WordPress Rocks!

Seriously, it’s a great content platform.

WordPress boasts some brilliant features. But there has always been one piece of functionality that I’ve never liked.

The WordPress Editor.

Yuck!

I managed to write a couple of posts using the native editor before I decided to switch.

Why?

Because I wanted to see exactly how my content was going to look before I published it.

I wanted a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor.

And if you’re like me, then you’ll want one too.

Thanks to some of the great developers out there, we have plenty to choose from.

In this post, we’re going to look in detail at three of the best page builder plugins so you can choose which one you want.

We already focused on building landing pages in an earlier post.

So today we’ll zoom in on how you can use these plugins to create blog post pages.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive launched their Content Builder back in 2014 and it has quickly established itself as one of the best visual editors for WordPress. Today, over 29,000 people are using it.

The Content Builder is sometimes referred to as the Visual Editor. It is the cornerstone of all the Thrive products. For instance, you’ll see the visual editor in Thrive Leads, Thrive Headline Optimizer, and their other WordPress plugins.

When you buy the Content Builder, you’ll also get Thrive Landing Pages and Thrive Lightbox as they are all part of this 3-in-1 plugin.

Today, we’ll focus on the Content Builder, but you can read more about Thrive Landing Pages in this post.

What we love about Thrive Content Builder

Easy to use

Once installed you have the option to use Thrive Content Builder as soon as you create a new post or page.

Add New Post

When you choose to edit with the Content Builder you go to a new tab/window where you start with a clean canvas.

Byte Of Data

Thrive Content Builder is a front-end visual builder. This means you see everything on your screen as it will appear on your published page.

That also includes the surrounding parts of your page like the menus and sidebar. You can’t change those here, but you see your content in context.

Drag and drop

The simple premise behind Thrive Content Builder is that everything is clickable. You choose what element you want on your page from the right-hand sidebar menu and then drag and drop it onto your page exactly where you want it. Click the element to see the editing options.

Drag And Drop

Multiple elements

There are 42 elements that you can use on your page.

The elements are in four sections:

  • Simple Content Elements (11)
  • Multi-Style Elements (11)
  • Advanced Elements (15)
  • Thrive Theme Elements (5)

Rather than go through each individual element, I’ve picked five of my favorites:

  1. Content Container: This is a quick way to gather multiple elements in one container so that you can drag and drop them in another part of the page or resize the width. For example, you may want a 500px wide centered section of content as opposed to your standard 690px wide page.

Content Container

  1. Columns: The columns feature is a super quick way to divide your content proportionately across the page; e.g. an image and some text. You can choose the column layout:

Column Layout

  1. Content Boxes: Nobody likes a wall of text, and the content boxes are a lovely way to highlight text or lists or summaries:

Pro Tip

  1. Table Of Contents: Long-form blog posts are a recognized factor for increasing SEO and social shares. You can help your readers quickly find their way to specific sections with an automatic table of contents. Here’s an example from Mad Lemmings:

Quick Navigation

  1. Click To Tweet: And talking of social shares, there is a built-in Click To Tweet feature to encourage readers to share your posts.

Click To Tweet

Animation events

Adding movement to your page can help catch the eye of your readers. Thrive Content Builder makes this possible through its Event Manager. For example, you can add an animation event to an image so that it moves from right to left when it comes into the viewport.

Add New Event

Lead generation

List building is easy with the Content Builder as it integrates with your email service provider either via an API or HTML Custom Form.

There are a few types of lead generation that you can put in place.

  • 1-Step Opt-in

The default method is to drag and drop the Lead Generation element from the sidebar onto your page. This enables you to create a 1-Step Opt-in that you connect to your email service provider. You can choose to stack the fields vertically or have them running horizontally. Plus you can customize other features like colors and text.

  • 2-Step Opt-in

You can configure a 2-Step Opt-in by taking advantage of the Thrive Lightbox feature. You decide which element you want to be the trigger and use the Event Manager to invoke the lightbox. For example, you could configure a button click to open the lightbox.

2 Step Opt-In

Existing Events

  • Thrive Leads Integration

If you already have Thrive Leads, then you can integrate it with the Content Builder. For instance, you can use an existing Thrive Leads short code and drag and drop it onto the page. Or, you can use the method described above for the 2-Step Opt-in and use a Thrive Leads ThriveBox instead of a Thrive Lightbox.

ThriveBox

What we don’t love about Thrive Content Builder

There’s not much to find fault with the Thrive Content Builder.

There are a few elements that don’t translate well to mobile. They resize, just not as well as they should.

One example is the CTA Style 1 Element, which looks like this:

Desktop

Desktop

Mobile

Mobile

An easy fix is to use a Content Box and a Button.

That said, most elements work fine on mobile.

Pricing

Thrive continues to add more features to their Content Builder plugin so prices will rise from time to time. But if you buy now, you get locked in at the current price forever.

