This is my second look at Zion Builder. With the previous version the builder was not as easy to use as it could be and there seemed to be a number of bugs. The development team just completed a major update and released version 3.0. In the first look I created the single and archive templates for a Custom Post Type. In this one I will continue and this time create a header, footer, and the home page post archive. I will also take a quick look at the new display conditions feature and give my take on where the Zion Builder now stands.
The video version contains the full walk-through. I urge you to watch it is you are able. The post here is a summary of the discussion and conclusions.
Discussion and Conclusions
Did Version 3 Fix It?
So first off, did version 3 solve the user interface issues? There was good progress.
For example on the plus site, in the previous version there were a confusing number of circle buttons so that the user didn’t know where to click to add an element. This was fixed. Also in the previous version there was not a good coordination between the structure panel, the editor, and the options and that required extra clicks to navigate around. This has mostly been addressed. Clicking on an element in the structure panel goes to it in the editor and the options panel opens for that element. That is the main thing. I did noticed that when you add a new element the options don’t always open and it isn’t always automatically selected in the structure panel. Perhaps that is by design? I’m not sure.
Version 3 added advanced conditional display options. There are a few areas where some advanced conditional triggers could be added to bring the list more in line with what is available in Oxygen, but there is a good list to pick from, especially for the first version of the feature.
However, on the negative side, when viewing the predesigned templates there is no way to go back to the elements list. This is a small thing that could be polished. Having the list of elements in a popup makes it difficult to see what you have to pick from. This gets worse if you have some of the side panels open as the popup scales down more than necessary and the view is smaller. This is not a show stopper, but a convenience issue. There are still a few glitches in the builder, like the pagination issue. So my conclusion to the first question is that it looks like many of the major complaints were addressed, but there are still areas for improvement and some glitches.
Is the Zion Builder ready yet to use for site building?
That obviously depends on the type of site and your needs. It seems like the Zion Builder is positioned somewhere between Elementor and Oxygen. Like Elementor, with the Zion Builder you can selectively override the theme with the theme builder functionality. This is nice for people who want to leverage the theme features.
Site builders will find that both Elementor and Oxygen provide more convenience elements. For example, suppose you want to show a list of Post or Custom Post Type articles. The prebuilt Elementor Posts and Archives widgets make that task very easy. With Zion Builder you need to use the repeater function to create your own, though the Zion Builder’s repeater is more flexible than Elementor’s prebuilt widgets. So in relation to Elementor it is not as convenient, but it is more powerful. However, both of the Oxygen Easy Posts and Repeater elements are easier to use and more powerful than the Zion repeater. They are a much smoother implementation.
The Zion Builder has better conditional display options than Elementor, which out of the box has almost none. Oxygen, on the other hand, is more extensive and there is even an API to add your own. Zion doesn’t support as many custom field providers as Elementor or Oxygen. It just supports ACF at this point. Elementor and Oxygen both support several options. In terms of front-end output, Zion produces better code than Elementor, and is similar to Oxygen’s.
The Elementor user interface is much smoother than Zion’s and Elementor is easier to pick up. Oxygen has a steeper learning curve than Zion, but the Oxygen UI seems better to me as the many Zion panels and the available elements in a popup don’t seem as convenient. The Zion Builder editor is very fast, on par with Elementor and faster than the version 3.x Oxygen editor.
So in conclusion I’d say that the Zion Builder would be good to use on brochure and smaller sites, but I personally am not going to use it yet. Zion doesn’t stand out as superior across the board. To reiterate the point, this is a personal opinion, but it is based on the comparison points I mentioned. Currently, I’d rather use Elementor with some addons or Oxygen.
What Does the future of the Zion Builder Look Like?
My answer to this is obviously speculative and a personal assessment. One thing I noticed was that the Zion release prior to version 3 was in the middle of September 2021, so version 3 was almost 6 months in development. That seems like a long time. I kind of understand that there is a lot of pressure on developers to roll out features quickly and that can be a stressful treadmill. So there is some merit to taking your time, doing it right, and tuning out of the call for quick releases. However, the Bricks Builder is also in the space positioned between Elementor and Oxygen and it has seen a new release about every month or so. So as an end user the Bricks’ releases have kept me engaged and interested in its progress, while with Zion there was not as much news. This was even more the case for me, and other users on Facebook, because Zion has its own Discord channel where much of the discussion takes place. Bricks also has its own forums, but the Facebook group is active and gets regular updates. Personally, I only pop into Slack or Discord channels when I have a particular question and don’t hang out there watching the discussion stream.
On a positive note, there are two good addons collections for the Zion Builder, ZionExtras and ZiUltimate. Both are from solid developers and nicely complement the features in the core and pro versions.
The Zion builder has grown from 500+ active installs in July of 2021 to 2,000+ now. Two thousand is a good number, but since Zion requires the free version to be installed when using the pro version, I wonder if adoption is happening at a rate to sustain development? Version 1.0.1 of the free version was released into the WordPress plugin directory in the middle of August 2020, so adoption seems a bit slow to me.
So in conclusion as regards the future of Zion Builder, it appears that it will proceed at a slow and steady pace and that may result in it being more of a niche product.
So that is my second look at the Zion Builder. I hope you have found it helpful.