wp grid builder review

Introduction

We are all used to seeing content displayed in grids. All of the page builders, including Gutenberg, come with some basic way to display content listings. These are not all created equal. Some only allow you to display post content, while others are flexible enough to also use with Custom Post Types. Some let you modify the query to include or exclude items based on taxonomy. Less frequently you can use them with custom fields. Only a few of them, however, provide front-end filters for fast searching, These filters, sometimes called “facets,” are a huge convenience when the user needs to narrow down the options. WP Grid Builder is one of the few plugins that provides all these features and goes beyond the basics.

Video Version

Overview

gridbuilderwp home page

WP Grid Builder is a premium plugin. There is no free version. It has built-in support for Gutenberg. It also has built-in support for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. It works with SearchWP and Relevanssi search tools. It natively supports Advanced Custom Fields. It also works with Polylang and WPML.

gridbuilderwp builtin support

In addition to built-in support, WP Grid Builder has some add-on extensions that provide further integrations. The Oxygen Builder and Elementor page builder are supported. There is integration with LearnDash for displaying course information, maps integration, and a caching component.

gridbuilderwp addons

If you are not using one of the builders that has a direct integration then you can use the shortcodes that WP Grid Builder provides for displaying grids and facets. The shortcode method also lets you use grids and facets with regular WordPress archives, assuming the theme uses the standard WordPress queries.

WP Grid Builder is offered in annual subscription packages for 1, 3, and unlimited sites, with a renewal discount. There is an occasional sale and a couple of times they have offered a lifetime package, but these are only available for a short time.

gridbuilderwp annual pricing

Test Site

I have a test site with the Kadence theme. I’ve loaded a bunch of posts with a few different categories.

gridbuilderwp testing site

There is also a Books Custom Post Type that has a custom taxonomy, Genres. There are three ACF custom fields: Author’s Name, Author’s Photo, and Author’s Website.

book record

Tour of the Admin Screens

When you install WP Grid Builder you get a new admin menu area with several screens. This is where you actually create your grids and facets. The first screen is the dashboard where you can enter you license, export or import, and see the system status for troubleshooting.

gridbuilderwp dashboard screen

The All Grids screen is where you see the grids you created and add a new one. There are a couple of demos for getting started.

gridbuilderwp grids screen

The individual items in your grid are displayed on “cards,” which is a layout. The cards screen has a bunch of predesigned cards or you can create your own. There isn’t really the ability to tell the difference between the cards. The names seem to have some stone color association, but other than that I drew a blank.

gridbuilderwp cards screen

Like the Grids and Cards screens, the Facet screen shows you all of your facets, you can create a new one, or start by importing one of the demos.

gridbuilderwp facets screen

If you need to use one of the addons, you can install it directly from the addons screen.

gridbuilderwp addon screen

Then there are four screens for settings. On the General Settings screen you can set the plugin settings, facet and index options, and cache options, as well as clear the WP Grid Builder cache.

gridbuilderwp general settings

You set your default color options on the Colors screen.

gridbuilderwp color settings

By default the plugin uses the theme image sizes and those set in the Settings Media page. However, you can define your own sizes if needed, which are applied to any new images you upload.

gridbuilderwp image size settings

WP Grid Builder has the option to open images and videos in a lightbox. It comes with its own lightbox feature or you can use one of the supported lightbox plugins.

gridbuilderwp lightbox settings

I went with the default settings, but it is a good idea to go through the settings area first, as these will be used when you create your grids and facets. There are a lot of options, but the good news is that each one has a little information icon. If you click on the icon then you get a tooltip that tells you what that setting is for.

popup help

Another thing to keep in mind is that several of the screens have an “Import Data” option. The demos aren’t installed by default. If you want to use one then click on the ones you want to select them and then click the Import Data button.

import demo option explained

Creating a Card From Scratch

I decided to create a card for my post grid first, since I figure it will be used later when creating the grid. I went to the All Cards screen and clicked the Create Card button. Wow, the card builder is pretty sophisticated. You have layers, display modes, and content blocks, along with a CSS editor.

