How to choose the best block plugin for WordPress

Since the introduction of the Gutenberg editor in WordPress and the emergence of the use of content blocks to layout pages and posts more and more people are used to design using blocks of all kinds.

Now, the blocks included in WordPress by default, although more than enough for many (even too many for some), do not cover all the design needs to make home pages comparable to those that can be achieved with layout tools like Elementor or Divi, for example.

There are times when you are going to “need” a block for a specific functionality and it will not be available among those installed by WordPress by default, and then you have a lot of opportunities, such as installing one of those suggested by the block finder integrated in the editor.

Or, if that fails, look for a block collection plugin that offers you what WordPress does not.

You will agree with me that the decision is not going to be easy, especially with the number of block plugins and block collection plugins that are available, even for free.

So how do I go about installing the right block I need? There are a few things I think you should consider when choosing one….

Determine your actual block requirements

It will be very tempting and at the same time complicated to choose between one or several collections of blocks, because I already anticipate that there is no perfect one, each developer puts more love in some specific free functionality (block) to attract future users, leaving the rest to average features, and then encourage you to purchase the premium version, once you have already started using their blocks.

So, if what you need is a testimonials or recommendations block, you will find collections of blocks that offer a fantastic block of this type, with infinite settings, totally premium. But if you also need a product block, you would have to opt for another block plugin, as the previous one offers a very basic free functionality of this type.

So, as soon as you start to choose the best collection that offers you each block you need, you may find that you have installed 5 or 6 block collection plugins, of which you only use one or two blocks at most of each one.

This will generate a series of advantages and problems, such as updating several plugins, possible conflicts between plugins, differences in styles and CSS between blocks, among others, in addition to having dozens or hundreds of blocks, with their styles loaded, consuming resources of your site.

Therefore, the most important task you have to perform as a web creator or designer is to coldly analyze which blocks you really need based on your real design needs, not on possible, future, “also cool”, etc.

Make a list of what kind of content you really need to use when creating pages and posts, before you start looking for plugins. At least then you will know what you are really looking for, and which block or collection of blocks best suits you, your design needs.

A sample list might look like this:

  • Fullscreen header – Analyze whether the WordPress background block is enough for you or you need something else.
  • Contact Form – For example, Contact Form 7 already includes a block, do you need something else?
  • Testimonials/Recommendations – Not included in WordPress, can I use another existing block to get the same result, e.g. columns or tables, with images and text.
  • Image Carousel – WordPress includes the gallery block, do I need anything else? really?
  • Blog posts – WordPress includes several can I customize them as I like to design for myself or my clients?
  • Call to action – Not included in WordPress but isn’t a background block with a button and text the same thing?
  • Buttons – Included in WordPress, and more than enough for almost any need.
  • Table – Included in WordPress
  • Separators – Included in WordPress, unless you need some layout, do I know CSS?

Here’s the idea.

The most important thing is that, before you start installing blocks or collections of blocks, practice and get to know all the possibilities of the blocks included in WordPress, you will be surprised! I myself have created websites only with WordPress blocks that you can’t tell if they have been created with advanced layout designers. Often the chosen images, fonts, colors and above all the taste when designing is what really makes the difference.

Value blocks and collections of blocks as plugins … because they are plugins.

If you have a set of criteria when selecting any plugin you need, for SEO, analytics, performance or whatever, apply those same quality criteria when choosing a block plugin or block collection plugin.

Because both block collection plugins (obvious) are plugins, as are the blocks offered by the block inserter search engine in the WordPress editor (not obvious at all).

That said, I propose that before installing any block plugin or block collection, you value the following:

  • Does my theme recommend it? – This is always a value, because there will be no dissonance of CSS styles with those of the theme, and the theme demos will offer you good examples of using them, plus they are usually programmed to take full advantage of the theme’s specific features.
  • How many active installations do you have? – As with any plugin.
  • How good is the support? – It is quite common for theme developers to forget to support the forum of their block plugin, leaving the users alone, who do not necessarily have to use their theme as well. As with any other plugin, it is important that you have an active support without excessive delays in responses.
  • Does the plugin have an active development? – If the block plugin is not updated with a reasonable frequency, perhaps you will be left abandoned, and with tens or hundreds of blocks in your content, without future updates. Be careful with this, we will discuss it later.
  • Do I have all the blocks – or almost – I need? – Here you have to test and test, until you have installed and tested the blocks of several collections or enough independent blocks for your needs you will not really know how to choose the right plugin.
  • Do the blocks meet my needs? – Parallel to the above, not only quantity matters, quality matters, because the blocks you need should also offer enough settings to cover all your design needs for that particular type of content, and not have to resort to other blocks or collections.

Lock-in effect

The so-called “lock-in” effect is the technological lock-in you suffer when you use an application (software) that prevents you from growing or scaling to another technology, tying you to that previous technology.

As far as blocks are concerned, except for those that come by default with WordPress (relatively), if you start using a block from a collection in your content and tomorrow you decide to use another block for the same functionality, you will have to modify lots of pages to replace one by another, and you can not uninstall the previous block plugin until you change everything, otherwise your content would be negatively affected, showing design errors and, in the worst case, broken code and zero content.

This, which can (and does) happen when you change theme, when you switch from one layout designer to another, will also happen if you use a collection of blocks and later want to use another one. Either you replace all the blocks of the old one with those of the new one, or if you simply uninstall the old one you will destroy your pages, as all the block plugins are incompatible with each other.

So be aware that your choice of block plugin or block collection should be for the long term, and that you should only use specific blocks of the plugin when it is really essential, and being aware that tomorrow you may have to completely modify all the pages in which you include blocks of that plugin.

Although they are not free from being obsolete someday, I reiterate what I said at the beginning that, before you start putting plugin blocks here or there, explore all the possibilities offered by native WordPress blocks because, in principle, they will have a more lasting compatibility in WordPress, or so it would be desirable.

I hope I have helped you in this reflection. If you have any more advice or experience it would be great if you share it in the comments.

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