Here’s why I think all pagebuilders (Elementor, Beaver Builder, WPBakery, Site Origins, etc) will soon be obsolete…
REASON #1 – pagebuilders no longer serve a unique purpose
The only reason why pagebuilders were ever used was for creating and managing custom layouts. The native WordPress editor used to be nothing more than an empty textbox. Which didn’t allow many options for cool layouts.
So theme developers had no choice but to create custom page templates. But what if users wanted to adjust colors and spacing, or edit content to their hearts desire. The only solution was a mix between fiddling around in the theme options, customizer options, and reading the theme support forums for snippet hacks. Not only was this a pain for the newer (and less tech-savvy) crop of mainstream WordPress users, it was also a time-consuming nuisance for developers to support.
Here’s what I think happened next…
Somebody (probably a theme-developer) said:
- “Hey, why don’t we build a fancier WYSIWYG editor for WordPress with more options?”
- “Hell yes! Let’s put layouts, effects, colors, font, even preset designs!”
- “I have an even better idea! We’ll market this as a unlimited design tool for non-professionals!”
The public was sold and a new class of “WordPress experts” was born overnight.
- Designers without programming skills could easily build their designs using pagebuilder.
- Developers on a tight budget could churn out custom designs faster using pagebuilder.
- Theme developers had a faster way of creating new themes (and more profit).
- Regular users could easily setup and manage a “cool website design” without paying for a professional.
So what changed?
Up until very recently, pagebuilders were the only way to create custom designs WITHOUT having to code. But now we have Gutenberg and Gutenberg blocks, and all the super cool custom 3rd-party Gutenberg blocks.
What else? The Gutenberg blocks are doing it even better! (And without any of the common pagebuilder issues.)
REASON #2 – pagebuilders are not WordPress-friendly.
They’ve always felt like a hack. An extra editor hacked on top of the WordPress editor to try and take control of page templates and content layouts. That’s what happens when you try to do things that a CMS cannot do…you have no choice but to completely take over and force users into a non-WordPress world.
The coding isn’t clean. The user experience is confusing and un-standardized. Another telltale sign of their unintuitiveness is the fact that pagebuilders have evolved themselves only by offering more OPTIONS instead of more FLEXIBILITY. I know it sounds like the same thing but it isn’t.
- OPTIONS is shoving more and more features into an already-bloated tool to justify it’s essentiality.
- FLEXIBILITY is letting you decide where and how much of it to use. (It would be awesome if you could decide whether a pagebuilder was used for an entire page vs for only one content section. Currently, it’s all-or-nothing.)
Pagebuilders are basically a smaller CMS hacked onto a larger CMS. They have their own settings. And lots of function conflicts over what should be controlled by a theme or a plugin. Truth be told…pagebuilders act somewhat like both. Developers have long complained they aren’t coded in a WordPress way…and definitely not in an efficient way. Beginners have long complained they aren’t easy to use. But sure…some pagebuilders will be easier than others, and even the worst pagebuilder out there is infinitely more empowering than planting code snippets around your site like a graffiti artist.
REASON #3 – Gutenberg blocks are better than pagebuilders
Sure, it’s easy for me to just throw the B-word around without explaining anything. But I’ll break it down for you. Here’s why Gutenberg blocks are better:
If you haven’t already heard. Pagebuilders are among the top causes of slow WordPress sites (if not the main one). Being that WordPress is undergoing a massive “speed up” trend right now, you can bet everyone is looking for pagebuilder-alternatives.
Think of what a pagebuilder is. It’s a giant collection of options. In the backend, it has to load all those options for you choose from. In the front end, some pagebuilders load all options and others only activate the ones you use…but by large they still load entire libraries even if you use only one option in the library. What does all this mean? It means pagebuilders add tons of weight and slow down your site on the frontend as well as the backend.
But with Gutenberg, the only code that’s loaded is the one used within an active block. If you don’t use the block, its code isn’t loaded. No wasted CSS styles or JS scripts loading globally on your site because you activated the pagebuilder for only your homepage. Even better…the blocks don’t trigger giant wasteful CSS/JS full of unnecessary crap like (div) containers and default styling for those containers.
You tell me what’s less bloated…adding a few blocks at a time and only the ones you need? Or adding an entire pagebuilder and then trying to figure out how to disable/deactivate/dequeue all the parts you don’t want?
