We have a close association with Early, a marketing agency based in the city, and so we were delighted when our friends over there asked us to build their new website. And for us this was potentially a very straight forward project, as they had already selected and purchased the theme and so for us it should have been a simple job of collating and structuring the content and using the existing designs to roll out the site. However, this project ended up being far from simple and allowed us to prove just how powerful the platform we use is and how much easier it is to work with.
Early came to us to help them build their website. They wanted to create a contemporary look and feel and had already identified the Bomby theme as having a lot of what they wanted. Great, so in theory it should merely be a job of tweaking colours, reusing blocks and setting up content. Early’s design team mocked up all the pages as they wanted them, so we had a full design to work with.
The Bomby ‘theme’ isn’t a theme in the conventional sense. Whereas traditionally a theme on WordPress is a set of pre-built page layouts and blocks that can be used to create a website, Bomby is more like one of a number of ‘block builder’ WordPress sites. Instead of being a collection of existing pages with styles and layouts coded into the theme, it uses WP Bakery’s block builder technology to allow pages to be built from a blank canvas. Much like other leading block builders, such as Elementor and Divi, it allows content blocks to be created from scratch with the ability for the editor to then apply styles to almost all elements of the block without the need for a developer to write any code.
Bomby, therefore, is a ‘theme’ in the sense that they have created a whole collection of pre-styled layouts, with neat animation features included, that can then be cloned and reused or tweaked using WP Bakery block builder. It isn’t like the traditional pre-configured and fixed page layouts though as the user still has complete control of the page to change it block by block.
We are not all that familiar with WP Bakery at Siteset. It is not a plugin that we have used much, as we favour others. However, it is one of the leading WordPress plugins for allowing block builder approaches to websites. Many people all over the world use this as a way of building websites without the requirement of developers to write a lot of code. But having used others, such as Elementor and Divi, we were confident that we could quickly get up to speed with it and crack on with building the website for Early.
Having been provided with the design for the homepage from Early’s design team, which was very similar to the existing Bomby design at that point and kept the layout the same, we sat down to make the changes. These consisted entirely of content and colour changes and updates to the font.
Having already familiarised ourselves with WP Bakery, we were expecting this to be straightforward. However, the experience we had was far more frustrating. The WP Bakery interface was troublesome and we needed to have a developer make a code change to allow us to use the Ubuntu font within the theme. In short, it took just under an hour to make some relatively simple changes to only five of the homepage blocks using an existing layout and during this time the interface was hard to use and took time to load. It was hard to clone rows and layouts and confusing to add new blocks in, with issues occurring on many occasions. In then assessing some of the other pages and changes that were required in mobile layouts, we discovered bugs in the design, whereby things were not displaying properly and it was hard to see how we could easily control the responsive styles in the way we wanted.
At this point we asked Early if we could try using Elementor to build the site. Elementor is another block builder plugin for WordPress and is our platform of choice for building new websites that aren’t full themes. We proposed building the homepage layout from a blank canvass, so that we had full control of every block and all of the styles. Early agreed, as they were not wedded to the platform, only to the styles.
The change was dramatic. In 67 minutes we rebuilt the entire homepage, from scratch. This was quite profound. The time it had taken to edit a few already pre-configured and built blocks in WP Bakery was just under an hour and we had built the whole page again, from nothing, in pretty much the same time. Using Elementor we were also able to take more control over the styling at tablet and mobile layouts, something we were not able to do to the same extent using WP Bakery.
The intended advantage of using block builder platforms over traditional themes is that they allow us to be completely agile. In theory you have control of all elements of the styles of the site as a content editor or designer, so you are not limited to the layouts that have already been created by the developers and don’t require the developers to make code changes for you to change the look and feel. This is important because it allows a client to change their mind or vary from the original design without incurring time consuming code changes. Why is this important? Because even professional designers don’t know if something is going to look good until they see it working and the only certainty in any project is that changes will be required to the original specification.
Using Elementor we were able to accelerate the project and create custom layouts and blocks that didn’t exist within the Bomby theme, as well as replicating those that did. As Elementor is an open source plugin, we were also able to develop our own content widgets, something we routinely do through our own Elementor Pro extension that we develop ourselves. So when Early wanted to do something off-piste and innovative we were able to develop new widgets quickly to facilitate this. Elementor Pro’s new pop-up feature also gave them the ability to take advantage of the existing vast array of functionality to do things that simply didn’t exist in Bomby.
The reason we like using Elementor as a platform is that it is extremely nimble and the way it works with editing styles is concise and fast. Moreover, the array of things that can be controlled in terms of styles, and the ease with which this can be done through the ‘What You See Is What You Get’ interface, makes it the most powerful and intuitive platform we have seen.
This project has allowed us to validate the power and flexibility of Elementor over and above a number of other options. Even though this project was originally scoped to be a content population job, we managed to keep the project to the same overall amount of time, by reducing some of the content that was required, despite building the entire website from scratch. Moreover, we managed to solve a number of inherent limitations and issues with the Bomby theme, particularly around mobile optimisation, which would have required coding from a developer. The result is a stunning commercial website that not only looks good amongst competitors but actually stands out from the crowd as an excellent example of an agency website. And we achieved all of this without any major development time to write new code.