For anyone who has tried to build a website in the last 15 years, I think we can agree that building a site often means unforeseen obstacles, varying degrees of migraines, and some amount of code hoop-jumping—or at least that’s how it used to be. In recent years, the learning curve to build a fully-functional website has gone down dramatically, making it far more practical to own a site (for small business owners and cash-strapped startups too).
The number of high quality and well-maintained visual builders available on the web today has exploded. There is no doubt in my mind that the influx of online businesses and all their needs (better marketing, improving UI/UX, SEO, lowering startup costs, etc.) has fueled the development of the tools on the market.
For those who need a refresh, a visual “drag and drop” builder, sometimes referred to as WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”), allows you to build your website simply by dragging & dropping text and pictures, as well as manipulating colors, spacing, backgrounds, and more.
In the past, using a visual builder that provided enough power without too much clutter used to limit you to the likes of Wix or SquareSpace (which can be hassles to move away from). But now, because of the regular upkeep and growing popularity of WordPress, it is only logical that some great visual builders have made their way here too. Now that many intuitive, feature-rich visual builders exist for the WordPress community, just about anyone can build a simple website if they put their mind to it—no coding required.
Divi by Elegant Themes
Divi by Elegant Themes is one of the best WordPress solutions for those of us looking for a one-stop drag and drop platform. Divi is a WordPress theme featuring its namesake visual builder engine. It’s as easy to install as any other WordPress theme and gives you as many (or as little) options for customization as you want.
Divi is well-regarded for its flexibility and is arguably the most feature-rich and flexible drag-and-drop WordPress theme. Unfortunately, some users might find it a bit overwhelming because of this, especially those without a clear process/roadmap for building their sites. On the other hand, you can get off to a quick start with one of Divi’s many pre-built layouts and editing from there.
Even with all of the above strengths, Divi is not perfect. If you do encounter an issue with one of its features, it can be very frustrating (especially for the less tech-savvy).
- Powerful, one-stop solution
- Regular updates & additional features
- Enormous selection of built-in & 3rd party layouts
- Available as both theme & plugin
- Very slow tech support (2+ days for first reply)
- Certain features are buggy (especially new ones)
- Can be overwhelming for less-technical users
Beaver Builder is another popular drag and drop solution, and one I occasionally use to make some simple tweaks. Beaver Builder is a plugin rather than a complete theme (update: there is a theme with the higher plans). This means you first select a WordPress theme and then install the plugin. Once installed, you will be able to edit many of the elements of your website without having to visit the back-end.
Beaver Builder is a great solution if you already have a theme or found one that you like. As with most builder plugins, however, Beaver Builder works with most but not all themes. Some themes simply play more nicely with Beaver Builder than others. You can check out this list to see 20 of the best WordPress themes to use with Beaver Builder, Elementor (more on that one further down), and other drag and drop visual builders.
Beaver Builder is very easy to use and is generally very reliable. Some users across the web report that tech support can be lacking, but fortunately, you’ll likely need very little contact with them (if any). Beaver Builder also lacks a few features, such as hover effects and gradients.
- Very easy to use
- Reliable, stable functionality
- Industry tested and well-regarded
- Lacks very minute levels of customization
- Reportedly spotty tech support
- Plugin only (on the lowest plan)
Like Beaver Builder, Elementor is a WordPress builder plugin rather than an all-in-one theme. Elementor is one of the newest page builders on the market and has already made quite a name for itself. The drag and drop visual builder market has become very competitive in recent years (which is great for web designers, developers, & small businesses), and Elementor has emerged as a top contender.
Why? Because it’s possibly the fastest, most simple plugin to build a site that doesn’t look like it’s been built with a visual builder. Elementor has received near universal praise from the web developer community. A few partner agencies regularly try to convert me to full-on Elementor, arguing it is the most straight-forward and easiest to use drag and drop plugin. Yet at the same time, Elementor does not appear to sacrifice much in terms of features or flexibility.
Like Divi, you can create pretty much any layout you want with Elementor. You can also work with any WordPress theme, and can change it quite extensively. The well-designed user interface makes it easy to make heavier changes to your site without any knowledge of PHP or HTML. When it comes to rearranging content areas quickly, Elementor offers perhaps the most practical drag and drop tools.
- Extremely easy & fast
- Highly reliable & stable
- Feature-rich & detailed
- Affordable annual fee
- Some users report lax support
- Less mature platform; risks of bugs
- Not quite as feature-rich as Divi
For newer web developers who want to work with their own favorite theme, Elementor might just be the best drag and drop solution. Beaver Builder is definitely worth your fair consideration, though in my own professional opinion, I give the nod to Elementor. I regularly work with Divi on more custom/code-intensive projects, but I’m having a harder and harder time justifying my Divi fanboy-ism to some partner agencies who use Elementor.