EASIER TO USE
Gutenberg blocks work in a native WordPress manner. You open up the standard WordPress editor and there it is. Then pick the blocks that have the features or design elements you need, and plug it in! The settings are built into WordPress’ existing block settings panel (on the right). It’s simple to understand. Simple to edit. Simple to add or remove.
Pagebuilders are a giant mess. First, they take over the native WordPress editor and present to you a whole different world of options. Next, they have their own interface, language, and “way of doing things”. And they all function differently from each other. Regardless of which pagebuilder you prefer more…we can all agree that they all come with a learning curve.
And the more custom your site?…the scarier it is to edit it in a pagebuilder. You might feel like any wrong click will be the one to unravel your entire site design. So much for being easy-to-edit, huh? Many of the backend editing screens don’t even look like the frontend. You see only box outlines with shortcodes and other code-speak text in there. You’re never sure if the box you’re editing is the one you meant to edit. So fine…they have the FRONTEND EDITOR option, how confusing! I’m sorry but pagebuilders really aren’t that easy to use. All they offer is a new way of getting lost without having to code (lol).
With Gutenberg blocks, you build things one block at a time. However you like. Smaller more manageable chunks. You don’t have to throw out your standard WordPress editor and build from some alien interface. It’s more manageable not only for regular users but also for contractors who manage many different sites.
Believe it or not, pagebuilders don’t give you all that much flexibility. Sure, add up all the possible settings and it feels like you have a million options. But the reality is, they mostly only allow what the current trends are. In other words, they help you build generic sites. Want to do something truly unique? Hah. Good luck with that. You’ll still be building from scratch and tearing your hair out because most pagebuilders don’t have preset options for anything more than the typical layouts.
What else? You can’t mix options from different pagebuilders. If you choose Elementor pagebuilder, you’re stuck within its ecosystem of plugins and limitations. Granted…the top pagebuilders are full of options and should satisfy 99.99% of (amateur) designers out there but believe me…the limitations still exist. You can’t mix say Elementor and Beaver Builder.
But what about with Gutenberg blocks? It’s fantastic. You can easily download different 3rd-party blocks and even stick ones from different developers inside each other. There’s (theoretically) no conflict! I can use a layout element from Atomic Blocks with another from Kadence Blocks. I can throw 10 other 3rd-party blocks into the mix without any issues.
So what (do I think) happens to pagebuilders?
Of course, they won’t give up overnight. That wouldn’t be good for their existing customers, no. What everyone will do is start focusing more on their Gutenberg blocks plugins. Elementor is already doing it. I’m sure others will, too. (On a side note: I hear Elementor has gotten funding and that’s another good alternative as well, some pagebuilders will evolve into their own CMS/UX solution.)
There’s also the new class of development companies focusing purely on Gutenberg blocks.
- Atomic Blocks
- Elementor Blocks
- Kadence Blocks
- Ultimate Blocks
This list goes on and on. The Gutenberg editor has opened up an entire new ecosystem for developers. And best of all…they all function in a much more native WordPress way. You can bet new themes of the future will be using blocks rather than pagebuilders.
So there’s only one question left…which pagebuilder will be the ONLY ONE to survive?
And that’s because it isn’t a pagebuilder.
…stay tuned for next week (or whenever I’m free) when I explain why it’s different from all the rest. 😉
Thanks for reviewing wordpress pagebuilders. Especially for making Oxygen Builder an exceptional. I feel lucky have chosen it to build my website, aoleng.org. It’s pretty fast, compared to previous builder I used, Elementor. Oxygen seems like a mix between making a custom theme and visual builder.
Totally agree. Oxygen is way faster than Elementor. Nice site, btw. I love the calm cleanliness!
Great article Johnny! I appreciated how you laid out the main disadvantages of page builders. I’ve been curious for awhile about how Gutenberg was going to change the WP ecosphere. I switched to Oxygen last year and I’m looking forward to your next article about it.
Thank you, Steve. I was awfully curious about Gutenberg for a while, too. I’m certain now it is one of the best decisions ever for WordPress and overall evolution of CMS. Web content is not just text and images (like print media). The Oxygen review will be published soon.
I have spoken.
