With the current popularity that WordPress enjoys, it is inevitable that a lot of builder tools for the free website hosting platform have come out, and the number continues to grow by the day, and one of them is Layers. However, Layers claims to be different from the rest of its competitors. In what ways, you ask? The following review of the Layers WordPress Theme will attempt to answer that question. It will also help you decide if it is indeed the website builder you have long been waiting for.
What Is Layers?
An open source WordPress website builder developed from Obox Themes, Layers is among the many WordPress builder tools available today. It attempts to distinguish itself from the rest by being both:
- The easiest website builder to use (try looking around for an easier to use too), and
- Available at absolutely no cost; it’s free.
With Layers, you can create multiple custom page layouts that will help you come up with the kind of website you have in mind. The best part is you will be able to do it without having to edit codes. The builder tool is equipped with built-in layouts, as well as custom widgets that you can use to add more content to your webpages.
For some people, the word “free” is enough reason to use the product. However, what good will it bring if it does not provide what you need? A product may come with a price tag, but if it is more convenient to use and allows you to save a lot of time, and it comes with a lot of superior features to boot, then price tags wouldn’t, and shouldn’t matter.
It is an entirely different story, though, if a free product comes a long that can approximate the benefits you will get from a premium product. This Layers review intends to help you uncover and learn everything there is that you need to know about the product.
Product Features: What Layers Can Do for You
The intention of the creators of Layers is to provide a tool that can help users build their custom websites specifically for WordPress. To give you an idea on what the builder tool can accomplish for you, have a glimpse of a few layouts built using Layers. These layouts are called Coffee, Weather, and Bakery, respectively. There are many other layouts available which you can later explore should you decide that this is the perfect tool for your website building project.
One good thing about Layers is that the entire process of creation is done within the Theme Customizer in WordPress itself. This way, you can immediately have a blow by blow account on the progress of your custom design project. You can view your work in progress as you continue to work. Likewise, instant feedback will be available for any change you effect on the appearance settings.
Because the entire design process is done within the confines of the WordPress Theme customizer, it simply means that the result will be a lot more efficient, interactive and intuitive. All you have to do is point and click, and go right back to work.
While you need to refresh pages, switch browser tabs, continuously save your work in progress, and then open preview windows when working with other backend WordPress builder tools, these are not necessary when you are using Layers.
Building Your Pages with Content Blocks and Widgets
When using layers, your new website design’s foundation is created using horizontal rows. You can then populate each of the rows with a widget. The widgets act as your website’s content blocks and each one can accommodate practically any type of content.
The builder tool comes with a variety of content blocks or widgets. These include:
- A content widget
- A slider widget
- A maps and contact details widget
- A widget for a displaying list of posts
This does not mean, however, that Layers cannot work with widgets provided by third parties. Layers is, in fact, compatible with 3rd party widgets, including ones that you may have created yourself, as well as widgets that are built in to other WordPress plugins.
Thus, if you find the need to feature or include a widget for an ecommerce product, a content slider widget, or a social sharing widget in the custom website layout you are working on, you can heave a sigh of relief because Layers will allow you to do that. This ability to integrate with 3rd party widgets is another advantage of using Layers. This allows you absolute freedom on how to create the various pages of your website.
Options for Widget Configuration
You can configure all third party and core WordPress widgets as they are incorporated into your layouts, but these may not be as easy to configure as the widgets that are built into Layers. These widgets are a lot easier to configure, for obvious reasons.
A very good example of this ease of configuration would be the posts widget. You are allowed to set the number of posts to display using the settings. You can also set the category that the posts must come from, as well as the list style and column layout, among many other options.
Aside from the post display widget, Layers also allows you to select the particular post content that you want to be displayed on the page, including the post titles, featured images, author info, post excerpts, and many others.
Because of the superior level of control that it provides users, Layers can be considered as the ideal tool to use when you need to build a custom page with which to display your most recent blog posts. If you are a blogger like a great majority of WordPress website owners, this is an important feature.
