7 Best WordPress Theme Builder and Website Builder Plugins Compared
Looking for the best WordPress website builder? Or the best WordPress theme builder, depending on your chosen parlance?
Thanks to intrepid WordPress developers, website building has come a long way in WordPress. Now, it’s totally possible to use a visual, drag-and-drop interface to design 100% of your website, almost completely replacing the need to use a WordPress theme.
But designing an entire WordPress website from scratch is a big endeavor, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right tool for the job.
To help, I’ve collected what I believe to be the seven best WordPress theme builder plugins in 2020 and beyond.
Let’s dig in!
Note, I’ll use the terms “WordPress website builder” and “WordPress theme builder” interchangeably in this post.
WordPress Theme Builder (Website Builder) vs Page Builder
To start off, let’s talk about the difference between a WordPress website builder and a WordPress page builder, as I think this will help you understand what you’re going to get in this post.
Here’s how I see the difference…
A WordPress page builder essentially lets you design the content that would go inside the WordPress editor. For example, you could design the text of a blog post or the text of a page.
Some page builders also come with templates that let you disable parts of your WordPress theme, like your header (or you can use a page builder-friendly theme). With such features, you can use page builders to design full landing pages.
However, you need to design everything piece-by-piece. That is, you build one page, then you build another, and so on. You can’t, say, design a template that applies to all of your blog posts.
A WordPress website builder, also known as a WordPress theme builder, changes that…
With a WordPress website builder plugin, you can design your entire website, effectively eliminating the need for a theme. That is, you’ll be able to build templates for your WordPress site’s:
- Archive pages (e.g. the list of your blog posts)
- Single pages (e.g. the design of a single blog post)
- WooCommerce store
So you could design one template for your blog posts using the website builder and then every single blog post would automatically follow that template. Or, you could build the header for your website and apply it to every page (or even just conditionally apply it to single pages).
Additionally, a good WordPress theme builder should also help you incorporate dynamic content from custom fields, a feature which all of the plugins on this list offer.
Most of these plugins are both page builders and theme builders, which gives you the best of both worlds.
Seven Best Theme Builder Plugins for WordPress
The free version of Elementor is the most popular WordPress page builder plugin at WordPress.org. However, with Elementor Pro, the premium add-on, you can turn Elementor into a full WordPress website builder and design every single part of your theme.
The core Elementor interface is a visual, drag-and-drop builder that’s packed with widgets and style options to help you create some truly beautiful, unique designs. For example, beyond lots of basic style options, you get custom positioning, motion effects, and tons more.
With Elementor Pro, you get the ability to take that interface and apply it to your theme template parts. You’ll be able to use Elementor to design your:
- Single posts
It also includes a dedicated WooCommerce integration if you’re running an eCommerce store that lets you design both your shop and single product pages.
For each template part, you can either apply it sitewide or use conditional formatting to only apply it to specific parts of your website.
For example, if you’re building a real estate website, you could create a template for your house listings and dynamically populate each house’s details with information from custom fields.
Beyond theme templates, you can also use Elementor Pro to design popups that appear anywhere on your site.
Finally, if you don’t want to design your entire website from scratch, Elementor Pro includes importable site kit templates that let you quickly import templates for all of your website’s most important pages.
Overall, Elementor Pro is a great option for casual users or designers who want access to lots of design options in an easy-to-use package. For the average WordPress user, I think Elementor Pro is the overall best WordPress theme builder.
Price: Elementor Pro starts at $49 for use on a single site.
Oxygen is the best WordPress website builder for developers or other more technical users. It puts more of an emphasis on clean and lightweight code than many of these other tools.
However, to achieve that focus, it’s not quite as beginner-friendly as something like Elementor Pro, especially when it comes to design options. For example, Oxygen still uses <divs> in the interface, which is something many other builders abstract behind their interfaces.
Overall, Oxygen seems to be especially popular with freelancers and agencies who have the knowledge to use custom code to achieve their goals, but are just looking for a tool to help them speed up their workflows and make it easier to build custom websites with WordPress.