Hi Johnny, Thank you for your informative website! What about the pagebuilder’s arch enemy, the multi-purpose theme? Are Gutenberg blocks the demise of the multi-purpose theme (and even WordPress themes) as we know it, and the end of Salient, Avada, X Theme, Enfold and the like? And how will Genesis fit in? Thanks again.
Thank you, Ken. I actually think pagebuilders were the creation (bastard child) of multi-purpose themes. They often use them to create many different layouts quickly without having to hand-code. Gutenberg blocks will replace pagebuilders and make it even EASIER for multi-purpose themes to customize. I welcome this evolution as I only hate pagebuilders for their bloat and messiness, but do love empowering regular users with customization tools.
Genesis is a mature framework for developers to custom-code off of. Think of it as a polished Underscores. It does not compete with the bloated likes of AVADA, Enfold, etc. Completely different user markets and development style.
I’ve been using Padma Unlimited (an improved version of Headway) to build client sites. I think this will be better than Oxygen…here’s why. Firstly it’s a framework, but most importantly it allows you to create a site that the client can update themselves just by using the core features of WP…Pages and Posts. Padma allows you to draw a block, pull in content from 1 post, page or product (woo). Sure it needs a bit more work, but you can very easily and very quickly build a site. Best of all it’s free (there are payable options). It’s not as slick looking as Oxygen but it works great.
Hi Malc, I absolutely love community-spirit projects. Do let me know when you have at least a live demo for visitors to play with.
The true power of Oxygen lies it’s ability to generate custom Gutenberg blocks. How it evolves will be interesting to watch.
Page builders are callus that built up because WordPress ignored 2-D page layout and responsive needs for too long.
The first “modern” site I built, back in 2012 or 2013 didn’t even have columns (it was “mobile first.”) That was fine since the “classic” editor was all we had. There were still plenty of responsive requirements, and each of the many product and information pages had countless blocks.
The SASS file for the site had nearly 2000 rules. Who knows how many lines of raw CSS that “compiled” to. It took months. Any time an author backspaced over a hidden div in the editor it blew up the formatting for the rest of the page.
A few years ago I rebuilt the site in Beaver Builder. Took about three weeks. I ended up needing maybe 25 rules in CSS.
Gutenberg is absolutely and unquestionably better than the Classic Editor. And it’s light years better than those stupid ACF “flexible content” hacks that were supposed to be “superior to page builders.” But so far that’s all.
Gutenberg is still generally terrible for customization vs even genuinely bad page builders like Visual Composer! It’s not front-end compatible — you still have to stop and preview constantly. If you want to do custom padding, custom container flexing, re-centering background images based on screen size, etc., etc., etc., then you have to break out CSS again AND go back and forth and back and forth from preview to edit mode, over, and over and over.
Don’t get me wrong — if you’ve only futzed around with shortcodes in the classic editor, or ACF metaboxes, then dealing with Gutenberg on the backend is fine! If you’ve always expected to have CodeKit or a Compass daemon running in the background to re-output your CSS, and if you don’t mind that same old back-and-forth then Gutenberg probably seems amazing.
If you’re used to using a page builder for responsive layouts then… Gutenberg is not great. It’s bad. It’s like going back to DOS after you’ve been on a Mac. It’s like going back to texting on a flip-phone number pad after you’ve used Android.
I’m 100% confident that once Gutenberg can handle front-end editing, and once it’s got even a hint of grace for responsive tweaking, then page builders can go away. Really! I’m not married to them! I mentioned way up top that page builders were a scab or callus that built up because native WordPress was failing miserably at page composition.
I’m also 100% confident that Gutenberg 3.0 will be the death knell for page builders. Including, most likely, Oxygen. That’s because we’ll finally be able to do real layouts with it instead of just playing Tetris with blocks and then cleaning them up with piles of CSS wrapped in media queries. (Explain to me how Atomic or Kadence’s meta-blocks aren’t being developed to solve the exact same problems page builders were.)
We’re still futzing around with Gutenberg 1.x. We’ve got only very vague hints what Gutenberg 3.x might look like. I’ll be sorry to give up my muscle-memory for Beaver Builder when Gutenberg finally grows up. But I’ll be ecstatic to have a unified tool that clients can easily learn and use.