Thrive Content Builder offers two levels of pricing:

Single Site: $67 – Install and activate the plugin on one website

Unlimited Sites: $97 – Install and activate the plugin on all of your own websites

Alternatively, try Thrive Membership for the complete Thrive Toolbox:

Individual Membership: $19/month – Install and activate on all of your own websites

Agency Licence: $49/month – Install and activate the plugin on your client’s websites

Support and development

Thrive Themes has a comprehensive Knowledge Base and responsive Support Team. And they are always adding more features to the Content Builder.

The price includes 12 months support with the option to renew each year, but you always get unlimited updates.

Get Thrive Content Builder

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder, like Thrive Content Builder, also launched in 2014. Since then it has established itself as a firm favorite in the WordPress community and is active on over 100,000 sites.

The plugin works with any WordPress theme and allows you to build a wide variety of pages with its intuitive drag and drop editor. I’m going to focus on creating a blog post in this review.

What we love about Beaver Builder

Integration with WordPress

Once installed you have the option to use Beaver Builder as soon as you create a new post:

Edit Post

When you use Beaver Builder to create your blog post, you select the ‘Blank Template’ from its selection of Landing Pages. Once selected the editor opens with a blank screen waiting for you to add your first row:

Byte Of Data

Note: By default, the Content menu overlays the page on the right-hand side, but you can minimize it.

Easy to manage rows and columns

Beaver Builder is a rows and columns editor. The first thing you’ll have to do to get started with your blog post is to drag and drop a Row Layout or Module onto the page.

Row Layouts comprise a selection of Column Layouts:

Row Layouts

Dragging a 2-column row layout onto the page editor would default to a 50-50 split. But you can adjust this by shrinking one of the columns and letting the other one increase. For instance, reducing the left-hand column to 30% and letting the right-hand column expand to 70%:

Row

This makes adding an image and text row easy and controllable. Or, you can click in the column to edit the setting and enter a fixed percentage if you know what column width you want:

Column Settings

Note: Rows are like the Content Container in Thrive Content Builder. The difference here is that rows are compulsory whereas the content container is optional.

Adding content

The rows and columns are the framework of your page, but you need to populate them with some content, right?

Clicking the Add Content button at the top of the page brings the menu back into view:

Add Content

Beaver Builder has a selection of Basic (8) and Advanced (22) content modules.

  • The Basic modules include: Text Editor, Heading, Photo, HTML, etc.
  • The Advanced modules include: Call To Action, Pricing Table, Countdown, etc

You can add any of these content modules into an existing row or column. Or you can create a new row by dragging them into a space on the page.

If you don’t like the initial position, you can drag and drop the module into a new area. For example, you could choose the Photo module, select your image from the media library, and then decide you’d prefer to have it in a left-hand column:

Position

Duplicating content

Once you have a row that you like the look of you can duplicate it within your current page:

Duplicate

Or save it as a row for future pages:

Saved Rows

This can be a great time saver if you know you are going to create similar style content over and over again.

Hiding content

One of the best features in Beaver Builder is the ability to hide content under different conditions. The advanced settings of a module let you configure when the content is visible.

  • Responsive Layout: Lets you decide if a particular element is responsive on all devices or only selected sizes:

Responsive Layout

  • Visibility: Lets you decide if a particular element is visible to everyone, or only selected users, or never visible:

Visability

  • Animation: Lets you add animation effects to your text or images, etc.

Animation

However, unlike Thrive Content Builder you can only specify a ‘delay time’ rather than a ‘coming into viewport’ setting for when the animation takes place.

The knowledge base

I couldn’t leave this section without mentioning the Beaver Builder Knowledge Base. Amongst other things, this excellent online resource steps you through using each module with clear text and videos.

What we don’t love about Beaver Builder

Visibility of what you’re editing

The Beaver Builder editor is different to Thrive Content Builder. For example, when you want to edit some text, a popup text editor box appears, and you have to edit in there.

Text Editor

And the text editor is just the same as the native WP Editor.

So, in fact, you’re not editing the page directly like you do in Thrive, you’re working in another window. As you edit, you can see the page changing underneath your popup window, but often you have to drag it out of the way to see the main page underneath.

Is this really WYSIWYG?

Adding or saving a module caused the page to hang sometimes

There were a few occasions when Beaver Builder did not save my changes. For example, when I added a new module to the page or when I attempted to save editing a row/module.

On these occasions, I had to abandon the session and start again from the WP Admin Dashboard. It was fortunate that only the last edit failed and all the previous changes remained.

Pricing

Beaver Builder is available to use on Unlimited Sites and comes in three packages:

Standard: $99 – standard Beaver Builder Plugin

Pro: $199 – includes Beaver Builder Theme and MultiSite capability

Agency: $399 – includes White Labelling and you can use it on your client’s sites

Note: There is also a lite version of Beaver Builder available on WordPress.org.
The free version can give you a good taste of what the premium version has to offer and for some, it may be enough to do what you need, but the editing options are quite restricted.

Support and development

Beaver Builder offers a comprehensive Knowledge Base and responsive Support Team. They post updates on their blog to discuss their progress as a company.  Plus they share what’s in the development pipeline.

