Is A WordPress Page Builder Plugin Necessary?
There is a consensus among many WordPress users that a page builder plugin is an essential piece of the WordPress pie. In order to build a WordPress website, you must have a domain, website hosting, WordPress, a theme, and — a page builder. But is this true? No. It’s not.
Unfortunately, page builder plugins have been hammered into the brains of WordPress users through relentless advertising, evangelists, and supporters that have claimed they are a necessity.
Don’t get me wrong. WordPress page builders have served a need in the ecosystem for many years. However, their “need” is coming to an end. The introduction of full site editing and block themes within WordPress 6+ renders most page builders obsolete — when using the right theme.
Don’t worry. Page builders won’t go quietly into the night. They are too engrained within the psyche and workflows of too many WordPress users to simply disappear. And they shouldn’t disappear. The users that love their page builders should continue to keep using them. But I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss using WordPress blocks and a block-based theme without the use of a page builder.
A customer recently approached us, confused about switching themes and abandoning their beloved builder plugin. They wanted to simplify their WordPress page building experience. I proceeded to explain that we have a block-based version of the theme they were using — the Natural Theme.
However, they were struggling with the concept of no longer using their page builder. So, I proceeded to explain by providing the following response:
I’ll try to provide some clarification regarding page builders. If you’re using the latest version of WordPress (Version 6+), and a block theme like our previously suggested Natural Block theme, a page builder plugin is entirely unnecessary.
As of WordPress version 6, a new way of customizing a theme’s design and page layouts was introduced using the full-site editor in combination with a block-based theme. As a result, every aspect of a block-based theme can be customized directly in WordPress — without the need for a page builder plugin.
Unfortunately, there are not many block-based themes available yet in the ecosystem because this new approach to building WordPress themes is so different when compared to the way that themes have been constructed for the past 15+ years. Since the WordPress ecosystem is comprised of many third-party product developers (like ourselves), many companies that have aligned themselves with a builder plugin are reluctant to switch to this new way of constructing themes because it means changing their entire business model — and probably rebuilding all their products.
Since we never aligned ourselves with any builders other than our own, we have remained more flexible in this regard. As a result, all our focus is now being poured into block-based themes and the new WordPress editor.
In truth, the new way of building pages in the block editor is superior to using a builder plugin. Essentially, builder plugins rose to popularity over the past 8+ years because a solution for customizing every aspect of a theme did not exist within the WordPress platform itself. However, that has all changed with the recent versions of WordPress. Plus, it’s getting better with every new update.
Builder plugins should still technically “work” with block-based themes and the latest versions of WordPress. And some still offer unique functionality you can’t find using blocks — yet. However, most builder plugins are unnecessary. In my opinion, they just confuse the process of customizing a WordPress theme by introducing a different user experience. I think the best way to simplify the page building experience in WordPress is to stop using a page builder plugin, and start using the WordPress block editor in combination with a block-based theme.
I wanted to share my response because I believe this a common misunderstanding amongst so many WordPress users. Like most things in our world these days, there is an overwhelming amount of information and misinformation regarding this topic.
Gutenberg, the full-site editor, block-based themes — they are all relatively new introductions to WordPress. And honestly, the introduction of these new features and technologies has created a rocky transition for many users, developers, and product providers like ourselves. Change is hard. However, as somebody who has been intimately involved in designing and developing WordPress products for nearly 15 years, I approached this transition with an open mind. I’ve discovered the new solutions are great, and they keep getting better. So, it might be time to abandon that clunky old page builder, and try a block-based theme.