Card General Tab

I gave mine the name “Card for Posts.” In the screenshot, note at the bottom left the “Card Layers” area. There are for optional layers: media, flexible media, media overlay, and footer. There is a dropdown at the top where you can see the structure and click on a layer or block to edit it. There are two card layout options (left near the top) that correspond to the type of grid you want to use. WP Grid Builder supports three types of grid: masonry where the cards are different sizes, metro where the cards are a set tile, and justified, which is a grid where the cards are the same size. There are two viewing modes (top right button toggle). By default you are in builder mode, but if you click the toggle then it will show you a preview. There are also alignment options (left center) for vertical or horizontal cards and for where the content is aligned. I decided to go with the defaults on all of these.

card builder general options

Card Blocks Tab

Switching over to the Blocks tab there is a left and a right side. On the left there are 32 types of blocks that you can use. These are organized into blocks related to Post, User, Terms, Buttons and Icons, and Custom, which includes a block for custom fields. On the right side there is a canvas where the blocks are placed.

card builder blocks options

The blocks on the left make sense, but I found the canvas area on the right confusing. First off, there is no block for featured image. It took me a while but I figured out that the placeholder behind the blue drop areas must represent the featured image. Another confusing thing was that the areas on the canvas say “drop area” but I don’t think the blocks are draggable. Instead, they seem to insert at the top when you click on one.

You can access the settings for the card as a whole by hovering over the card and clicking the cog on the left.

card setting

You can access the drop area settings by hover over the right. The top area in blue is the media area. The middle white drop area is the content area and the bottom one is the footer area.

layer settings

The media area has layers that you access by clicking the three dots. Kind of cool that the layer highlights in green as you hover over it in the list.

media layers

Here I added the Title block and it gets added to the top. I didn’t see any way to select which drop area it gets added to.

post title added

If you click on a block after it has been added then you get a popup with settings. Notice at the bottom of the settings window there is the trashcan to delete the block and another button to duplicate it. There are also up and down arrows there, which seems to be how you position the block on the card. On the Content tab you can provide a class name for styling, select the HTML tag and the source and field.

edit block content

On the Action tab you define what happens when the block is clicked.

edit block action

On the Appearance tab there are a lot of layout and style options for both the regular state and the hover state.

edit block appearance

On the Animation tab you can set an animation.

edit block animation

The CSS Tab

The CSS tab is where you can enter your styles for the card as a whole.

css tab

Creating a Card from a Demo

I tried adding some blocks and moving them around, but felt a bit lost. I checked the online help and the WP Grid Builder’s YouTube channel. There is some documentation, but it doesn’t have any step-by-step instructions.

I decided that I needed to see the demos to understand better how the card editor worked. I saved my block and went back to the All Cards screen. I saw the card I just created, but the demos were gone. I went to the Dashboard and clicked on the Import button and then selected all the cards.

all cards selected for import

Back on the All Cards screen I could see the card demos. Some of them show and additional thing, like a title or a read more link, when you hover over them.

demo card previews

I looked through the demos and picked the Amber card, which seemed to be kind of traditional.

amber card

I clicked the duplicate icon, which gave me another card, also named Amber, at the end of the list. I clicked on that one to edit it. When it opened in the editor I gave it the name of My Card for Posts (I had deleted my previous experiment).

my card for posts

On the Blocks tab I was curious to see how they positioned blocks side by side, such as the author avatar image and the author name.

two blocks side by side

I went into the settings and saw that they were given a relative position and set as inline-block. Now you know, should you attempt to create your own card.

side by side settings

This was good enough for me, so I saved.

Creating the Facet

I figured that I wanted to add a category facet on the my posts grid, so the next step was to go to the All Facets screen. This time I had learned my lesson, so I started by importing all of the demos.

