Gutenberg vs Page Builders – Which To Choose For Your New Website

By: Allie Nimmons

One of the greatest things about building websites with WordPress is the power of choice. You are not limited in how you can build the site of your dreams.  That does mean that you need to determine which choices are the best ones for you and your website.

A big choice many site builders are making these days: Should I use the Gutenberg Block Editor or a page builder?

There is no easy answer, since there are huge advantages to both options.

In this guide, we will go over the pros and cons of using the built-in block editor vs. a 3rd party page builder. By the end, you will be able to weigh one against the other and decide which option is best for you.

What is Gutenberg? (aka Block Editor)

The WordPress Block Editor is the new built-in page and post editor built for media rich content. It’s also called Gutenberg after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the movable type press in the 15th century. This invention changed the world as it massively improved the way humans connected and communicated with each other. 

The Block Editor relies on content types called blocks, which allow you to add, arrange, and style content of all types. You don’t need to know how to code to use the block editor.

The WordPress 5.0 release included Gutenberg for the first time in December of 2018. It is the default editor for all versions of WordPress thereafter. The goal is a faster, easier, and more powerful site building experience. It is responsive, focuses on multimedia heavy layouts, and lets you do more with fewer plugins.

The Block Editor is ever-evolving based on user feedback. As of the date of publication, some of the features that are under development include:

  • New theme-related blocks like Site Logo and Navigation 
  • A template-editing mode
  • Block-based widgets screen and customizer integration
  • New block design tools like SVG filters for images, layout controls, and more

Check out the roadmap for Gutenberg 5.8 here.

What are page builders?

In contrast to the built-in Block Editor, we have page builders. A page builder is a 3rd party piece of software that you buy, download, and then install on top of your WordPress install. Page builders use drag and drop modules which enable you to build out pages and layouts. Like Gutenberg, you don’t need to learn to code to use a page builder.

There are many different page builders out there. The goal of a good page builder is to provide ready-made content blocks, templates, patterns, and more to expedite the site building process. Page builders typically provide more design help than you may find with Gutenberg.

The great thing about page builders is that as you build, the page looks true to how it will look to visitors. You can save time by building out a page and as you go, know exactly how it will look.

WordPress users of all experience levels can run into issues with page builders, which can be pricey, bulky, slow and difficult to learn. Individual developers build and support page builders. If they choose to stop supporting a page builder, users will need to find a new alternative.  If a page builder is hacked or crashes, it could destroy the entire layout of a website and make it unusable.

Core Similarities and Differences Between Gutenberg and page builders

When comparing the Block Editor to page builders, you’ll see that one is not inherently better or worse than the other. They are similar in almost as many ways as they are different.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which they are similar and different. Armed with that information, you will be able to determine which one you should use for your next WordPress website.

Drag and Drop Functionality

Both the WordPress Block Editor and page builders allow you to build page designs without code. You can design in a WSIYWG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) style. You can drag and drop the blocks or modules to create the layouts you want and launch a new website quickly.

One drawback of the block editor is that it doesn’t yet allow you to drag the height or width of sections like page builders do. Creating a more complex or detailed layout will require code. Page builders give you more customization power with the ability to resize objects by dragging.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: Both options provide a visual experience that can be preferable over writing code. If dragging elements in order to create custom layouts is important to you, page builders give you more power. 

Block Editor: 4.0

Page Builders: 4.5

Pre-Designed Templates, and Patterns

Page builders provide libraries of templates and premade layouts that you can use immediately. They are typically immediately available when you install the page builder. Choose one, drop in your content, and publish. This is great for launching a quick landing page, or building important pages quickly. Gutenberg follows that lead with patterns, which are pre-arranged collections of blocks.

If you’re using the block editor, you will be building most pages block by block. Right now, the number of patterns available directly through Gutenberg is small compared to many page builders. That doesn’t mean there are not plenty of premade options available; Gutenberg Hub provides a library of templates and modules that can be copy and pasted into the Block Editor in order to produce beautiful page designs quickly. 

MAIN TAKEAWAY: It depends on what is important to you. With a page builder you can use templates or build from scratch. Gutenberg does not yet provide the same variety of premade elements that most page builders do.  Some people may not like the templates provided by page builders or find them unoriginal. So this one depends on your preference!

Block Editor: 4.0

Page Builders: 4.5

Block / Widget Styling Options

Both the WordPress block editor and page builders cover commonly used content with their blocks and widgets. You get the basics – like text and images – as well as more complex things like tables, forms, counters, and more.

With both options, you can create your own blocks or modules with custom code. You can customize and style blocks and modules as you need to. You can also save and reuse blocks and modules to make your page designs consistent.

While you can customize blocks within Gutenberg, most page builders give you more options for customization. Available modules vary depending on the page builder. With Gutenberg, more blocks and improvements to blocks are being added all the time. 3rd party plugins can also add options to the core blocks so that you can take your customization journey even further.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: If you want more module customization without needing to install additional plugins, go with a page builder. If you want more blocks overall to choose from, pick Gutenberg.

Block Editor: 3.5

Page Builders: 4.0

Page Speed

Gutenberg has been proven to be faster than page builders multiple times since its 2018 release. When comparing the advantages of the block editor vs. page builders, page speed is always a strong talking point.

