When people in WordPress circles say “page builder,” I’m not gonna lie: I get skittish. My mind immediately goes to poor markup, theme or plugin lock-in, and a gross tangle of code.
But recently I met a WordPress page builder plugin that’s risen high above my usual developer disdain: Beaver Builder.
Beaver Builder first appeared on my radar after hearing Chris Lema talk about it. Not long after, I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with the Beaver Builder guys at CaboPress. Hearing them talk was enough to pique my curiosity. (By the way, if you’d like to hear from the Beaver Builder team yourself, I’ve got them on my podcast).
After spending some time getting to know the plugin and working with it, I’m loving both the ease of use and the ability to extend it for custom scenarios.
If you’re not familiar with Beaver Builder (or skeptical, like me), I’d like to break down some facts that might change the way you think about this page builder.
Beaver Builder FAQs for Developers
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Beaver Builder – Plugin or Theme?
Well, it’s both. Actually, it’s three things. There’s a lite plugin (free) in the WordPress repo, there’s the full-featured plugin, and then there’s the theme.
Let’s look at each.
Beaver Builder Theme
This is a regular WordPress theme, but with all the Beaver Builder functionality baked in. The idea is to treat it as a parent theme and then create your child theme on top of that. Considering how I feel about putting plugin functionality into a theme, I’m not really a fan of the theme.
Beaver Builder Plugin
For those of you familiar with the Dynamik theme and the Genesis Extender plugin, the BB concept is similar – the theme has all the functionality baked in, whereas the plugin enables you to add the functionality to any theme.
This is where I’ve been camping out. You can use the plugin with any WordPress theme, including those for the Genesis Framework.
The plugin includes some basic drag & drop modules (i.e. photos, videos). They are truly basic and not overly impressive. But then there’s the advanced modules. These are really cool and provide simple set up options for things like a post grid, call to action, accordions, and more.
You can do complex things on a page in a fraction of the time it would take you to create a custom template.
Beaver Builder Plugin Lite
The free plugin is a bit of a tease. It works exactly the same as the regular plugin except for the available modules are stripped down to just a handful of options.
If you wanted to just try BB, you could install the lite plugin or, better yet, play with the demo that shows off the full-featured plugin.
Can I Extend Beaver Builder?
Heck yeah! BB has great module options out of the box, but you can customize those existing modules or create your own.
Let me say that last part again – you can develop custom modules. If you’re working on a solution for a client site and part of that solution involves giving the client a simple way to add content in the future that’s just as beautiful as the content you originally created, custom modules are where it’s at.
I feel a separate blog post coming on to talk about more about that.
You can extend the plugin in other ways, too. But here’s my one complaint about Beaver Builder: While there’s great usage documentation, I really wish they’d publish a full developer API. Currently the best way to learn what all you can do with customizing BB is to check the forums and scour the source code.
Can I use it on multiple client sites?
Yep. All three pricing tiers for Beaver Builder include use on unlimited sites. Their Agency tier even lets you white label the plugin, which is cool.
That said, Beaver Builder does require an active license on a site in order to get updates. Do you want your client sites dependent on your annual license renewal? That’s up to you.
Yep. You can use Beaver Builder in a WordPress Multisite environment. I haven’t experimented with this yet, but did want to note that it’s possible.
Are there Third-Party extensions available?
Not yet. It’s on the roadmap though. I would really like to see this as it could rapidly explode the potential for cool things you could do with BB.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about with Third-Party extensions, think about Easy Digital Downloads or Ninja Forms – both are “freemium” plugins with a free core plugin and a variety of paid add-ons, some of those developed by third parties.
What about custom templates?
Yes, but you need to create them. Certain plugins or theme frameworks (think WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Genesis Framework), involve a lot of custom templates.
To work the most seamlessly with BB, you’ll probably want to create custom templates.
Beaver Builder and the case of the missing archive template…
Let me save you some head banging: If you want to create a post archive using BB modules, you use a regular ole page (or page template) + the Posts module. Beaver Builder is like honey badger in the sense that it does not care about the archive template.
This bugs me as it doesn’t conceptually follow the WordPress template hierarchy. It also explains why I couldn’t find a single example of a custom archive.php file for use with Beaver Builder.
There, I’ve just saved you four hours of your life.
I’ll write more on this in a separate post.
Does it play nicely with other plugins?
For the most part, yes. Here’s a list of known incompatabilities. I will say that the BB development team is very receptive to feedback and attempting to make BB work with a variety of configurations. If you have concerns about compatibility with your setup, just bring it up with the support team and they can help you work through it.
While a page builder plugin clearly serves the needs of a beginner-level audience, I think there’s a lot that developers can do with Beaver Builder that differentiates it (in a good way) from other drag and drop solutions.
Don’t take my word for it – go check out the demo and see what you think.