Are you stuck between deciding whether to use a WordPress theme or designing your site with a page builder like Breakdance? There are benefits and drawbacks to both regarding design, speed, and flexibility. Some themes fit certain types of sites better than others. We've been working with Breakdance since it was announced and have compiled our thoughts on how it fares from scratch against using it with WordPress themes. We've combined our thoughts on Breakdance with how we've seen other page builders like Beaver Builder, Divi, and Elementor develop over the years.
When it comes to speed, Breakdance is unrivaled. It's lightning fast from the front end to the back end. Although in comparison to pre-built themes, you will have to put in a little more work when it comes to design. But regardless of your decision, you'll be able to create a beautiful site. If you're not sure which route to take, we hope this guide can help you make that decision.
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a predesigned template for your website. It includes a stylesheet for the look and feel of your site, as well as default templates for your pages and posts. When you install a new theme, it will completely change the design and layout of your website.
Some page builders actually work as themes, so I think it'd be fair to consider them here too. A great example of this would be Bricks, an incredibly powerful builder that hooks right into themes (less bloat).
When it comes to WordPress themes, you can find both free and premium options. Free themes are great if you’re on a budget, but they tend to be less reliable, lack support, and are not very appealing. Premium themes offer more features, but they can be expensive.
If you decide to go with a WordPress theme, you’ll need to find one that suits your needs. Do some research and read reviews to find a theme that’s compatible with the plugins you want to use. You should also make sure the theme is responsive, meaning it will adjust to different screen sizes.
We can't stress enough how important it is to ensure your theme is responsive, has been updated recently, and offers support. A lot of times people will find a theme they like, only to realize it's no longer supported and causes problems down the road.
Choosing a dead-end theme could cause hundreds of hours of your time to be wasted months or years from now!
Even if you really like the design, it's just not worth using something you'll have to replace in the future. Also, if you're newer to web development, it might make more sense to purchase a theme with documentation (or even better - one that comes with support) to help you get started.
To find a theme, you can either search the WordPress Theme Directory or buy a premium theme from a marketplace like ThemeForest. I highly recommend Bricks for completely designing a site from scratch or from the community themes. It combines the best part of themes (integration & customization) without the bloat of an entire builder.
Pros of Using WordPress Themes
- Faster To Setup - If you want to launch your website quickly, using a WordPress theme is the way to go. With a pre-designed theme, all you need to do is install it and add your own content. This is a much faster process than building a site from scratch with a page builder.
- Built by Web Designers - WordPress themes are designed by web designers. This means that the designs are going to be created with the intent to sell. The people who design WordPress themes want to create something that looks great and is easy to use.
- Generally Responsive - If you're using a theme built within the last few years, there's a better chance it's going to be responsive. These themes are built with mobile devices in mind and will adjust to different screen sizes, fonts, and images.
- Built In Functionality - Some themes offer decent functionality out of the box, like eCommerce integration or contact forms. Others are built to be used with specific plugins. Regardless, you'll have more functionality immediately available to you if you use a theme rather than starting from scratch.
Cons of Using WordPress Themes
- Speed - Probably the main reason you shouldn't be using a theme: website bloat. Pre-built themes often come packed with a lot of features you'll never use. This can make your website slow and bloated. If speed is important to you, it's better to start with a blank slate and only add the features you need. In addition to extra plugins, themes will be built with page builders that load extra scripts and stylesheets. These can really slow down your website even if they are optimized.
- Lack of Flexibility - Themes are not as flexible as starting with a blank slate. If you want to make significant changes to the design or layout of your website, it's going to be much easier to do so if you're starting from scratch. With a theme, you're pretty much stuck with whatever layout the designer chose. If you want to make changes, you'll need to be comfortable with HTML, CSS, and PHP which still might not let you make the changes you want.
When using a WordPress theme, you'll still be using some sort of page builder, whether that's the WordPress editor itself or a plugin like Breakdance, Elementor, or Divi. The main difference is that with a WordPress theme, you're starting with a predesigned set of pages and functionality that you then tweak to your liking. Whereas with a page builder like Breakdance, you're starting from scratch and building everything visually.
What is a WordPress Page Builder?
