Will Page Builders Remain Competitive in the Block Era?

Screenshot of the Elementor page builder in use.
Screenshot courtesy of the Elementor plugin.

As Elementor, the most-used WordPress page builder, celebrated its first round of funding at $15 million, some of our readers questioned whether this was a sound investment. With movement in the Gutenberg plugin toward a full-site editing solution, which will eventually make its way into core WordPress, it is a valid concern. Will page builders remain competitive once WordPress begins taking over this role, likely sometime in 2021?

While Elementor has seemingly pulled far ahead of the competition with over 4 million installations, there is a much wider market of page-building solutions that end-users are installing. The free version of Beaver Builder has over 400,000 installs and Visual Composer has over 70,000. In the commercial space, Divi has over 600,000 customers and WP Bakery has seen 388,000 sales. These numbers don’t include the numerous other page-building plugins and custom solutions that developers build with libraries like Advanced Custom Fields and Meta Box. Some themes also offer some form of a page builder but typically not as robust as plugins.

All of this is to say that there is a huge market right now. Based on current trends, growth for page builders is accelerating rather than slowing down. My educated guess is that we are nowhere near the ceiling.

From the comments on our recent coverage of Elementor’s investment round, one of our readers named Anto had a few thoughts on the future. “I’m happy that WordPress is getting more external investment, but I find it hard to imagine how Elementor has a long-term future in WordPress with their thinking,” he said. “Sure, it has a place now, and will for at least a few more years, but as Gutenberg matures why would anyone want the added bloat? Once you abstract the window dressing, all page builders (including Gutenberg) are fairly similar. The remaining differences are a matter of workflow and taste because moving blocks/sections around isn’t unique.”

Yoni Luksenberg, CEO and co-founder of Elementor believes the future is bright. “We believe in democratizing the editor so different WordPress users and different personas will have their editor of choice,” he said in an interview. “This way, they can pick the editor that best fits their unique needs and preferences. This is the beauty of open source. There are endless ways to build a contact form: Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, Jetpack Forms. Similarly, there are endless ways to build and design a web page. The users should have the option to choose their preferred method.”

Anto believes the choice between contact forms is not comparable to the choice between editors or builders. Because the block editor is a part of the core platform, it would provide stiffer competition for a builder plugin. “Will people have different preferences that the ecosystem will fill?” he asked. “Of course, these will be the block plugins, style/feature plugins, and additional layers of complexity that will evolve as Gutenberg matures, but they will all be built on core WordPress (Gutenberg) because doing anything else is just duplicative bloat.”

It is not clear what users will do in a year or two down the road. However, there is a significant portion of end-users who are not currently satisfied with what WordPress is offering. WordPress fell behind the market and plugin developers filled the void with solutions to meet demand. It is now playing catch-up with these page builders. Even with all the resources being thrown toward the block system and eventual full-site editing, we are miles away from a baseline working solution beyond content editing.

“At some point of time Gutenberg is going to be at least as powerful as the free version of the Elementor plugin,” said Richard Ginn in the comments. “Gutenberg to me is getting more powerful at a faster rate than Elementor is.”

One thing page builders have going for them is their current user base. It is human nature to stick with tools that are familiar and comfortable. I do not imagine most page builders will lose large user numbers as long as they are offering the solutions that users want or need. Even if WordPress offers a more robust solution within the next couple of years, user trust will be with existing plugins, and that is a hard thing to win back once it has been lost.

With its recent funding round, Elementor is planning on growing its team and speeding up feature development. Other page builders will need to keep up and continue finding ways to remain competitive. Right now, page builder usage numbers are on the rise in the early block editor era. We could see a lot more innovation in this space in the next couple of years. Elementor’s investment round validates a maturing market that is a direct competitor to core’s block system.

This level of competition is healthy for the ecosystem. The rise of page builders will undoubtedly push Gutenberg and WordPress development to new heights. There is a multi-million dollar market for third-party builders that is hard to ignore. I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

This post is part of a new From the Comments series where we highlight interesting points of discussion from comments on WP Tavern articles. The hope is to give these comments, which can sometimes get lost, the attention they deserve.


46 responses to “Will Page Builders Remain Competitive in the Block Era?”

  1. I believe that Elementor will stay within the WordPress eco system for the next couple of years but with an exit strategy of going solo. With their latest round of investment, it seems like a logical move to start preparing for the inevitable baked in version of Gutenberg which cannot be removed (at least easily).

