As you could read in my recent Divi review, I originally wanted to use Divi, but ended up not doing so for various reasons.
I also looked into Make Plus, a WordPress page builder theme by The Theme Foundry. I wasn’t impressed with Make Plus at all, so this ain’t gonna be no Make Plus theme review, and I doubt I’ll ever write one.
I’ve worked with Visual Composer before… Frankly, to me Visual Composer is a typical, popular ThemeForest product: impressive features, bloated code. Just like the Avada theme et al.
What I’m always looking for when testing WordPress themes is one that truly is “piece-of-cake” to work with. Not just for me, but for anyone, even technically challenged clients, “befuddled” old-timers and such 🙂
With all that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Beaver Builder.
Even though Beaver Builder is responsible for a large part of how your website will look, it is a WordPress plugin. And as such, you also need a theme, as the foundation of your website design and page building.
Note: there’s a Lite version available of the Beaver Builder plugin on WordPress.org, in case you wanna try it for free!
Fundamentally, all WordPress themes are also Beaver Builder themes. It’s just that not all WordPress themes are optimal for the Beaver to show off its page building muscles, to its fullest extent.
What you need is a theme that first and foremost has a truly full-width page template available. Truly, in the sense that you’ll want its content area to span the whole 100% of the browser window, with no unnecessary padding or margins. This is so that the Beaver Page Builder can take full control of your web design and layouts.
Alternatively, you can use the Dynamik Website Builder theme. Dynamik has been made 100% ready for Beaver Builder! Just note that you’ll also need the Genesis theme from StudioPress (by Rainmaker Digital – formerly Copyblogger) to use Dynamik, so it might be a somewhat elaborate package to purchase, albeit a good one! And if you already happen to own and use Genesis and Dynamik Website Builder, it’s great to see that it supports the Beaver Builder plugin perfectly.
The Beaver boys also make a complementary Beaver Builder theme. Tailor-made for optimal functioning with the Beaver Builder plugin, it strikes a good balance between feature-richness and “bloatlessness” – it does a lot very well, while keeping a simple, uncluttered UI.
I strongly considered using Dynamik Website Builder with Beaver, but in hope of an extra swift deployment, I decided on the native Beaver Builder theme. The Beaver theme’s promise of “the perfect balance of power and simplicity” was exactly what I wanted and needed!
Oh, by the way, you can demo the Beaver Builder theme for free on their website!
Alternative good Beaver Builder themes are the bare bones Genesis theme framework (without Dynamik but with the free Genesis Dambuster plugin) or Genesis + one of the many fine StudioPress themes. Technically solid, design-wise elegant, leaving room for Beaver to work its magic.
Being a big fan of Headway, but deciding against it for this client project (for reasons I’ll go into below) – I’ll swiftly share a few words on how I think Headway compares to Beaver Builder, as well as how they differ.
The Headway theme has gotten itself a very serious contender!
As much as I love working with Headway, this project had a particular requirement that would have been a bit of a stumbling block with dear ol’ Headway…
If a client needs the ability to “mess with their own layouts,” it shouldn’t end up in a mess. And THAT it will, my dear friend, if you ever let a low-tech client off-the-leash, inside Headway’s very powerful, über-flexible and overall one-of-a-kind Visual Editor.
Not because anything is wrong with Headway. It’s just not a very client-friendly tool. It’s more of a web designers’ tool.
Version 4 of Headway doesn’t change that. I believe it’s in Headway’s DNA to be the best visual website design tool for professionals. Especially graphic designers, who’ll love the world-class grid-based layout features, totally unmatched in flexibility and power, by any of the competiting WordPress themes out there.
So please don’t get me wrong: I love Headway – and it ROCKS! Just not for projects where the client needs the ability to create or edit their own layouts.
In this particular case, the client was a Danish Tai Chi organization, with local clubs, each needing their own, individual club pages.
Originally, I built this Tai Chi Chuan site in Chris Pearson’s Thesis (version 1.x) theme which was revolutionary back then. Being an old dog, Thesis 1.8.6 is not responsive though, and in April when Google sent out emails to webmasters telling them their mobile-unfriendly sites would be ranked lower going forward, it was time for a redesign.
When discussing the redesign and its scope, one of the primary wishes was for the tai chi club pages to be improved upon. Each club needed to present various different information such as training schedules, location, event calendars, staff and more. Doing it “the old way,” that is; trying to make it all well-organized and good-looking, using nothing but the wimpy (yes, it is downright wimpy) native WordPress content editor: was never a huge success by any means. The clubs routinely messed up the intended “layout” (as if there ever was one – ha!) … Left- and right-aligned images going haywire, was the number one culprit.
So the clubs needed a WordPress page builder of some sorts. And this is where I decided to leave it to Beaver Builder!
One thing that was missing in Beaver Builder until very recently, was global templates. In Headway these are known as mirrored blocks and wrappers. Thankfully, this global row and module templates has recently been added to Beaver Builder. Bravo!
