows who he is. (I also never heard of any of the team members either.)
Not to worry, that could be a really cool thing. A new mind, with a new perspective, uninfected by common crowd-think.
What is Cwicly?
Cwicly is an enhanced Gutenberg-based pagebuilder.
It’s built upon and works alongside the native WordPress Gutenberg editor. But it’s more than just a collection of Gutenberg blocks.
- It can take over template theming (with a more mature version of WordPress full-site editing).
- Import layout designs.
- Has its own settings panels and other helpful editing tools to improve upon the editing experience.
It relies heavily on the existing WordPress Gutenberg editing interface, and then adds it’s own UI panels and settings areas around that.
Basically…adding more features to your existing Gutenberg editor to make for a more friendly, and more powerful Gutenberg editing experience. I thought their slogan “The Ultimate WordPress Gutenberg Toolkit” was exactly perfect for what it does.
What’s Cwicly’s promise?
A fuller, free-er WordPress site building and Gutenberg experience. Go through their website copy and there’s lots of talk about how it enhances your native WordPress editing instead of adding more interfaces and needlessly duplicating existing functions. Design faster and free-er, with powerful tools for advanced devs while still being client-friendly to use. All while outputting cleaner code, faster page-loading, and higher page scores.
Alright alright! You got my curiosity! I clicked the [TRY FOR FREE] button before washing the melted ice cream off my hands.
User interface (UI)
The UI needs work.
- The official demos and other reviewers’ videos look better (with the dark mode), but my sandbox demo was ugly IMO.
- Default editor content looks too unstyled. Couldn’t they have picked a better default font…like maybe a sans-serif system font?
- Too many panel areas, each with their own design scheme and font styling. Left edge (icons only), left panel (block selector), right panel (block settings), and top toolbar. Feels like a mess, rather than a cohesive editing experience.
- I appreciate them trying to minimize the settings panels but I feel like things require too many clicks. Over-reliance on image icons instead of text labels of what things do. I was often hovering my mouse around to discover or remind myself of what buttons did. We must remember the goal is speed. Saving space doesn’t help if it doesn’t save time! I’d rather spend more time scrolling and less time hovering to read/remember what each icon does. Labels also train my subconscious to know where to find other things in the future.
- Messy display of borders between elements. Sometimes hard to understand/see what or where elements are.
- Why are element ID’s and classes at the top of the element primary settings panel? Why couldn’t they be at the bottom or better yet, just stick them in the “advanced” tab. I probably would have stuck the conditions and interactions settings into the advanced tab as well and put the hyperlink down elsewhere. Aghhh…I’m not sure, anyway I shouldn’t be judging based on my own bias.
- I do think the hovering “+” signs for adding new elements are cool in how you can quickly choose whether the added element goes inside, above, or after.
- How the heck do I activate dark mode for the editor? Looked all over and couldn’t find. Searched the documentation and couldn’t find.
Overall, Cwicly wasn’t so intuitive for me, and will be even less intuitive for a newbie user. I only understood it because I had the experience to “guess” where things would be. Spend a little more time and everything makes sense. But it doesn’t feel smooth and simple. Their layout doesn’t actually teach you how it works. They’ve managed to make Gutenberg feel more complicated (not a good thing). I wish they would have stuck to more a familiar Gutenberg editing layout…and then simply added upon that.
Believe me, I appreciate their approach of making it a very visual tool. The thin left-most panel reminds me of the Adobe Photoshop toolbar. Same goes for the block settings panels. It’s nice to look at but requires so much mental spend to find each click. Maybe a balance could be found. (And maybe we just have clashing layout logic. Perhaps there’s an army of users who will love and intuitively understand what Cwicly did.)
User experience (UX)
Does Cwicly actually improve your Gutenberg experience?
This should be the very first question if your product is labelled as a “Gutenberg enhancer”. And I’m seriously still deciding if Cwicly is actually any better than the default Gutenberg editing experience.
- Some of you might go “Oooooh, my Gutenberg looks sexier!”
- Others might go “Ewwww, what happened to my Gutenberg?!”
It was more of the latter for me. Like it added more features (that I probably won’t need), while hiding or moving around the basic common options that I did use often. It looked like someone installed a WP admin theme over my Gutenberg editor and then some CSS files didn’t load.
Users with more polarized opinions of Gutenberg may find it disappointing on both ends.
- For users who LOVE Gutenberg – Cwicly clutters it up without really adding more essential features. It even somewhat forces you away from the familiar Gutenberg way of doing things.
- For users who HATE Gutenberg – Cwicly still reminds too much of Gutenberg’s editing interface. Feels like lipstick on a pig.
So basically…it’s ironically/strangely worse from both ends. People who hate Gutenberg will hate Cwicly even more. People who love Gutenberg may or may not like Cwicly’s opinionated version of Gutenberg.
One thing is for sure, Cwicly doesn’t help newbies learn (or understand) Gutenberg any faster. I think a total newbie would be more confused by Cwicly than without it.
What was fun, what was not fun?
What kills me the most was the contrasting user-experience I had between different tasks.
