First off, I was looking for good drag & drop page builder to speed up website design and development for certain projects. I had run across a theme by Elegant Themes called Divi which created some beautiful results, and I was told was easy to use by a friend who ran a spiritual teaching website built with Divi. I checked it out and as an update to this post has been the main WordPress parent theme I have been using to build most of my client sites with – and wrote another post offering a Divi child theme for free use. However at the time as I was doing my normal thorough research, I found a Divi review on Chris Lema’s website that interested me in another option – Make – which prompted this review.
Chris makes the argument that using shortcode to create layouts becomes a problem when needing to port your website to a new theme. I have experienced the reality of shortcode remains when needing to port a WordPress based website to a new WordPress theme, and it is a concern. Make does not use shortcode to create its layouts and instead uses divs and sections. Although an improvement, it still leaves excess code specific to a theme that would not be interpreted by a new theme should you choose to move on. According to Corey who works for The Theme Foundry, (and by the way I appreciate their customer support),
Regarding the section divs that you do see in your pages: these are the alternative that we decided to use instead of shortcodes. One thing that we decided was really important when we were developing Make was that the content needed to be portable if the user were to switch themes. Since the Builder is creating complex layouts, where the context of the content depends on where it is positioned in relation to other blocks of content, leaving the markup in there when switching themes is important in order to maintain that context.
Fair enough. And there you have the real problem underlying changing WordPress themes after using a theme based page builder or design feature generator – if those layouts or design features are tied to the theme, then when you leave the theme, you leave those layouts and features. Whether a theme leaves shortcode or div tags, the new theme is likely not going to know how to interpret what to do with it, and you are left with a lot of code in your post editor that is useless.
I suppose the best option is to use a plugin to create complex layouts or other design features. There are a number of options out there for this, two of which I am interested in checking out – Velocity Page and Beaver Builder (affiliate links). Beaver Builder is more affordably priced; Velocity Pages interacts more like WordPress for those who are used to WordPress.
Either way, this is all simply based on a concern about changing themes in the future. If that is not something you are concerned about, then don’t worry about having all of the shortcode and div tags in there, you need them.
One thing I like about Make, it is free. It has a pro version called Make Plus, which will be affordable to some and not to others. In the case of how I was intending to use it, I did not want to saddle my client with ongoing theme related costs. Maybe next time will be different.
- Easy. Make was relatively intuitive to use. For the most part, I rarely had to visit their documentation to figure out how to use it. Figuring out how sidebars worked was one of those times, (more on that below).
- Nice Designs. Using their drag and drop builder leaves you with a nice looking site – that is, the spacing and sizing of everything works really well together, again making it easy to put some content up and have it work.
- The slideshow looks good, works well and has the basic options you would want, which is more than I can say for many slideshow plugins that have way too many functions and you still cannot make it look nice.
- Columns. It is great to be able to create two columns or 3 columns easily.
- Gallery. I like the effect they created with their gallery, allowing you to put words over the images and have them show or hide on hover.
- Responds well. You can choose to make the theme responsive and the default layouts and design components respond well, ie. spacing is well done.
- Drag & Drop. Drag and drop works well. It is easy to move parts of the page around.
- Customize. They have integrated their more global style options into WordPress’ Customize panel which has become the place to put such options in WordPress.
- Sidebar Widgets. You cannot use sidebar widgets when using the page builder.
- Page Sections. I wanted to create a page layout of full width vertical sections, differentiated by different colored backgrounds. This is commonly done on modern websites and allows communication of concepts in chunks. I was very limited in what I could do in this regard primarily because you cannot assign a full width background color to their Columns section. I created this effect somewhat by giving a full width background color to a banner, but even putting two banners after each other required me to start messing with the spacing because their were top and bottom margins to the Banner sections. Not a huge deal but given the responsive changes, I just didn’t want to mess with it for such limited results.
- Column Flexibility. With the free Make version, you cannot control the column widths. If for example you want two columns but one section wider than the other, you cannot do this with the free version but I understand have that in the Plus version. Not really a complaint as it is a fair upgrade to a free theme, just a limitation for the free theme.
Overall a nice drag & drop page builder theme to build a basic website. Easy and enjoyable to use. Great customer support from their staff as it has been for years. I have not tried their Plus version of Make yet but would certainly feel the need to test it out for a more robust website.