Themes and Page Builders
If you're a business owner and you're building or maintaining your own website in WordPress, you should take a moment to consider how best to get a flexible, light weight and easy to use theme and page builder combination. What you say?! A page builder, what the?!
A Quick Recap
WordPress uses a combination of core code, plugins and a theme to create a website. You can read more about that structure in this post. For now its enough to know that every site has these elements. Every site has a theme.
So, What's The Best Way To Build A WordPress Website?
Ask a room full of WordPress developers and you'll probably get a whole raft of opinions about the best way to build a WordPress site. Some will say that you should build you own theme, others will say page builders are the way to go, and so on... But I'm not talking to a room full of developers. I'm talking to a business owner that is building their own site for whatever reason. And so, for me there are only two ways forward in this situation:
- Buy a ready designed theme
- Build your own
Buy a Ready Designed Theme
There are a myriad of ready to go themes available for WordPress, ranging from free to relatively inexpensive. The upside is that you just plug it in and fill out the available customisation options and you are good to go! It's fast and a good option if you need to get a site up quickly. The downside is that you are limited to the structure that the theme imposes on you. You can work around some of this with a good page builder, we'll come back to these, but even then you can't really change the layout dramatically. Another downside is that you aren't the only person with that theme. It's not exactly unique. In addition to this most of these themes come with a lot of code that is never going to be used if you don't use those options. This makes for bloated code and this can impact the speed of your site. It can also be a tad frustrating when you are forced to fit into the box you are given!
Build Your Own
In reality, you are unlikely to have the skills required to code your own theme. And personally, I haven't built a theme for years. It takes too long, and I would not generally be able to charge enough to make it a profitable option. But, there is a way to have the best of both worlds, ie a flexible, lightweight theme with the ability to design your own layout without code. Do I have your attention?
A Light Weight, Practical Approach
This is the exact approach I use when building sites. I want a site to be as lightweight as possible, that is not bloated with a bunch of unnecessary code, but I also need to be able to design with freedom. I use a specific theme with two specific plugins to achieve this.
I've already mentioned page builders, and this is the first of the plugins I use. My choice of page builder is Beaver Builder. I've used it for years now, and I've built some enormous sites using this method, including a recent site in excess of 500 pages. But there's a couple of others you might like to look at; Elementor and Divi.
Do your own research to decide what works for you best. For me Divi is out of the question because it leaves behind a mess of code in the content in the event you ever decide to move away from it and use a different builder. I have been in the position of rebuilding more than a few Divi sites, and quite frankly I hate it! There, I've said it! But I know many developers that love it. Then again, it's not their problem if it leaves behind a trail of rubbish code, is it?!
Elementor by all accounts is an excellent builder, however, I have been put off by a history of security issues with this plugin, and that's enough reason for me to give it a wide birth. So, it's Beaver for me all the way!
But Beaver Builder is only part of the story. The second plugin is Beaver Themer. To really create the full design experience I need the ability to design more than on page content. I need to be able to design and build every element of a site, eg headers, footers, etc. And so, Beaver Themer is a must! It's developed by the same people that developed Beaver Builder and they work brilliantly together.
Now, like I said, the choice of builder is up to you, and you can get a idea of comparison here: Elementor vs Divi vs Beaver Builder
Every WordPress site has a theme and the variety is huge! The builders I have mentioned will work on just about any theme, but for me, my go to theme is GeneratePress. I've used this as my base theme for years and it would take a lot to move me away from it. It's lightweight and well supported. In and of itself it has little in the way of design, it's just a framework that supports the builders I use. And thats great, because the last thing I want is a bunch of bloat in my theme. I don't want a theme telling me how my design has to look or define a structure that I can't alter easily. GeneratePress, no issues!
Another theme that gets a good mention in the forums is Astra theme. It along with GeneratePress are both amongst the recommended themes by Elementor. Beaver Builder also has their own theme and so does Divi. You might need to experiment a bit to work out what's best for you.
So my setup is Beaver Builder, Beaver Themer with GeneratePress. As part of the coming Rough Diamond Academy courses I will be building a website from scratch with this structure. If you are interested in being one of the first to join the Academy and benefit from the courses and support community that comes with them, you can register your interest here.