As an entrepreneur, why do you need multiple websites? Because you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in one basket. There’s a movement in the economy towards diversifying your income streams. It’s wise to have multiple gigs in case one or more of your ventures don’t pan out. You should have a website to market each of them.
Additionally, professional web designers with multiple clients have their favorite development tools. They choose these kits for their affordability and versatility, and rely on them for most of their projects. If you outsource the creation of your websites to a contractor, that contractor will likely use a popular platform and hand off the creation to you. It pays to know what they work with. Having your multiple sites run on the same theme/platform will simplify the work of managing all of them.
The beauty of WordPress is its open source environment, allowing for a worldwide marketplace of themes and apps to build your website with. There’s an abundance of themes and templates with their own looks and styling options, as well as their own price points. In this blog I’ll list the most popular themes and page building plugins that enable you or your web designer to create multiple sites affordably.
The Old Way of Pricing Themes
When you install WordPress onto your website you’ll have access to the WordPress Repository. There are themes created by developers from around the world, and every one in the Repository is free to download. The catch, however, is that they’re very limited in functionality and likely have branding that you would want to remove, to better reflect your own business. Most of these free themes have premium versions that you can upgrade to for a fee. Most commonly, when you pay for the upgrade license, it’s only good for one site, so you would need to pay between $40 to $80 for each time you want to use that theme.
There are also WordPress themes available outside the Repository that are premium right from the start. Themeforest.net is a well-known marketplace for these themes. They usually have more customization options built in than even the upgraded themes from the Repository. However, for most of them, you still need to pay a license for each site you want to install the theme on.
Why pay for a theme at all? So that the theme developers can make a living supporting them. WordPress themes and plugins need to be updated continuously with security patches and to keep up with the latest tech. Even so, workflow practices have likely improved so that the developers don’t need to charge for every site. The following themes and page builders are already immensely popular in the WordPress community because they can be used on unlimited sites. That popularity drives sales, so the developers have great revenue. I’ll include affiliate links to most of the themes and plugins I’ll discuss, so you can check them out yourself. These developers have either proven their reliability, or they have a great new service that deserves support.
GeneratePress is available for free in the WordPress Repository, but its premium version works differently than most themes. You can check out the theme’s own website and purchase a bundle of plugins exclusive to the theme for under $39.95. The license for this bundle can be used on unlimited sites. You simply create an account with GeneratePress, get a license key (a string of random letters and numbers unique to you), and copy and paste it into every WordPress site you wish to use it on.
The GeneratePress theme was built to work with popular page builder plugins like Beaver Builder and Elementor, which I’ll go over a little later. These builders allow you to create layouts in the content area of a WordPress page, drag-and-drop style. This leaves the theme to control design of the header, footer, and sidebar areas. Within the theme and each individual page, you can choose whether a page will have a right sidebar, left sidebar, one on each side, or none at all. There are blocks for content called Widget areas that can be added to the header and footer sections. GeneratePress allows for transparent headers, which blends with the top section image of a page and is a neat look. The premium package allows for an unlimited range of colors and fonts, as well.
OceanWP isn’t as well known as GeneratePress, but it’s quietly building buzz among WordPress mavens because its business model is similar. You can download the free version from the Repository, purchase the plugin pack for under $45.00, and use it on unlimited sites. OceanWP has a different range of features than GeneratePress, and they’re presented differently within the theme. I think it’s even more customizable, though, and time will tell whether its developer can support it as consistently. The OceanWP website has a really cool, free demo environment where you can try it out. It even enables you try out Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the Divi Builder. That’s good marketing. The developer has built the theme to be compatible with some popular WordPress plugins, and cares enough to tell you which ones.
StudioPress and the Genesis Framework
I confess I don’t use this theme package enough to give a fair assessment, but I can pass along what I’ve heard. The development company StudioPress has created a super advanced theme called the Genesis Framework. It’s like a base theme that other “child themes” can be placed over. StudioPress, as well as a secondary market of developers, have created a range of child themes that are like skins that change the appearance of Genesis. The framework is immensely popular with coders because of its efficient and reliable software. However, it’s not as easily customizable unless you’re highly knowledgeable in HTML, CSS, and PHP.