That’s the other thing about Beaver Builder, at least: since I build sites for clients to *use,* training time is almost as big a performance metric as page load times. I can teach someone how to operate their site and edit pages with Beaver Builder in roughly half an hour over the phone. I can’t say that yet about Gutenberg. I just can’t. In particular with GB I have to say “ok, now click ‘preview’ and see if…” and I don’t have to do that with Beaver Builder. I wouldn’t have to do it with Elementor, and while I haven’t purchased and played with I don’t think I’d even have to do that with Oxygen. Gutenberg? Or even GeneratePress’s modules? I’d still at least need to share a screen with them.
Personally I’m still holding out for one of the page-builder vendors to incorporate blocks instead of modules. I agree with you 100% that it’s beyond stupid that the best content-generating features (blocks) are incompatible with the best layout features (good page builders.) I understand this is murderously hard, at least for now, which is why you see all these block-manager page-builder standings like Atomic and Ultimate.
I’m really looking forward to hearing your case for using Oxygen, and will be especially happy to adopt it if they’re the ones who solve the problem of actually building pages with blocks instead of, as I said earlier, the current state of the art which is playing Tetris with blocks.
I always appreciate your insights even when I don’t agree with you. Thanks!
David, hahahhahah I love the comment. “Backspacing over a hidden div” and “it blew up the formatting”. LOL, you sound like an old war veteran recanting landmine stories.
– I don’t know what Gutenberg blocks you’re using but we’ve done all kinds of custom ones and absolutely love them. Multi-column, overlapping image collages, seeing frontend view from backend….all easily done. Re-centering images depending screensize was also no big deal. (Check out the focal-point picker in our custom header Gutenberg block. https://wpjohnny.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/image-gblock.jpg)
– “Explain to me how Atomic or Kadence’s meta-blocks aren’t being developed to solve the exact same problems page builders were.” — Ummm, I echoed that sentiment already in this article. 🙂
– I think Gutenberg blocks are better than pagebuilders because they do exactly what pagebuilders were trying to do (just make custom layouts) and more! Pagebuilders were forced to be template-builders because Gutenberg wasn’t around yet. Now that we have Gutenberg, we can use blocks to do customize content (without having to hack in a foreign editor across the entire inner content). Sure…there’s not many blocks but they will come. Some will be for layouts, others for content/widgets. You can put them inside each other. GenerateBlocks, Kadence Blocks…those are already accomplishing many pagebuilder layouts and IMO with much less effort.
– Oxygen is a different animal. The 2 main points is complete custom themebuilder control. For some, this is awful because it feels like building your entire house from scratch just to have a custom window. But for others, it’s extremely liberating to get to draw things however you please….and to do so from a tool that resembles something between a Photoshop/Sketch and PHP editor (friendly for pro developer/designer). There’s also the 3rd bonus which is super lightweight code since Oxygen doesn’t load any theme, but that advantage will fade away once Gutenberg blocks become more powerful.
I just used Oxygen for the first time, and I mostly loved it. But it’s way too complicated for a typical client to touch, without breaking page/template layout. So I needed to extract as much content as possible out to WordPress. Basic pages/posts just used Oxy’s inner-content (but then the client needs to use Gutenberg for any special formatting within that). Then, the more interesting layouts used ACF, as Oxygen-ACF integration is pretty good (not great; it can’t easily be used for non text/images.. to set a color, for example). So I’m very curious to read your Oxy review, and hopefully your thoughts on how typical clients can edit Oxygen content (other than inner-content). I know of the Oxy-Gutenberg integration plugin and “client-mode”, but that doesn’t seem to let clients build/edit a page the way Gutenberg does (adding any new sections). After just one oxy site, I have much to learn about it, but overall it seems very client unfriendly.
Thanks for your great insight, Todd. I actually already released my Oxygen review. And many of your thoughts are correct. It is indeed too hard for end clients. It’s more of a visual builder tool for developers than an easy consumer-grade pagebuilder. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s easy for end-clients adjust layouts and stuff but to edit existing content?…that shouldn’t be too hard. Either deploy widget positions (like many themes from pre-pagebuilder era) or they must know that some pages have to be edited using Oxygen and to click directly onto the content like with pagebuilders.