- Anything advanced or Cwicly-specific feature was lots of fun. Things like messing around with the themer, or dev features (dynamic fields, etc) was so easy and intuitive. I felt powerful.
- But basic Gutenberg tasks…like styling a button, was kind of annoying. Because of all the little settings panels and granular options you had to click through. It felt so tedious.
I did enjoy Cwicly’s features. I just didn’t enjoy its non-features (basic tasks). Hahaha.
- Enhanced Gutenberg UI – whether you feel it actually improves your overall Gutenberg experience is subjective. I think some things are genius and other things a bit annoying. Since the UI is the feature, for a workflow tool like this.
- Blocks shortcut bar (left panel) – I freaken love this idea! Whoever came up with it, give that person a million dollar raise. I loved being able to add my most commonly used blocks. Honestly, this should be spliced into a free plugin for the WP Repo. (pretty pleeeeeease? *bambi eyes*)
- Block library – Cwicly adds their own 30+ blocks to your existing Gutenberg block library. I agree that theirs are all essential ones (as stated in their marketing copy) and no fluff. You can probably build most sites entirely using only their blocks. Should you need to use others, they’d integrate just fine.
- Style library – I have mixed feelings Cwicly’s style library. The designs seem polished enough, but the library is hard to use. Small panel and not so helpful category descriptions make it cumbersome to use. I wish it opened a bigger/wider panel in the middle of the screen and easier to scroll through options.
- Theme templating – like other sitebuilders, Cwicly can be used to design template parts, like header and footer. I really like how powerful this is!
- Speed & performance – yes…it’s fast. does it satisfy page scores? that’s for you to find out. Muck it up with tons of unnecessary blocks and see if you still score high.
- Developer features – Cwicly has several cool developer features that serious devs would really appreciate…dynamic content, filters, query, fragments, repeater, page-specific styler, etc.
- Roadmap – keep an eye on it. I see many interesting things on here…free version, WooCommerce templating, megamenu builder, raw HTML conversions, and more.
I really like Cwicly’s feature list. Maybe I disagree with Cwicly on UI and UX but their development mentality (on what features are necessary) aligns exactly with mine.
Cwicly has an active community and lots of engagement between both devs and users. It’s exactly what I want to see.
- Comprehensive support documentation.
- Active (Discourse) forums.
- They offer 24/7 support, which I haven’t used.
- Facebook Group is still small. Just 1,000 but a nice tight and activity community.
Cwicly VS the competition
VS default Gutenberg & block libraries:
- Some people – might just prefer the default Gutenberg editor (look) and usual block library plugins. Simple, quick and easy.
- Other people – might prefer Cwicly’s more visual workflow, and added features. Also their way of adding more options and settings.
I guess it all depends on what you’re planning to do. And whether you want a Gutenberg experience, an enhanced Gutenberg experience, or no Gutenberg at all.
VS other Gutenberg pagebuilders:
- Stackable – I would probably prefer Stackable. Because it feels more native to Gutenberg whereas Cwicly changes the interface without really adding more features. Basically creating a learning curve without reward for learning. Both use the native WordPress FSE (full-site editing) feature to do theming and templating. Stackable has a nicer design library. I love the wireframe templates.
- GenerateBlocks – a more minimal block library, and can also be used with FSE. Pro version has more blocks, dynamic features, and also super polished design library. I’m a huge fan of GenerateBlocks. I would prefer GenerateBlocks as well. I would guess GenerateBlocks is the closest direct competitor to Cwicly. Both in terms of the overall product features, approach to problem-solving, and type of dev-users they cater to.
- KadenceBlocks – same idea as GenerateBlocks. But I think GenerateBlocks has more advanced dev-features. Kadence however does have nice template library.
- Spectra – made by the guys behind Astra. Haven’t even tried but from what I see, I would probably choose them over Cwicly as well just because I think their UI would be better.
- Qubely – it’s fallen off my list. Buggy and complaints. Also that one public post they had a while back asking for “public support” (money) did not reflect well on them.
UI wise, Cwicly’s main competition is here. With the more comprehensive block plugins that not only have Gutenberg block libraries but also have workflow enhancements, style libraries and theme-templating capabilities. I personally would prefer GenerateBlocks and Stackable. (Either or, not both simultaneously.) Probably prefer KadenceBlocks over Cwicly as well.
VS modern sitebuilders (Bricks, Breakdance, Oxygen)
- Bricks – is a theme with a powerful built-in pagebuilder. It’s a simpler but more powerful version of Oxygen. Has its own visual workflow.
- Breakdance – BD is gonna feel smoother and more intuitive, more polished, more fun. Cwicly will feel more like Gutenberg, up to the user to decide which he or she prefers.
- Oxygen – Oxygen is a very visual pagebuilder with tons of dev features and settings. Cwicly is a Gutenberg pagebuilder with a handful of dev features. Both are for devs, but Cwicly is simpler in use, features, and workflow.
- Brizy – I haven’t used Brizy much but I feel I would generally choose Brizy over Cwicly. Up to your preference.
