To be honest, I was never that convinced of the idea of using a drag-and-drop WordPress page builder plugin on my site. Although not because I didn’t see the value in it: clearly, with a drag-and-drop plugin you can create nice-looking, complex pages relatively easily — and certainly much quicker compared to working with raw source code.
What I was actually worried about was the output quality of using one. I can still remember the early days of Microsoft FrontPage and the HTML mess it was constantly creating. That source code was truly unbearable…
Then something got me thinking: all of the top three best-selling WordPress themes at ThemeForest feature some form of drag-and-drop page building functionality.
Moreover, the #1 best-selling plugin at CodeCanyon is none other than Visual Composer — a drag-and-drop WordPress page builder plugin that we’ll be looking into later in this post.
Clearly, people want some of that drag-and-drop magic!
So, the question is this: has drag-and-drop technology for the web matured enough? And more importantly: can drag-and-drop page building plugins actually be useful on a real website — rather than being just a novelty you read about on some blog or other?
To find out, I’ve taken a detailed look at 7 of the most popular drag-and-drop page builder plugins for WordPress, reviewed each of them, and given them all an out-of-ten rating.
The Themify Builder plugin is a flagship plugin by the people over at Themify (among their other products). It’s a feature-rich tool that allows you to do your work both on the back-end (the Builder functionality is available for any page or post in the wp-admin), as well as the front-end (you can enable Builder via the WordPress admin bar).
Both editing interfaces (front- and back-end) are based on having a range of modules to choose from and then dragging and dropping them onto the canvas. The canvas is divided into rows, and each row can be further divided into columns.
Elegant Themes’ Divi Builder Plugin is a slightly different solution compared to the other plugins on this list. The main difference here is that instead of a front-end editing panel, you get a new canvas that’s displayed on the standard post/page editing screen.
You then select individual content elements and put them on the canvas, with the possibility to adjust each element to your liking. This creates another level of abstraction, which can be useful if you want to take a more high-view look at your page.
Beaver Builder is a solution mainly marketed towards agencies and designers working on client projects. This definitely doesn’t mean that bloggers won’t find it useful, though.
The plugin delivers a great drag-and-drop page editing functionality that comes inside a completely custom interface (not through the WordPress customizer). It also helps you jumpstart your work by delivering a set of pre-made templates.
Working with the plugin is really straightforward. You just proceed step-by-step… start by adding rows, then adding content to each row, customizing, styling, and so on, until you have a finished product.
While most plugins on this list enable their functionality through the default WordPress customizer interface, MotoPress Content Editor delivers its own custom interface.
Under the hood, the plugin enables you to adjust the layout and content on any page within the wp-admin. There’s full drag-and-drop support and no programming skills required to make your work look great.
This is a great plugin by the SiteOrigin team. I’ve spent quite a while looking for the catch on this one, trying to finally get to the part where some feature is locked and requires me to buy the premium version. But it’s not there. This is simply a free plugin that’s on par with the paid solutions out there.
That being said, it does introduce some abstraction in terms of editing your pages. You don’t get an entirely usable front-end editing feature. Instead, you get to work with a canvas and a range of individual content blocks. Each content block has its title and settings — where you adjust the actual contents of that block.
Conductor is an interesting plugin for bloggers, designers, and developers who want to speed up their content creation processes when it comes to custom pages in WordPress.
The current version of the plugin has been optimized to work with the Symphony framework (and with some licenses, you even get Symphony included in the package), but it also performs well with other themes.
You can enable the plugin’s functionality for any page within WordPress, and then change the layout, content, and the overall appearance through the WordPress customizer.
Finally, let’s close the list with the best-selling plugin at CodeCanyon. And not just the best-selling drag-and-drop content builder plugin, but the best-selling plugin overall. Visual Composer clearly has to be doing something right.
In short, the plugin is very impressive. It has a ton of features, yet everything is easy to grasp and intuitive, thus erasing any learning curve almost entirely.
Moreover, it seems that its creators have taken care of integrating the plugin with other popular solutions out there, like the SEO plugin by Yoast or WooCommerce. All this adds up to a great drag-and-drop content building experience.
This part sums up my take on the top drag-and-drop page building plugins for WordPress. In short … boy was I wrong to worry that those fancy drag-and-drop plugins were only a toy or novelty. At the end of it, I’m really excited about what’s available these days in terms of solutions that make WordPress even more usable than it already is.
Who knows, maybe drag-and-drop plugins are indeed all you need to build yourself a quality website on top of just a very minimal WordPress theme.
Lastly, if you’re interested in using a drag-&-drop page builder plugin specifically to create a landing page for your site, take a look at this earlier post of ours detailing a number of WordPress plugins aimed at helping you do exactly that.
Which would you say is the best – and why? Thoughts?