    The latest press release also mentions a cloud investment or research, which could see a platform built to power Elementor sites?

      • It will most likely detach from wordpress, and launch its own CMS, similar to Wix. Could be really awesome because Elementor is really great to work with and is a long way ahead of gberg (not saying they cant catch up thought)

        • We’re more an old school coder than a designer. Been using wordpress for client sites since 2006. I was not a fan of Gutenberg in fact despised wordpress for introducing it. It seemed harder for clients and there’s just too many conflicts appearing, especially when we updated older sites with a lot of plugins. Recently we decided to put it to the test and build a couple fresh large woocommerce sites with a clean Astra theme, using Gutenberg as the layout/editing tool, just adding in coblocks and ultimate addons, with just a modest amount of hand css as needed. After a couple days with it, I’ve become a huge fan! The performance overhead is very modest (unlike elementor and evil tools like divi) and it seems stable at last. Finally, I can see why they’ve done it. I love this blocks concept. The secret is to keep things lean, mean and not have too many third party blocks running.

          • I just look at Astra and felt my shoulders slump and lungs sighing. While the art changes (images, colors, typography, header spacing, etc), what I immediately see, beyond the “pretty,” is the same basic skeletal structure. Design uniqueness, unusualness, imagination, cleverness, suprise is being pushed to the bottom of the priorities stack whenever I find myself encountering this race toward more no-coding-needed site builders.

            Decades ago, I founded and ran a successful small PR agency. We bucked the thinking that big companies only contracted with metro market agencies by getting to the top of our game. That meant learning how surprise in design can cause viewers to feel excitement, smile, remember, talk about a product or service that is otherwise, well, ordinary. It’s not easy to accomplish. It’s not fast. And it wasn’t cheap.

            But the pay-off in sales interest and long-lasting chatter was so extraordinary that our work was valued sufficiently to attract the attention of decision-makers at large companies. We preferred, curiously enough, to work with small business owners and mapped a way for them to financen what they resisted as too expensive. It was, of course, only expensive up-front. The consistent behavior after launch made it quite affordable and profitable.

            And, it was fun!!!

            Page builders are providing the convenience of fast site building that people believe they want.

            For me, the operative phrase there is “believe they want.”

            We’ve become so focused on doing and getting ‘er done, that it seems most people have lost an interest in understanding how design surprise and imagination can attract visitors to sites, where they then stay for more great content that quenches their hunger.

            I have watched over the years as the same behavior has affected the logo development field and graphic design collateral pieces. I never dreamed that writing would experience the same. It has.

            It feels to me like we have become passionate about working long hours to create masses of mediocrity.

            I don’t want to use or write JS React driven blocks. I don’t want to use Page Builders. I don’t want to use WIX or SquareSpace. I greatly enjoy the difficulty of design surprise and coding themes from scratch, starting with Underscores.

            It’s like exercise that one pushes one’s self to do with struggle and pain but the fortitude of sticking with it gets me to a place where the results are, well, orgasmic. LOL. Seriously, though. The high from creation is fantastic.

            Wal Mart shopping — the place that delivers mediocrity — is not.

            Where do I go now? That is what is on my mind. I could do my thing inside WP. That door is closing and I feel it on my tail. I used to work a lot inside Drupal, before WP. I started my code days in vanilla editors. Drupal is cool in many ways; it’s also a royal PIA. So I sit here, wondering.

            But, more importantly than me, I also wonder if anyone out there in the web universe is also pausing to consider the world we are creating when the goal is speed, low-cost, easy, low-skill? There are unintended consequences to every decision; this I’ve seen over my lifetime repeatedly. We often do not look around the corner. Is anyone doing that?

            • There is a mega trend as a pattern, as in web design, fashion, cinema and whatever creative business: Some once very creative design starts to get trendy and is admired. It’s hard, and not easy to copy and bring in just the tweaks you need for your brand. Then some tool makes it faster and easier, with no skill, no coding, to make exactly what “all” wants. Some day all look the same, in a way. Things start over, and the creative ones are again in front.

              WordPress itself has never been a design tool. I think it will never be. It’s a content management system. The themes and builders, extensions are, more or less design tools, fixed design or something in between.

              Now, themes may be less relevant, and block patterns may be more relevant. It may, as theme frameworks and page builders always has, make it easier for the layman to create designs that before was advanced. It should no be seen as a threat. Before WordPress the layman had a hard time publishing content in a descent way at all, in whatever design.