What makes Genesis worth mentioning in this article is a certain child theme called Dynamik. It’s highly versatile and popular with fans of the Beaver Builder plugin. There’s an active YouTube channel titled DynamikBeaver dedicated entirely to this combination. The channel host offers tips and techniques in designing websites in this way, and I recommend you check him out. The Beaver Builder community loves Dynamik, GeneratePress, and is starting to notice OceanWP.
So let’s talk about Beaver Builder. It’s not the first WordPress page builder plugin, but it’s the one that made builders popular. These plugins work by dividing page content areas into horizontal rows. These rows can be divided into columns, creating sections where you can insert content of many types. It’s standard for a builder to have a menu of “modules” or “elements”, depending on the plugin’s vernacular. These modules are blocks of text, images, graphs, blog post carousels, etc, that you can drag and drop anywhere onto the page. Page builders don’t initially let you design the header and footer sections- those controls are unique to the theme.
Beaver Builder was the first widely successful “front end” page builder. “Back end” builders operate in the WordPress dashboard and only display abstract symbols representing what the designer has made. One can’t see the results of the design work until they update the page and switch to the website view in the menu. With a front end builder, you open the page editor in the Dashboard, then click a link that takes you to a drag-and-drop working environment. There you can see the changes to the page as you make them. In Beaver Builder’s environment, there is a menu on the right side of the screen with a list of modules. In the free version of the plugin, there are only half a dozen module types, but if you purchase the premium version for $99, you’ll have access to a wider selection. The $99 license is good for unlimited sites, and if you combine it with GeneratePress or OceanWP, you can make as many sites as you want for the cost of two individual ThemeForest themes. Beaver Builder also sells their own theme with the same name in a package costing $199. It’s still an unlimited license, but it’s probably not worth it unless you’re a web professional making sites for multiple clients.
As a sign of Beaver Builder’s popularity, a secondary market has opened with independent, but licensed, developers creating “addon” packs for Beaver. Ultimate Addons and PowerPack Beaver Addons are both priced lower than Beaver Builder’s premium version and contain their own collections of modules. You could install Beaver Builder’s free version and upload either of these packs if you’re on a budget, or combine them with the official premium modules for a bigger toolbox. These packs are good for unlimited sites as well. You may decide it’s still worth purchasing the official $99 Beaver Builder for access to its support technicians and forums. The team behind Beaver is renowned for helping users who have problems, resolving tickets quickly and being nice about it. The next page builder on my list has an astounding, but very different value proposition, so keep Beaver Builder’s awesome support in mind when making a decision.
Like Genesis, I have little personal experience with Elementor since I haven’t gotten around to it, but it’s too huge not to talk about. It exploded in the WordPress market last year as the most feature-rich free page builder. Comparing the selection of modules between the free version of Elementor and the paid version of Beaver Builder is almost comical. I suspect the Elementor developers had some generous investor capital before they rolled out the Pro version in November last year.
Elementor is also a front end builder and it’s similar in working style to Beaver Builder, except its module menu is on the left side of the screen. Elementor refers to its modules as “elements”, and they’re the same principle as the tools in Beaver Builder. WordPress enthusiasts swear by Elementor’s ease of use and reliability, so why wouldn’t you choose it over Beaver Builder? It depends how much you care about support and updates. They aren’t as easily available in Elementor’s free version, and the pricing options of the Pro edition aren’t as attractive as Beaver’s. The first tier is worth $49 and it’s good for one site. $99 will let you use Pro on three sites, and the $199 package will work on unlimited sites. This blogger wouldn’t blame you in the least if you stuck with the free version, as there’s already an enthusiastic community of users who could help you in lieu of paid support.
Elegant Themes and Divi
Now we come to the most popular premium theme and page builder package of all, as well as the most polarizing. Elegant Themes is one of the oldest premium developers in the WordPress market, and they’re still going strong. Although they have dozens of themes in their wheelhouse, the one that gets all the attention is Divi. Divi pioneered page builders in the early days of WordPress, as its builder was built into the theme. It was a back end tool like those I described earlier, but Divi Version 3.0 was released to much fanfare in September 2016 and included the new Divi Builder, a front end experience.
