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WordPress PageBuilders Become SiteBuilders

WordPress PageBuilders Become SiteBuilders

It started with Beaver Builder creating its add-on Beaver Themer last year. What Beaver Themer does is allow developers and users to takeover creating the header and footer area of any page, post or custom post. Here is how Beaver Builder spotlights its theme building add-on:

Beaver Themer  works with Beaver Theme plus a small list of added themes [currently Astra,  Genesis, Generate Press,  StoreFront from WooCommerce, Page Builder Framework, Monument Valley,Icelander, Reykjavik by Webmandesign, Hestia, OceanWP (V. 1.2.5)] and costs $147US/year for  use with unlimited  websites.  The free Beaver Builder Lite plugin does not work with Beaver Themer.
Here is a screenshot of Beaver Themer in action – it is free to tryout:

But the key point is that Beaver Themer allows control of both headers and footers on a wide selection of pages including 404 and Help. This is important because Divi  Builder was first with Header editing for users/developers.

Divi Header UI Kit

Divi was actually the first of the popular PageBuilders to offer a Header creation tool. Now this occurred before the Sept 2016 intro of Divi 3.0 which launched the frontend oriented Divi Builder. As seen in this promo screencast use of  the Divi Header UI Kit is straight forward:

The good news about the Divi Header Kit is that it is free. The bad news is that it only applies to creating and customizing headers not footers or special pages like 404. Divi users would have to wait until Divi 3 launched in September 2016 to get a special Divi Builder component named the Full Width Header. Actually this is a misnomer because the Full Width Header can be placed anywhere on a page or post. Thus it can be used to create a uniquely customized header and then a unique footer design when used with a MultiLayout theme like Astra or Total where the default theme header and/or footer can be turned off on any particular page or post. So Divi moves solidly into the SiteBuilder camp.

Visual Composer Joins the SiteBuilders

Visual Composer has been threatening to add its header/footer capabilities during the latter half of 2017. This early March 2018, the promo video arrived:|

Use the Header, Footer and Sidebar Editors to create a unique look for a landing page or special events page. Or create a reusable template so you can use the same design many time when creating new pages and posts. The price for Visual Composer with the new Editor is $59US/website [$149US for 3 websites] with unlimited updates – a rise from WPBakery version of $45US/website.

Elementor Reveals its SiteBuilder Intentions

March 2018 has been a busy month for the top Pagebuilders as Elementor has announced its SiteBuilding capabilities.

This will be a interesting because it has yet to be previewed but the roadmap promises some key features:

  • The ability to create single posts and archive pages along with search results and 404 pages
  • Powerful design control for WooCommerce shops, product pages and other eCommerce pages
  • Extensive developer support, offering new possibilities for plugin and theme developers who extend Elementor
  • Control of popups both for look and feel
  • A brand-new process igniting dynamic content creation that will blow your mind, including an extensive integration of Advanced Custom Fields & Toolset

Again the details on pricing, what themes the Elementor 2.0 will work with and any special software requirements  have yet to be spelled out.  But given the rapid ascent of Elementor in features, performance speed, ratings and installed users – one should pay attention to what Elementor will be delivering.

PRO Absorbs Cornerstone

Cornerstone is a strong PageBuilder that comes with the X-Theme [along with a flood of other great plugin tools]. What Themeco, the makers of X-Theme have done is adopted Cornerstone as it Frontend IDE for its new PRO theme. Now there is info and a promo video about PRO here. What Themeco has done is updated the X-Theme with a Header and Footer Builder, better off-canvas slide-ins and modal pop-ups, central Font and Color  Managers, and modular reuse like Elementors sections or VC’s templates.

What makes PRO interesting is that it is built in the Ember javaScript framework which improves both creation and runtime performance. The second promise is a Roadmap of future enhancements which Themeco is still being coy about – somewhat like Elementor. But remember with Pro you are a fixed combo – an enhanced Cornerstone welded into an equally enhanced X-Theme become PRO.

Summary

Clearly, 5 of the top PageBuilders are busy  transforming themselves into do-it-all SiteBuilders. This is of course the nature of intensive feature competition among the vendors. But also they are adopting the Gutenberg mission probably 2 years ahead of when Gutenberg will get there. This is important because Gutenberg  will become the new default  core Visual Editor for WordPress in the upcoming WP 5.0 update. And Gutenberg is built, like Calypso and the WP CLI almost all in React.js JavaScript. So to make sure they survive and prosper, the new SiteBuilders will want to have created substantial market share  before the full-fledged Gutenberg arrives on the scene.

But there is a second reason. GutenBlocks and its associated React.js coding will take many of the PageBuilders-becoming-Sitebuilders out of their native coding contexts. If the new SiteBuilders establish significant market share positions, then maybe Automattic will be compelled to make GutenBlocks more open to other JavaScript frameworks like Angular, Ember, Meteor and Vue.

What is really interesting is  two other phenomena. First,  SiteBuilders will become the new Theme Engines for WordPress. This means instead of having to search through hundreds or even thousands of themes, WordPress developers will have the choice of 5 maybe 10 highly customizable Theme Engines which can deliver all of their SiteBuilding needs. This will  then prompt a shrinking of the number of themes being offered in the WordPress market to  a few hundred instead of the current 10,000.

The second notable phenomenon is that none of the  top 5 SiteBuilders-to-be provide truly interactive design like say Wix or Xara Web Designer. The SiteBuilders still do not support layering which then simplifies drag and drop placement of titles or content blocks. Likewise Xara Web Designer supports drag and drop upsizing or downsizing of images or resizing/positioning  container blocks. Slider Revolution and Smart Slider 3 with their multiple layers allow users to design by drag and drop resizing, deliberate overlap/transparency of layers, animating and/or  positioning of UI objects. So I am using Sliders not PageBuilders to design full screen landing pages or special event welcome pages.  This is the next frontier of SiteBuilders – so watch for these features in the SiteBuilders roadmaps.

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