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Sarah Gooding
Elementor has acquired Layers WP, a WordPress site builder that was previously marketed as an all-in-one theme solution for getting a business online. Layers co-founders David and Marc Perel identified Gutenberg as the main reason for the sale in their farewell announcement:
With the arrival of Gutenberg we realized that a big change was required for Layers to keep pace. A massive investment of time and money was needed so we had to assess the best way forward. Having spent all of our 20’s working 18 hour days to build beautiful WordPress products we reached a point where we felt it best to partner with another company to try take Layers to the next level.
Elementor is the leading WordPress page builder, with more than a million active installations. CMO Ben Pines said they estimate that number to be closer to 2 million, based on the daily install rate. The company has grown from 6 employees to 55 since it launched in June 2016.
Elementor was well-prepared for Gutenberg’s inclusion in 5.0. While other page builders are still considering how to move forward with the new editor, Elementor released its Elementor Blocks for Gutenberg plugin in October 2018, making it possible for users to insert any Elementor template into Gutenberg with one click.
In the past, Layers didn’t meet the requirements for being listed in the WordPress.org themes directory, because the team decided not to follow best practices for keeping plugin and theme functionality separate. In 2016, Perel said they were opting to maintain Layers as a hybrid product, a theme that included plugin-like functionality, in order to keep third-party conflicts to a minimum, which he said also lessened their support burden. This prevented the product from receiving greater exposure on WordPress.org. As larger page builders began to dominate the market, Layers failed to gain the traction it needed to compete. Add Gutenberg to the mix and Layers’ founders were in need of an exit.
“We feel that this acquisition has come just at the right moment when WordPress itself is going through a huge amount of change,” Perel said. “With the release of Gutenberg and the new built-in post editor we realized that much of Layers would need to change in order to keep pace with the new look of WordPress and feel that Elementor is the best company to respond to the shifting tide of the industry.”
Elementor has released all 11 of Layers’ themes for free and Ben Pines said they are considering listing them on WordPress.org to make it easier for users to find them and stay updated. All of the themes have been updated to be fully compatible with both Gutenberg and Elementor. Existing Layers’ customers will receive two months of support before support is handed over to the Layers user community.
“Updating themes for compatibility is no easy matter, and we get thousands of requests asking for a theme that is compatible with Elementor,” Pines said. Finding a theme that is fully compatible with the page builder can be challenging. Pines said users often decide to use Elementor first and then look for a theme. There’s even a Facebook group called Elementor + Which Theme? with more than 2,400 members.
“Themes still pose an issue for users,” Elementor’s head of business development, Zvi Shapira, said. “We saw value in continuing the Layers project, and not leaving thousands of Layers users without a home. Layers is a well worthy project, and offering a theme that is compatible with Elementor and Gutenberg for free for our users and for all WordPress users has great value.”
Pines identified Layers’ advanced Customizer panel as one of its chief selling points. Along with the acquisition, all of the Layers Pro features, such as resizing the logo, customizing buttons, and styling menus, are now rolled into the free version.
Gutenberg is forcing some consolidation among page builders, as smaller operations struggle to keep pace with the technical updates required. Gutenberg is expected to standardize a way of layout building further along in the site customization phase. Pines said his team isn’t worried about how that will impact Elementor, even if core ends up overlapping with some of the solutions they offer in the plugin.
“I really don’t know if there will be an impact and of what sort,” Pines said. “It’s like the blocks we developed for Gutenberg. We adapted to provide our users with the maximum flexibility.” The plugin ensures that users don’t have to choose between using Gutenberg and the page builder. Acquiring Layers’ theme collection means Elementor users no longer have to look so hard to find a compatible theme.
“Our hope is that Layers themes will help less tech-savvy users manage the entire site design hassle-free,” Pines said.
Looks like a good move for Elementor users.
Ben Pines assertion that Gutenberg provides a standardised solution to layout though needs to be unpicked.
There are many page builders to choose from and these are generally pretty good. Even within the Gutenberg ecosphere there are blocks provided by the likes of Kadence and Gallery Block and these are good too.
Historically one of the big issues with WordPress and themes/page builders was the headaches encountered when switching from one to another. The standardisation argument starts to fall apart once you start looking closely at the scenarios using the new block editor. You still have each vendor using their own solutions for layout albeit wrapped in the new block paradigm and the problem here is that if you switch off a plugin (or theme) to use another your layout goes out the window meaning you have to start over and on that score.
We do have the columns block but it seems to be an orphaned element, not seeing any love from the block editor/core team. Why this is the case, who knows but it does mean that the editor stops short of providing the solution that has been much needed for years. Layout functionality needs to be provided by the new editor covering sections, rows and columns. It needs to be basic with maybe settings for padding and provide good responsive functionality. An API should be provided into which third party developers can hook their own bells an whistles. If you deactivate a theme or plugin for page building the basic layout remains.
I think many would be happy with this kind of standardisation.
And, for those who don’t care for page building, they don’t have to use these features. You can alternatively just use the Classic block and I would highly recommend TinyMCE Advanced, if that is your preference. For that, and other html work, we also need an update and improvement to the text editor experience with many IDE features.
Awesome! First Good News of 2019!
So ironic. I just moved a client’s site from the LayersWP theme to GeneratePress Premium last night. I did so because it was using the free version, which came from the WordPress themes repository, and which hadn’t been updated in a couple of years.
The customizer page-builder seemed clunky and obsolete, and the theme itself had mobile issues. I saw that a version of the free theme was on GitHub, but since I could no longer get automatic updates from the WordPress dashboard, I chucked it.
Oh, well. I’m keeping that site on GeneratePress for the time being.
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