The Divi Builder was undoubtedly an answer to Beaver Builder’s and Elementor’s runaway successes. Elegant Themes decided to set themselves apart with a much different user interface in the front end builder. Whereas Beaver Builder and Elementor contain their modules on the side of the screen and the user drags them to areas of the page they choose, in Divi the user hovers their mouse over a section of the page, clicks a button in the middle of that section, and opens a menu of the modules in the middle of the screen. Using the Divi Builder feels odd if you’re accustomed to the other plugins, but I got used to it after a while. It’s actually just as easy as Beaver Builder, just not the same.
A membership to Elegant Themes costs $89 for one year or $249 for life. Either choice will open up all their themes and plugins for unlimited websites during the membership period. Considering a ThemeForest theme costs about $60 for one year on each website you want to build with it, Elegant Themes is a bargain. Although Divi is the flagship theme, it wouldn’t hurt to examine their other themes since each has its own header and footer styles. The $89 price is a nice middle ground between Beaver Builder and Elementor, and since you would likely purchase a theme separately for those two builders, it makes membership all the more attractive.
How to Choose
Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the Divi Builder have risen to the top as the big three page builders, and GeneratePress and Genesis are the favorite themes of Beaver Builder and Elementor fans. I’m intrigued by OceanWP because of its similarities to GeneratePress.
Earlier I mentioned that Divi is polarizing, because there exists an army of haters. There’s a common complaint that if you ever decide to switch your WordPress site from Divi to another theme, your content will change into a “shortcode mess.” The text and images will be unreadable and you’ll need to rebuild your site from scratch. You’re locked into Divi once you choose it.
I used to be one of those Divi trash talkers, until I had a few projects redesigning clients’ sites. None of them involved Divi, but they were challenging just the same. I realized switching themes and updating sites is hard work no matter what themes you use. Every theme and page builder has its own quirks that don’t carry over to others, so the shortcode flak against Divi is unfair. I suspect the critics are simply envious of Elegant Themes’ success and we can chalk it up to a fanboy mindset.
Better measures of a theme and/or page builder are the dependability of its developers, its community of users, and the goals of your businesses. Genesis and Beaver Builder are well respected by programmers and developers. Their coding is efficient and utilitarian, meant to be compatible with the maximum range of plugins on the market. It’s worth pointing out since WordPress plugins are created by independent teams around the world, not all of them will mesh together. If you want to run business operations through your website, you’ll likely need one or more functions not included in the page builder modules. Beaver Builder, combined with Genesis or GeneratePress is a safe choice for that.
If you’re a solo freelancer and you want to present your portfolio, blog, or promote your book, Elementor matched with GeneratePress or OceanWP may be for you. Elementor is the best free page builder, which is always in the budget, and it’s actively partnered with GeneratePress and OceanWP to work with those themes.
Elegant Themes and Divi are an online marketer’s dream. Membership gives access to the plugins Bloom Email Opt-Ins and Monarch Social Media Sharing. These apps are intended to work with any of the Elegant Themes and will help build an email list and reach a wider social media audience. Divi has a unique feature built in enabling A/B split testing. This means you can design different versions of your website, sitting at the same URL, and see which gets better traffic. All this is good you have a small business, agency, or online store and you want to maximize your sales or target your ideal customers. The only theme that I think matches Divi’s marketing prowess is X. It’s available on ThemeForest, but is a single site license theme, which takes it out of consideration for this blog topic.
Let’s Wrap it Up
I’ll include affiliate marketing links to most of these themes and plugins. If you choose to buy them, I’ll make a commission. This helps my bottom line, and it’s a money-making strategy you can try as well, with any number of products. WordPress powers between a quarter to a third of all the websites in the world, and supposedly half the sites in the United States. It’s search engine friendly, versatile, and is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Most importantly, there’s a massive worldwide community of enthusiasts supporting it and are only too happy to help each other master it. I personally believe technology means nothing without the human beings who create and use it. I’m getting serious about this blog. I intend to write extensively about OceanWP. The other products in this article have been by other reviewers, but OceanWP is just recently starting to poke through. If you need help with your WordPress site, email me. I can consult or work on it for you. The nature of working for a living is changing and it’s a new era for entrepreneurship. We’re all in this together.
Buy GeneratePress: generatepress.com
Buy OceanWP: oceanwp.org
Join StudioPress: studiopress.com
Join Elegant Themes: elegantthemes.com
Buy Beaver Builder: wpbeaverbuilder.com
Download Elementor: elementor.com