WordPress Page Builders, Reviewed: Beaver Builder, Divi Builder, WPBakery Page Builder, Elementor
This article reviews the four biggest WordPress page builders: WPBakery Page Builder, Divi Builder, Beaver Builder, and Elementor.
This article reviews the four biggest WordPress page builder plugins: WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer), Divi Builder, Beaver Builder, and Elementor. The question is simple: What is the best WordPress page builder on the market today?
If you simply want to know the best page builder and nothing else, here it is:
Our Top Recommendation
Best WordPress Page BuilderReliability is everything in a page builder, and Beaver Builder is the most technically solid of the major options.
WordPress Page Builder Comparison Table
And if you’d like to see a comparison table of the reviewed builders, we happen to have one handy:
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|WPBakery Page Builder||3.2||4.6||1.5||1.3||2.4
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- User-Friendly? Is this WordPress page builder smart, thoughtful, logical, and consistent in its user interfaces?
- Feature-Rich? Is this WordPress page builder well-outfitted with an abundance of the right features (well-designed, useful, appropriate to a page builder)?
- Well-Built? Is this WordPress page builder built in a way that’s thoughtful, stable, and appropriate to WordPress as a system? (For example: is it easy to use in combination with other plugins? What happens if you turn it off?)
- Reliable? Is this WordPress page builder consistent and bug-free across sites, devices, browsers, and use cases?
- Overall: A composite score that is the average of all individual scores, with the weight of “Reliable?” doubled.
With those quick summaries under our belts, let’s get on with the full review!
- Introduction and About the Reviewer
- Executive Summary
- Divi Builder Review
- WPBakery Page Builder (Formerly Visual Composer) Review
- Beaver Builder Review
- Elementor Review
- Additional Thoughts
Introduction: Good WordPress Page Builders, Now a Thing
Before about three years ago, all WordPress page builder plugins were so bad that I refused to use them.
Before about three years ago, all WordPress page builder plugins were so bad that I refused to use them. I carried this bias for a while, but eventually I took a second look and found that WordPress page builders are getting good, and are now the correct choice—more than widgetized homepages, column shortcodes, page template custom fields, and other half-measures—for getting layouts into your WordPress content.
However, when I wrote that “WordPress page builders are getting good,” I specifically meant one page builder: Beaver Builder, the first builder that I ever found to be a help and not a burden. I’d worked with both the Divi Builder and the WPBakery Page Builder (previously called Visual Composer) through numerous clients who’d installed them on their own sites, and I found that both builders reliably made doing good work almost impossible.
So, how is it now? Are WordPress’s other largest, best-selling page builders improving in quality too? How is Beaver Builder doing today? What’s up with Elementor? Which one is the best WordPress page builder, and is even that one worth using? Let’s find out in our review and comparison of Beaver Builder, Elementor, Divi Builder, and WPBakery Page Builder.
Why You Can Trust Me on WordPress Page Builders
Before we get rolling, here’s a quick personal introduction, why you should trust me, and full disclosure.
Hi! I’m Fred Meyer. I’ve been writing about WordPress nearly every week for five years here on WPShout. I’m also co-founder of boutique web agency Press Up, where my day job is making WordPress websites for people, especially small businesses.
Getting an accurate picture of any paid-for digital product can be notoriously difficult, because reviews are often informed by whichever company pays out the biggest commissions. The four products we review here are reviewed on the basis of being the largest and best-known builders in WordPress. All four have affiliate programs, so links to each of those products, including those we do not recommend, are affiliate links. The content of this article has not been affected in any way by affiliate payout comparisons (as I write this, I have no idea which affiliate program pays out what), as the substance and thoroughness of the content itself should clearly demonstrate.
This WordPress page builder comparison review was not commissioned by or edited by any third party, and is the product of my experience as a professional WordPress developer who both works with and writes about WordPress every day.
Beaver Builder vs. Elementor vs. Divi Builder vs. WPBakery Page Builder: Which WordPress Page Builder is Best
Here’s the executive summary of each of our four reviews.
Beaver Builder Review Summary
Beaver Builder is the best WordPress page builder on the market. Of the four builders reviewed, it’s one of only two (Elementor being the second) that helps, rather than hinders, a WordPress developer’s work.
I enthusiastically recommend Beaver Builder, and I use it as an indispensable tool in my day-to-day development work. It continues to redefine upward what WordPress development can be, and I urge you to try it now:
Elementor Review Summary
Elementor is extremely ambitious and very high-quality overall. It’s arguably the most feature-rich of the four WordPress builder plugins, and only some UI issues and some bugginess at the edges keep it from being my choice for the best WordPress page builder.
