WordPress Pages rock. Don’t get me wrong — Posts are cool too. But to me, Pages are the heart and soul of “WordPress as a CMS.”
For most people, unless you’re dealing with post formats, Posts are going to be pretty much all alike. Of course the content may make them different, but when you boil it down, they’re usually going to be fairly similar. And that’s the way it should be.
For Posts, there should probably be some sort of predictability. You don’t want to make your visitors constantly reorient themselves when they’re reading through your posts.
Pages, on the other hand, perform such a wide variety of duties that having them all look the same is probably passing on an opportunity to make them as effective as possible.
And so in this post we’re going to go over three free “page builder” plugins that can help you “construct” unique-looking pages.
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1. Siteorigin Panels Page Builder
The Siteorigin Panels Page Builder adds a new “Page Builder” tab on your editor (top right). From there you can add columns, add widgets (this is how you insert content), or insert a pre-built template. It is responsive.
As mentioned, the only way to add content is via widgets. Clicking on the widget button in the upper-left will bring up a light box with all the widgets you have on your site.
Clicking on the row/column button will let you add rows for content and divide the rows into however many columns you like. You can also move the position of the rows around by dragging and dropping, and you can drag the widths of the columns to make them larger or smaller.
In the example below, I’ve dragged the first column to be just over 25%.
Here’s a quick page I made up. The first row has two columns – one with an image and the other with a text box. On the second column, I’ve inserted a YouTube video with the video widget that comes built-in.
Here’s an overview video of plugin in action from the plugin author.
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2. Aqua Page Builder
The Aqua Page Builder lets you create content areas for your pages by dragging and dropping building blocks into a backend template section. Templates can then be placed into a page by inserting the automatically created shortcode or by using the “Add Template” button that appears on the visual editor.
Blocks in the page builder can be moved around at will and also resized by dragging. Here’s a look at the settings page where templates are built.
As you can see, there aren’t many default blocks that can be used for building. (Note: While the widget block seems promising, it simply brings in whatever widgets are already in place on widget areas on your site. It doesn’t allow you to choose and use individual widgets.) More blocks are available with a few certain themes that have specially built blocks, and you can make your own blocks by following instructions provided by the plugin author. Building blocks requires rather involved code, however, and so it isn’t really meant for the average users.
Here’s a quick page I built with the plugin. Because of the lack of building blocks, there’s isn’t really a lot you can put together in an easy way.
One nice aspect about this page builder is that because templates are inserted with shortcodes, other content can be placed into a Page in the normal way via the editor, and then the template can be added to that.
Essentially, it provides an HTML Visual Editor with drag and drop capabilities. You drag and drop both images and text boxes, with the added ability to do things such as layer one image on top of another or layer text on top of an image.
Perhaps the easiest way to get an idea of how this plugin works is to look at a video provided by the plugin author.
The user interface is somewhat messy looking, and that might be a turn off for many from the beginning. That said, in the right hands, because of the ability to layer elements, the results could be interesting. In the wrong hands, however, things could get ugly fast.
Here’s a static look at the P&E work area when you first get it going.
And here’s a look at a page in the middle of being built (taken from the plugin page).
This plugin come with over 600 Google fonts, and it also lets you build HTML pages that reside outside of your site’s WordPress structure. While it’s not for everyone, and as mentioned, seems like something quite different for WordPress, it does appear to offer a lot of control over the look of the page you build.
Which Should You Pick
Unless you have an immediate connection with the Plug & Edit plugin, the Siteorigin Panels Page Builder seems like the clear winner here. It’s one drawback seems to be that you can’t insert content in the regular editor AND use the “Page Builder” at the same time, but whatever effects you could achieve with a regular editor you can achieve with the “Page Builder” as well. (*Edit – seems it can do that; see comments)
There were a few more page builder plugins out there, but for one reason or another, they weren’t completely working for me. If you happen to know of other free options that you’ve had success with, let us know in the comments.
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Photo credit: Jordanhill School D&T Dept