              Some put all too much in the React driven nature of the block editor, or the similar javascript driven nature of page builders. I do a lot with both page builders and the block editor, making my own components (blocks) without touching javascript. You can still use PHP/HTML to create. It’s their behaviour in the editor hey belong that depend on scripting.

              I’, not a designer, but I have created so much content and structure focused things with tools like Block Lab (+HTML/PHP) that I know a designer, skilled in HTML/CSS can create just anything, as they can when making a theme template. Plus, it will be visually rendered in the editor. Reusable beyond a specific theme, if I want.

              Web design, with or without WordPress as backend, need professional designers more than ever. As it was 10 or 20 years before. And they need to be even better and and to adapt to current technology. And I do not mean React. But with some understanding of it, and and Javascript in general, make templates/blocks behave more interestingly when used in the corresponding editor, and may be on the front.

              The world tend to be more streamlined, effective in doing things hat have become trivial. Everything hat comes as part of a change may be seen as threat. The thing is to look beyond. That’s the duty of the professional.

              What is it that makes you feel you can not “do your thing inside WP” any more?

  2. Well I will say this… When it comes to WordPress page builder plugins we have over 20 plus of them big and small with one brand new one that has been released in the past two weeks.

    Maybe it might come down to the user interface as to the page builder you use even though they all have the same functionality down the road for the biggest page builders being used.

  3. Good overview of an interesting topic. As a community, I don’t know if we’re thinking about it right yet. I still like this explanation from before 5.0: https://profitpress.com/why-wordpress-needs-gutenberg-and-the-future-of-page-builders/

    Thinking of Gutenberg as a competitor to page builders is just the wrong way to think about it. Just as the WordPress ecosystem builds on the latest version of WordPress, they should continue doing it here: Gutenberg is just an updated core WordPress component. When have we ever saw building on an old version of WordPress make sense long-term? It’s just going to clash with more and more things because Gutenberg is much more than the editor.

    Imagine if after plugins entered core in WordPress 1.2 the other implementations of plugin-like behavior continued. And what if they justified it by saying “We believe in democratizing extending WordPress so different users and different personas will have their extension system of choice in addition to plugins.”

    That’d be ridiculous and cause bloat and fragmentation that slows WordPress growth. We want standardized approaches for a reason.

    The problem is that today we’re looking at Gutenberg as an editor rather than a framework to build editing experiences on. Nobody and I mean NOBODY will use Gutenberg alone to build amazing sites. They’ll use some combinations of non-core blocks and editing enhancement plugins to suit all preferences and even the most complex needs. There will eventually even be plugins that make Gutenberg feel entirely different…maybe even like Elementor/Beaver Builder/Divi, etc.

    That’s what the ecosystem will expand into: a world where “builder” teams can continue what they were doing on this new standardized framework instead of supporting and maintaining their own and dealing with all of the compatibility issues that come with it.

    The problem is some of these page builders are going to keep investing in these alternatives to the core framework (Gutenberg) and you know what? Things are going to be amazing for the next few years, business might be better than ever…

    But at certain point Gutenberg is going to be good enough and the ecosystem around it (the new builders) are going to be amazing and moving so fast because they can focus on what customers really want instead of maintaining some aging cumbersome framework. And the blocks/templates/layouts for Gutenberg are going to be more numerous than plugins and themes ever were because there are no artificial compatibility barriers of X builder not working with X theme not working with X plugin–Gutenberg in core is the standard so it works with everything.

    And when that happens, the whole non-Gutenberg builder system is going to collapse because the advantages of using a separate builder that requires the added bloat no longer outweighs the disadvantages.

    For example, why would people pay $X a year for something that has fewer options, makes their site slower and prevents them from using many of the cool new core features tied to the editor? Are web developers going to rebuild every site they take over into a 3rd party framework builder and make the site slower? What about the rest of the plugin ecosystem that’s compatible with WordPress core and not X 3rd party editor? It just doesn’t add up in the long run.

    It’ll be ~18-24 months or so until Gutenberg is at parity with builders, but it’s inevitable. And after that it’s just widening the gap. I get that it’s hard to imagine today, but this is a trend we’ve seen time and time again in technology, WordPress isn’t unique here.

