The development of page builders for WordPress

How did WordPress become the mammoth it is today? And how did page builders for WordPress evolve from it? Learn more here.

Someone scribbling on a whiteboard

Patrick Mitter /

04.09.2021


WordPress is not the only content management system that has had a unique run. Its popularity has also been instrumental in driving the development of numerous page builder plugins.

But how long can the development of WordPress page builders continue like this? That’s exactly what we want to answer for you.

In this article, we want to show you what has happened to WordPress since its early days, how the first page builder plugins & themes appeared on the scene and what’s next.

The development of WordPress up to now (2021)

Since its beginnings, WordPress has already done quite a bit. Of course, this does not come from anywhere.

According to an estimate by Openhub, 383 years of work have already gone into it – and that’s not even counting the development of third-party plugins and themes.

So it’s not particularly surprising that the content management system has outgrown itself like this.

It all started with only 2 people in 2003. At that time, it was not yet foreseeable how crassly WordPress will still develop. In the beginning the content management system was not called WordPress, but was known to a small blogger community under the name “b2/cafelog”.

Based on this b2/cafelog software, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little decided to build a new platform. WordPress was born – at first only with the idea to make blogging easier for users.

At that time, however, there was no talk of a user-friendly backend. Even the plug-ins that are taken for granted today were not introduced until almost a year later with version 1.2 in May 2004.

From then on, things slowly, yet consistently, moved in the right direction.
Many external companies noticed the rise of WordPress and wanted to ride the wave of success. Some allowed users to add their own contact forms to the site. Others focused on preventing SPAM comments.

But one problem remained for a very long time: Building beautiful websites was hardly possible without experience or had to be left to expensive web designers.

The era of page builders for WordPress begins

You might think that it all started with Elementor, the page builder plugin par excellence.

This is only understandable when you consider that Elementor, by its own admission, runs on a whopping 7% of all WordPress sites with over 5 million users. With these numbers, Elementor has literally established itself as a synonym for “page builder”.

However, Elementor, with its launch in 2016, appeared relatively late on the scene. Other well-known names such as Visual Composer, Beaver Builder or Divi Theme had already been on the market for a while.

One of the first page builders is the Visual Composer, which was launched in 2011 in its first bulky version. At that time, even WordPress was not yet the mammoth it is today.

Page builders for WordPress were supposed to make it possible to build a website yourself in no time without any programming knowledge. In doing so, many resorted to drag & drop functions so that users would have an easier time building the website.

By the way: We keep the plugins and themes in one pot here, for a better overview. Strictly speaking, however, there is a difference between so-called “theme builders” and “page builders”.

The development of WordPress was further advanced by the page builders. Since it was now possible for even non-technical people to design a beautiful website at a low cost, more and more users flocked to the popular CMS.

More laymen means that the developers behind the page builders had to simplify their systems even more. This is the only way to ensure that every schoolchild can build their own website.

Meanwhile, the wide range of pre-built templates from Elementor and other builders allows us to build a near-perfect site in just a few clicks.

With all the simplicity that makes WordPress newbies’ jobs easier, one particular target group has unfortunately been completely disregarded: The professional web designers!

As a tech-savvy web designer who likes to dig into the code – or just wants to do more than the page builder provides – your hands are tied.

Much worse, when your clients for whom you build websites with WordPress make special requests, you often can’t implement them flawlessly with page builders (without cutting corners in other areas like pagespeed).

This is frustrating as hell, as we know from our own experience.

Right now, it just doesn’t look like things are going to improve for this target group. That’s why it’s time for the next step.

The next stage of WordPress evolution

In another article we already pointed out that WordPress itself changes the rules for page builder plugins with the Gutenberg editor.
What does this mean for web designers and agencies who want to stay on the ball and deliver top-notch work to their clients?

The short answer: you no longer have to be stuck in page builder prison.
The key lies in theme solutions built on Gutenberg that give you all the freedom in the world.

Would you like to include your own program code to completely customize the design?

Don’t know much about technology, but want to revise your website from one central location?

All these points are, thanks to the rapid development of WordPress Gutenberg and software like GREYD.SUITE no longer a problem.

Such all-in-one solutions bridge the gap between uncomplicated and fast design and artistic freedom.

You can cater to special requests – whether it’s a complex online store or a one-pager – while designing templates for reuse.

The alternative to WordPress Page Builders

Of course, WordPress web designers can also do without Page Builder, Themes or Gutenberg completely. You still have the most freedom when you write the code of a page yourself.

The advantage is clear: you decide from scratch how the page is built and which design elements should be where. In addition, you can dispense with any form of superfluous code, which makes the loading times incomparably short.

On the other hand, it requires knowledge of HTML, CSS and sometimes JavaScript. Acquiring these skills can take some time. Moreover, the creation of any new website takes much longer.

Clearly, this extra time has to be charged for, and there aren’t many companies willing to afford it.

Interesting facts about WordPress development

To give you an idea of what has happened so far, we have some interesting facts about WordPress at the end of this article:

  • Already 39.4% of all websites use WordPress (w3techs).
  • German-language sites account for only 1.2% of WordPress users (wordpress.com).
  • There are over 58,000 plugins in WordPress (wordpress.org).
  • WordPress usage is still on the rise (w3techs).
  • The most frequently installed plugins are Contact Form 7, Yoast SEO, Classic Editor and Akismet Spam Protection (wordpress.org).
  • Every month, more than 400 million people visit over 20 billion WordPress sites (wordpress.com).
  • WordPress has been awarded a 5-star privacy rating (eff.org).
  • Meanwhile WordPress consists of over 1.3 million lines of program code (openhub.net).
  • Even world-renowned brands, such as The Walt Disney Company, rely on WordPress (wordpress.org).
  • More than 4 million use WordPress WooCommerce as a store system for their webshop (builtwith.com).

These figures speak for themselves.

Not only because WP writes an impressive history. Rather, we can interpret from it how the evolution of the content management system will continue in the future – because there is no end in sight.

WordPress is very likely (even if many do not want to admit it) to get even more market share. More people will want their own website for themselves or their business and will then rely on WordPress.

The only question is how your website will be designed. With the help of a dying page builder or together with a professional web designer who has adapted to the changes?

Conclusion

Page builders have made it much easier for end users to “quickly and easily” design their own websites. However, less consideration was given to the many service providers who like to go beyond pre-built design.

Our recommendation is therefore clearly to look more into themes that keep up with the development of WordPress and Gutenberg. However, they must also give you enough freedom to continue to deliver excellent work.

Anything else would have no future for web designers and agencies!

GREYD.SUITE offers you everything you need as a web designer for your clients – and usually even more than you expect.

WordPress is not going to disappear anytime soon, the opposite is true. Therefore, it won’t do you much good to focus on other CMS if your future clients want to build their website on WordPress.


By Patrick Mitter

Patrick loves good texts. Preferably about topics concerning online marketing and WordPress. Having built websites by using well-known page builders on his own and being very experienced in the SEO industry, he is very familiar with any kind of problems regarding those plugins. This is the reason why he adopted Greyd’s mission to simplify work for web designers as well as agencies.

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