In the early days, what attracted us to WordPress was that it allowed regular people to do what seemed to be, at the time, advanced things. As the range of things WordPress could do increased, the more optimistic among us got a carried away and presumed that we would soon be able to use it to create almost any type of site. The only limit would be our imaginations.
Of course, when we tried to build our dream sites, time and time again we kept running up against the harsh reality that WordPress was not quite there, not yet.
We did not give up, the dream was too entrancing, and we presumed that, surely, the next version of WordPress, or the next release of a leading plugin, would bring the breakthroughs we dreamt of.
We certainly did not realize that it would take over a decade for the tools to evolve to what we have today, which is pretty close to want we were imagining back then.
One plugin that, today, places unprecedented power in the hands of non-coders is Elementor, a frontend page builder that lets you drag and drop page elements in real time.
Now in its second major version, Elementor has built up a formidable arsenal of design elements, and they keep adding new features at a fast pace.
For instance, just a few days ago, they introduced a fully-fledged role manager, which allows you to minutely control which user types have permission to mess around with what you have so carefully designed. These guys are moving fast.
The biggest and most game-changing feature yet, however, was announced last month: Elementor Theme Builder. Previously, all page builder plugins were confined to editing the content areas of your site but now Elementor has expanded your reach to any part of your site, including the headers and footers.
Elementor Theme Builder even allows you to build the design framework that your content dynamically fills on all sorts of page or post types. You can create new templates for certain page types, such as single posts, and start drag n’ dropping page elements, while a real-time preview shows you what your changes will look like.
You can also customize existing page and post templates, including archives, search results, 404 pages. The real-time preview contains placeholder content but, if you want, you can pull in the content from any existing post or page and immediately see how that exact content will work with your new design.
You can place dynamic widgets within your design, giving you maximum flexibility in where the data and media associated with a post or page will appear.
Previous page builders were limited to creating static pages which might look nice, but you would have to create them one-at-a-time. Elementor Theme Builder’s ability to create or modify templates that will be used to create pages populated by dynamic content means that you can design once but apply to many, and have the fun of seeing your new posts appear pre-formatted in your preferred design.
That is revolutionary, going far deeper than any page builder, and that is why they are calling this a theme builder. Elementor Theme Builder reaches right into the guts of your WordPress database and sets up the tubes and pipes that will shuttle your content to exactly where you need it to go.
What This Means for Site Designers
Whether you build for yourself or clients, we have all had situations in which we need to make a site function in a particular way. Usually, we try to find a plugin that will do that specific thing or, failing that, a theme designed for precisely the industry or business-type in question, but it is almost always a frustrating grind to find something that comes anywhere close to our vision of how it should work.
Countless site designers end up searching the dregs on Themeforest, like a hobo digging through the garbage bins behind McDonald’s. Eventually, we all realize that, rather than depending on others, we need to be able to take control of the situation, up our skills and learn how to make things for ourselves.
The good news is that page building products such as Elementor provide a path to massively expanding what you are able to do with WordPress without having to learn how to code. Code is fun when you have the time to learn the basics and clamber up the steep learning curve, but most people need a more immediate solution and there is no particular reason why you should not take the familiar drag n’ drop route.
You can augment your skills with code later on but, in the meantime, a good page builder is low-hanging fruit for anyone who needs to put a rocket under the WordPress skills they already have. With Theme Builder, Elementor leapfrogs ahead of ahead of the competitors who are still just page builders.
What it Costs
You can download Elementor for free on the WordPress.org plugin repository and use it, for free, on as many sites as you want, for as long as you want.
The company makes money by selling a Pro plugin that you use in addition to the one downloaded from the repository. Their philosophy is to make the free plugin capable of improving your sites, but the pro version adds features and templates which will save you even more time. The Elementor Theme Builder is one of those Pro features.
As you can see, the pricing is based purely on how many sites you want to run the Pro version on. They have not segmented the features by price, you get them all, including Elementor Theme Builder, even at the starting price of $49 per year.
It is good to see that an unlimited sites option exists, that gives you an incentive to learn how to use this tool and really get your money’s worth when you are using Elementor to hammer out dozens of sites every year.