    • Good summary. These page builders do provide me, as a developer, good work. Here’s an example. We’ve an offshore client where we maintain their complex ecommerce areas on 3 sites. But they recently hired a local ‘web designer’ friend to redo their home page only. This kid, with no real wordpress or coding background, just loaded in elementor pro to do it. They loved the design. Sadly, the site speed collapsed with full load time going from an already poor 7 seconds to 24 seconds. Adding in 12MB of imagery, videos and sliders didn’t help, but there was also an explosion of css and js files from elementor and the extra plugins he added. Some host tweaks, CDN, caching and image optimisation I got it down to 12 seconds.
      A discussion with my client resulted in me trashing elementor, loading a cleaner theme and we now have a 2-3 second page load time, on a similar look, by just using some css and simple gutenberg tools for the layout. And all done and fixed in a couple days.

      I shouldn’t complain here as this is how we get a lot of my work, fixing such nightmares – Amateurs building sites using these GUI tools with no concept of how websites actually work or the importance security, speed and google ranking. I will add that some of those third party gutenberg addon blocks I tested had similar issues, exploding site size and overhead. It’s not what they do, but how they are used by the untrained, that also makes a difference.

  4. In December 209 Mark Uraine wrote and article titled “Disrupting WordPress”. Before I say anything else, let me say that Mark is a WP insider, who has a big say which direction WP goes, and has a lot of weight and credibility in the things he says.

    If you read the whole article, he predicts that most possibly there will be major foundation shifts, and 2 of these shifts are that there WON’T BE ANY SHORTCODES, OR WIDGETS. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that ALL page builders that I know of, except Gutenberg, use either shortcodes (Divi, WP Bakery, etc…) or Wodgets (Elementor, SiteOrigin, etc…).

    You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that if the Core Dev. team pulls the plug on shortcodes and widgets, the only way for page builders to “stay” in business, is to scrap their page builders, and start making Gutenberg blocks. This will result in “software communism”, where instead of having to choose from dozens of page builders, we will have just one, Gutenberg. This shift is not going to happen today, or tomorrow, or even in the next few months, but likely in a few years, as Gutenberg today, even though it gets better with each update, it still sucks big time, compared to some of the more popular page builders.

    But these are their plans for now, only time will tell if they will have the stomach to pull the trigger on these plans, considering the controversy Gutenberg caused by just replacing TinyMCE as the default editor, without breaking TOO MANY THINGS, but these new plans will break thousands of plugins and themes, and probably put thousands of people out of work.

    • I am not so sure other page builders are going to go away. The user interface for Elementor or a DIVI could keep people around as Gutenberg winds up the same functionality for free of premium page builder plugins.

      • True. We work with web designers a lot who often use tools like Beaver, Bakery and Elementor. We add in their shopping carts, sort out hosting, email, security, speed and ranking problems they don’t understand and have no interest it. It’s the old form vs function thing. Left brain, right brain etc. Everyone is happy doing what they like best. A team effort. Works well.

        For many, I can see the appeal of elementor. Designers especially want a simple to use layout tool, doing one page at a time. In theory, it can mean they don’t even need people like me for css or php stuff. And us geeks aren’t always easy to understand. I get that. Designers and agency types only work in the visual space, prefer to still build pages one page at a time which elementor does well, as earlier designers did in tools like dreamweaver or frontpage years back and the same in Adobe software in print, years before.

        But geeky, tech-driven people like me, look at using this database-driven CMS technology that drives WordPress, quite differently. A CMS allows us to make pages more dynamic, more interactive, much more connected to other systems. We consider more how the website works, how fast it is, how well it ranks in Google, even if it makes money by examining the analytics and hosting data, not just the visuals.

        Elementor I think will like go the way of the Wix platform, pandering to those who only want a pretty branding website. Those agencies and designers used to elementor, will not consider WordPress blocks. Change and using new tools, is seen as a risk they won’t take. Sadly, most humans are like that… Scared of change…. The apple iphone, the notable exception to the rule.

        • A gentle suggestion: Don’t be locked into thinking that designers are left brain and developers are right brain. That limits your expectations of those you work with, as well as yourself, imo. I live in both worlds and love the challenge of creating unusual design that excites and that is built with lean, zippy, optimized code.

          My life interests began with writing, moved into journalism and have evolved over the decades into other areas..marketing, business, programming, even server management. A few years ago, I wondered why I could get happily lost for days inside a screen of growing lines of code. As chance would have it, I discovered a small book that discussed why writers made great programmers. I felt relief. Until that moment, I truly was puzzled by my love of the creative, the rigor of writing and the geeky world of programming, which was further complicated by being an aged female.