As a newbie to wordpress trying to build a simple, minimal clean site, am I better off with Oxygen or something like kadence or astra and kadence blocks, gutenberg, etc? Too many options! The main thing I will want to customize is the header/footer, and to strip down any theme if I go that route. Started using Oxygen a few days ago and haven’t gotten scared off yet. Thanks for the great writeup.
If you’re brand new, you should stick to either GeneratePress and GenerateBlocks, or Kadence Themes and Kadence Blocks. Oxygen is not meant for you unless you know how to code and get around its templating issues.
Followup question. Do you prefer GeneratePress over Kadence and if so, will I be able to edit the headers and footers with the free version? paid version? Thanks for the quick reply!
I prefer GeneratePress over Kadence easily. I always get the paid version. You can ask their support or check the website for exact differences between the two. Let me know how it goes. 🙂
Why GeneratePress over Kadence? I would really like to know, and what you think of Neve as well. (meanwhile I’ll search your site for a review on generatepress, lol)
Kadence seems to me more intuitive to use, and easier as well. In fact, I was convinced to test out gutenberg only because of Kadence, when I was checking out/testing GeneratePress I wasn’t sure whether gutentor would be a great option. And I really like Neve’s speed, although Kadence is still easier to use (in terms of design).
If you’re hedging everything on features and the super convenient header/footer builder, Kadence wins over GeneratePress. But if you want a more mature product (and more mature community) and more developer-friendly features and extensibility, GeneratePress wins by a mile. You should read my GeneratePress vs Astra vs Kadence (2020 comparison)
Neve is really awesome. Great product backed by a large respectable theme house. Review coming soon at some point.
Now with Generatepress 2.0 and generateblocks and pro. The game is changing…
Theme building comes to Generatepress and Tom and team just have started
Frankly Don't Give a F**k
Gutenberg Editor is the worst pile of ass that WordPress devs ever made. Less than 2 stars in reviews and you’re touting this as the best page builder get the f**k outta here with that ridiculous bullshit nonsense.
Sorry I had to censor your juvenile language. I don’t know how you’re holding in that anger now that Gutenberg adoption keeps growing and improving. Hope you find your inner peace, bro. 😉
I like your replay – some people just get triggered and vomit bu****it.
Just to save you time 😀
I dont think Gutenberg is easy to use. Gutenberg is very unintuitive. The interface is very clumsy. I tried to rebuild some of my Elementor pages with it. Yeah, it is possible, but it takes much more time to do everything in Gutenberg. You need to be very inventive and very patient. On the other hand, Elementor is so easy to use. You dont need to know anything about it. Everything is very clear and intuitive.
Lets say I want to change the border width or padding of some block. First I need to find where these settings are. Every block settings are little bit different. Somewhere you can change these thing, somwhere you cant. Some block have default padding which you cant change. Its such an agonizing experience. In Elementor you know you can change all these things in every element and you know where to change it. Its so easy. But I agree, Elementor will be gone in the future, but not in the near future.
Gutenberg blocks are done in different mentality. There is a little learning curve since you’re using a different tool but once you get the hang of it….I think it’s much more intuitive. For someone like you accustomed to full-featured pagebuilders, I recommend checking out Stackable or Qubely. You can see my post on Gutenberg block libraries.
I tried to install Stackable, Qubely and some other blocks to test it and and they added so many icons in Gutenberg editor upper bar, so I cant even see my publish button, when I start to edit some blocks 🙂 This would not happen in Elementor.
Anyway, I also like Generateblocks most (Kadence is pretty good too). The only thing I really hate is that the final page I designed looks very different from the page I see in the editor. You need to constantly preview the page, but there are more problems… Lets say I choose a dark background image and add a white headline to it. The headline is white when I preview the site, but in the editor it is dark grey, which means I cant almost see it, because the background image is also dark 🙂 Is this normal?
I also see a different font in headline (in editor and in preview).
Yes…because admin CSS is different (leaner) from frontend CSS. I actually see this as a feature but if you really really want what you want, you can enqueue frontend font in admin css.
It sounds to me you need to go back to Elementor. 😀
🙂 I tried to switch to another theme and now I see the same font color in editor and in preview. It seems Generateblocks have some problem with Astra and Neve themes.