Clean code output and performance just like the others. But the others have their own editing interface…their own custom editor (if you will). The Cwicly interface isn’t as smooth, cohesive, or unique (of course). Definitely not comparable in workflow features. Can build similar things but honestly not even a fair comparison. Cwicly isn’t trying to be a whole new pagebuilder, it’s just adding to your existing Gutenberg experience. Features wise, these tools are a better comparison against Cwicly.
There is one big advantage Cwicly has over modern sitebuilders…it’s that it has its own UI just like them but still allows you to mix in Gutenberg blocks from other 3rd-party plugins. This is huge as Bricks and Breakdance don’t seem to allow that.
VS oldschool bloated pagebuilders (Elementor, DIVI, etc)
- Cwicly outputs cleaner and faster code, but the building experience is different and much less (noob) user-friendly IMO.
- People who like traditional pagebuilders probably belong more on Breakdance or Stackable.
These are the people not tech-savvy enough to use Gutenberg or even understand what it is (a block library, a pagebuilder, a design-tool ecosystem?). They want (or need) an all-in-one plugin that has every possible tool for them. While Cwicly might be this for dev-users, it won’t be for average users.
Improvement suggestions for Cwicly
Basically, all the things I’ve already said before:
- Clean up the UI. Like a lot. The easiest suggestion would be to put things back to be closer to the native Gutenberg UI, and then add cleverly on top of that. The harder suggestion is keep what you have but redesign it so sexy that I like your way better.
- Redo that style library. Make it open a big panel in the middle so I can scroll through designs easier. Maybe more helpful descriptions.
- More icons on the shortcut bar. Maybe you decrease space-margin between them if we add more icons? I can think of 12-15 blocks I’d love to use regularly.
Would I recommend Cwicly?
Personally, I wouldn’t use (or recommend) Cwicly even if it was free.
- I can’t recommend it to beginners because it seems more complicated than even default Gutenberg. Too much reliance on image icons instead of text labels prevents them from learning technical terminology faster.
- I wouldn’t recommend Cwicly to devs since there are better dev tools on the market. Bricks, Oxygen, Breakdance.
- I wouldn’t recommend Cwicly to diehard Gutenberg users because they can already do similar things with other Gutenberg pagebuilders that have a better UI. Stackable, GenerateBlocks, Spectra come to mind.
Cwicly is a good idea conceptually, but not matured (design-wise) yet and also doesn’t compare favorably against existing competitors. Other pagebuilders (Gutenberg & non-Gutenberg) offer a cleaner interface, more features, and were more fun to use.
But give Cwicly some time to mature and its use cases will expand massively. I appreciate its qualities more with time!
What users and use-cases best fit Cwicly?
At first glance, Cwicly seems a poor fit for everyone. Offering a mix of features that don’t fully satisfy any specific type of user. But in looking deeper, I’d have to say Cwicly does perfectly suit a particular hybrid-workflow type of dev.
- Likes Gutenberg and Gutenberg editor. Finds it’s simple and fast.
- Needs theme-templating capabilities.
- Wants advanced developer features.
- Needs something more powerful (but less cluttersome) than a block library.
- Needs to do theme templating, but not take so much time.
- Doesn’t want something as non-native or complex as Bricks or Oxygen, and/or just wanted something more familiar for clients (already familiar with Gutenberg).
- Last but not least…someone who likes the Cwicly UI design. (Just because I didn’t doesn’t mean someone else won’t.) Also that Cwicly is the only Gutenberg pagebuilder with its own UI and still allows you add blocks from other 3rd-party plugins.
These traits are very specific but I do believe this type of “advanced/hybrid Gutenberg developer” exists. If this is you, you’ll absolutely love Cwicly.
Simplicity & power (power & simplicity) is a hard balance to find. But I do believe Cwicly visualized it well (from a developer POV). The vision is there. I just hope the UI design and overall UX matures to see it better.
Cwicly’s unique features are:
- Its customizations on the Gutenberg editor. I actually do like that Cwicly IS Gutenberg. So you can use it alongside many other Gutenberg plugins.
- Cool shortcut toolbar on the left – genius!
- Some designs and settings nuances on their added Gutenberg blocks – see if you like it.
- Gutenberg themer – using WordPress FSE feature to design templates with Gutenberg blocks.
- And some nice developer features – check them out to see if you need them. I haven’t compared side-by-side with every competitor to know what Cwicly has and doesn’t have.
…basically, Cwicly is already quite similar to several other Gutenberg pagebuilder plugins on the market. And probably the main thing that stands out is its UI.
Cwicly is a cool way for devs to build theme templates and content with Gutenberg blocks. While benefitting from workflow enhancements and powerful dev features, all within the familiar Gutenberg editor.
Is all this enough to justify a paid cost? ($49/year for 3 sites, $99 for 10 sites, $199 for 1,000 sites.)
- For me…no. I think others are cheaper and better (or more mature), like GenerateBlocks. They do however have a free version on the way, and that would be interesting.
- But maybe you’ll have a different experience from me. Maybe you’ll like their UI.
The best part of all is Cwicly’s trial is so easy. Just one click of the button and a demo site is fired up and ready for you to play within 2 minutes. Check out the UI theme-building and advanced features, and you’ll know if it’s for you.