Website builders and block editors are consolidated within WP community. And even for devs, losing time with layouts is useless when you cancache just build templates in minutes.
So, if using them is key, how can devs choose the best option? Well, excluding the UI characteristics, we should always look for three aspects:
- Possibilities of extending features
- Interference with the rest of the code
By all means, if any builder may harm or crash your code, interfering with other plugins and making the WP core more exposed to fatal errors or even hacking, it should be put away. Finally, if a developer needs to choose a builder, he should be definitely looking for those with good docs and wider possibilities of creating extensions.
Best builders for devs
Some good options appear as good choices for devs, which includes the WP block editor, aka Gutenberg. Other good choices include Elementor, Beaver Builder and Thrive Architect.
Block Editor (Gutenberg)
Possibilities here seem to be endless. Although WP developers are yet to provide a comprehensive documentation on that, there is basically nothing you can’t do while extending the block editor.
The sole problem about dealing with Gutenberg’s extensions might be the way you need to proceed. The block editor relies almost entirely in a JS logic, and for those more used to build extensions exclusively in PHP, this might be an obstacle.
enqueue_block_editor_assets. Also, building extensions for the block editor requires a good knowledge of NPM and Webpack functioning while building the new blocks.
This one is definitely our favourite. It gets a straightforward OOP logic and a comprehensive documentation, with examples and boilerplates which make extending the main features something easy and hassle-free.
The free version is available on Github and considering all features from the PRO version, the only missing thing on the free edition that could be pretty handy for devs is the forms module. However, if developers opt for paying a few bucks for getting Elementor PRO they can also extend the forms module easily.
This is a relatively new one, but rapidly growing in popularity. Beaver Builder has almost the same possibilities of Elementor in terms of extendability, and even the docs are quite similar. Hooks, examples, short boilerplates – so extending the main features is never a problem.
If something puts Elementor ahead, that would be the coding logic. Elementor’s OOP design is much simpler than Beaver’s, although this latter also has a modern coding approach. Considering new versions to come and how Beaver Builder’s developers have been updating the platform, we can definitely expect some improvements though.
Another good choice, although its docs rely more in actions and filters than proper code structures. Thrive can be definitely extended in a lot of ways, but that forces the devs to gather the best ways to do that.
Again, this is also a relatively new plugin, so next versions may come with a more sophisticated documentation, targeting the community.
Worst (or not best) builders for devs
Sometimes builders are made for designers or even users only. They look good and neat for anyone who can’t see through the code and performance. In 2021, good scripts and platforms have open source versions which rely on the community for creating new features and possibilites. Having that said, if you are still in the software-in-a-box industry, forget about having devs using your product.
The plugin is heavy and widely rely on JS for both the visual editor or rendering pages and templates. JS dependency management uses dated technology and logic, and lacks a good structure.
The PHP side is also a bit confused. One gets the impression that new code is just put over the older versions, as it comes. Documentation basically focus on users rather than devs and no open source or free version is available, which turns things even more challenging.
Site Origin Page Builder
Although Site Origin’s docs and coding structure is not all bad, and an open source version is available for devs, the builder itself looks a bit outdated when compared to the competition.
Most of the documentation involves hooks that can be used to modify and filter the builder’s behaviour and a few recipes can help developing extensions. The platform, however, lacks some modern approaches and features that have been already consolidated by Elementor, WP Bakery and others.
Divi is an interesting builder, but is almost completely React-based, and many WP developers are not totally comfortable with that. Also, documentation for devs is vague and not intended to allow any extreme change or customization. In other words, if you just want to create new modules and elements to render (and can deal with JSX coding) you’ll be safe. Otherwise, you’d better use just the visual editor and nothing else.
And yes, there are some other builders worth looking at, like Oxygen or King Composer. We couldn’t investigate deeply those two in particular, but while the first seems to be in a very early stage (although looks really great), the latter lacks updating and never developed a large community at all.