          It did teach me that there is an area of overlap between the two worlds. I live in that overlap. Not everyone does, of course. I’ve met them, also. It’s far more rewarding, I think, to interact with people as individuals, rather than assuming a group membership.

  5. It could be that page builders will eventually be closed out by WordPress, due to Gutenberg. They are safe for now, but I am sure most are looking (behind closed doors) towards an exit strategy. Possibilities…

    Page Builders, i.e. Elementor, could seek out being their own CMS platform. Another possibility is that they can start looking towards ClassicPress.

  6. I could see Elementor creating a cloud version and platform like Brizy Cloud. There is a huge market for this and doesn’t compete with Gutenberg.

    Page builders like Elementor and Beaver Builder are more than 2-3 years ahead of Gutenberg. Gutenberg may eventually have similar or even better functionality than page builders do now, but as Nelson Therrien commented on this article on Facebook, page builders aren’t going to stand still. They will continue to improve and add features also.

  7. A few years ago I said the proliferation of page builders was sort of a “callus” that built up from the “friction” of trying to build modern websites with the Visual Editor and (too many) shortcodes.

    Six or seven years ago I built my first “modern” site to a designer’s specification. I needed 2000+ lines of CSS plus countless carefully styled divs… that writers and editors were constantly accidentally back-spacing over. It took months to build. It wasn’t even a little bit of fun to maintain.

    A year or so ago I rebuilt the whole site in about a week with the Beaver Builder plugin. I was able to train the site owners in about half an hour, over the phone. There weren’t more than a few dozen lines of custom CSS. Everything else could be handled through the BB plugin and theme interfaces.

    I’d have built it in Gutenberg had it been available. Although even today I’d have still needed an awful lot of custom SASS for media queries.

    That’s because, at least for now, while Gutenberg blocks are actually pretty awesome the architecture still doesn’t “think” like a page builder. I think Themisle just posted about trying to rebuild their site with pure Gutenberg blocks (including “container” blocks from third parties.) You’d think if anyone could do it it would be a large theme factory. But they eventually dropped out and used Elementor instead. Because pages aren’t the same thing as parts of a page.

    Something else I’ve been saying to anyone who’d listen is that the page-builder vendors need to figure out how to use blocks instead of their own modules. Or maybe as well as their own. Sort of the way Beaver Builder lets you use old-school WordPress widgets as modules.

    Before Gutenberg was released I asked Robby McCullough about it he said it’s actually pretty hard to do since you evidently have to (had to?) spin up the whole Gutenberg stack, possibly for each block? And while I’m a strong Beaver Builder partisan maybe the folks at Elementor can figure that out with their $15 million dollar funding round.

    It still needs to happen though. Not because page builders are too entrenched, but because page builders are just better layout and production tools. They may eventually thin out and lose their purpose-built modules and focus exclusively on, say, theme-oriented layout. And if that happens that’ll be fine — as I said all the way up top, page builders were a callus that built up from the friction of WordPress waiting way, way too long to handle authoring for modern websites.

    Awesome, thought-provoking post. Thanks!

  8. The problem is anything that is a full page builder is by definition a terrible content editor/creator.

    Page builder are ideally WYSIWYG but ideally a content editor should be WYSIWYM (what you see is what you mean). Thetwo modalities are almost impossible to reconcile.

    Gutenberg should concentrate on just being a content editor that can be extended (via plugins) to be page builder and site editor when that functionaity is required.

    • The problem is anything that is a full page builder is by definition a terrible content editor/creator.

      How so? Please explain because I’ve found it works beautifully for writing content (even long form).

      It’s also decent at “page building” with allowances for how nascent it is (remember Gutenberg is barely only a year old as part of core). This too will be quite amazing in time—the pace of improvement is quite impressive, so its not hard to imagine where it’s going.

      • Well firstly Gutenberg is hardly a very good page builder (yet) but it is heading in that direction but it already contains blocks like columns and background images that have no meaning (ie purely presentational.

        I’m not any page builders but core Gutenberg should just be a content editor. If presentational blocks are needed then that should come from a plugin

  9. Gutenberg is 18 months to 2 years behind Elementor right now and is playing catch up, but the thing is that in this intervening time Elementor isn’t simply going to stand still. They have 100 people working on Elementor plus $15 million of fresh investment money to push forward even faster. Not to mention millions of users (and growing). So Elementor has a huge headstart on Gutenberg which should ensure that it stays relevant for much longer than 2 years.