I recommend Elementor for anyone who wants a lot of very high-quality layout elements and innovative features, and can tolerate a slightly less rock-solid builder than the sturdier but blander Beaver Builder:
Divi Builder Review Summary
Divi Builder has some flashy and downright cool UI innovations, but because its technical core is shaky it ultimately gets in the way rather than helping.
I don’t recommend Divi Builder, but I don’t think using it is necessarily an enormous mistake—you’ll get some very cool functionality, but you’ll lose a fair amount of control over how your final product comes out. If you do want to try it out, then:
WPBakery Page Builder Review Summary
WPBakery Page Builder is a burning train wreck of elaborately broken features, bafflingly careless UI decisions, and astonishingly fragile hacks. It makes simple tasks difficult; difficult tasks hellishly frustrating; and good, thoughtful WordPress development a literal impossibility. I beg you to stay as far away from it as possible, and hope that you’ll tell everyone you meet to do the same.
I’m serious, don’t do this, but:
Methodology: How We Reviewed the Builders
Rather than looking at the builders’ prices, page load speeds (which was recently done well), PHP version compatibility, and so on, we wanted to see what it’s like to try to do WordPress development with each builder.
In other words, this article asks: How are these page builders to actually use?
The Main Task: Copy a Real-Life Landing Page
To me, the best test of a WordPress page builder plugin is whether it can efficiently create real-life page layouts—especially for homepages and landing pages, the most layout-intensive parts of most WordPress sites.
For the main task of this review, I chose an existing homepage/landing page to copy: the relatively simple, center-of-the-road landing page of Tile, a startup for finding lost items that I’ve used and liked in the past. To be specific, I set to work copying the first half of that page, as that was more than enough to get a feel for each builder:
To look only at the capabilities of the page builder plugins themselves, and not at how they interact with the specifics of any particular theme, I did my landing page demos on a test site running a clean, default, no-customizations version of the WordPress starter theme Understrap, on a blank page using the theme’s “Empty” page template.
There’s nothing unusual going on on the Tile homepage, but there are lots of standard page builder-y layout elements: a full-width slider, boxed text content, a video embed, and so on. Building toward implementing this template is the general “project” that I put each page builder to work on.
Front-End Editors Only
We’re only using the front-end component of each builder, because it’s a massively better experience: WYSIWYG versus nothing of the sort. Having a good front-end editing experience is what being a “good WordPress page builder” means in 2018. (See our discussion of where Gutenberg would fit on this list for more on the topic.)
Plugin Versions Used
We based this review off the lates commercially available version of each plugin, which at publication was:
- Beaver Builder Standard 188.8.131.52
- Elementor 2.0.8, Elementor Pro 2.0.3
- Divi Builder 2.0.68
- WPBakery Page Builder 5.4.7
We’ll update this review as major changes come out, but one thing we’ve learned through the review itself is that most page builders’ overall quality is relatively steady over time, because both their core technical choices and their strategic, philosophical, and marketing foundations are relatively static.
So I’d say don’t worry too much about version changes in this review, unless you’re either aware of really earth-shattering changes to one or another builder, or are reading this after about October 2020 and I haven’t come back in and changed that date to a new one.
Gravity Forms Embed
I wanted to test how each page builder worked with a well-supported, well-coded third-party plugin. I used each builder to add a Gravity Forms form onto the landing page, either through the builder’s own methods or using a shortcode. The main question is how similar it looks to the no-page-builder default:
Restrict Content Pro
As an admirer of Pippin Williamson’s excellent 2016 survey of WordPress page builder plugins, I wanted to investigate two specific technical issues he brought up. The first is a shortcode that spans multiple page builder elements. The example I used is
[not_logged_in], a shortcode from Pippin’s own Restrict Content Pro.
The question is: can the page builder have standalone elements inside, and therefore separating, the
[/not_logged_in] shortcode tags? Builders often struggle with this if they themselves use shortcodes for layouts—which is a bit of a spoiler alert if you know how Divi Builder or WPBakery Page Builder mark up their post content.
Also following Pippin, I wanted to test whether each builder would incorporate a
the_content filter properly. I wrote a very simple plugin to filter the text “Problem String” to instead return “Filtered String” and tested whether the filter came through on each page builder.
Screen-Capture GIFs, Screen-Capture GIFs Everywhere
For this article, it felt important to be able to show, not tell, the various interface features and bugs I found in these page builders.
Four 90-minute YouTube “Builder Review” videos were feeling likely to be unwatchable, so I’ve broken out interesting moments for all four builders into screen-capture GIFs. You’ll see them throughout the four individual reviews when you visit those pages. I’ve set them to load once you either hover over them or click on them—which helps ensure that those pages aren’t forcing your device to load 50MB of data all at once.
If you can play this GIF, you should be good on the rest:
I’m hoping this approach will give you real visibility into exactly what I’m talking about when I praise or criticize an aspect of a builder.