Even though this is specifically a Beaver Builder review, and not a Headway Themes review, I can’t help measuring Beaver Builder up against Headway. Especially since the sad “loss and demise” of Headway.
Compared to Headway, there’s much less to tinker with in the Beaver Builder plugin (and theme, for that matter).
Looking at the responsive design options in both Beaver Builder and Headway, the difference is obvious. Beaver Builder offers less options, Headway? A lot more. For most users, Beaver Builder has the best approach. To many, too many options are nothing but a potential headache. Figuring out breakpoints and their behavior, in Headway, is no easy task. Trust me: I’ve done an epic Headway online course, and the responsive options were challenging to make accessible and easy-to-understand.
Just like Alex Mangini from Kolakube wrote in this intelligent blog post (that I agree 100% with): theme makers should make the hard choices rather than put these choices upon the end user, who might not be very technical, or like me; does have technical skill, but prefers to NOT do technical stuff. I care about reaching your business and personal goals by creating killer content, expressing yourself fully, contributing to the world. A website, to me, is nothing more than a means to an end. A powerful one, but still useless without purpose-driven content.
How about Beaver vs the new Divi Builder plugin recently released by Elegant Themes?
The Divi Builder plugin is basically a product like the Beaver Builder plugin. It’s Divi, just without the theme.
I’ll be upfront: I believe Beaver Builder is vastly superior to Divi Builder!
First of all, the Beaver Builder plugin won’t leave a shortcode mess, unlike the Divi Builder plugin.
Usability-wise, Beaver Builder’s page builder smokes Divi’s page builder. Designing in Divi Builder is a somewhat abstract experience: you’re moving boxes around, inside WordPress’ (formerly wimpy, now Divi’ed-up) content editor. In Beaver Builder, you’re working direcly on the page itself. Both Divi and Beaver Builder can be called drag & drop themes, but only Beaver Builder can call itself a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).
However, it can be argued that Divi’s more compact view, compressing the height of all page elements, can be a positive trait. That said, I’m confident most people will prefer Beaver Builder’s live preview, over Divi Builder.
Pitting Beaver Builder vs Thrive Content Builder could be a full blog post in itself. For this project I deemed Beaver Builder a better fit, as Thrive Content Builder seems more marketing-geared, and too technical. While most Tai Chi Chuan instructors are generally fearless, I felt they’d be intimidated by Thrive Content Builder’s more advanced UI, powerful as it may be.
So I still haven’t tested Thrive Content Builder, but would love to hear YOUR take on it. Voice it in the comments section below! Other readers and I are keenly interested!
In line with Alex Mangini’s aforementioned blog post, Beaver is clever by design. Instead of first having to select whether I want to activate footer widgets, and then the amount of columns, I could simply put widgets in the footer widget areas. Or not. Brilliantly elegant! So if I only put a widget in Footer Column 1, that widget will stretch to the full width of the page. If I also put a widget in Footer Column 2, I’d have… you guessed it: two columns, and so forth. Smart, simple design. Bravo Beaver – you’ a badass lil’ beast!
Specifically, plenty of padding and margin. Lack of sufficient padding is something seen on most DIY-designed websites, and something the theme framework should take care of. Non-designer people just don’t seem to pay enough attention to the empty space around their content. It’s VITAL to a balanced, elegant end result though!
Unlike certain other WordPress theme frameworks, it was easy to override the default styles. I didn’t need to use .custom classes or !important at all.
If you’re doing sites for clients, you can set the minimum capability/user role needed to add, delete or move page elements around. This means your client can edit various page elements, but not mess up the site layout! VERY cool and something Headway could learn from.
Support from the Beaver guys’ was attentive, dedicated and competent.
“40% discount on annual renewals” – that’s stingy. 50% would be more right, IMO. And to make matters worse: you ONLY get that measly discount IF you renew WITHIN just TWO WEEKS, after it expires. And you have to do so EVERY year.
So if you happen to be traveling, are frantically busy or just plain forget to renew within 2 weeks: you’re to pay full price. Really?
I get it! It’s to put pressure on their users to renew. But hey! These are people (myself included) who’ve already paid in full, once. Yearly renewals are okay with me, but puh-leeze! A 50%+ discount would be appreciated.
Especially important for responsive web design, is the ability to set margins and padding in percentages – not pixels. That way everything scales a lot better. The layouts becomes more elastic. It saves a lot of work. I began working this way after reading Rafal Tomal’s take on it.
Buttons should be styled globally, for a consistent look, across your whole website.
For this, I actually like Divi’s and PageLines DMS’s approach, where buttons and text are either on light or dark background. That’s all you have to think about, the software does the rest. Simplicity at its best.
I miss a button to fully and completely turn off the layout builder. To quickly test hover effects etc.
In the end, I enjoyed working with Beaver Builder so much that I decided to build yet another website with it: www.leadyourself.dk.
In short, I can honestly and wholeheartedly sum up my Beaver Builder review like this:
Are you in need of a WordPress page builder? Leave it to Beaver Builder 🙂