Have you ever wished you could have a custom-built website without having to spend years learning HTML and CSS? Have you scrolled through WordPress’s many themes thinking, “None of these is quite what I need”? Do you want a custom page for an existing theme without having to re-write the code each time you publish a new page?
If any of this sounds familiar, you could benefit from having a WordPress theme builder. Read on to learn more about these tools and pros and cons of some of the best options on the market.
What Is a Theme Builder?
If you want to create a custom design that will carry across multiple site pages, you’ll need to use a theme builder plugin. These plugins allow you to create custom designs that can automatically be applied to some or all of your site content. In effect, this is a simple way for anyone to build a custom theme for their site.
With a theme builder, you can create a custom blog design and automatically apply it to all new blog posts you publish. You can also create custom product pages for an online store or design personalized event pages. These templates will be stored in your site dashboard and applied automatically to the appropriate content when it’s published.
So, What Is a Page Builder?
When you pick a WordPress theme, you may find that the page designs included with the theme may not look exactly how you’d like them to. In this case, you can use a plugin called a page builder to modify specific page elements within the theme to fit your needs. These page builders work on a drag-and-drop format that makes them simple enough for anyone, regardless of coding skill level, to use.
As the name suggests a page builder plugin is designed to edit or modify specific pages on a website. This can work well for an “About Us” page or a special event announcement page. You can also custom design a single blog post if you like, but that formatting will not carry over to future pages.
Our Favorite Theme Builders
When it comes to theme builders, everyone has their favorites – and each has its own unique pros and cons. How do you choose between them?
To make the process of choosing a theme builder easier, we asked our customer success and marketing teams what their favorites were and why.
One of the most popular WordPress theme builders is Divi, an Elegant Themes product. Divi is also a WordPress theme, but you can get the theme builder to customize content for your site. You can also use their theme builder to alter other WordPress themes as needed.
Divi has a huge range of customizable features, allowing you to personalize everything about your theme from page headers and footers to overall templates. There are plenty of pre-designed layouts and modules to make drag-and-drop customization simple for web design newbies. The plugin also has support available in thirty-two different languages.
The latest iteration of Divi incorporates single and archive templates to make your design work simpler and more convenient. It has plenty of full-site template kits to help you quickly and easily build beautiful, functional sites. And a wide marketplace of compatible third-party extensions will give you the tools you need to give your clients the websites of their dreams.
For all its benefits, Divi has some drawbacks, the biggest of which is its complexity. While it does have a great drag-and-drop setup for its pre-set modules, but the immense customizability makes it a little challenging for new users. If you’ve never worked with a theme builder before, this may not be your best option.
If you ever decide you want to use a different theme builder, deleting Divi is not as simple as disabling the plugin. The program has an unfortunate tendency to leave shortcodes behind in your content after you delete it. You’ll need to go through and clean these up afterward, which can be tedious work.
Elementor is a page builder plugin that has expanded into the theme building world with enormous success. There is a free version, but it only provides you access to the page builder. If you want to use the theme builder, you’ll need to pay $49 for access on your site.
Elementor Pro comes with a dazzling range of design elements for you to work with, including forms, call to action boxes, and more. The advanced visual editor allows you to create dynamic content that is completely customizable. You can also build pop-ups for your site to capture visitor emails or encourage online shoppers not to abandon an incomplete purchase.
One of the best things about the new Elementor update is that it makes managing multiple templates much easier. In fact, you can handle all your templates through one simple, convenient interface. Elementor also allows you to use conditional targeting on the pages you build with it, making your website as functional and powerful as possible.
Like Divi, Elementor’s remarkable customizability makes it somewhat difficult for novice web designers to use. If you’ve never worked with a theme builder before, you may not want to dive into customizing dynamic content or wrangling with conditional targeting. And the range of third-party plugins Elementor offers can get overwhelming.
The cost may also make this theme builder off-putting to designers working on a budget. The $50 annual fee only gives you access to the theme builder on one website, so if you’re working with multiple sites, those costs can start to add up in a hurry. However, you can get an almost unlimited plan (access on 1,000 websites) for $200 a year.
If you’re unfamiliar with web coding and looking for a theme builder that will be simple enough to learn on, Thrive is a great option. This tool is designed to make creating a customized website simple for anyone. It has a site wizard and a simplified design that makes it a cinch to edit any page element. It also has a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to work with individual templates hassle-free.