    • they’ll burn through the cash on the way to irrelevance.

      Presentation is a commodity, I’m unclear why WordPress is so obsessed by it (there are plenty of much more important things that need to be tackled).

      But Gutenberg will likely become a standard and given its free no one will be bothered with elementor et al

  10. Great article Justin.. In your initial coverage of Elementor you said..

    Despite a couple of rumors floating around, the team has no plans to build a platform that is independent of core WordPress. The team’s work will be deeply entrenched into WordPress.

    Based from everything I can gather I would not be so sure. Here’s what I envision is going to happen:

    Elementor will launch a hosted platform, supported by Envato, that at some point will include a marketplace for vendors to sell their designs and extensions. The service will not brand itself as a WordPress-powered product. It will be a full-featured software-as-a-service platform for web creatives.

    Think about a tightly controlled, scalable, cloud platform that runs on a (modified) WordPress core. It would preserve all the best features of Elementor while removing the technical know-how typically required to manage a regular old WordPress site.

    Then, combine that with a marketplace full of pre-made designs made by Envato authors that can be purchased and applied with the click of a button.

    Now the reason why I think all of this will happen is based on what Envato is doing behind the scenes with their push for Elementor Kits to their authors and simply looking at the WordPress industry itself. I’ve written a pretty in-depth article about it here: https://getdollie.com/elementor-funding-saas-cloud-hosting/

    Personally I think Elementor will launch their SaaS service sooner than later, and they’ll keep improving their WordPress product simply to drive sales towards their own platform.

    • Why would anyone use them. If you want a good looking website you can get one at Wix.
      Your will look good and have a nice setup wizard. But it will be completely useless.
      Presentation is a commodity. Gutenberg solves a very low value problem but at least it is a standard that WordPress can use to improve more important areas.

  11. In this whole discussion of Solo-Elementor i find it very odd that the word ‘woocommerce’ hasn’t fallen yet. Mainly WooCommerce and it’s ecosystem is the main glue still between WordPress and Elementor. A Sass model could work, but with e-commerce… not easy i think.

    I can only tell these are bizar times to build ‘paid’ websites; wether not knowing if you really deliver durable work.
    Besides that: bumping on Elementor that it is bloated is just karma. As the Block Editor and the next Block Pagebuilder will struggle with the same issues. Not speaking of the Block Directory which only could add up more bloat on a faster pace.

    The new ‘Block’-way of building pages won’t be directly coming from core (or Gutenberg) i expect. That will always stay too basic for what the majority of the non-tech users really want to achieve. It’s just waiting on the next Elementor for Blocks.

    And in preparation for a talk on WordCamp Antwerp (BE) i’ve tested around 10 Block Pagebuilders. Only one really jumped out for me: Qubely. And from what i’ve seen: Qubely could be the next Elementor.

    Why? Besides the nice UX of settings; they did an amazing job of importing templates and sites. And it’s exactly that aspect that users want; and where Beaver Builder created their first fame.

  12. Justin, I like the series idea and I’ve always enjoyed your take on things. Bowe (long time eh?) has a valid point too. This whole thing has become big business just like we knew it would back in the day. Personally, I’m a big proponent of simplicity and I’ve been pitching removing third party page builders in lieu of the core Gutenberg editor. I would like to believe that open source will prevail. I’ve been pulling for web standards over proprietary silos. Although there has been evidence to the contrary in the last ten years, I believe that, as the rate of adoption reaches a critical mass, consumers will become more educated and in some cases miseducated. This is why everyone thinks they should build their own website now. There will always be a landscape of commercial WordPress and other website builder products simply because time is money and convenience sells. There will always be the few of us who want to control the whole stack end to end, but I foresee a server-less, code-less, database-less, drag-and-drop build an app/site future for the majority. Gutenberg will fill part of that gap for the time being. Page builders got out in front of WordPress, but Gutenberg will catch up quickly because it’s open source. The Disrupting WordPress article cited in a comment above also emphasizes this. Gutenberg is more extensible and will have the advantages of being consolidated into the core where it’ll more closely align with the API and guarantee installs. Plus… it’s free.

    I’ve now found myself adding Gutenberg to other frameworks which attest to its extensibility. Although a bit off topic… If we could push core into considering an effort to apply the same sorta ease of use in the presentation layer ( Gutenberg / Customizer ) to modifying the data structure, we’d be on to something. I don’t use third party libraries for custom fields or post types and I don’t want to cram the posts table with data that doesn’t really belong. I’m often torn between providing the familiarity and ease of use for end users and the power and structure of a more robust framework. This debate will happen again in a couple years when drag-and-drop data queries, fields, and relations become the norm.

