BoldGrid is a WordPress based website builder aiming to compete with the likes of Squarespace and Wix. It tries to handle the whole design process from start to finish, enabling even novice site owners to create fully-featured designs.
It’s got customizable themes, page-builder functionality, forms, and image search all built-in, and staging makes development and testing super easy. It’s also free, which is always an attractive price-point. A fully decked out support center with video tutorials rounds out the main features.
Let's dig in...
Getting started - choosing an “Inspiration”
BoldGrid gave us our own site with the BoldGrid system already installed, so I can’t comment on the installation process...
When you log in to your BoldGrid site, you’ll see a slightly customized version of the WordPress dashboard:
Your first step is to pick a theme. You do this by going to the “Inspirations” tab.
BoldGrid divides up the inspirations by category. So you can pick the one that fits your site and get theme suggestions tailored to that industry. It’s nice to not have to wade through a bunch of unrelated themes.
So if you select the Marketing category, you’ll see lots of sites that fit the look of a marketing company.
One thing to note is that the selection isn’t incredibly expansive. At least for my category. You’ll probably find something that works, but don’t expect to have hundreds of options.
I really like that you can quickly preview your theme in different responsive layouts before selecting it:
Once you select your theme, you get to customize it.
This part utilizes the normal WordPress customizer interface, but with some added features. You can change logos, fonts, widgets, etc. There’s a lot of overlap in options with normal WordPress themes, but here’s one customization I thought was really cool:
BoldGrid lets you suggest different color palettes and automatically apply them. This tool makes finding colors that work together a lot easier. In the past, I had to use sites like Coolors and then manually apply those changes to WordPress one by one.
BoldGrid gives you that same functionality but makes it a lot easier. Kudos here - I wish every WordPress theme had this functionality.
Another nice feature is the widget adder. It makes it very clear where in the page certain widgets will appear. You can then easily add widgets like you do with any other WordPress site:
Adding Posts / Pages
BoldGrid comes with a built-in page builder and pre-built templates called GridBlocks. You can start with a blank page, or save time by using one of the premade GridBlocks. As far as I can tell, each GridBlock is customized to the theme you’re using. So it should always work design wise:
You can adjust the grid blocks by using the page builder like interface. It’s easy to drag and resize elements. You can also move their position and add new blocks. If you’ve used any other page builders, you should have no problem manipulating the page to create the design you want. Beginners shouldn't have any issues either.
The GridBlocks are a nice feature that should save you a lot of time...if they fit your purpose. I imagine they’re especially nice for setting up standard site pages, but if you need a non-standard page, you’ll probably have to create it from scratch or heavily edit one of the GridBlocks.
Built-in stock photo search
Another nice feature, and I assume a good part of what makes BoldGrid free to end-users, is the built-in stock photos. Themes/GridBlocks come with stock photos added. If you don’t want to replace them with your own images, you can easily pay for the rights using BoldGrid coins (more on that later!).
If you want to replace the default images with different stock photos, you can also do that by searching BoldGrid Connect:
Any of the images can then be added with just a few clicks.
You’re by no means locked into using stock images - you can always upload your own and easily add them. But if you do want stock photos, they’re integrated very smoothly.
Stock photos seem to cost between one to three coins each. I’ll get into the value of coins later on.
Built-in Ninja Forms
BoldGrid comes with Ninja Forms built in to make creating forms super easy. We already have a review of Ninja Forms, so I won’t dig into their functionality too much.
Once you create a form in Ninja Forms, you can add it to your site via the page builder with a few clicks. Everything works together very smoothly.
I think one of the coolest features of BoldGrid is the built in staging system. Whenever you change to a new theme or create a new page, you can deploy it to your active site or your staging site.
The active site is what regular users will see when they go to your domain. The staging site is hidden and allows you to try things out before pushing them to the live version of your site.
So you could create a completely new design on the staging site using the BoldGrid builder, and then only push it live when you’ve tested it out and are sure that everything is perfect.
This makes development a lot easier and will save you a ton of time if you ever want to make major changes to your site.
Staging is super easy to use. When you want to deploy your staging site to your active site, you just need to click one button and everything will get automatically switched over. Your active site becomes your staging site, so you can always switch back if needed.
Pricing and Coin System
Currently, BoldGrid is available for free for people who host their WordPress site at InMotion Hosting or Web Hosting Hub. You can also apply for a free key if you host your site elsewhere, though you won’t get dedicated support like the other users. There are plans to open up this free version eventually.
There are also plans to roll out a developer version in the future, though it seems to be a bit away from becoming reality.
As I mentioned, the stock photos included in designs cost coins. Because these coins are purchased inside the actual hosting interface, I’m unable to provide a specific dollar value for each coin.
I’ve never used other web builders like Squarespace or Wix, so I can’t comment on how BoldGrid stacks up. I can say that, at least as far as WordPress tools go, it does make everything very simple. Creating a site is pretty idiot-proof.
But this simplification comes at a cost - you lose access to the huge and vibrant theme community that is such a big part of WordPress. If you want the ease of use and find a BoldGrid Inspiration theme that you love, the tradeoff is definitely worth it. Otherwise, it’s something you need to keep in mind. Note - you can still add a different theme, that feature is just slightly hidden away and BoldGrid cautions that not all the features will work with themes that aren’t BoldGrid certified.
For what it aims to do, BoldGrid does a great job. I think it’s perfect for beginners and people who don’t want to take the time to really dig into WordPress. It also allows you to stick to WordPress instead of the other custom website builders, which I think is always a good thing!