Page builders are a mainstay of the WordPress economy. WordPress is designed to be user-friendly, but the complexity of the underlying theme framework puts the creation of custom page layouts beyond the reach of non-developers. Page builders allow people who can’t code to build unique page layouts with a graphical drag-and-drop interface.

Gutenberg is a brand-new block-based editor for WordPress. Gutenberg, which was merged with core in 5.0, allows WordPress users to build pages from blocks, each of which encapsulates a useful page element. Page builders such as Divi, Beaver Builder, and Visual Composer provide similar functionality. Will there still be a place for these third-party page builders when Gutenberg is installed on every new WordPress site?

The short answer is yes, at least for now.

Gutenberg Is Good Enough For Most Users

A large proportion of the market for page builders is made up of freelancers, small businesses, and others that want more control over WordPress but don’t want to pay for a custom theme or developer time. It’s likely that Gutenberg is going to provide everything that this market requires.

Gutenberg Is Good Enough Right Now

When I discussed this issue with WordPress professionals in the early days of Gutenberg development, they often respond like this: “Well, Gutenberg is great, but can it do this?”, where this is some functionality that Gutenberg doesn’t have and page builders do. Multi-column layouts are a prime example: premium page builders typically make it very easy to build layouts with multiple columns.

But, of course, multi-column layouts with nested blocks were quickly added to Gutenberg, and that’s likely to be the case with any feature that’s useful to users.

Gutenberg Is Huge

Gutenberg will quickly gain feature parity with page builders because of the huge number of developers involved in the WordPress community. Gutenberg itself is an open-source project, which means any developer can scratch an itch by submitting a pull request. That will give Gutenberg a momentum that proprietary page builders simply can’t match.

Additionally, Gutenberg will be installed on every new and updated WordPress site. WordPress theme and plugin developers will be forced to support Gutenberg and to add Gutenberg-compatible features. They can’t afford to ignore Gutenberg. The cost of ignoring other page builders is minimal. In fact, page builder developers themselves can’t afford to ignore Gutenberg — they will have to make their plugins compatible with Gutenberg too.

There Is Still Room for Page Builders

Gutenberg’s developers took a particular approach the produced a particular UX. That approach won’t suit everyone, and there is room, in the short term, at least, for plugins that take a different tack. It is possible that page builder plugins focused on the needs of WordPress professionals will find a niche audience.

I’m not brave enough to make a firm prediction about what will happen to page builders over the next few years, but I am willing to say that the business model for page builders looks less rosy than a couple of years ago.

Graeme Caldwell

Graeme is a writer and content marketer at Nexcess who has a knack for making tech-heavy topics interesting and engaging to all readers. His articles have been featured on top publications across the net, TechCrunch to TemplateMonster. For more content, visit the Nexcess blog and give them a follow at @nexcess.

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