Page Builders for Drupal: Necessity or Unnecessary?

In this post we explore whether drag-and-drop page builders have a place in Drupal and for which kind of websites they are most suited for.

We recently received an enquiry from a Drupal customer of ours asking for our opinion as to why there is such a distinct difference between the drag-and-drop page builder offerings available for WordPress versus Drupal, and whether this was to do with an API limitation of Drupal. Obviously, with the likes of popular page builders for WordPress such as Visual Composer, and thus far no similar page builder available for Drupal receiving similarly notable popularity, it’s safe to say that options are scarce with regards to drag-and-drop page builders for Drupal. We found this question fairly thought-provoking, and decided to write a post to explain our viewpoints on the topic.

Firstly, it’s important to note that WordPress itself does not come with much drag and drop functionality out the box (with the exception of widgets, which is comparable to Drupal’s native drag and drop blocks), but rather there are a number of drag and drop page building plugins available for the CMS. Of course, given that WordPress’s community is substantially larger in size than Drupal’s (approximately 35 times larger), it’s no surprise that there is an array of premium third party extensions available to provide additional functionality to WordPress, for non-developers particularly.

Where it all began

The rise of the drag-drop page builder really originated from popular online theme marketplaces, with theme developers eager to market their products as vastly-multipurpose, drag-and-drop, website out-the-box solutions, that provided buyers with a one-stop-shop. Fast forward a few years, and these builders have become really popular, and we’re now at a a place where they have become an expectation by many, if not all, purchasers of WordPress themes.

There’s no denying it, they definitely do make for quicker custom front-end layout building (not to be confused with front-end editing), and that’s arguably why WordPress as a site building tool has become so popular with non-developers.

For the longest time, Drupal as a platform has been largely recognised as the premier choice for custom development, capable of satisfying even the most demanding of tailor made enterprise solutions, leaving tools such as drag and drop page builders largely unnecessary. Such tools are not useful to the majority of developers building custom solutions, and in some cases even limiting in the layouts that can be achieved. Not to mention, most page builders create additional markup on the page, which can definitely have other implications such as slower loading times, slowness of mobile browsing, and the like.

Drupal drag-and-drop

Admittedly, the release of Drupal 8 incorporates many great new features to aid in frequent site building activities. Inline editing, front-end block and views configuration, and drag-and-drop image uploads, are now all part of Drupal 8 out-the-box. The new release of the CMS also includes CKEditor, image alignment and caption control, and a fully responsive administration panel so that changes can be made to the site by authors and editors from any device, on the go. Not to mention the far more advanced drag-and-drog blocks management layout, which arguably is a page builder in its own right. Drupal’s certainly upped its game.

These awesome new front-end editing tools are great for authors, site builders, and front-end editors who find it easier and more efficient to work visually or inline. By no means does this constitute a fully-fledged drag-and-drop page builder, but we don’t think that’s really what Drupal is built for.

The Ultimatum

Ultimately, developers who know the extensive capabilities and differences of both Drupal and WordPress will be able to make an informed choice about which platform will be most suitable for any given project, and sometimes the answer is WordPress. Drupal is great for building sites for any purpose and of any scale, and Drupal 8’s new front-end editing features makes this easier than ever before, but it definitely is geared more toward developing highly custom solutions, albeit where flexibility is key. WordPress, on the other hand, with its abundance of install-and-go plugins available, is a good choice for blogs, and primarily information sites which can be managed with minimal effort and backend development.

Drupal is not WordPress, and it doesn’t need to be. We think WordPress does its job very well.

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