Let’s get into the reviews!
Divi Builder Review: “Elegant” in Places, but Missing Fundamentals
Divi Builder is significantly better than I expected, but it’s still stunted by Elegant Themes’ usual focus on style over substance.
I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with client websites that use Divi, the theme that is the Divi Builder’s native home. I’ve also have a lot of bad experiences with everything ever created by Elegant Themes. I find, across the board, that its products look really shiny and attractive until you try to use them, like a brightly painted sports car shell that turns out to have no doors (you climb in through the window), no seats (you squat in place), and an electric engine that only runs on an extension cord.
Overall, Divi Builder is significantly better than I expected, but it’s still stunted by Elegant Themes’ usual laser focus on style and consumer perception over substance. If I squint, I can almost see using the Divi Builder myself, for some of its genuinely cool features—but then I look at the details, and it’s out of the question.
Let’s examine those details:
WPBakery Page Builder Review: This is All Wrong
I’ve worked with WPBakery Page Builder (previously called Visual Composer) on numerous client sites, and I’ve absolutely hated the experience every time. Coming into this review, I definitely had one eyebrow pre-arched.
I knew it was possible, though, that the underlying software is actually decent, but it’s been getting embedded in horribly coded themes by people who don’t want to pay a developer until they’ve already broken everything themselves—which is, after all, WPBakery’s target market. So I was curious to look at the page builder plugin itself in detail, alone and with fresh eyes.
WPBakery Page Builder is either badly designed or broken at almost every level imaginable.
Welp, I understand the problem now. WPBakery Page Builder is badly designed, broken, or both at almost every level imaginable. As you read the review below, please keep in mind that the details I pick out to criticize are more examples to convey an overall environment in which nothing works properly, rather than a concrete list of specific complaints about an overall-decent piece of software.
Beaver Builder Review: The Best WordPress Page Builder
Beaver Builder was the first WordPress page builder plugin I tried on purpose, rather than being forced into using it on a client project. My first use of it was in mid-2017, and I loved it. I wrote the experience up in a standalone Beaver Builder review, which I’ve since revised and expanded to cover the new features in Beaver Builder 2.x. (The main thing that’s changed is that the Beaver Builder interface is now much more seamless and intuitive than the 1.x versions were.)
As you’ll see, what hasn’t changed is that Beaver Builder, alone among the WordPress page builder plugins I’ve tried, works really well: you can use it for stuff, and the stuff gets done properly. It’s with that sense of general celebration that I’ll point you to our full review of Beaver Builder’s performance on our test.
Elementor Review: Extremely Ambitious, A Bit Buggy, Very Good Overall
Look closely at Elementor, and you’ll find an exceedingly ambitious and very high-quality page builder.
I’ve tried Elementor once or twice on past projects, and somehow it never “stuck.” It always felt just a little buggier than Beaver Builder, and I always felt a little out-of-place in the user interface.
As it turns out, those issues remain unchanged. But I’m really glad for the deep-dive I took into Elementor: past those immediate irritations lies a shockingly ambitious and overall excellent WordPress page builder. It may not be good enough (specifically, seamless enough UI-wise and bug-free enough) to take the “Best WordPress Page Builder” title away from Beaver Builder, but there’s a lot that only Elementor does that I really, really want now, and I’d happily recommend the plugin. Lots of details in our full review below.
Brief Explanation of the Results
This review confirmed that relatively little has changed in terms of quality among the three most prominent page builders in WordPress that I’d previously used extensively. Of the three, Beaver Builder is still the only one that I would ever use—and, in fact, do use, on almost every WordPress project I work on.
Beaver Builder’s and Elementor’s biggest advantage over Divi Builder and WPBakery Page Builder is simply that they don’t get in the way of the precise, accurate work that a developer needs to do.
Beaver Builder’s and Elementor’s biggest advantage over Divi Builder and WPBakery Page Builder is simply that they don’t get in the way of the precise, accurate work that a developer needs to do to get a site actually displaying and working properly. By default, a given page builder is just one more piece of bad third-party software in a WordPress developer’s way—but Beaver Builder and Elementor are actually an aid, not an impediment.
The other two plugins simply can’t say the same. Although Divi Builder has some real strengths (WPBakery Page Builder honestly doesn’t), both are still, fundamentally, in the way.
The various ways in which both Divi Builder and WPBakery Page Builder hamper a developer’s ability to work are the key reasons why I would never use either page builder myself. They include:
- Dumping huge amounts of hard-to-override CSS onto the page.
- Hiding real layout elements (margins, padding, max-width) in favor of abstract ideas like “Buffers” and “Stretch” that may appeal to nontechnical people but make working with precision impossible.
- Hardcoding important layout decisions into their modules, such as the number of columns in an image gallery.
