WordPress drag & drop page builders have progressed a lot over the last few years. If you don’t have the coding skills it takes to develop a fully-fledged site yourself, these tools can help you make it happen without writing a single line of code.
As things stand, there are three names you really want to know when it comes to WordPress drag & drop builders: Divi, Themify, and Fusion Builder. These are three of the most popular builders around—and with good reason—but each one is different in a number of ways.
So I’ve given the latest version of each another test run to help you choose the best builder for your own projects.
Pros of using Divi:
- Powerful features, no code needed: All that functionality is at your fingertips, without so much as a curly bracket.
- User interface: Easily the most intuitive back-end editor, giving you a better visual representation of what’s going on.
- 19 predesigned layouts: To save you designing every page from scratch. Need a contact page? Then select one and simply customize to your (client’s) needs.
- Constantly improving: Divi is Elegant Themes’ prodigal child and that makes it the firm’s top priority. So you can expect to see the best Elegant Themes features, updates, and presets as soon as they’re released.
Cons of using Divi:
- The learning curve: Coding skills or not, it still takes some time to get used to Divi. That said, it may have taken me longer to figure out as I’m still stuck in the coder’s mentality.
- Page builder only comes with Divi: Unlike WordPress builder plugins, the Divi builder is only available within the theme itself.
- No front-end editing: As things stand, the Divi builder only works in the back-end.
Back in 2013, Elegant Themes announced it would be releasing a new type of theme, unlike anything they had released before. They weren’t kidding. Divi turned the existing concept of a drag & drop page builder into something more visually stimulating and intuitive to use. It’s just a little more satisfying to work with than the others and that comes down to the interface itself. Elegant Themes isn’t modest about that fact either; building a website has never been so fun, apparently.
It does take some to getting used to, whether you know how to code or not, and there are a few quirks in the system (I seem to remember sizing video backgrounds took some figuring out).
That learning curve is partly a side effect of the extensive features Divi has to offer. So we should cut it some slack on that count. After all, the whole point is you want to create unique websites for each client, using the same builder. And this is where Divi stands above other builders: sheer number of customizable features. Elegant Themes tells us “the possibilities are countless” and, except for some odd word choices, they’re not far wrong.
My concern with features, though, is always speed and performance in general. All that code working in the back-end and the constant risk of adding too much to a page can be a performance killer. This is the most impressive thing about what Elegant Themes is doing with Divi, though. Finding that sweet spot between powerful features and performance can’t be easy with all that code, but they’ve done a cracking job of it.
When should I use Divi?
When you want to build powerful websites from scratch with all the latest design trends and development features a few clicks away.
Pros of using Themify Builder:
- Easy to learn: Doesn’t comes with the same learning curve as Divi or Visual Composer.
- Front-end editing: Offers visual, real-time editing so you can see what you’re building on the fly.
- Works on most modern themes: Giving you a huge range of themes to use as a starting point.
Cons of using Themify Builder:
- Lacking features: Nowhere near as customizable as Divi or Visual Composer.
- More page editor than builder: Even though Themify Builder makes themes incredibly more flexible, it’s not powerful enough for much more than basic edits.
Themify Builder is a Divi alternatives that offers front-end editing, which is ideal for those who like to see what they’re building. It’s not only a question of personal preference, though, because front-end editing can save you a bundle of time. With Divi and many other builders, you have to make your changes in the back-end and manually preview them—all of which takes time. However, with Themify you can see the visual result of your edits, right in front of your eyes, which saves making those extra tweaks and previews every other minute.
Another difference with the Themify Builder is it’s actually a plugin that comes with every Themify theme. You can also buy the plugin separately, to use on other themes, which offers a different kind of versatility to Divi. The other big strength Themify has is being much faster to learn than Divi or Visual Composer. Combine that with front-end editing and you’ve got yourself one fast page builder.
It’s not all good news, though, because Themify is easier to learn for one very important reason: there are way less features. So, even if Themify is highly versatile in terms of the themes you can edit, the customization features are nowhere close to the likes of Divi.
One simple example is the fact you can change the background color of different sections on a page with Divi. You can’t do this using the Themify Builder. Without basic edits like these you end up losing some simple, but effective design techniques for creating visual hierarchy on your pages.
More importantly, you don’t get the same kind of flexibility in terms of layout with Themify Builder. You can also say the same for animations, background visuals, text effects and various other features.
When should I use Themify Builder?
When you see a Themify (or other) theme that’s close to what you have in mind for clients—all you need is quick, simple edits.
Pros of using Visual Composer:
- Use with any theme: I’m not convinced any theme, but most current/modern themes I can believe.
- Front-end editor: Allows you to design and edit in real time, but also the option for back-end editing if you prefer.
- Strong features: Not quite on par with Divi in terms of customizability, but close.
- Free demo: Something neither of the other two options offer.
Cons of using Visual Composer:
- Add-ons can get pricey: I would like to see more of these features included as standard.
- The user interface: Visual Composer isn’t exactly bad from a UI perspective, but it could be better.
Visual Composer is a drag & drop plugin you can use to customize just about any modern theme. More than a million sites have already been built using Visual Composer and you’ll find a ton of themes also come packed with this plugin. So that tells you how popular Visual Composer is, but how does it stack up against the others we’ve looked at?
I first tried Visual Composer some time ago now (version 3 maybe?) and I have to say I wasn’t impressed at all. I’ve had another go at it, though, and it’s ten times the builder it was the first time I used it. There are a ton more features on offer, heaps more customization and that tempting front-end editing. Another massive bonus with Visual Composer is you can try it out for free before you buy—something the other two don’t offer.
Visual Composer is probably slightly quicker to pick up than Divi, but nowhere near as fast as Themify. In terms of features, it’s a tough call between Divi and Visual Composer because of the front-end editor. I personally prefer Divi, but I’m not too worried about front-end editing, so ask yourself how important that is to you. If you’re not sure, I would suggest you try out the free demo and consider whether you can do without front-end editing.
When to use Visual Composer
When you want extensive customization features for any existing theme or can’t do without front-end editing.
I don’t really want to turn around and say any one of these drag & drop builders is better than the others, because I’m not sure that’s the right way to compare them. There are too many factors at play here. The first one is personal preference and, for me, that means Divi—but that might not be the case for you. If front-end editing is a deal breaker for you, then you’ll have to look elsewhere, but Themify and Visual Composer offer up two very different alternatives.
Themify will lack the features many need, for example, but Visual Composer offers a happy medium that leans pretty heavily towards the functionality of Divi. You can also use both of them as plugins with other themes—another huge advantage they have over Divi—and Visual Composer’s free demo is a very big deal.
Choosing the right drag & drop page builder isn’t simply a question of features, though. Sometimes it’s the project that determines the right tools for the job and that’s what really separates these three builders.
If you’re after pure power and functionality, then Divi is the one for you. When a client comes to you with a theme they’ve bought and some simple changes in mind, Themify could be the fastest, simplest tool for the job. And, if you need the best compromise between functionality that the flexibility to adapt any theme, then Visual Composer is the standout choice.
So don’t get too caught up in trying to find the single best drag & drop page builder for every project you take on. As with everything else in this industry, there’s no one tool that fixes all and sometimes you have to make that call on a project-by-project basis. I’ve done my best to pick the three best builders from those I’ve tried, but I’m also thinking in terms of a trio that covers the most ground. That’s not a particularly easy compromise to reach, of course, so let me know if you guys think I’ve missed a trick with my choices here.