In April, we have been looking at the hosting competitors like Squarespace and Wix and more specialized eCommerce solutions like Shopify and Bigcommerce.com. In this episode, we will look at some of the newest innovations in WordPress page building plugins and template tools.
Until recently, there were some very complicated WordPress themes, mostly from ThemeForest, but this is not exclusively a Theme Forest problem only. I have had similar problems with other popular WordPress theme shops that had a lot of functionality but mixes data with design in ways that make it difficult for you to move to another WordPress theme easily.
These type of themes tend to use a lot of WordPress shortcodes. Justifiably, this was criticized by the WordPress development community; however, in some ways I personally thought that this criticism was slightly over the top. The criticism is somewhat irrelevant considering most sites are left for a number of years and then when they start to look outdated are totally replaced.
However, there were other reasons to be critical of these types of themes because they tend to be slow and quite difficult to modify, even by experienced WordPress professionals, outside the boundaries of customization screens that the theme developer provides.
Nevertheless, these types of themes are extremely popular because there is a strong demand for more powerful customization functionality than what WordPress normally gives to the power user. I personally feel this is one of the major reasons why commercial hosted website solutions like Squarespace have become so popular recently.
However, the WordPress commercial plugin and theme development community have recently developed a new range of themes and plugins that should help the general power user be more satisfied with what WordPress offers. So let’s go forward and start looking at the leaders in both.
This week and next we are going to look at four of the leading page building WordPress plugins and one theme-based solution in detail and also talk about a number of other plugin solutions. I’m not going to be looking at them in any particular order of quality or price; however, at the end of post I will give you what I think are a couple of winners from the group.
1 – Beaver-Builder
Beaver Builder is a quite new page building plugin, which has quickly acquired a large user base and caused some general excitement in the WordPress media community.
After looking at the training and promotional videos on the Beaver Builder website, buying the product and trying it out myself–I can say that it’s a very powerful and impressive plugin. At its stated price of $99 for unlimited websites, with all the key functionality of the product–it’s very good value. I also found it to be a pretty easy tool to use with good support documentation.
Overall, I think it’s a strong solution that can be used by both a professional developer to build a professional website more quickly and also the normal type website owner to maintain their WordPress website on daily basis.
2 – Conductor
This is quite an amazing plugin! However, it approaches building WordPress pages in a different way. It really tries to do things in the WordPress way and because of this it’s even more powerful than most of the competition.
It has a large feature set that’s even more powerful then Beaver Builder. The reason why I say this is that Conductor allows you to customize how WordPress loops are shown and displayed using a visual editor.
Also, on the slightly higher Conductor pricing packages you get access to a number of micro plugins. One of these allows you to use Conductor with the very popular StudioPress Genesis framework and get very similar visual results.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with Conductor and like Beaver-Build it comes with great online documentation and supporting training videos. Also, when you download the plugin it comes with some nice PDF support documentation.
3 – VelocityPage
I’ve not personally used this solution; however, I had a good look at the reviews and also the demo videos and documentation on the VelocityPage website. Pippin Williamson, founder of Easy Digital Downloads, gives the plugin a 5-star review.
In some ways it is quite different than the other two plugins which we have looked so far. You can easily edit pages on the front side of your website and see the results almost straightaway. While a very good plugin, it is not as powerful in coding terms as Conductor nor does it give the library of pre-designed templates like Beaver-Builder.
In addition, it is the most expensive if you want to use the plugin on more than one website. The multi-development license will cost you $247.00. Compare this with Beaver-Builder where you can buy a limited functionality multi-website license for $99.00. Conductor recently gave users more options with a starting price for one website of $49.00.
I’ve used this plugin and liked it; however, it is not as powerful or as slick as the previous three. However, it has one powerful ace in the hole compared to the other three plugins—it’s totally free! It’s slightly old-fashioned in feel and usage compared to the other three but totally usable and works quite well.
For a free plugin the documentation is very good. The developer funds update and development by charging for quality support and also any customization custom work that the user might want.
Although its integration into the backend of WordPress is less sophisticated compared to the other three—it’s still a great plugin. Also, its usability is not as good. However, you always have to keep in mind we are still dealing with a powerful plugin that offers fantastic value.
5 – Make and Make Plus
Lastly, we are going to be looking at a theme-based solution. Chris Lema has been talking a lot about this particular solution.
I can see why it is a powerful and flexible solution. Compared to the best plugin solutions I personally don’t like theme solutions. Still it is a great solution because like SiteOrgin it is totally free and unlike SiteOrgin it has a very modern interface and is really easily to use. Chris did point out that there was no system to reuse designed layouts. On the other hand, the designs that this system makes are very attractive.
Here’s a list of other page-making popular page making plugins and themes.
Visual Composer: This is a very popular plugin however it now showing its age.
Layouts: This is a very interesting solution.
As you can see from this review there is a range of page building solutions on the market at the present moment. It’s a very similar situation to what we saw with WordPress membership plugins. You are really spoiled for choice. However, I feel there are some clear winners. Here’s the three that I would be happy to use and recommend.
3 – Page Builder by SiteOrigin excellent value!
2 – Beaver-Builder if you are looking at a powerful layout builder–this is a great solution.
1 – Conductor I just think this is such a powerful.