- Generating serious bugs that take developer time to fix, such as introducing layout errors on the live site that disappear in the builder view, or causing pages to develop horizontal scroll bars.
- Making page content fragile, buggy, and forever tied to the page builder itself by wrapping it in dozens of nested shortcodes.
Both Divi Builder and WPBakery Page Builder are guilty of each of these problems. Beaver Builder, by contrast—and please understand this as the miracle it is, because page builders are hard to write—is guilty of none of them, and is instead actually an aid to a serious WordPress developer who needs a robust, powerful way to create layouts. Elementor is ever-so-slightly more fragile, but not enough to push it into “unusable” territory—and its powerful feature set is arguably worth the tradeoff.
Beaver Builder is an enthusiastic yes. Elementor is a cheerful sure! Divi Builder is a thoughtful, reflective no. WPBakery Page Builder is NOPE through a megaphone.
But that doesn’t mean that Divi Builder and WPBakery Page Builder are created equal. Divi Builder is quite good at what it’s good at: appealing to nontechnical people while sweeping technical messiness under the rug. WPBakery Page Builder is elaborately bad at everything, except, seemingly, at making sales. Beaver Builder is an enthusiastic yes: it’s the best page builder in WordPress. Elementor is a cheerful sure! Divi Builder is a thoughtful, reflective no. WPBakery Page Builder is NOPE through a megaphone.
What About Other Builders?
Most smaller WordPress page builders have all the problems we’ve identified in these builders, and many more.
There are a ton of WordPress page builder plugins out there, but speaking from experience: if you haven’t heard of them, they’re unlikely to be very good. WordPress page builders, like airplane manufacturers, tend to benefit from economies of scale, and from time to refine themselves in the marketplace. So just like it’s unlikely there’s a “garage Boeing” lying out there somewhere to discover, most smaller WordPress page builders have all the problems we’ve identified in these builders, and many more.
Having said that, I do want to point out two other builders that are worth examining and which I’d eventually like to work into this article:
- Site Origin Page Builder, which I’ve been encouraged a few times to review following the original publication of this article. It’s on my to-do list.
- Offsprout, which markets itself as “WordPress’s first drag-and-drop builder for design agencies and freelancers.” It’s run by Sam Brodie, a very passionate WordPress architect who I met at WordCamp US and whose vision and approach I really admire. Its Pro version just launched, and I’d like very much to check out and review it soon. In the meantime, I urge you to have a look—I’d love to hear your feedback on it, and I know Sam would too.
What About Gutenberg?
Wait, why are we still talking about WordPress page builder plugins? Isn’t Gutenberg—the official layout solution slowly making its way into WordPress core—just going to kill all builders off really soon?
In a word, no.
The just-launched Third Edition of our “learn WordPress development” course Up and Running contains around 10,000 words on exactly what Gutenberg is and isn’t, and what it means and doesn’t mean for WordPress. I encourage you to learn that material from the source, and I don’t want to try too hard to summarize a very complex and interesting topic here; but here’s, very briefly, what I’d like you to understand:
Gutenberg is nowhere near to being a layout builder in the same sense as any of the plugins we just reviewed.
Gutenberg is nowhere near to being a layout builder in the same sense as any of the plugins we just reviewed. It’s not that it has yet to match the best WordPress builder plugin out there: Gutenberg couldn’t even begin to put together the layouts we assembled using any of the reviewed plugins, even one as flawed as the WPBakery Page Builder.
How is Gutenberg right now as a layout builder? Well, Gutenberg has columns, sort of, but they’re utterly primitive and there’s no way to style them. Nor is there currently any notion of the “Rows” layout element that is extremely important and useful in every major layout builder plugin. Gutenberg is also not on the front end—and won’t be, in its official implementation—meaning you’re building your website’s pages in a
wp-admin environment that, at the end of the day, doesn’t look much like them.
So for layout-intensive tasks, Gutenberg is not a page builder competitor right now, and it won’t be in the near future—although it does certainly carry a lot of longer-term possibility for disrupting dynamics in the WordPress page builder space (and in WordPress as a whole). For more details, I urge you to read Up and Running: the Core version is just $67, and that’s an immense amount of WordPress wisdom, including Gutenberg wisdom, for the price of only six $11 cups of coffee.
tl;dr: Get Beaver Builder Now
If you’re in the market for a WordPress page builder, my top choice, and my clear vote for “Best WordPress Page Builder 2018,” is definitely Beaver Builder. If that’s all you take away from these 12,000 words and 50 GIFs, that’s enough.
Best WordPress Page BuilderReliability is everything in a page builder, and Beaver Builder is the most technically solid of the major options.
I can also happily recommend Elementor:
What experiences have you had with WordPress page builders? Let us know in the comments below!