Layers, by Obox, introduces a beautiful page building interface

Categorized under:

, ,
Photo of author
Written By Brian Krogsgard

21 thoughts on “Layers, by Obox, introduces a beautiful page building interface”

  1. I’ve been seeing a lot of these tools popping up, and I’m still not sure what to think of them. It seems like they’re mostly aimed at end-users and simple point and click sites – especially considering some of the technical issues you pointed out in this example.

    We use Advanced Custom Fields “Flexible Fields” feature to build custom content blocks on our sites. We have a standard library of about 20 content blocks that we can pick and choose from when we implement a site, plus we can always add custom content blocks if we need them. The ACF interface is pretty client friendly but it’s also very developer friendly – no scripts or styles output on the front-end whatsoever. We have 100% control over every piece of markup, CSS, and javascript that is included on every page.

    It seems like the core WordPress metadata UI API project has stalled a bit, which is unfortunate. I would love to see a solution in WP core that gives the kind of flexibility and power that ACF does. It always feels a bit dangerous to rely so heavily on a third-party plugin.

    • @Dalton, would love to hear more about your approach to ACF flexible fields and building your content block library. I’ve used ACF on a few sites, and I feel like there’s so much more I could be doing with it and, like you, repurposing the work for other clients. I agree that it’s a little risky relying on a plugin, but at the same time, ACF has been around a while and feels like a good choice.

      • Joe – I’ve been meaning to publish a blog post about how we use content blocks for a long time, and maybe putting some of our templates up on GitHub. The beautiful thing is how modular the ACF flexible fields system is – it’s really easy to add a new content type to a site and build a template for it. I think a shared libraries of ACF content block patterns could be really useful…hmmm… maybe I have a new project to consider.

        Here’s a super quick video example of how we use content blocks in an unstyled starter theme:

        Feel free to shoot me an email dalton [at] if you want any more info.

        • Wow, I knew I was missing out on the power of ACF (I’ve mostly been using it for simple fields), and now I know how! Great video – that really showed me what’s possible. I had no idea.

          Yeah, definitely do a blog post on that. It’s totally revealing. I went to the ACF demo video to see how I’ve missed all this… your video does a better job of showing how it can work.

          A shared library of ACF block patterns is a great idea – I’ll be a happy consumer and possibly a contributor. If you’d like some help, hit me up at joe *at*

    • I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Layers launch (UpFront as well), and this seems to be a common sentiment. Developers are very weary about the thought of using a page builder. I honestly think it’s baggage from the DreamWeaver/FrontPage days. Page builders have come a long way since then and they can significantly decrease development time.

      We love abstracting our work, right? Tools like SASS, LESS, HAML, CoffeeScript, Emmet all enable us to write less code and do more faster. A page builder can abstract writing code all together.

      This is something that we learned very quickly after launching and using using Beaver Builder at our agency. We all love writing code. I’ve done plenty of ACF/custom page template work myself. I’d even say I miss writing code, but there’s no looking back when I can churn out a site in half the time by using a drag and drop tool. Plus, most of our clients can jump into the page builder and make changes to their site themselves after we deliver it! That’s huge!

      Sure, there will still be scenarios where one will need to custom code and advanced or dynamic page, but we’ve found that these new-school page builders can handle 9/10 sites that come through our agency. They’re worth a shot.

      • Robby, I just tried the Beaver Builder demo, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. Having the theme integrated with the Customizer, and the Builder plugin separate is a good combo. It was really easy to use without any documentation. And the design is clean and modern. This is challenging my desire to code custom stuff and just use something like this for “standard” sites! Dare I say, this brought some fun back into building websites. 😉

        As for the code quality, I’d say it’s pretty decent. I ran my “Scroller Theme” demo through WebPageTest and PageSpeed Insights. The results were good but not great. Some of this is due to the demo server setup. Having said that, it scored higher out of the box than the twentyfourteen demo and probably better than most themes out of the box. Still, as a developer obsessed with speed (and I’m sure you are too), performance is one of the things I’d consider when choosing BB, Layers, or any other builder. I should probably try Layers now and see how it compares.

        • Thanks, Joe! Appreciate the kind words. Glad we could bring some fun back to the grind, haha!

          I can absolutely relate to your concerns about performance. We’ve put a great deal of thought/development time into optimizing our theme and page builder plugin as much as possible. I have to imagine the folks at Obox are doing the same with Layers.

          Granted though, using a Page Builder will introduce some overhead that could be avoided by hand coding (and some builders are much worse than others). Although, the same could be said about using a CMS versus creating a site with static html. 😉

          I delved into this topic in detail in a blog post about page builders and SEO:

          Naturally I am a bit biased, but I think it’s worth the minimal overhead.