To design your templates, Oxygen does still give you a visual, drag-and-drop interface. You also have full access to the underlying code, which is another feature that makes Oxygen well-suited for developers.
Oxygen also bakes in some advanced features into the interface. For example, you can insert dynamic content into pretty much any element (e.g. custom fields or regular WordPress content). You can also create your own custom repeater loops, which is super useful for displaying lists of posts (or custom post types).
Another powerful feature is Oxygen’s Gutenberg block integration. With this tool, you can essentially build your own reusable blocks using Oxygen’s visual, drag-and-drop interface. You (or your clients) will be able to use those blocks in the regular block editor, which gives you more customization options without forcing you to always use the Oxygen interface.
If you’re building client sites, this also helps you make it harder for clients to accidentally break their sites.
Overall, Oxygen is a great WordPress website builder if you’re a developer or agency looking for a tool to speed up your workflows while still outputting clean code and giving you access to the underlying code. If you’re a casual user, though, I think you might struggle to use Oxygen effectively.
Price: Starts at $99 for use on unlimited sites and lifetime updates. For WooCommerce support and the Gutenberg block feature, you’ll need to update to higher-tier plans.
Divi is another popular WordPress page builder plugin that, like Elementor, gives you tons of design options, which makes it especially popular with designers.
You get a visual, drag-and-drop interface that gives you full control over your designs.
With the latest version, Divi 4.0, Divi also includes a new theme builder feature.
With Divi Theme Builder, you get access to a full theme templating options using Divi. You’ll be able to design headers, footers, archives, single posts, etc.
When you publish a template part, you’ll also be able to use conditional rules to control exactly where to display that template.
Like the other tools, you also get a dynamic content feature that lets you include dynamic content from your WordPress site or custom fields. And if you’re using Divi to design an eCommerce store, it includes a full WooCommerce integration that lets you design all of your store’s pages.
Finally, Divi includes a number of pre-built website template packs that you can import, which helps you quickly get up and running.
Overall, I’d say that Divi is somewhat of an alternative to Elementor Pro, as it has a lot of the same strengths. Personally, I prefer Elementor Pro’s interface, but you might like Divi better, in which case Divi might be the right tool for you.
Beaver Builder is a popular WordPress page builder that has a good reputation for clean code and stability. Like the others, it gives you an easy-to-use visual drag-and-drop interface to create your designs.
With the official Beaver Themer extension, you can add on full theme building support to the core Beaver Builder plugin.
Beaver Themer lets you design all of your WordPress theme parts, including headers, footers, archives, and singles.
To pull in data from your WordPress site or custom fields, you can use Beaver Themer’s field connections feature to dynamically insert information.
You also get conditional display rules to control where and when each template should be used.
If you’re running a WooCommerce store, Beaver Themer also includes its own set of WooCommerce modules to help you customize your shop and single product pages.
For even more flexibility, you can turn to third-party Beaver Builder extensions.
Overall, I see Beaver Builder and Beaver Themer as a sort of compromise between Elementor and Oxygen. Beaver Builder retains most of Elementor’s ease of use, while also outputting pretty clean code (for a page builder plugin).
Note – to use Beaver Themer, you’ll also need the Pro version of Beaver Builder. Beaver Builder does include a limited free version at WordPress.org, but that free version doesn’t work with Beaver Themer.
Price: Beaver Builder starts at $99. Beaver Themer costs $149 on top of that. Both allow use on unlimited websites.
5. Brizy Pro
Brizy is an upstart WordPress page builder that’s quickly grown in popularity thanks to its speedy interface.
Like the other tools, Brizy offers a visual, drag-and-drop interface. But the reason that I say it’s “speedy” is that Brizy has tried to inline as many of the settings as possible. For example, instead of using a sidebar to customize a button, you can access most of the button customization options from inside your design.
While this seems like a small thing, I think it makes for a slightly speedier editing experience, which can add up over time if you’re building lots of websites.