A WordPress page builder is a plugin that allows you to create, edit, and customize your website visually. This means that you can drag and drop elements around the page to create the layout you want, without having to write any code. Page Builders have quickly become one of the most popular ways to build a WordPress website, but with any popular technology, there are pros and cons.
Recently, Breakdance, a new WordPress page builder was announced. The builder focuses on several improved features compared to page builders currently in the market, including:
- An interface that is both more intuitive and easier to use
- Improved performance and speed
- More than 100 elements including contact form builders, eCommerce elements, and social media integration
- Better responsiveness on mobile devices
Breakdance is still in its early stages, but it promises to be a powerful WordPress page builder that can compete with the likes of Elementor and Divi.
When deciding whether to use a WordPress theme or a page builder like Breakdance, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each. We'll go over the pros and cons (with Breakdance as our page builder) in mind.
Pros of Using WordPress Page Builders
- Design Pages Visually - One of the biggest advantages of using a WordPress page builder is that you can design pages visually. This means that you don't need to know any code to create a beautiful website. You can simply drag and drop elements around the page until you have the layout you want. You still have to ensure your site is responsive, but you don't need to worry about coding for different screen sizes.
- A/B Test Templates - When using a theme, your page and post templates are generally set in stone. If you want to experiment with different layouts, you'll need to create a child theme or use duplicate templates This can be time-consuming and complicated. With a page builder like Breakdance, you can easily create different versions of templates and A/B test them on different pages or posts to see which performs better.
- Dynamic Data Integration - WordPress dynamic data is a term used to describe the process of pulling data from a database into your WordPress website. This can be anything from customer data, product data, and post data. WordPress themes are designed to be static. This means that they don't always play well with integrating dynamic data like eCommerce products or blog posts with your page design. Page builders, on the other hand, are designed to be dynamic. This means that they can manipulate the formatting of WooCommerce or blog post fields and content. Don't like your post title on the left? Center it and add the author's name while you're at it!
- Way Less Bloat - Have you ever installed a WordPress theme only to find that it came with 30+ pages of documentation, tons of unused features, and bloat that made your website slow? We have. It's not fun. When you're using a page builder like Breakdance, the only thing you need to worry about is the plugin itself. This means that your website will be leaner and faster. If you're designing a website for online traffic (which you should be!) you'll need your site to be as fast as possible. Search engines like Google also penalize slow websites, so it's doubly important to make sure your website is as fast as possible.
- Full Website Customization - If you've ever used a WordPress theme, you know that it can be difficult to fully customize your website. This is because themes are designed to be used by as many people as possible. As such, they generally have limited customization options. Page builders, on the other hand, are designed to be as flexible as possible. This means that you can customize every aspect of your website, from the colors to the fonts to the layout. If you can dream it, you can probably do it with a page builder.
Cons of Using WordPress Page Builders
- Not Immediately Responsive - Just like a theme, you'll need to ensure that your pages are responsive. This means that they'll need to look good on mobile devices, tablets, and desktop computers. You can't simply rely on the page builder to do this for you. However, most page builders come with easier means of making this possible (working with percentages rather than explicit numbers).
- Accessibility Concerns - Website accessibility is a huge topic and one that's often overlooked. When using a WordPress page builder, you'll need to be extra careful to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. This means using clear and concise text, high-contrast colors, and avoiding obstructive images or videos. A premade theme could be designed with accessibility in mind, which is a benefit over page builders
- Lack of Support - While most builders offer plugin-related support, they don't always offer users technical support. This means that if you have a question about designing elements using the plugin, you may need to figure it out on your own or find an online forum.
Should I Use a Theme or a Page Builder?
Page builders are generally considered to be more flexible and customizable, while themes are often seen as faster and more accessible. While I wouldn't use a standalone theme in 2023, Bricks would be the best option if you want a reliable theme that also purposes as a page builder.
If you want to go the more traditional and longstanding route, pick a reliable builder. In my opinion, Elementor and Divi is a waste of your time. They're old, bloated, and have way better alternatives.
It also really depends on your preferences and needs. If you're building a simple website and you like the look of a particular WordPress theme, then using that theme will probably be the quickest and easiest option.
Whichever route you choose, make sure you take the time to learn how to use whichever tool you select so that you can get the most out of it.