    • Hey Dalton! Wow, I didn’t know you could do that. Btw, have you tried Wp-Types’ Layout? 🙂 It’s supposed to be drag and drop, though I would need to run through the tutorial to get a hang of it

  2. Having had the opportunity to give Layers a test run before everyone else (via a review), I had some of the same concerns about the page builder. From a UX perspective, it is hands down the best I’ve seen. It’s also very well coded.

    From a personal standpoint, I’m not sold on the underlying architecture. I’m also not offering anything better, so that probably doesn’t matter. I think there’s some room for improvement, but the only way to get that is continued attempts at creating page builders and iterative improvement. Layers is definitely a step forward. I’m looking forward to see where they take it with version 2, 3, and so on.

  3. We really enjoy the comments and feedback guys! We understand that data portability is a really big part of WordPress and so it’s part of our main focus with upcoming releases to make sure that page data from Layers is stored per page and neatly so that if a user switches themes, no extra effort is required to take their content across.

    • Awesome stuff Marc! 🙂 Do keep up the good work. Can’t wait to see where Layers is going. So, this was the secret project you were mentioning, huh

  4. I have always been wary of page builders myself. But I’ve come to feel that some kind of limited page building capacity could actually bring real value to my customers. I asked Justin Tadlock what his ideal page builder would look like during his AMA at WP Chat. I thought his answer was quite interesting, though to be fair to him he was speaking off-the-cuff.

    In particular, I like his idea that it’s connected to page templates. I think that would be a really useful and intuitive way to impose meaningful limitations on the end-user. These things are always, at the end of the day, geared towards non-developers. And good limitations will lead to better end products — but maybe not always happier customers.

  5. I think this is totally spot on. Aesop and Make are the only two builders I’ve tried that I like, so if Brian and Justin see good in Layers it’s surely there. The heaviness really puts me off though. Make seems to be coming from the “justify every new thing” ethic.

    And @Nate, yes the value of builders is to the end user who needs to be set up with a way to modify layouts easily, whether they can handle seeing any code or not.

  6. Huge props to Dave, Marc and the rest of the Obox crew – been so looking forward to seeing this out in the wild and I’m super impressed with what you’ve put together. As a developer I’m not too fond of page builders in general, but the UX on display here really does make Layers stand out as a tool that I would actually recommend to users.

    Nice work guys!

    • Thanks Hugh! It took us a long time to even consider building “yet another” page builder but we said from the very beginning that if we were going to do one we had to start from zero.

      I promise there were some heated discussions about making one, for a loooong time, but at the end of the day the WP *theme* industry is heading this way so we thought “why not give it a proper go?”

  7. I’ve not been a fan of layout builders but this is the first one that made me even want to try it, so I did. I can’t say I’m won over but I’ll wait until users, child themes and extensions show up. I’m interested to see how the ecosystem develops. I wonder if the right child theme plus the right sample content will be enough to help the average user build a website that looks great.

    My worry is the same as always with layout builders. Typical users are not designers. If you give them too much control, there is risk of them creating an unattractive site.

    I hope Layers will beat this. Let’s see!

    • I think your point about not everyone being a designer is exactly what we’re trying to solve, instead of giving them all the flexibility in the world we’ve tried to limit options to ones that look good.

      An example is that you can’t set pixel sizes for fonts, you can only choose Small / Medium / Large. That way the user has enough control to stand out, but we make sure that the site they’re making will look good either way.

  8. Not every builder is throwing in the kitchen sink or locking the user into a specific theme framework. Though I fully understand why they take that route.

    It’s obvious by now how Mullenweg wants to reach his 50% and making the experience of designing a site *better* is part of that march. Like @Nate mentions above, limited capabilities is what most people need, but software makers are getting caught up in the arms race of feature count.

    I think we should all realize that it’s coming to WP core/Jetpack at some point and that will be fun. Happy to chat more about the topic.

  9. Layers looks interesting as I look for the new best thing of 2015. I hate themes that made their own dashboard and the learning that took, I also support the native Customizer in WP 4.0+. ….However… doing the editing both of the theme setting and Visual Composer killer Layers I imaging would make it hard to have per-page design settings and be stuck with another version of one-look-fits-all look tweaked in one place.

    I have not tested it so I could be wrong. As we go mobile I imagine less and less will be done on the backend and editors that can work on the front side once logged-in might be better suited then on that can ONLY be done in WP Customizer mode.

    Will follow this product for sure! WooCommerce is a juggernaut and before it’s time so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Comments are closed.

A2 Hosting