While the free version only acts as a page builder, Brizy Pro extends that into full WordPress theme building.
You’ll be able to use Brizy’s drag-and-drop interface to design your headers, footers, archives, and single templates.
Like Elementor Pro, Brizy Pro also includes a feature that lets you design popups and display them anywhere on your site.
Finally, Brizy Pro also includes its own Brizy Cloud feature, which lets you design websites and landing pages hosted in the cloud (instead of using the WordPress plugin). You can use this as another toolkit alongside your WordPress site. This is a pretty unique feature, as I’m not aware of any other WordPress theme builder that offers something similar.
Overall, I think that Brizy Pro is another good option for designers. Its interface is pretty unique as compared to other theme builders on this list, so I’d encourage you to play around with the free version at WordPress.org to see if you like Brizy’s approach. The free version doesn’t include theme building, though.
Price: Brizy Pro starts at $49 for use on up to three sites.
Thrive Theme Builder is a new WordPress theme builder from Thrive Themes, makers of the popular Thrive Architect page builder and Thrive Leads email opt-in tool.
It comes bundled with a lightweight version of Thrive Architect, so if you’re familiar with Thrive Architect, you’ll feel right at home.
You can design your header, footer, single, and archive templates using a speedy drag-and-drop editor with inline editing.
Like the other WordPress theme builders on this list, Thrive Theme Builder also includes a dynamic tool to help you display content from custom fields in your designs.
One unique thing about Thrive Theme Builder is that it comes bundled with the Shapeshift starter theme, which means you don’t necessarily need to design every single element of your site from scratch. You can build your theme from scratch if you want, though.
It also comes bundled with block templates to help you quickly set up important parts of your designs, like your single post author box.
At the time that I’m writing this post, Thrive Theme Builder is not compatible with WooCommerce. However, the developer does have plans to add WooCommerce support, so that feature might be there by the time you’re reading this.
Overall, all of Thrive Themes’ products are targeted more towards digital marketers and affiliates. If that fits your needs, you’ll probably like the built-in features for you (like easy email opt-ins and conversion-focused template designs).
Price: Thrive Theme Builder starts at $97 for use on a single site. Or, you can get it as part of the Thrive Themes membership, which costs $19 per month (billed annually) for access to all plugins and themes.
Visual Composer is a complete relaunch of this popular plugin that moves away from its page builder roots (the developer rebranded the original page builder-only version to WPBakery Page Builder).
Whereas WPBakery Page Builder remains focused on page building, the Visual Composer name is now used for a full WordPress website builder.
You’ll see a lot of similarities to the old interface in terms of basic design, but Visual Composer now lets you design all of your theme parts including:
- Dynamic content to pull from custom fields
- Block templates
- Tons of design elements
- Conditional settings to control where to display template parts
Price: Visual Composer starts at $59 for use on a single site
Which Is the Best Website/Theme Builder Plugin for You?
While all of these WordPress theme builder plugins let you design your entire website using visual, drag-and-drop interfaces, they all approach things in a somewhat different way.
For that reason, it’s hard to recommend a single plugin because they all have their own strengths and weaknesses and appeal to different audiences.
If I had to single out just three, I would recommend the following:
- Elementor Pro – use this if you love design flexibility and want to be able to easily build beautiful websites. If you’re a casual user or a designer, this will probably be your favorite WordPress theme builder.
- Oxygen – use this if you’re more concerned with clean, lightweight code output and are willing to sacrifice some of the design flexibility that Elementor Pro offers. If you’re a developer, this will probably be your favorite WordPress website builder.
- Beaver Builder + Themer – use this as a sort of middle-ground between Elementor Pro and Oxygen. It’s a little more geared towards non-technical users than Oxygen, but it still outputs cleaner, more lightweight code as compared to something like Elementor Pro.
The others all have something to offer. But overall, those are my three recommendations.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best WordPress theme builder for your needs? Ask away in the comments!