Looking at the docs, I saw there there are several different types of facet action:

  • Filter content from Taxonomy terms, WordPress fields or custom fields
  • Load content with a pagination or load more button
  • Sort content from WordPress fields or custom fields
  • Apply selected filters or redirect to a filtered page
  • Reset selected filter values and refresh content

So I wanted a filter facet. I clicked the duplicate button on the bottom demo facet.

all facets

This gave me a new one at the top named Selection-2

duplicated selection facet

I then clicked the edit clog and on the naming tab and I changed the name, slug, and title. The title is what shows above the facet on the front. I saved changes and went to the Behavior tab.

facet namig tab

The options change on the behavior screen depending on the Facet Action and Filter Type.

behavior options

I selected for a dropdown, categories, ordered by category name, and to show the count. I saved.

Creating the Grid

Finally I was ready to create the grid. I went to the all grids screen. Again, I selected all and imported the demos.

grid demos imported

I duplicated the Blog Demo and clicked the cog icon to go into the settings. On the Naming tab I supplied a grid name and a class name for the grid.

grid naming tab

On the Content Query tab I selected the Post Types content type and left the other settings at their default.

grid content query tab

On the Media tab I selected Gallery and added a default thumbnail in case one of the posts was missing a featured image.

media formats

On the Grid Layout tab I selected Masonry and left everything else at the default.

grid layout tab

The Grid Carousel tab lets you turn this into a slider, but I didn’t want that.

grid carousel tab

When I saw the Grid Builder tab I realized that this was mainly for when you were going to insert the grid via a shortcode. When using a supported builder it wouldn’t be needed. The only thing I wasn’t sure about is pagination. I decided to skip this one and come back after trying to insert it on a page using Gutenberg, if necessary.

grid builder tab

On the Card Styles tab I selected the card I created earlier. It is cool that you can have a different card layout for each post format.

grid card style tab

I left the animations at their default.

grid animations tab

The Loading options were also left at default.

grid loading tab

On the Customizations tab you can add custom CSS or JavaScript.

grid customizations tab

Creating a Page with the Grid

I was hopeful that I had done enough to get a working page going. So I created a new page called GridBuilder Test. I checked the available blocks and saw that there was a grid block and a facet block.

two gutenberg blocks

I added these blocks to the page and selected the facet and the grid. There aren’t any other block settings available in Gutenberg. I remembered in the settings that you can select to have the grid show in Gutenberg, if you need to.

blocks added

I saved and went to take a look at the frontend and the grid showed as it should.

grid showing

Here is what the dropdown category list looks like.

categories showing

The only thing missing was pagination at the bottom. So I went back into the grid editor and went to the Grid Builder tab and dropped the pagination facet into the bottom area. I saved that and then went back to view the page.

adding pagination

The pagination showed as expected.

pagination showing

Thinking about it, I realized that I could have instead added pagination as a facet block as shown below.

pagination facet as block

There is a setting to render the facets and grids in Gutenberg. I went and toggled it on.

render grid in gutenberg

I then went into the Gutenberg editor to look at the page we had just created. It displayed fine.

grid in gutenberg

Elementor Test

I decided to see how this worked with Elementor, so I installed Elementor Free. I then went to the addons page and downloaded and activated the Elementor addon.

elementor addon activated

I created a new page and loaded it into the Elementor editor. I saw the facet and grid widgets.

wp grid builder widgets

As with Gutenberg, I added the facet widget.

facet added

And then the grid widget.

grid added

There aren’t a lot of Elementor settings, but the Advanced tab is available.

elementor advanced options

I saved and took a look at the front. Looking good.

elementor page on front

Creating a Faceted Grid for a Custom Post Type

With a good set of working examples, I thought I’d try doing the same process for the book Custom Post Type, which has a different type of image (book cover), a custom taxonomy (Genres), and an Author’s Name ACF field that could be used for a facet.

