Blue lego blocks

As one would have expected, more and more people are updating to the version of WordPress that includes the block editor, also known earlier by the nickname of Gutenberg.

Even though there are voices that say the opposite, Gutenberg was made to become the default page builder for WordPress. Therefore, if you are one of those who use page builders such as Elementor, Divi Builder, Beaver Builder or WPBakery (formerly Visual Composer), among others, you’ll find this article interesting.

Should you switch from your favorite page builder to Gutenberg? Let’s try to solve this question…

Gutenberg Against the Existing Page Builders for WordPress

The main difference between Gutenberg and other page builders is that Gutenberg comes by default in WordPress 5 and later versions. Apart from this, we can say that Gutenberg and page builders aim to facilitate the creation of content in a visual way, without needing to write a line of code.

What is clear here is that Gutenberg’s capacity today is still quite limited, both in terms of flexibility and functionalities. Let’s look at this in more detail.

Drag and Drop Editing

Existing page builders make intensive use of the drag and drop functionality, both to add new blocks of content to the pages and to modify the layout of these creating complex columns and structures.

Gif showing how you can drag and drop elements with Divi Builder
With Divi Builder you will use the mouse all the time to drag and drop elements of the page you are creating.

On the other hand, Gutenberg only uses the drag-and-drop functionality to move the blocks up and down the document, and to add them to container blocks such as the column block.

In Gutenberg we can only use the drag and drop functionality with the mouse to modify the size of the images in some specific blocks, such as image and media and text. Everything else cannot be done with drag and drop and has to be modified in the side panel.

Therefore, we see that Gutenberg is still quite limited in the use of the mouse to drag and drop elements and thus create more complex designs. In this aspect, I’d say conventional page builders have an advantage.

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Collection of Content Blocks

The number of blocks that Gutenberg includes by default in any WordPress installation is still limited. Although for most of the cases we have more than enough, if we want to build complex elements such as columns of different sizes we have to opt for third party blocks.

Screenshot of WPBakery elements
WPBakery has a set of content elements that resembles the Gutenberg block system.

In addition, although some work is being done to add new blocks into the editor in a much more integrated way, Gutenberg still needs more time to provide with a much more powerful collection of elements than what we get by using a conventional page builder.

WordPress Themes Compatibility

Gutenberg depends a lot on the CSS styles defined in your WordPress theme. It is true that it adds some minimal style, but the way in which your blocks will be shown in the frontend depends on the theme. If you want to modify styles, you will have to register them as block variants and create new CSS rules. In addition, if your theme is not adapted correctly, there are functions such as full-width images that might now work.

On the other hand, page builders also rely on the styles of your theme, but provide simpler ways to modify almost any style of page elements without having to know CSS. You can create pages with totally different styles with respect to your theme just by modifying the settings of each element. Freedom is greater, but so is the complexity given the number of options that you can tweak.

Simplicity in Design and Customization

The combinations of blocks in Gutenberg allow us to create a lot of different pages, but it is still very easy to find cases that are not possible to build with vanilla Gutenberg. A common example is the possibility of creating blocks of columns with different widths, something trivial for most page builders and that is the basis for creating complex designs.

Page builders like Beaver Builder are much more powerful than Gutenberg today to customize the layout of WordPress pages.

We must also take into account the lifespan that page builders have compared to Gutenberg. In future versions, I am sure that all these details will be incorporated in the block editor and blur the line between Gutenberg and the page builders.

Gutenberg in Combination with Existing Page Builders

Page builders created so far implement different solutions for creating, managing, and viewing content. Some use their own tables, breaking with the wp_posts WordPress model. Others have chosen to introduce shortcodes in the standard content. Or there are even options where what is just stored is the HTML itself.

Gutenberg establishes a (kind of) “standard” to store the information of the content blocks. This can lead current page builders to try to integrate with Gutenberg to save the data in a uniform way, instead of reinventing the wheel again.

Doing this can help to expand the market of these page builders more (if possible) or to dig their own grave. It is not an easy business decision to make, and we have already seen cases like Elementor, who implemented a shallow integration where you can choose in Gutenberg some blocks that end up being edited with Elementor directly.

The integration between Elementor and Gutenberg is a step forward, but not the final one.

Although this has served Elementor to get the publicity it was looking for, from the technical point of view it is nothing more than a workaround solution, far from being a native integration. But it makes sense, as a total integration might make them lose their competitive advantage with respect to other page builders.

What is clear is that if Gutenberg continues to move forward, sooner rather than later we will see more movements in the same direction as Elementor. It seems, then, that Gutenberg could coexist with the current page builders.

The Future…

It is impossible to guess the future and know which option will be dominant in the WordPress editor. It is even a possibility that the current status quo between Gutenberg and the other page builders continues ad eternum.

What is clear is that the companies that have developed page builders have lived (and live) a golden age thanks to WordPress and the type of target user they have been addressing so far.

Will this dominant position disappear with the appearance of Gutenberg? Who knows… Will all page builders adapt to be compatible with Gutenberg and use their technology base? Maybe. It’s a risky move, no doubt of it.

Whatever happens, the future is bright, as the more options available, the better for everyone.

Featured image of Iker Urteaga on Unsplash.

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