The price includes 12 months support with the option to renew each year.

Get Beaver Builder

Visual Composer
Visual Composer

Visual Composer is three years older than both Thrive Content Builder and Beaver Builder. It launched back in 2011 and currently powers over one million sites.

It’s the flagship product of WPBakery; a company focused on creating visual tools.

The page builder plugin lets you build stunning pages with the intuitive drag and drop editor. And it works with all WordPress themes.

What we love about Visual Composer

Front End and Back End Editor

Visual Composer is the only WordPress plugin with both a Front End and a Back End editor.

The Front End editor is like the previous plugins. You can see your page taking shape as you add various elements to the page. The Back End editor is like the native WP Editor.

I’m not sure when you might want to use the Back End option. The whole purpose of a page builder plugin is to give you a WYSIWYG experience. Even so, there is the option, and some people may prefer it.

When you start a new post, you decide which editor you are going to use. However, you can still switch between the two options as you please throughout the editing process:

Edit Post

Here is the same content displayed in each editor.

  • Back End Editor:

Back End Editor

  • Front End Editor:

Front End Editor

Simply add rows and columns to your page

Visual Composer, like Beaver Builder, is a rows and columns type editor. You can easily drag and drop the rows around on the page, or duplicate a row, or add columns to your row. Just hover over the row to see the edit options:

Add Rows

The default layout is a one-column row. But you can add more columns as you wish, either choosing a column layout or defining your own split ratio. You make your changes in the popup window and then page updates.

In this example, I’ve entered some values to split the row into one-third and two-thirds:

Row Layout

Here is the end result. In the one-third column there is an icon and in the two-thirds column is a text block. (The second row below has one column of text.)

End Result

Choose from over 40+ predefined content elements

Once you have created a row, you’ll have to decide what type of content element you are going to use. Visual Composer has over 40 predefined elements to choose from.

I like the way they have arranged the selection via tabs so that you can choose from ‘All’ or ‘Social’ etc. Plus they have a search option too.

Content Elements

Once you select a content element, it places some default data on the page (orange outline) and opens the edit window (green outline):

Default Data

  • Optional extra: You can extend Visual Composer with 200+ unique addons from WP Bakery and independent developers.

Quickly adjust your element settings

Each content element can be quickly edited by clicking on the ‘pen’ icon:

Element Settings

This is the what the Call To Action element Settings looks like as it opens in a new window:

Call To Action Settings

The General tab covers the essentials. The Design Options tab gives you more control over other settings; e.g. margins, padding, border, background color, etc.:

Design Options

It’s easy to add values as required:

Add Values

And end up with this (slightly exaggerated for this demo) design on your page:

Final

Video Academy

The online Video Tutorials Academy is excellent. WPBakery has covered every aspect of using Visual Composer with a suite of online videos. Highly Commended!

What we don’t love about Visual Composer

The settings window

I don’t like the way in which the edit settings window pops up and takes over your screen. If you want to view both your page and the edit window, then you need to extend the width of your browser window to accommodate both.

No lead generation options

Visual Composer does not offer any integration with email service providers. Both Thrive Content Builder and Beaver Builder do.

Pricing

Visual Composer has an attractive starting price for its regular license.

Regular: $34 – For use on a single site with 6 months Premium support. You can buy an extra six months support for $10.20

Envato has some interesting licensing options that enable you to use this product in other products. Let me explain.

Extended: $170 – The Extended License allows you to include Visual Composer in a single SaaS application. For example, if you wanted to build a SaaS app that allows customers to create their own custom pages you could include Visual Composer.

Stock: $170 – The Stock License option is suitable for WordPress developers who want to build themes around Visual Composer. For example, you could include Visual Composer with your theme as an extra feature to potential customers.

Support and development

WPBakery has always maintained and enhanced Visual Composer.  They have an excellent online Help Center where you can check for all related documentation. Plus you can raise new support issues when required.

Get Visual Composer

Conclusion

All three of these Page Builder plugins make editing content far more pleasurable than the native WordPress editor.

Being able to see your post or page come to life as you add content is a big bonus.

I’ve been using Thrive Content Builder over the past eighteen months to create all my pages and posts in WordPress. I was very keen to see if Beaver Builder or Visual Composer could offer something better in this head-to-head comparison.

Our top pick

While both the contenders are excellent, they failed to knock Thrive Content Builder off the top spot.

Thrive has a great visual editor that lets you see what you’re doing on the page without having to move any pop-up windows around. The other big bonus is the lead generation capabilities. Beaver Builder restricts you to a basic 1-Step Opt-in, and Visual Composer has none.

Although Visual Composer is half the price for a single site license, Thrive is well-priced for multiple sites and the membership plan is also competitive.

For all-around versatility and value-for-money then Thrive Content Builder is our top pick.

Posted by David Hartshorne

David Hartshorne is a freelance writer helping solopreneurs and small business owners build their online presence through friendly, engaging and shareable web content. When he’s not writing about WordPress and the latest digital marketing tools, you’ll find him chilling with a thriller in Spain.