Beaver Builder Review from Developer Perspective

Beaver Builder Review from a Developer’s Perspective

When people in WordPress circles say “page builder,” I’m not gonna lie: I get skittish. My mind immediately goes to poor markup, theme 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 interviewed 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 Review: Some FAQs for Developers

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. Be careful where you click or you might step on one.

Beaver Builder – Plugin or Theme?

Well, it’s both. Actually, it’s four things. There’s a lite plugin (free) in the WordPress repo, there’s the full-featured plugin, there’s an add-on plugin called Beaver Themer, and then there’s the theme.

Let’s look at each.

Beaver Builder Theme

This is a regular WordPress theme made to be a base for the Beaver Builder plugin. There are a handful of design options that make it a pretty slick starting point for using the plugin. Of course, Beaver Builder plugin works with just about any WordPress theme, so if you’ve already got a theme you like, no need to use the BB theme. If you don’t have a theme picked out yet, consider using this as a starting point.

Here’s a site I built with the Beaver Builder theme. Note that I’m not using one of the built-in templates, but was still able to throw that design together pretty quickly.

p.s. Beaver Builder Theme ships with a child theme (the child theme is just a style sheet and functions.php). As always, all code customizations belong in the child 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 (Dynamik) has all the functionality baked in, whereas the plugin (Genesis Extender) 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 are 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. And note that all of these modules work out-of-the-box with custom post types, too.

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.

Beaver Themer Plugin

The name is a little confusing at first but it makes sense based on what it does. It’s a plugin you install (and it requires that the Beaver Builder Plugin be active). But the functionality lets you create theme components, such as a header, footer, or content layout.

This is a new addition since when I originally wrote this article and it is, in evolutionary terms, THE MISSING PIECE. With Beaver Themer, you can create page layouts and then apply them very specifically to certain types of content (i.e. I want this layout used on posts with X category, or I want this layout used only on pages, etc.). There’s a bit more of a learning curve with this one, but it fills in the a lot of the gaps I originally discussed in this article.

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 (which, at least, is pretty well-documented).

Update (4/12/18): There’s a Beaver Hooks guide available. Woohoo!

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.

Multisite Support?

Yep. You can use Beaver Builder in a WordPress Multisite environment. I recently finished my first Multisite project with Beaver Builder and here’s what I learned in a nutshell:

The Pro license includes Multisite Support while the Agency license includes Multisite Network Settings. The difference? “Multisite Support” means, yes, Beaver Builder plays nicely and works just fine with any site on a multisite network. That’s great, but sort of defeats the purpose of Multisite, which is the ability to manage settings across the entire network. You can’t do that with the Pro license.

To do that, you need the Agency license. This let’s you create/configure layouts you can use across the entire network. Way more helpful (IMHO), but that was the case for my situation.

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.
I stand corrected. There are a handful of developers creating extensions, there just isn’t an official marketplace available yet.

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?

Update: I’m leaving the section below for posterity’s sake, but let the record reflect that the shortcomings I reference below are capabilities now possible with the Beaver Themer plugin.

Yes, but you need to create them. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

(If you’re working with the Genesis Framework, here are some templates I created that force full-width layouts across the board on posts and pages. Feel free to use them as a starting point for your own templates, but note that I have not thoroughly tested them.) ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

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.

Beaver Builder vs Divi

There are a number of page builder plugins out there, but Divi is high on the popularity list and I wanted to address it in comparison to Beaver Builder. Specifically, I want to address the difference in what these plugins add to post content and store in your database.

Beaver Builder injects inline CSS styles.

Divi injects a crap-ton of shortcodes.

What happens when you disable Beaver Builder plugin or theme? You still have all your inline styles and your content still looks fine.

What happens when you deactivate Divi theme? Your content is littered (quite generously) with shortcodes. You’d need to manually remove those shortcodes from every single post or page if you ever wanted to move away from Divi. Chris Lema wrote a great post showcasing how horrible it is.

That’s a ridiculous level of theme lock-in I’m not willing to put up with. So yes, when it comes to Beaver Builder vs Divi, I’m picking Beaver Builder all day long.

Keep Exploring

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.

My friend Pippin Williamson wrote an awesome developer review comparing a variety of page builders (including Beaver). It’s most definitely worth a read.

That’s my humble Beaver Builder review, but don’t take my word for it – go check out the demo and see what you think.

64 thoughts on “Beaver Builder Review from a Developer’s Perspective”

  1. I guess I am missing something. I have a licensed copy of BB ( 1.8.5 ) and downloaded and installed your BB-genesis-template plugin. BUT I can’t use because your plugin code says that I don’t have BB installed. Wrong. It is installed and activated. Any Ideas?

    if ( ! class_exists( ‘FLBuilder’ ) ) {
    wp_die( sprintf( __( ‘Sorry, you can\’t activate unless you have installed and activated Beaver Builder.’, ‘bb-templates-genesis’ ) ) );
    }

  2. Hi Carrie! Nice post indeed. I’m new to Genesis and after I read your post I started to wonder what you thought was a better choice (if you had to pick only one) Dynamik Website Builder or Beaver Builder? Many thanks!

