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Saturday, February 27, 2021
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Should Sloth Add a Pagebuilder?

Zip's new theme prompts him to install a pagebuilder. Should he?

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Zip has installed a theme and configured a child theme for Slothverse.com. He notices a message at the top of his admin area:

His theme is imploring him to install Elementor, which is a popular pagebuilder for WordPress. He decides to install it and, subsequently, another message appears recommending that he install another plugin: Gold Addons for Elementor.

These are both free pagebuilder plugins, but you can bet your bananas that they’re both going to offer pro versions. I’ve used the Divi builder and TagDiv composer (Newspaper theme) extensively. Both are paid plugins (or come with their respective themes) so I was a bit excited to try Elementor. Perhaps sometime I’ll write a review and compare, but that’s not the focus of this post.

But, for now, the free versions.

Should I use a pagebuilder?

Zip installed these pagebuilder plugins because they were “recommended.” But he did NOT have to do so. His theme would have worked without using a pagebuilder. Using a pagebuilder comes with some pros and cons. Note that the Gutenberg block editor is actually a pagebuilder, but it’s the WordPress default now, so we’re not considering that here.

Pros and Cons of Pagebuilders

Pros:

  • Drag and drop interface.
  • Easy for beginners.
  • Offers features that would be difficult to otherwise configure without coding skills. For example, post grids, sliders, etc.
  • Offers settings your theme may not for customizations for different devices (i.e. desktop, mobile.)

Cons

  • Pages built with a pagebuilder will often have at least somewhat slower loading times than those written with the default editor.
  • Proprietary. A page built, for instance, with the TagDiv composer isn’t going to work if you want to switch to Divi.
  • Pages are built with shortcodes. If you disable the pagebuilder, you’re left with a page full of shortcodes that you need to rebuild. Or, you’re stuck with that pagebuilder.

Because of the last “con” listed above. I’d recommend that Zip only use a pagebuilder on certain pages that he feels he absolutely MUST style with post grids and such. And I’d recommend that you write your posts with the regular WordPress block editor.

Some themes offer the ability to use templates to style posts. That’s OK if your theme applies a style to your post — if you then disable that theme, you’ll at least be left with your post intact and you can apply more styling in your new theme.

But suppose I wrote a post with the TagDiv composer. It might look something like this in the WordPress editor:

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That’s actually a page, not a post, but you get the idea. And that’s only part — there’s a lot more. If I no longer want the TagDiv composer, I’m left with this. I’d have to recreate the entire post or page.

Zip tries out the free Elementor plugin

Elementor, like most pagebuilders is drag-and-drop. Zip notes he has a new button that says Edit with Elementor now if he wants to edit a page with the pagebuilder. When he click it, he find that he has a left-sided bar that has some Elementor items:

But only the Basic ones are available to him. He’d have to pay and buy the Pro version to get any of the other ones. But wait! There’s an area beneath the pro blocks called General and at least some of these are available as well!

And if he scrolls down, there are a few elements available from the Gold addon:

Zip decides to use a few of theme to customize his homepage. He didn’t want the sidebar on his homepage and found that some new tempate settings existed now in his post editor’s right hand settings panel. He chose the fullwidth template, which omits the sidebar and then Edit with Elementor.

This post isn’t meant to be an Elementor tutorial, just to explore the benefits and drawbacks of pagebuilders. Zip find that he can customize his font sizes, colors, etc. if he wants. After adding some text and a post grid, his homepage looks like this:

Still pretty basic, but the pagebuilder makes it easier to configure items like category post grids and the like. Zip hasn’t chosen any fonts or theme colors now, we’ll come to that later.

Of course, now if he goes into his page editor, it looks like this:

You’ve lost the ability to add any Gutenberg blocks and now need to edit the page front the front end in the block editor.


Still indecisive about his theme choice, Zip switches to the child theme he made for the Hueman theme. Now he finds that Hueman is recommending something called “Nimble Page Builder.”

I point out to him that he can still use Elementor with the Hueman theme. However, he can’t use BOTH pagebuilders on his homepage.1 So we disable Elementor for a bit and install Nimble Builder.

This one runs right from the customizer. At first, we don’t find it very intuitive, but after using it a bit, we find we like it a great deal. In addition to plenty of blocks, the builder offers some easy-to-configure sections such as hero sections with buttons and text. And the post grids offer the same options as the Elementor free builder did.

Elementor, of course, is more widely used than Nimble builder but, Nimble appears to have more free features. For now, Zip decides to forgo the sparkly constellations of the Agama theme and go with Hueman and keep the Nimble builder but only use it sparingly to build a few pages.

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References and Footnotes
  1. Also note that when we had both pagebuilders installed we ended up with errors and we could not scroll down in Nimble builder.[]
Cheryl
Cherylhttps://www.caffeinejournal.com
Cheryl is a former Occupational Therapist and WordPress enthusiast who became a writer in some parallel universe and occasionally, but infrequently, publishes things in this one. She writes two blogs (or is it three) which she won't quit because she knows that blogs, in her case, are like a hydra and if she cuts one off two more will take its place. When she's not doing that, she enjoys hiking, cycling, kayaking (formerly fast, now ebike), messing around with Adobe illustrator, making assorted things, meditating (though she wouldn't call that "like," and reading. She normally doesn't speak about herself in the third person, but she sometimes uses "we" in the royal sense while writing this blog. She lives in Poulsbo, WA with her spouse, her youngest adult daughter, a very old mutt, and a Siamese cat.
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