The team at Template Monster ran a few tests on their website before and after Gutenberg. They found that “Gutenberg provides you with the best performance of all page builders in the market.” They used the Google Page Speed Test and improved the score from 84 to 99 by using Gutenberg. 

There are numerous factors that contribute to an overall page speed score. They include:

  • The number of requests made of the browser
  • The total page size
  • The time it takes to fully load the page
  • The number of JS, CSS and font files to load

When comparing two identical pages – one created with a page builder and one built with the block editor – there is little competition. The Gutenberg page generates fewer requests, has a smaller page size, loads faster, and has fewer files to load. This is true for webpages like simple landing pages or even WooCommerce store pages. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the block editor’s speed, Gutenberg Hub has done some amazing tests.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: This one is easy – Gutenberg is the winner here. Using it results in smaller HTML code, less code for the browser to parse, and a smaller DOM load. All of these things together mean a faster website for your visitors. 

Block Editor: 5.0

Page Builders: 3.5

Time Investment

Both options put the power to build in your hands, but do a lot of the work for you. Both do have a learning curve, and so take time to learn. But compared to coding from scratch, the block editor and page builders both cut down the time it will take you to build a site.

Since Page builders often come with prebuilt layouts and templates, the build process might be faster. Because Gutenberg is so new, people may already be familiar with page builders. That means for some, learning Gutenberg will automatically be a bigger time investment.

However, there is a large pool of tutorials on how to use the Block Editor. These posts, videos, and walkthroughs are created by members of the WordPress community from all over the world. Over time as the Block Editor evolves, the growth of this collection of resources will grow, too. This means a significant leg up when it comes to investing the time to learn how to build with the Block Editor.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: If you already know how to use a page builder and you’re happy with it, stick with it. If you need to learn one or the other for the first time, learn the Block Editor. The Gutenberg project is the future of WordPress and will be around for a long time. Even if you are building with a page builder now, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on how the Block Editor is growing and changing.

Block Editor: 4.5

Page Builders: 3.5

Accessibility

If you need the build process to be accessible, due to low or poor vision, you won’t find a lot of luck with either option. Many page builders are not optimized for accessibility, and the Block Editor still has a far way to go.

However, there is more work documented about accessibility improvements within Gutenberg. Page builders depend on developers who may not focus on accessibility now or in the future. But small accessibility improvements are being made to the Block Editor consistently.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: While neither are ideal at the moment, bank on the Block Editor for getting more accessible sooner.

Block Editor: 3.5

Page Builders: 3.0

Cost

This is one of the most stark differences between the two options. While both are usually cheaper than hiring a developer for a custom website, page builders are more expensive on average. 

The Block Editor is 100% free since it’s packaged in with your WordPress files. The majority of premium page builders can cost hundreds of dollars and often have yearly license fees. If you don’t keep up with those payments, you lose out on important updates. This can cost you even more money if the site goes down and you need to pay to fix it.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: Unless the benefits of a page builder are worth the extra investment, go with the Block Editor and save the money.

Block Editor: 5.0

Page Builders: 3.0

Site Health and Security

The health and security of your website depends on a lot of factors, one of which is the software you use with it. Software updates are incredibly important to maintaining a secure and happy site.

The great thing about the block editor is that you only need to update WordPress to update Gutenberg. This means there is one less update to remember! You need to update page builders separately, along with any complementary plugins that they come with or require.

The WordPress Block Editor will be a part of the WordPress experience for a very long time. It’s a core part of the WordPress software. This does not mean page builders are inherently insecure. However, individuals and small businesses create and support page builders. If they choose to abandon it or close their doors, that leaves you with insecure software.

MAIN TAKEAWAY: If security is a concern, use the block editor or else have extra measures in place to ensure your page builder is always up to date.

Block Editor: 4.5

Page Builders: 3.5

Compatibility with Other Software

Gutenberg may add some of its own CSS styles to your design. But it won’t completely override your theme styles and settings. Many plugin companies have revamped their software to integrate with the Block Editor as well. 

Page builders can work with your theme, but they can also completely hijack that CSS. This can help or hurt your custom page layouts, depending on your goals.  Some page builders have also been known to cause conflicts with themes or plugins unexpectedly.  Because they use shortcodes or custom fields, other plugins can have difficulty working with their content. 

MAIN TAKEAWAY: Many theme and plugin developers are building with the Block Editor in mind, but the same is not true with page builders. 

Block Editor: 4.5

Page Builders: 3.5

Which is Right For You?

There is no one right answer across the board. Whether or not you use Block Editor or a page builder for your website depends on a number of subjective factors. 

Based on all the main features or considerations we’ve reviewed, I’ve scored each one in the following table. Many of the scores are very close; you may give more weight to one option than another depending on your needs and experiences.  

When is the Block Editor right for you?

Gutenberg (the WordPress Block Editor) is a great option if you are new to WordPress or if you are building a fairly simple design. It will most likely be faster and easier for you to learn. New additions and improvements are being added to the Block Editor all the time. If you struggle as you learn, feel free to submit a bug report or feedback.

When is a page builder right for you?

Go with a page builder if there is a great one you’ve been using and already love. Page builders are also preferable if you want to invest in a tool that will result in a more advanced, flexible, fluid and customized design right now. Gutenberg simply has not caught up to page builders yet in terms of what they allow you to build. 

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The WordPress.com Team

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