I have been dying to learn oxygen for the longest time, can’t get enough time! It seems a bit complicated, and also Gijo mentioned it has a steeeeep learning curve, but I am definitely going to use it 😉
Gutenberg interface was designed by sadists. It’s one of the most user-unfriendly tools I’ve used.
While I find Gutenberg blocks exponentially more useful than pagebuilders, there’s absolutely validity to that statement. Let’s hope it improves rapidly enough for the newbies.
I’ve used Elementor for about 3 years after working with WordPress alone. I have tried Gutenberg multiple versions and while it is getting closer, it’s just not as user friendly as Elementor. If Gutenberg could get a Header and Footer builder set up like Elementor Theme Builder, it would be a huge step ahead. When asked about this on forums, they keep putting it off. Maybe someday Gutenberg will eliminate the need for add on page builders but not yet. I will say, with Gutenberg, you give up ease of use for faster loading speed.
There’s truth to what you say! I think Gutenberg developers are busy on developing UI from a different point of view…working on the granular aspect of things. But in terms of being able to edit header/footer and such, that will come native with the new FSE features in WordPress core. I think it’s some time away but for sure most devs I know right now love Gutenberg already even with its quirks. It takes time to build familiarity but it keeps improving rapidly to point where the friction goes away. Even brand new WP users have already had Gutenberg in core by default for nearly 2 years now?
Then go with Generatepress
Fully conform to your report. I am currently converting all of my pages to 100% Gutenberg themes. With 100% Gutenberg themes, no other page builders are programmed. It’s cool how the speed has changed. everything is kept simple, but everything is very clean. It is better to focus on high quality content.
For several years I used a Genesis theme and Beaver Builder, then ditched Genesis for the Beaver Themer, but now they are both ditched and it’s just Oxygen + Microthemer, with a touch of Gutenberg
Beaver builder has really gone downhill fast in the space of a couple of years and their support is so pitifully slow, I think they’re going the Nokia route
Hey Johnny, new way of getting lost. Cracked me up. Oxygen all the way for me. I found the sweet spot. It’s Louis’ mindset that makes Oxygen or anything he puts his mind to, become successful. He thinks ahead or the herd. His team are on the same page. The true believers will recognize this. Thanks for an amazing perspective.
Stop shilling for that trash builder. They’re forcing it through, they don’t listen to feedback. It’s the worst ui and ux design I’ve seen in my whole career. You need so much time to make a simple layout when in other page builders it takes 3 click in a intuitive way with a complete documentation to get there. With Gutenberg after every time of trying to give it a chance I end up being 2 seconds from braking my laptop and throwing in the trash.
Thanks god WordPress let people express their opinion freely, 2 stars review and keep getting worse. That’s what happens when you don’t listen the community for years and try to force it down the tryout of all (old and new) wp users.
And it’s such a game changer and so great that elementor is better in every single way.
I can’t stand people shilling for this. Say you like it and here’s why you should give it a chance no problem but being a good boy and going to the extend to say that this trash builder with 2 star rating will defeat all the solutions on the market is a complete joke.
Sorry for my anger but just reading Gutenberg blocks makes sick and reminds of the most frustrating « page builder » I used. Absolutely not user friendly.
Gutenberg works beautifully for my use cases. Easy to use, fits my workflow perfectly…as you can see, my website is built on it. But sure…stick with what works for you. Different tools for different folks.
sorry, I am such a newbie …I am looking for a couple good options to build a blog and/or website and monetize it trough affiliate marketing..I hear Guttenberg is better for blog building and a page builder like Elementor is better for a website. is that even true? what would you recommend as a theme and/or builder if I want to build both a blog and a simple website? I like what I see from Kadence and Blocksy. what would you recommend for someone starting out like me ? I see people building nice blogs with custom layouts and I want to do the same..which stack of tools would you recommend and what should I be learning? thank you!
Try Kadence or Blocksy. Join their Facebook groups and see what tools people are using. Use the premade layouts that come with the themes and customize from there. If you need more custom stuff, ask the groups and see what people recommend. You can join my FB group and ask in there as well.
Thank you for your great review. As a Enfold fan (yes sorry) I bought Oxygen and tested it a lot and become dissapointed of speed, performance and no responces of bug log support. Long story short last week I tried Kadance… and I love it :))