In the last few years, WordPress has started to make a shift towards a block-based system to build your pages. While it still is not as good as a dedicated page builder like Divi, Elementor or any of the many popular ones, it introduces more flexibility to designers when creating web pages in the native WordPress Gutenberg editor.
Video from podcast episode 79:Future Steps Creative Podcast
If you want to get more flexibility and more design options, there are many third-party block plugins that add more advanced blocks in WordPress.
The question then becomes, should you be using these third-party blocks on your WordPress website, or should you stick with the blocks that are provided natively in WordPress?
Well, I think it depends on a few things, such as how you use the website or what blocks you actually want to use.
Now, my approach is this…
When it comes to designing the main website pages, I stick with using the Divi page builder. However, when I create blog posts, I stick with the native WordPress editor and the blocks it comes with.
Well here’s the thing, using the Divi page builder on the standard website pages allows me to have maximum design flexibility which is key especially when working on client website projects.
Things are certainly improving in WordPress and you can make great-looking websites without using a page builder on top, but it can only get you so far at this point.
On the other hand, even though some people also use a page builder to create their blog posts, I prefer not to do that because…
- You don’t need a tonne of design features or functionality on posts as the content is the main focus. The Gutenberg blocks are more than enough to create a rich post. After all, WordPress was built as a blogging platform so this shows here.
- If you ever wanted to export your posts to be used on another WordPress site, it makes it easier if you don’t have a bunch of non-native items on the post, that would not translate well across to the other website.
- Also, and this is a big one, If you ever had to move away from the 3rd-party blocks for whatever reason, you don’t get left with a whole bunch of post pages that look bad or have missing bits because you deleted a blocks plugin!
Now regarding the third point, just to give you an example. I recently installed a third-party blocks plugin called Spectra (previously, known as Ultimate Addons For Gutenburg) on one of my websites.
The only reason I did this was because I needed a way to hide and expand some content with just a click, but Gutenberg did not have an accordion or toggle-style block to allow this. Spectra does have one block that does this and it looks very nice.
The thing is though, if I ever wanted to remove spectra I would be left with janky-looking posts that I used it on as the block would be replaced with HTML with the icons being way oversized!
Now imagine that I had this on tens or hundreds of posts. It would be a nightmare to reformat or rectify that many pages. I certainly wouldn’t want to deal with that on a client site as I don’t see an easy solution to convert those blocks to a native WordPress Gutenberg block.
Now funny enough, as I write this post, WordPress has just released version 6.3 which has an accordion/toggle style block called Details. It doesn’t look as slick as on Spectra, but it certainly has the functionality.
Now, I’m actually thinking about whether to stick with using Spectra (for that one block) or just use the one in Gutenberg.
If WordPress didn’t come out with this new Details block, I would have little choice but to continue using Spectra and I would probably be ok as the team behind it is reputable and has other quality WordPress products so I expect that they would be supporting it for a long time to come.
But again you just never know what can happen so you just have to way up the pros and cons, and sometimes take a leap of faith.
So, should you follow what I do and avoid third-party blocks on your WordPress website?
Well if you think that what’s already available in WordPress is not good enough and a third-party product is available that you’re happy with, then go for it. Just follow the rules of sticking with reputable plugin developers that you know have a track record of supporting their products and customers well.
Using a page builder on blog posts
Now when it comes to page builders on posts, I kinda do use Divi in some way, but not to create each blog post. What I do is use Divi to create post templates using the Theme Builder option. This way I can still use the power of Divi to style what my posts will look like, but not rely on Divi to add the content.
That part is still taken care of by WordPress natively.
So that’s a middle ground that is not too much of a compromise.
I’m happy to continue using a page builder for my main pages though because there are typically way fewer pages compared to posts especially if blog posts are being published regularly
So in conclusion, only use third-party blocks on your posts if Gutenberg doesn’t have a solution that is good enough and you absolutely need the feature. And make sure you bet the plugin developer to make sure you don’t install a plugin that gets abandoned and then you’re stuck without updates or help if it breaks.
The same thing goes for page builders, stick with the well-supported ones and just use these on pages and not your posts, unless you have to.
Just bear in mind that there is no wrong solution and that all technology will have some shortcomings or even fail on you from time to time. The bottom line is that you accept this and know how to make a decision based on your own strategy.
Speaking of that, just make sure that you have, a strategy for your website based on the goals that you have for your business or brand as this will ultimately get you on track and make better decisions across all aspects of your online systems especially when it comes to your marketing and sales.
If you are clear on where you`re going and how to get there things fall in place way easier. And, sometimes we need a keen eye to identify the best way to get there.
If you need help with your website strategy planning and execution, so that you can improve your results, I invite you to see some of the ways we can work together to help you achieve your goals.