3 Gutenberg Block Plugins Tested

I’ve been a mostlyhappy user of Elementor page builder for a few years now. In fact, I built most of the sites on my portfolio with Elementor.

However, the amount of bugs and increasing bloat (the plugin file weighs 5.5mb) in the latest update (3.0) have caused me to evaluate my reliance on this tool. I’ve finally decided to give the Gutenberg block editor a try.

After some preliminary research, I selected 3 relatively lightweight block plugins to increase the basic functionality of the Gutenberg block editor.

My goal was to assess these plugins for usability and speed. What features do they offer, are they easy to use, and how much does each slow down my website?

But just to be clear, this is not an exhaustive point-by-point comparison. I needed a solution for a client website quickly, so my tests were quick and dirty. I built a sample mock-up page with each block plugin. What follows are my findings.

Before we get into the plugins, here’s a quick lay of the land.

Host
KnownHost shared hosting

Theme
WordPress 2020 default theme

Plugins
34 active plugins plus 8 inactive used occasionally

Baseline Speed

As you can see, the site is lean and fast. Images are optimized, but otherwise there are no speed-enhancing plugins.

The Contenders

Genesis Blocks
COBlocks
GenerateBlocks
Stackable Blocks

Genesis Blocks Review

Speed Test Results
Genesis Blocks added 16kb and 3 requests to the page. No complaints there.

Notes:

  • Prebuilt sections/layouts are very limited. This is not a big deal for me.
  • It does offer containers, an important feature for building nested columns, but you can’t specify negative margins, which was a deal breaker for me.
No negative margins meant there was no future for me and this Genesis Blocks.

I don’t recommend Genesis Blocks.

CoBlocks Review

Speed Test Results
CoBlocks added 21kb and 2 requests to the page. No complaints there.

Notes:

  • Pretty good feature set considering how lightweight it is.
  • Not as intuitive to set up containers as Generate Blocks or Stackable.
  • Individual blocks are not as good as Stackable.
  • It does have a pricing table block, which is nice, but not enough to make this my choice.

I don’t recommend Co Blocks.

Generate Blocks Review

Speed Test Results
Generate Blocks added 25kb and 2 requests to the page. No complaints there.

Notes:

  • This is the minimalist choice. It only includes basic elements such as container, grid, heading and button.
  • No pre-built sections. (Not a big deal for me)
  • Can set exact width of container. Important.
  • Can set exact width of grid columns. Important.
  • Can use specific margins and padding for desktop, tablet and mobile screen sizes.
Some of your options with the “Container” block.
  • Spacing options include minimum height, margins and padding.
  • Can set negative margins. Very nice.
  • Can change typography based on tablet or mobile.
  • Can build columns on a mobile device. Very nice.
  • Can’t hide elements based on screen size. This would be nice.
Spacing options withing the “Container” block.

Generate Blocks gets a lot right. Don’t let the amount of blocks (4) deter you. You can get a lot done with them. And the settings contained within each block are well-rounded and nearly comprehensive.

I used Generate Blocks to build my client’s site, and I recommend it. Find it here.

Stackable Review

Speed Test Results
Stackable added 27kb and 2 requests to the page. No complaints there.

Notes:

  • Has everything that Generate Blocks offers and more.
  • Lots of advanced settings. Most similar to page-builder experience.
  • Paddings, margins, min and max widths, etc.
A look at the settings in the “Header” block.
  • Responsive options including hiding elements based on screen size. Very nice.
  • Can’t build columns on mobile screens. (Generate Blocks can).
  • Has global color and typography settings. Very nice.

  • Decent pre-built design library. 83 in the free version.

I used Stackable Blocks to build my client’s site, and I recommend it. Find it here.

Which plugins did I use?

These plugins are fast. So it came down to which had the features I needed and which I enjoyed using. Generate Blocks and Stackable fit the bill.

I might have used only Stackable, but Generate Blocks had one feature that proved invaluable: the ability to create columns on mobile screen sizes.

Download Generate Blocks here. Download Stackable here.

Click here to visit the live site built with these plugins.

Can Gutenburg replace Elementor page builder?

Yes. And no.

Gutenburg has come a long way since it’s introduction in December 2018. Here are my thoughts based on a few general categories.

Ease of Use

Elementor is easier to use. Creating complex layouts with Gutenburg still feels clunky, though it’s manageable. Most unfortunately, what you see on the back end of a Gutenburg page does not perfectly match the front end, so there can be a lot of fiddling to get the page to look right.

Features

Out of the box, Elementor has more features than Gutenburg. But Gutenburg add-ons are plentiful, and I’d guess that you could match the feature-set easily enough.

Elementor Pro is essentially a theme builder, so it’s hard to compare it to Gutenburg. However, themes such as Astra are beginning to offer visual header/footer editors that could help Gutenburg compete with Elementor Pro.

Speed

This is where Gutenburg really shines. It’s faster than Elementor free, and much faster than Elementor Pro. Look out for our upcoming speed test.

Bugs and Future Proofing

It’s important to think about your website 3-5 years in the future. Elementor has gotten fatter and buggier over the years. Will it continue in that direction?

Gutenburg is still buggy but improving. It’s part of WordPress core, so I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

About The Author

Matt Stern is fascinated with design and created this site to practice, contribute and share. He also runs The Tool Merchants and helps manage the web presence of Naturespirit Herbs. When he’s not online, he’s probably in his garden or playing with his kids.

You Might Also Enjoy