To start I went to the All Cards screen and duplicated the card I created for posts and named it My Card for Books. I then went into the editor. I switched the layout to be horizontal with the content on the right. Then I adjusted the Media Width down so the book cover image would not be too big. I saved that.

general card settings for books

I then went to the All Facets screen and duplicated the facet that I’d made. I changed the names of that as well.

genre facet naming

On the Behaviors tab I selected the custom taxonomy associated with Books.

picked custom taxonomy for behavior

I saved that and then duplicated it. This time I wanted to also try using an ACF field for a facet. I gave that the name of Book Author Facet.

book author facet naming

On the Behaviors screen for this one I picked the Custom Field source and then the ACF field Author’s Name. I saved this one.

picked custom field for behavior

I think you are seeing the process here. It is going really quickly. I went to the All Grids screen and duplicated the grid created earlier, naming the new one My Books Grid.

books grid naming

I changed the Content Query to use the Books Custom Post Type.

changed post type in the query to books

On the Grid Layout screen I changed the rows to only have one card.

changed grid to one card per row

And finally, I picked the new book card for use with this grid.

switched to use the card for books

Now that everything was in place, I created a new page. I added a columns block with two columns and put the Genre facet on the left and the Book Author Facet on the right. The grid block was placed below that.

book page in gutenberg

Checking it out on the front and it worked great.

final book grid page

Documentation and Programmer’s API

I’ve mentioned the plugin’s documentation. It would be nice if they had more documentation, or some walk-through videos, for the Card Builder and some of the other more difficult features. That said, there is some good documentation and you can see that WP Grid Builder has a PHP and JavaScript API which would appeal to programmers.

wp grid builder documentation

Discussion and Conclusions

To start with the cons, there were two. First, it took a while to figure out the process and there are a lot of steps and settings. Such is the nature of power tools. Some walk-through videos or step-by-step tutorials on some of the more difficult areas, such as the card builder, would help users get up to speed quicker. Second, having a section on the website where you could preview the demo cards would have saved the need to import them all. So, WP Grid Builder is not a plugin for new users and using it will require some work and patience.

In terms of pros, WP Grid Builder is very attractive. The builder screens are attractive and the output is also. The plugin is very flexible. Gutenberg, Elementor, and Oxygen are supported out of the box and you can use it with other builders if you use shortcodes. Although I didn’t show it, you can add custom fields to cards and, as I did show, you can also use custom fields for frontend filters. True, there are a lot of steps and options in the grid builder, but you have a lot of control. The documentation talks about 3 types of layout: masonry, metro, and justified. However, there is a fourth layout option, you can setup your cards to work in a carousel.

It was clear to me that starting with the demos is a huge time saver. If you intend to build your own cards from scratch then I recommend reverse-engineering some of the demos first. As you saw when I created the grid and facet for Books, once you have something to start from and have a sense of the steps, you can move through those steps pretty quickly.

I was impressed with the level of detail. For example, the ability to apply different cards to different types of content (image, audio, video) and to different post formats makes WP Grid Builder very adaptable. This, together with the good number of facet types means that you can work with a lot of different types of content.

There are a number of options in WordPress for creating a grid or listing for multiple records. There are some that work with Custom Post Types. It is pretty rare to be able to incorporate custom fields and there are only a limited number of solutions that offer frontend filters, or facets. It is clear that the pros easily outweigh the cons and that WP Grid Builder is a good option that ticks all the boxes. If you don’t already have a good, attractive, powerful, and flexible grid and facet solution then WP Grid Builder is worthy of consideration.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. You will still pay the same amount so there is no extra cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

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  • David,

    another great video…. and thorough explanation

    thanks

    I am curious what you see as the advantages / disadvantages over toolset ?

    thanks

    • Toolset obviously has many more features, but if we are just talking about creating grids with filters, Toolset is more powerful and has an integrated UI for creating the grids with filters (Blocks). WP Grid Builder looks to have more filter types and, if you use their demos as a starting point, the output is more attractive. Toolset works with Types and WP Grid Builder with ACF.