Thrive comes with a companion theme called Shapeshift. This theme has a huge range of page templates, from a blog index and homepage to a 404 page in case someone tries to visit a dead page. And its sleek, modern design will give all your pages the kind of clean efficiency that will take your visitors’ experience to a next level.
Thrive also has global colors to make your site completely personalized to your brand and a form element that will integrate seamlessly with your email marketing. The simple, closed system the plugin offers is great for people who want a theme builder that just works – no hassle. And because all your sites will be based around the Shapeshifter theme, it’s easy for you to build an overall style that your clients will recognize and love.
The major drawback Thrive has is that Shapeshift is the only theme it works with. You can’t pick from any of the thousands of other themes WordPress has available. While its customization means you can technically recreate the theme you like, this can be a pain and may result in a subpar website.
Shapeshift really only works when the user is building a completely new website as it is difficult to pull existing functionality from an existing website into Shapeshift and Thrive.
Thrive is also aimed mostly at content creators and publishers – bloggers, business owners, and the like. If you’re planning to customize your own website, this design will work fine for you. But if you’re a designer wanting to build out multiple client sites, you may find Thrive limiting for your purposes.
Genesis is a powerful framework with plenty of in-depth customization options. Unlike many template builder frameworks, Genesis has an options bar that allows you to customize backend elements. You can add a third-party RSS feed plugin, as well as adding comments, trackbacks, and archives to your site.
Genesis also has a strong emphasis on security, an issue that’s more important than ever in our information-age world. They have taken steps to improve their security and have even hired consultants to test their framework and make sure it was up to scratch. There is also a huge selection of themes for you to choose from, giving you ultimate customizability.
One of the cooler features Genesis has built-in is a one-click theme setup that allows you to install demo content in seconds. You can customize an image- or text-based header to give your client room to keep their branding front and center. And Genesis sites are compatible with a wide variety of widgets so your clients can have all the custom functionality they need.
Although Genesis provides a great focus on simple customization, that simplicity can come back to bite when it comes to site limitations. You may have to dig into the base code to edit certain page elements, something non-coders will have trouble with. Some of these non-editable elements include theme font colors, background colors, font sizes, and more.
Genesis may also come with some features you don’t need or which are redundant with tools you already have. For instance, the framework comes with an SEO guidance system. If you already have some more reputable SEO plugins, this added “feature” may just take up space on your site backend.
If you’ve been around the WordPress world for a while, you may have heard of WP Bakery by a different name – Visual Composer. This plugin was one of the most popular drag and drop page builders on the WordPress platform. In fact, it ran on more than 2 million websites at its peak.
Since its rebranding, WP Bakery has added more functionality and support than ever before. The plugin has a dedicated support team and is multilingual-enabled. Its intuitive drag and drop editor and grid design templates make it simple for anyone to create custom pages with personalized front- and backend elements.
One of the best things about working with WP Bakery is that all the themes you build with it will be 100 percent mobile compatible. Considering more than half of all web traffic these days is mobile, it’s crucial that your clients’ sites are mobile-accessible. And the $64 annual fee is relatively affordable, making this top-notch plugin accessible for most clients.
One downside of WP Bakery is that, once you use it to customize your site, swapping theme builders can be a pain. You’ll effectively have to rebuild your website from the ground up if you ever decide you want to use a different plugin. You also may not have the ability to edit content provided by other plugins through the WP Bakery platform.
While the WP Bakery plugin isn’t free, we can barely count this as a con. The license for this plugin only costs $16 a year – less than you’ll pay for most domain name licenses. But if you’re looking for a free option, you won’t be able to get that with WP Bakery.
Make Your WordPress Site Better
WordPress can be a powerful platform for creating a custom website suited to your needs. But if you want a truly personalized site without knowing how to code, having a WordPress theme builder is critical. Each of the options we’ve listed here has its strengths and weaknesses, so decide which one is right for you and start making your website exactly what you need!
If you’d like help taking your WordPress site to the next level, check out the rest of our blog articles. We have in-depth WordPress articles and hosting resources you won’t find anywhere else. Contact us today and discover what your website can be with the right tools on your side.
Jessica serves as the Director of Operations for Pressable and spends her days focused on creating the best managed WordPress hosting experience possible. She's been using WordPress since 2008 and has been serving in WordPress-focused roles since 2010. When she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, serving in her community, watching hilarious dog videos online, or brewing a pitcher of iced tea.