“No coding!” “Drag and Drop!” “Design your WordPress pages exactly how you want them!”

For several years, page builder themes have been touted as the best thing since sliced bread for those who want elegant page layouts on their WordPress sites, with no coding.

As the WordPress block editor becomes more sophisticated, I find myself questioning that wisdom.

What is a WordPress Theme?

WordPress is the software that you install on your hosting server. It tells the server what content to display in a viewer’s browser.

Your WordPress theme tells the server how to display that content. That includes things like:

  • Headings
  • Text
  • Images
  • Audio files
  • Video files
  • More. . .

Essentially, the theme controls how all your content is displayed on every single page and post of your WordPress website.

Is there a sidebar or footer? That’s controlled by the theme.

Do your featured images take up the full width of the screen or just part of it? That’s also controlled by the theme.

So is the font you use, the colors for links, backgrounds, buttons, and accents. . . The way anything your visitor sees on the screen is up to your theme.

What Is a Page Builder?

A page builder is a type of theme. Divi, which I’m actually using here at WPBuildingBlocks.com, or Elementor, or Beaver Builder, are examples of page builders.

Unlike most other themes, page builders provide extra tools to help you design pages that are highly customized. You don’t need to know any code to use them, so they’re marketed primarily to site owners, not developers.

This isn’t something you’re likely to use on every single blog post, but for your front page, landing pages, sales pages, and even some articles, you may want to have tighter control than a regular theme’s tools provide.

Page builders have been an excellent option for non-developers (you know, people like you and me) for handling those pages where you want something other than the standard layout provided by your theme.

While page builders are easy to use, in the sense that you can achieve amazing results without being an IT specialist or knowing any code, building a page using the Divi builder is time consuming.

Is a Page Builder Still a Good Option?

should I use the Divi page builder or the default block editor?

I’m starting to rethink my opinions of page builders.

That’s because the newish Gutenberg block editor can do so much more than the old Classic Editor.

Recently I wrote about the Navigation Pro theme from StudioPress. I was most impressed with the front page.

demo homepage for Navigation Pro theme, built with the block editor (not a page builder!)

In the past, StudioPress has given users tools to build extremely versatile front pages using widgets. (I’ve written about it here, and here.)

It’s a great way to build a homepage that’s as individual as you are.

You can also accomplish that, using a page builder theme like Divi.

But what happens if you want to change your site’s theme?

That’s where it gets interesting. As in, a lot of work.

For demonstration purposes, I duplicated the homepage from this site onto a test site with Divi as the active theme. Here’s what viewers would see there.

As you can see, it’s not exactly what you see when you go to the actual homepage, because the menus, and some of the fonts and other elements are different, but it’s pretty similar.

Now let’s see what happens when we switch from the Divi theme to TwentyTwenty, the theme that currently comes preinstalled with every new WordPress install.

What a mess! Instead of seeing the big hero image at the top, for example, you just see a bunch of code.

It’s pretty much the same with the entire page.

If you built your site with Divi and decided to change to another theme, you pretty much have to manually rebuild every page that you previously built with Divi.

However, if you’ve built your page with the block editor, switching themes is a breeze, and requires minimal extra work.

Take a look at the front page for the Navigation Pro theme, with its sample content and the Cuisine starter pack.

Now look at how it translates into the TwentyTwenty theme, with no modifications.

If this were an actual theme change, we’d need to change a few things, like colors, but it still maintains its visual appeal and basic layout — unlike when we switched themes using the homepage built with Divi.

So, Should YOU Use a Page Builder Theme?

It totally depends. Just keep in mind that, the more you customize your pages and posts using a theme builder, the more you’ll need to rebuild if you decide later to switch to a different theme.


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