Options for Content and Widget Customization
As you work on the various pages of your website, the WordPress site building tool provides you with access to the Layers design bar. Here, you can customize the appearance and design of all the widgets that you wish to include in the layout. Again, everything happens without you having to directly edit any existing code.
Although the available design settings are specifically tailored to the kind of widget you are currently working on or customizing, these may include fonts, colors, text formatting, columns, list style, image ratio, and layout, among many others.
Pre-Built Page Layouts
While Layers allows you to make your own page designs from the ground up, it thankfully throws in a small collection of page layout templates that include:
- A homepage layout
- A single-page homepage layout
- A video page
- A contact page
- A portfolio page
- A landing page
The pre-built layouts are easy to customize. You can remove or add the widgets that will comprise the layout in a convenient and straightforward manner. Customizing how they appear can likewise be done with the same convenience.
Layouts for Mobile Users
Your website will not only be mobile-friendly and completely responsive, it will also be easy for you to target and cater to your visitors who come to your website via their mobile gadgets.
By using the website customizer, you can designate a specific area in the sidebar exclusively for mobile users. You can then populate this particular area with content that tablet and smartphone users will find relevant.
Now, because of the steady growth of people who access the web through mobile devices, this feature can be considered as an essential feature to have, and not just a “nice to have feature.” It would not be surprising that in the near future, your website visitors will be comprised mostly of users from the mobile demographic.
WordPress Plugins versus Theme Builder Tools
There are WordPress builder tools that are delivered as a plugin like the Themify Builder. When in plugin form, the tool will typically allow you customize your current theme design. You can do this as you retain the ability to make custom page layouts. The standard WordPress post editor is not equipped with the same features.
Because Layers is delivered in theme form, it can take over the entire feel and look of your website. With the tool, you have the ability to customize and personalize each and every aspect of your website, and not merely the page layouts. Now, to settle the issue on which between a theme-based builder and a plugin is better, both options are good at what they do. Neither of the two can be considered as better than the other. They just offer different ways of doing things.
In the same manner, since Layers is a theme, it will not be easy to change your theme in the future. All your custom designs will be lost in the process. Likewise, all the content you have added to your site over time using the Layers widgets will be gone. This isn’t true for Layers alone, however, as this will most likely happen when using practically any other WordPress website builder tool as well.
A User’s Layers Experience
Because Layers is a relatively new WordPress theme, the developers mad sure that first-time users would be treated to a pleasant user experience by featuring a Getting Started Guide that is quite useful and handy. As soon as you activate the theme, the guide is immediately displayed on the screen. This review suggests that you take the opportunity to walk through the guide.
Each of the guide’s sections include brief text descriptions and a quick walkthrough video. Thus, you will find all the information presented quite easy to absorb. The screenshot below will give you an idea on how the Getting Started Guide looks like.
The guide is not only designed to help you understand everything you need to do to get started in using the tool. For one, it is not entirely passive as you can input your website’s name, your tagline, as well as upload the logo to use for your website as you walk through the steps provided in the guide.
The final step in the walkthrough will ask you to select one from among the pre-built layouts that come with the tool. However, if you prefer to begin with a blank page, you can do so as well. Regardless of your preferred option, the next display you will see on the screen will be the WordPress Theme Customizer’s upgraded version.
There are several groups that the main customization options fall under. More options will appear once you click on a particular group. The process will go on until you reach the actual settings level. The screenshot below provides an idea on what to expect while in the customization settings screen.
You can customize practically all the aspects of your website via the settings menu. These include:
- The navigation menus to display, and where to display them
- The sidebars to display, and where to display them
- The layouts for the headers and footers
- Whether or not your header is sticky
- And many other options
All the changes made through the customizer are applied to your project in real time. There is a live preview that will allow you to see the effects of the options you selected for your page, as well as how they will appear. It is obvious that this is one important feature that you need to have access to. You will definitely have a lot of use for it.