  3. I tried to use Beaver builder (as well as live composer) on the utility pro theme that I just purchased and love, but there was no where to drag anything to available on the front page. It’s there a tutorial for conducting utility pro to work with BB or live composer?

  4. Hi Carrie,
    Thanks for this post and all of your instructional videos on Lynda.com. I find them very helpful.

    For some time now I have been searching for a true drag and drop wordpress builder, similar to what the WIX editor provides. For example, you can place an image at an aribrarly place on the canvas, and then move it around by holding the mouse over it and simply dragging it.

    I have not found this capability in Beaver Builder – it seems everything has to fit into a grid sturcture – rows and columns, and that once an object is “placed,” you cannot move it my simply dragging it.

    I have also looked at alternatives like the Thrive Content Builder and Visual Composer, and they seem to suffer from the same problems.

    Recently I found a plugin, Zedity, that seems to have overcome this grid placement issues and allows “drawing on the page.” However, I never see Zedity mentioned in any comparisons, nor does it seem to come up with a search for visual page editors for WordPress. Compared to Beaver Builder, it has a relatively low number of installs.

    Have you heard of this plugin, and do you know why it doesn’t seem to come above the surface? I like it, but am concerned there must be some reason people do not use it as much as Beaver Builder or Visual Composer.

    Thanks for any insights or comments you might have on this subject.

    Mark

    1. Hey Mark,
      I have not heard of Zedity. My only caution is the same as I have for Visual Composer: Understand what’s happening with your content before you go into it. In other words, if you ever want to switch away from using it, how hard will it be? Of course, this is a concern for most page builders out there.

      Pippin Williamson just wrote an excellent post from a developer’s perspective rating the most popular page builders (no mention of Zedity). You might find some helpful insights there.

      For all that I hate about WIX (you can never export your content in a usuable format – you’re locked into their system or you lose your data if you decided to move), they have addressed a particular segment of users in a way that WordPress hasn’t successfully done yet.

      Don’t know if that’s helpful, but more of my $.02. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thanks Carrie for your reply.

    Your comments reinforce my skepticism about Zedity. Especially noting that Pippin doesn’t even mention it. I am surprised that WordPress plugin developers have not taken the lead from WIX about true drag and drip editting. I also don’t like the other aspects about WIX, but I do like their editor.

    Thanks again, Carrie.

    Mark

  6. Hi Carrie,

    I don’t often stumble into developer reviews/opinion pieces, but a commenter on my own post suggested this one – as a “plus” for page builders… but Beaver builder does exactly the same thing that they all do: they sacrifice longevity and extensibility for flexibility.

    You can’t find the two together. Wix is a great example of flexibility – but absolutely no extensibility.

    Beaver Builder sacrifices longevity because it puts the css inline. Plus that ads a crap load of code causing longer load times. And a fraction makes a difference with my clients. So basically BeaverBuilder looks better than visual composer/divi once deactivated, but it does the same thing to the code – bloated and stuck in that format/style.

    I’m not sure I understand the plus side. People can drag and drop but they might as well use Wix right?

    1. Hey Cathy,

      Thanks for the feedback! We do use a bit of inline-css when it’s appropriate, but the vast majority of a page’s styling is saved to a minified css file.

      With good caching in place, there’s a very little difference between Beaver Builder’s auto-generated markup and a page that’s coded by hand. One of the big plus sides is how much faster it enables you to build pages.

      Hope you’ll give us another shot. ๐Ÿ™‚ Cheers.

      1. Hi Robby. What about the other concern with page builders- migrating to a different theme? Things like content layout could stay but colors, fonts need to be changed with the new themes css.

        Thanks for taking the time earlier!

        Cathy

        1. Good question! And likewise, thanks for the comment/time. ๐Ÿ™‚

          If you’re following the best practices for front end dev, you’ll probably want to put as much of the styling as possible in a css file as opposed to using the page builder.

          You can style a page with Beaver Builder, but you don’t have to. We make it very easy to add a CSS class or ID to any element in Beaver Builder, so you can keep style with the theme and just use BB to do the layout. We try to be as “un-opinionated” as possible with our default stylingโ€”most everything is inherited from the theme style-wise.

          That said, for better or worse, many people chose to do their styling in Beaver Builder, so you make a valid point.

  7. I found this post via Google. I had seen it before but am now taking a second look because I am now part of a situation where I have a prototype built with Beaver Builder and Dynamik that needs some design revisions that these two plugins are not capable of doing while also considering accessibility, and so a custom theme is required. So I will essentially be taking a Beaver Builder and Dynamik design and turning it into a custom theme with design revisions and accessibility fixes built in. Thanks again for this, Carrie.

    1. Hey, Amanda! Thanks for the comment. I am one of the co-founders of Beaver Builder. I apologize that you’re having trouble. Accessibility is one of those areas where do our best, but I know we’re not perfect. We’ll take all the help we can get! If you have any suggestions or advice, please feel free to email me any time. We’d love to get your feedback!

      robby at fastlinemedia dot com

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