  13. If it ever comes to a decision between going with Elementor on some solo platform/software or staying with WordPress because somehow Gutenburg is now required and in the way, then it’s an easy choice: Elementor wins that battle.

    Comparing Gutenburg to even the weakest of available page builders, it is years behind and basically useless. I just don’t understand how people can actually talk about it like it is in the same space.

    I have re-tried Gutenberg every major release, to see if it was better in any way than the classic editor and a good page builder. It has never come close. 7.6 is a lot better than any release before, but at the pace it is getting better it will remain behind tools like Elementor, Brizzy, and Beaver Builder.

    I’ve been using this software since the fork of b2/cafelog happened. I’ve always loved WordPress, still do. But I absolutely hate the editing experience of Gutenberg.

  14. Great article. As a front end visual designer, I have used Visual Composer WP bakery and all in between. Elementor gives complete control of elements on a page without CSS bloat. It is miles ahead of the rest and end result is great.
    Once you know how to use it well you can create any effect.
    3rd party plugins that piggyback on Elementor are the icing on the cake. Their ready pages help designers like me whip up a landing page in 30 minutes or so.

    When and if they go solo I would go to them for their SAAS. Unless WP gets UI UX designers and enters into the foray they will lag behind.

  15. I think some page-builders will remain competitive — especially if they are sold as part of a package and in a hosted space. WordPress.com could certainly choose to use Gutenberg to build a true Squarespace compete — but that doesn’t necessarily mean WordPress.com would “win” against a page builder based on WordPress, that already has market share/brand awareness. The interesting thing here is that the success of a hosted Elementor or similar page-builder platform isn’t necessarily tied to its connection to WordPress. If there is an ecosystem to support that page builder and the front-end is customized in a way that de-emphasizes WordPress, the people that pay for the service (whether they are consultants selling to clients or people who want to build a site from scratch), aren’t going to care that much about the WordPress association or branding. It’s similar with e-commerce sites. Companies that I talk to care less about the backend, whether it is Shopify or WooCommerce or Squarespace or whatever, rather than the overall experience of getting setup and the ongoing costs for running the store.

    That said, I don’t think every page builder will have the opportunity to compete — especially once the first-party support gets better.

    To me, the opportunity is almost completely in the SaaS space. If I made a page builder today, I would be looking at either an exit strategy (or a migration to Gutenberg if possible) or a pivot to a SaaS model immediately because keeping up with the changes/developments of Gutenberg when selling a plugin for self-hosted solutions is going to become increasingly difficult from both a development and a support standpoint.

    That said, some of these page builders are still much more advanced than what Gutenberg can do now and what its roadmap is for the future. The problem is, that advantage isn’t going to last forever without continued innovation/investment and without an ecosystem or add-one/extensions — and even then, you’re going up against a 500lb gorilla, even if that gorilla is slow-moving.

    For page builders who don’t have a thriving userbase and ecosystem (especially ecosystem), looking at how a business model can be built off of Gutenberg’s block model (whether it’s via a SaaS approach for the blocks or for the whole package) will be essential — because I don’t think the model of selling a page builder plugin or theme will be viable longterm.

  16. Page builders might go the way of the Dodo if Gutenberg keeps things up. Although I don’t see it happening very soon, I can see i happening nonetheless.

    Site builders on the other hand. That’s a whole different matter.
    Something like Oxygen Builder is way more powerfull than a simple page builder. I don’t see Gutenberg taking that function over for many many years to come. If it will at all.

  17. Page builders won’t go the way of the dodo, because Gutenberg is a page builder.

    None of the third party options are any good IMO. They all have severe problems. Gutenberg is the only one I’d actually use on my own site. You can make a mess of that too though if you don’t use it properly.

  18. Will WordPress remain relevant in the SaaS era? With the direction it’s going, and the direction that the SaaS site platforms are going, I’m not so sure.

    I’m now using the block editor for my site, but only the 3rd party premium blocks.

    I understand why the majority prefers page builders or even non-WordPress platforms like Webflow. The UI is EVERYTHING. It’s more important than speed/performance and maybe even more important than functionality.

    If the UI sucks, it doesn’t matter how great the features are. The majority of the people are not going to use it. Period. Only a small group of enthusiasts will use it.

