In our recent posts we’ve been looking at different plugins and methods in building custom Gutenberg blocks. Like with most things in web development the options you choose comes down to the answer “it depends”. It depends on the goals of the site, functionality needs, the cost considerations, developer preference, and the list can go on and on. For the demonstrations of the simple review block we’ve been building each of the tools has done the job, for more complex blocks though we might start to run into shortcomings of one of those plugins or another. Overall though I’ve been highly impressed by each of the tools we’ve looked at. Here’s a quick recap on my thoughts of each tool.
Advanced Custom Fields has been a go to development tool for developers for years. Some have given it credit for WordPress’ longterm success by early on allowing developers to create custom fields aiding in turning WordPress into more than a blogging tool, but a full blown content management system. With the development of the block editor, ACF continued it’s ability to give developers a useful tool in extending WordPress.
When it comes to developing ACF I would say there is one drawback, and some things that a few of the other plugins just do better at. The drawback is obviously the cost. In order to develop a block with ACF you have to buy a pro license. There is no limited functionality free version to develop blocks. You have to pay to play in that area. When it comes to registering blocks, the other plugins we looked at just had a more user friendly flow to them. With ACF you have to start in the theme/plugin code registering your block, then to the admin area of WordPress to set up your fields, then back to the code to build out your templates. With the other options you can build out your blocks and never leave the WordPress admin. This is extremely useful if you know some HTML and want a quick block, or in a scenario where you might need to create a custom block for a client but might not have access to their code.
If you are building a site that needs some of ACFs other offerings like custom meta fields, or the ability to create options pages, and also build blocks then ACF is the way to go and the cost justified. If though you just need a tool to build blocks you may be better served using one of the other plugins to save yourself a bit of money.
As I mentioned in the post about Custom Blocks Constructor, I was highly impressed with the plugin. I do think I would have to spend more time with it, building a variety of blocks to truly see it’s truths and weaknesses but it’s one I would use as a go to build tool. I was impressed by the field types it offered, as well as it’s template flexibility.
Like Custom Blocks Constructor, I was equally as impressed with Genesis Custom Blocks. I would probably give a slight edge to CBC for their templates and the fact that GCB, while an amazing standalone plugin is part of the Genesis ecosystem. If I was building themes with Genesis, hands down this would be my plugin of choice. I honestly almost view it equally with CBC but needing to choose between the two I would probably stick with CBC.
In theory a custom build will always be better. You can build exactly what you need, in the fashion you need, to meet your exact specifications. The obvious downside to scratch built is it’s something you need a developer for, which initially can present a higher cost but in the long run if designed and planned properly can give you that complete custom tailored experience.
There are many other methods, plugins, tools, scenarios, deep dives we can look at with building blocks. The possibilities are endless. I may look at some other options in later posts but these should be a good start in helping you dive into the block development world, and start to paint a picture of what tool is right for your site.