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The Future of WordPress Page Builders

Designing websites with WordPress used to require a good deal of coding knowledge and a good idea of different web design elements that will work for your website, like the choice of colour, font, photos and images, etc, or know a web designer who could do it for you.

However, the advent of page builders (especially WYSIWYG ones) opens up a whole new world for non-tech-savvy users. They can now create their own websites and web pages, add new features with lots of plugins without knowing a single line of code.

This was because while WP was extremely user-friendly when it comes to creating and publishing content, its back-end and the underlying framework were too complex for the average user.

Luckily, page builders like Divi, Elementor and others, recognised the gap and moved in to plug it.

And then, in 2018, WordPress creators thought “this is something we can do as well” and introduced their new block-based editor for WordPress.

This was Gutenberg and today, it’s an integral part of the core WordPress product.

With Gutenberg, today known as WordPress block editor (which is included in every WP version since 5.0 for free) is there a need anymore for 3rd-party page editors?

That’s the question we’ll try to answer in this article.

The Current State of WordPress Page Builders Market

What is the current state of the WordPress market when it comes to page builders?

Elementor Website Builder is by far the most popular page builder plugin on WP.org, with more than 5 million active installs.

However, the other page builders trail far behind it, with only SiteOrigin above 1 million, while other builders having much fewer installs, including:

  • Beaver Builder – 200,000+
  • Visual Composer – 90,000+
  • Brizy – 90,000+
  • And so on

NB: It’s important to note though, some premium-only WordPress page builders such as Divi may not be available in the WP plugin directory. However, this does not mean users don’t use or don’t like them. Divi, for example, together with Elementor has been a top choice for many WordPress users for years.

Do 3rd Party Page Builders Have a Future With Gutenberg?

It might be strange that we’re debating this as it’s been 3 years since WordPress introduced Gutenberg in the first place, but in many ways, we can just now see the impact that this decision has made.

In 2020, PublishPress released data that showed that most page builders have seen a steady decline each month when it comes to active installs.

This includes SiteOrigin, Beaver Builder, Visual Composer and others.

The only plugins that have not seen a decline (or have even seen growth) are Elementor and Gutenberg-specific page builder plugins.

Does this mean we’re left with only two players?

Gutenberg vs Elementor Duel

In his article Damn, Gutenberg Smokes Elementor, Kyle Van Deusen compared the two page builders for performance by building a simple landing page, first with Elementor and then recreating the same landing page with Gutenberg.

The performance results were heavily in Gutenberg’s favour.

According to Deusen, Elemenor’s Google Page Speed Insight score was 46% on mobile and 83% on desktop.

On the other side, Gutenberg scored 94% on mobile and a whopping 99% on desktop, completely leaving Elementor in the dust.

Deusen also compared the two landing pages’ performance using GTmetrix and while the difference wasn’t as big as Page Insights had shown, Gutenberg still outmatched Elementor in every aspect.

Is That “It” For 3rd Party Page Builders?

With Gutenberg outperforming the most popular 3rd party page builder so heavily, does this mean that the curtain is closing on WordPress page builders and that we won’t need to install them anymore?

Well, no.

There are still many things that other page builders do better than Gutenberg.

1. Full Site Editing

One of these is full site editing.

Gutenberg is very thin when it comes to FSE, although WordPress aims to include it by the end of 2021 (although we don’t have the exact timetable). While that happens, Elementor (and other third-party page builders remain a step ahead of Gutenberg Editor).

2. Addons

Another advantage that other page builders have over Gutenberg is that they rely much less on addons.

For the most part, you can get what you need with Elementor or another page builder, without relying on addons (though you might still need them for an occasional tweak here and there).

With Gutenberg, however, you have to rely on addons a lot more and when you need to rely on too many tools to do the job, the user experience inevitably erodes.

Our Predictions for Elementor and Other Page Builders

While predicting these kinds of things is nearly impossible as there are too many factors in play and a lot of things can happen in the next year, two, or five, we believe two things will happen.

1. Elementor will go solo with its own CMS

While Elementor is likely to remain in the WP ecosystem for the foreseeable future, we think that eventually, they will decide to “go solo” and create their own CMS like WordPress or Wix.

In 2020, Elementor raised $15 million in the 1st round of funding, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. While this on its own doesn’t mean that much, we see it as a beginning of Elementor at least testing the waters on becoming a stand-alone product, which will be less dependent on WordPress.

Gutenberg becomes the dominant page builder, other page builders go the “niche” route

With Elementor out of the picture and off to do “its own thing” (meaning its own CMS), we still don’t think this means the end for other page builders.

Instead, what will likely happen is that Gutenberg will become the dominant page builder (like Elementor is today), while other builders will focus more on niche audiences like online marketing professionals, and offer more and more features for such audiences that Gutenberg does not.

What do you think the future holds for third-party WordPress page builders? Will they become obsolete with Gutenberg, or find their own niche? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


Nathan da Silva - Profile

Posted by: Nathan da Silva

Nathan is the Founder of Silva Web Designs. He is passionate about web development, website design and basically anything digital-related. His main expertise is with WordPress and various other CMS frameworks. If you need responsive design, SEO, speed optimisation or anything else in the world of digital, you can contact Silva Web Designs here; [email protected]

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