    Even all the biggest WordPress gurus like Troy Dean, Chris Lema, and Adam Preiser use page builders for all their sites. Since they have premium hosting, the bloat from page builders doesn’t really matter.

    And the SaaS platforms like Webflow, SiteJet, Wix, and SquareSpace are getting increasingly popular.

    Why? Because of their UIs, which allow people to artistically design their websites on the front-end exactly as they see it; a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface (unlike Gutenberg).

    Gutenberg’s UI is just TERRIBLE. I really think the Gutenberg contributors should hold their horses before rushing in with the block-based themes nonsense.

    Do they really think that the majority of people are going to edit their whole websites in that clunky as hell, absurdly narrow document view which looks nothing like the front-end so you have to refresh every five seconds?

    I don’t think so. Only a small group of enthusiasts would do that.

    If Elementor goes solo and includes e-commerce and SEO tools, it may very well become the WordPress killer. If I were Ben Pines, I would go for it. And because it would be on its own, websites made with it would have much less bloat.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way. WordPress CAN have a very good UI and there’s a very simple solution to this problem…

    It’s the Customizer, Stupid!

    The customizer is the best part of WordPress. Its UI is way better than Gutenberg, and I really liked how there was a trend to move everything from the dashboard into the customizer so everything would be in one place.

    The customizer is also the perfect candidate for a native page builder, and there’s a theme/plugin company that already had the right idea for it.

    That company is Organic Themes. They made page-building widgets so the customizer acts as a native page builder. When you add a page, you’re taken to the customizer so you design your page with those widgets. And the customizer itself doesn’t change with extra code added like in Mesmerize and Colibri WP themes.

    THIS is the direction WordPress should’ve taken:

    The customizer could’ve become an open-source page builder, spawning a whole industry of widget companies all competing against each other with page-building widgets.

    This could’ve also served as the standardization of plugins; all plugins being made as widgets so you wouldn’t have to leave the customizer.

    The customizer/widget path would’ve been a much MUCH simpler way of upgrading WordPress, without needlessly over-complicating things, causing a huge disruption, and making a big mess.

    “Keep it simple.” “Beauty is in simplicity.”

    Anyway, Gutenberg blocks have already been created. So I think Gutenberg and the customizer should be merged. It would be really cool if we can add blocks in the customizer. It would make the customizer more inline.

    Maybe we can start off by having a block widget be created, so we can add that widget to any spot in the customizer and then click on that spot to open up the blocks menu. Just in the beginning phase. Later on, you should be able to easily add blocks anywhere in the customizer without a widget. Something to think about.

    So I think there should be a counter-proposal to the block-based themes proposal, because most people will not want to edit their whole sites in that narrow view and clunky interface. That narrow view is only good for writing articles, not designing pages.

    And throwing away the customizer would be a terrible mistake. It would be suicide for WordPress.

    So the customizer + blocks = open-source page builder with a great UI. This formula would keep WordPress standing strong in the SaaS era.

  19. If I ran Elementor I would be concerned about Gutenberg and their place in WordPress going forward. I knew from the moment I saw Gutenberg back when it was still in beta and widely hated by the community that Gutenberg would eventually start moving more and more into the direction of page builders.

    From a WordPress perspective I think it is best for the WordPress project for Gutenberg to develop into a full page builder. I think solutions like Elementor, which I have used a lot, are not necessarily good for WordPress in the long run. It’s a plugin that really takes over the CMS and redefines how you use it, if it continues to grow you could end up in a scenario where the plugin becomes greater than the platform. At that point the plugin can start to steer the ship.

    From the perspective of Elementor, I think at this point they have built so much and it is so feature complete that they should probably start examining building their own CMS and just controlling the experience from top to bottom. There would be no need for themes, as you can build the entire theme in Elementor. They could work on making the code cleaner. They could modernize and improve aspects of WordPress that are not really being pushed forward at the moment.

  20. With four million installations, Elementor can take a major step in going solo. The fact that most page builders are similar with features here and there different and it is also a good thing that gutenberg as a component or plug in is here to stay as a common feature of wordpress page builders.

  21. I can’t imagine a world where Beaver Builder and Elementor aren’t relevant. I’m not planning to switch to Gutenberg anytime soon, even though it’s getting better it just doesn’t fulfill all my needs. Plus companies like Beaver Builder are releasing tools like Beaver Themer which allows us to use Beaver Builder, Gutenberg and design like a developer thinking for the long term.


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