On Episode 115 of the WP-Tonic podcast, Jonathan Denwood, John Locke, Bridget Willard, Kim Shivler, and I–with some contributions from Jason Tucker in the chat room–address the contentious issue of visual builders for WordPress. Visual builders, also known as page builders, are plugins (and sometimes theme features) meant to make it easier to create custom layouts. In theory, great. In practice, often a complete mess. And despite the promise of easy awesome, many of them have a considerable learning curve.
Here’s a summary of some of our feelings about different page builder tools:
- Everyone hates WP Bakery’s Visual Composer, which is bundled into many, many Themeforest themes. (Jason called it “Visual Decomposer.) It’s not really that easy to use, can destroy your content quite easily, and leaves your site an ugly mess of shortcodes if you deactivate or uninstall it. John says a lot of agencies use it for producing sites on the cheap, and there are people who love it (just not on this show).
- Divi provides WP-Tonic with a lot of work fixing problems it’s caused, but it’s popular with a lot of DIY WordPress users, including Kim’s beginning students. Bridget emphasized the fact that page builders are a key element in accomplishing WordPress’ aim to democratize publishing.
- Of page-builders they’ve tried, panelists prefer Beaver Builder, because at least it saves the content you enter into it as HTML and doesn’t leave shortcode spaghetti behind.
So Tell Us What You Really Think
In case anyone had the slightest doubt, my attitude toward Visual Composer is “kill it with fire.” It’s likely to cost you a lot of time (and therefore money) to use and make many things harder than they would otherwise be–and that’s even if you don’t care about portability of your content. I haven’t worked with Divi and don’t expect to, but if you’re inclined that way, be sure that you get the Divi plugin and not just the theme, to help with that portability issue. You can read Pippin Williamson’s critical review of WordPress page builders (which we address in another episode) for some suggestions on the options that are (so far) least destructive, least likely to conflict with other plugins, and easy to use.