The WordPress Gutenberg project has elicited a variety of responses. Opinions about the technology powering the Block and Site editors run the gamut. It’s been this way from the beginning.

Gutenberg’s relationship to page builder tools is among the hot-button issues. Some believe that the project will supplant the likes of Elementor and Divi. Others hold that page builders are a separate universe that will survive in the long term.

Look no further than a recent social media conversation. Developer Kevin Geary asked if the Block and Site editors would eventually replace page builders. Over 55% of respondents were at least doubtful of the prospect. Yet there were valid arguments on both sides.

It’s a debate years in the making. However, it once seemed moot. Page builders were lightyears ahead of the core editor. But what if Gutenberg has caught up?

Let’s take a fresh look at the WordPress design landscape. Can Gutenberg and page builders still coexist?

Building with Blocks Is Finally a Legitimate Option

Gutenberg’s capabilities are better than ever. Each release sees improvements to the user experience. Plus, block themes are becoming more stable. The Twenty Twenty-Four default theme is a prime example.

These factors have upped the ante. You no longer need a page builder to craft a no-code website*.

You may have noted the asterisk above. Let’s talk about it.

Yes, you can put together a website with core blocks. But there are still plenty of limitations.

Don’t expect to build anything too complex. Not with core software alone. Advanced design techniques are still the realm of page builders. And custom code or plugins are needed for certain functionality.

WordPress core has come a long way. Things are getting better all the time. But you’ll likely need the help of third-party tools.

The Lock-in Effect Isn’t Just for Page Builders

The argument against page builders usually includes mention of the “lock-in” effect. It’s the idea that you’re stuck with whatever tool you choose.

For instance, building a website with Elemetor is a commitment. Switching to a new tool isn’t easy or practical. Thus, you’ll need to consider this factor when making a choice.

It stands to reason that Gutenberg has an advantage in this area. It’s a native tool, after all. But what if you’re extending it via plugins?

One could argue that custom blocks also require a commitment. A plugin might become unstable or abandoned. Heavy usage on a large site could be a problem. Replacing it won’t be simple.

Perhaps the Gutenberg lock-in is on a smaller scale. But it’s still a concern for some use cases. Therefore, it may not be a decisive advantage.

Maybe It’s All About the Experience?

Elementor recently announced changes to its pricing. WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg opined on Twitter/X that non-Gutenberg tools will face higher churn rates. Thus, price hikes will be needed to maintain them.

Why? Because, in his view, Gutenberg is becoming more capable. It will do things that once were the territory of page builders. Users may come around to the native solution rather than paying for a plugin. I agree with this to a point.

However, WordPress is all about extensibility. We can install the software and extend it as we see fit. And both custom blocks and page builders count the same. They’re different flavors and levels, for sure.

In some ways, it’s like shopping for a car. For instance, I’m a big fan of the Honda Accord.

There are several different trim levels available. Which one I choose comes down to some combination of budget and need. I can spend a little more to access the fancier options. Or I can save money by going for the basic model.

WordPress users have a similar choice. A page builder will include the various bells and whistles some want. Gutenberg and a few custom blocks could get close. However, not everyone will need to go that far.

Sure, page builder usage may shrink. Some less popular tools may fade away.

But a whole lot of users will still prefer them. If anything, they may see page builders as the better all-in-one solution. You won’t have to install a handful of plugins to get the desired result.

For users, the experience is what will count most. And there’s nothing wrong with having choices.

Coexistence Is the WordPress Way

Building a website with a default installation of WordPress is a big step forward. That seemed like a pipe dream back in the day. This capability democratizes design as well as publishing.

So, more power to you if the Site Editor is your new favorite tool. Use it and customize it to suit your needs.

And the same goes for page builder fans. A Beaver Builder user shouldn’t have to give up their preferred plugin.

WordPress is nothing if not multifaceted. There are several form-building tools. You’ll find more than one way to build a photo gallery (including a native one).

This scenario reflects the WordPress way. Design and build the way you want. There’s plenty of room for everyone.

That’s it for today’s episode, don’t forget to share share share this episode with others and jump on the mailing list 👇

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