My honest review of this incredible website/theme builder software for WordPress.
I did appreciate how professional, smooth, and powerful it is. I can see why some people would like it. But it’s not for me.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t even know how to use it. So take my review with a grain of salt. Maybe had I spent just 10 more minutes, it would have made all the difference.
#1 – Some learning curve
- Overwhelming interface.
- Lots of ambiguous buttons and icons.
- Will take you some time to learn.
- While it may be better and clearer than a typical pagebuilder…it doesn’t appear easier.
- Hard to import existing theme designs.
- Also hard to start new theme designs.
I couldn’t even get started. Everything I clicked on was wrong or unhelpful. Instead of feeling like a box of toys, it felt like a field of mines…just wrong clicks everywhere.
When you try to start “new”, it offers you mostly options for single HTML page layouts (but with attached CSS styling). For this to be a serious WordPress theme-builder, all new projects should default as “New theme” or at least have that in the listed options.
I couldn’t find basic tools for drawing boxes and color and what not. I’m accustomed to the logic of building things in sections. Again…I didn’t even study the documentation, I just jumped right in and got lost almost immediately.
I wouldn’t say this tool is too hard to use or hard to learn. It’s more that there’s a big enough learning curve that makes it too unwieldy for average users.
#2 – Can’t see live content
- You can’t see how design looks with your existing content.
This was a big stickler for me. All the design work is done on your local computer and not connected to your website. So you can’t see how it looks with your content.
Sure, you can copy over some text and images to make it “realistic”, and there’s also a nice PREVIEW function that lets you see the page in your browser. But it’s not the same.
Due to this issue, I just don’t see it working well for many users. I think most people trying to do custom designs are people who already have existing sites and now looking for more flexibility. If you have an existing site and want to be able to build a new design and actually see your content taking on the new design…this tool doesn’t really allow that.
#3 – Lacking WordPress-logic
- Doesn’t automatically spin up a “WordPress theme” for you.
- There’s a process.
- Also, many WordPress design logic isn’t obvious.
Think about how most users see a WordPress template. We see it as HEADER, NAVIGATION, BODY, SIDEBAR, FOOTER. And then throughout those places, there will be widget positions. And then we also have to talk about page templates. It should have FRONT PAGE, ARCHIVE, SINGLE, SHOP, etc.
I didn’t see page templating broken down or described in that manner inside Pinegrow. It looked more like an empty graphic design canvas where you just draw your site without any WordPress-layout or hierarchy in mind.
It also doesn’t look like a native WordPress theme builder. It reminds me of a typical website builder program (like Dreamweaver), and then hacked to add WordPress compatibility.
Pinegrow is still a great design tool
There are things I like about Pinegrow:
- Professional – looks well built. Very fast and smooth, tons of features and options for professional designers and developers. It certainly looks like fun once you get the hang of it.
- Working offline – this is a PRO and a CON. The con is it doesn’t connect to your website. The pro is it doesn’t need to connect to your website. You can design a WordPress site completely offline with no internet connection. Like on a plane to Hawaii.
- Build fast sites – sites built with Pinegrow will be very lean and fast. (Even leaner if you go without Bootstrap.)
- Pinegrow users are happy – I notice Pinegrow has pretty satisfied users. Even the ones that wished it did more things are still happy with it.
Should you use Pinegrow?
Pinegrow is a full-featured WYSIWYG website builder. I think it’s great for a professional designer creating multiple themes regularly. It’s a really slick interface, very smooth and fast. Feature packed and can build for any site, not only WordPress.
But if you’re trying to build a custom WordPress design for a particular site, you might want a tool that’s more integrated and runs off of WordPress just so you can see your content while you design. Also, if you’re not a professional and don’t build custom designs often, I think there are much easier tools out there. You can try Gutenberg block libraries or even Oxygen Builder. Those feel more native to WordPress and help you understand WordPress design in a more intuitive way.