When the time comes that you need to see your page from the point of view of your intended site visitors, sans the customizer options on the screen, you can just press the preview button. The page, as how your visitors will experience your site, will be opened in a new tab on your browser. Having said that, however, even just using the customizer view will already provide you with a more or less accurate display of your page, and thus, you need not resort to using the preview icon too often.
The process of creating a custom layout for your site involves adding a widget first into a page. You then customize the widget to suit your particular needs. To do this, just go to the customizer’s Edit Layout section, then choose the widget you want to use from among the active widgets on your site. These include that come built-in with Layers, the core WordPress Widgets, as well as other widgets that may have come from 3rd party plugins that may be active on your site.
After you have selected the widget to include in your website, you can now proceed to customizing it. The controls may vary, depending on which particular widget you have selected. In general, however, you will find a lot of detailed settings that you can take advantage of.
The entire Layers interface is well thought-out and designed in a functional way. Thus, it is quite easy to use and get used to. Whatever icon you select is guaranteed to work as intended. You will feel like, you already know what will happen once you click on a particular icon, and the tool usually does not disappoint.
If you need to add content to your page or set up a widget, you can count on the design bar to provide you with more control on how your widget will appear. You can alter the layout, change the formatting of the text, set up a background image, as well as include your own customized CSS, if necessary. However, these all depends on the particular widget you are using.
Once you are done adding content to your webpage, and you have sufficiently customized how it looks, your work is now ready to be published. If you are making a static website homepage, you may first want to take a look at the customizer settings to select which among your designs is to have the distinction of becoming your website’s front page.
The rest of the pages you have created using the Layers tool may then be included and designated to serve as the navigation menus for the site. You can do this through the core menu editor of WordPress itself. This way, your site visitors will be able to access the various pages on your site, just like how they would do it on a regular WordPress website.
Just like when working on any other project, you may need to review or go back to any of the other pages you created using Layers for some minor edits or modifications. You can do this easily. Just access the page manager screen of WordPress, then open the page that you want to review or edit.
Recommendations and Conclusion
This review finds the Layers WordPress website building tool to be among the most user-friendly and most intuitive interfaces around. A good idea that we strongly recommend is to use the WordPress Theme Customizer to help you build your site layouts.
Layers made the right decision in choosing the interface to offer. This is because it allowed Layers to assume the look and feel of being a part of your WordPress website’s admin area, instead of being just the added-on extra that it really is. If you have been using WordPress for some time now, or have gotten used to the platform, then it is highly recommended that you soon include Layers in your projects.
Meanwhile, if you are just a recent WordPress user, and is still in the process of familiarizing yourself with the website hosting platform, getting Layers now would also bring you a lot of benefits. For one, you can quickly get started on your website building project simply because you only have a single new interface to learn and work with.
The extra controls that come with layers provide to the core controls already included in the customizer tool. More importantly, these controls are very convenient to use such as the controls that allow you to modify the content and appearance of the widgets.
On the other hand, you can easily make sense of what the icons and other visual controls are for just with a single glance. The addition of the Getting Started Guide – complete with walkthrough videos and descriptive text – is a brilliant idea. It is very useful, especially for first time users of Layers.
Layers is not perfect, however. While it obviously has a lot of advantages, just like most other products on the market, it also comes with a few downsides. To allow you to decide whether Layers is really the right tool for your website building projects, you need to know the product’s downsides as well.
Compared to other builder tools in its class, Layers doesn’t have as many superior custom-built widgets and pre-built page templates. While there is no question that the page templates included in the tool are impressive enough, there simply is not enough of them to select from. Likewise, some of the templates do not have the “wow” factor that you see from other templates from time to time.
As for the widgets, the current lineup offered by Layers is no doubt impressive, but it definitely would not hurt if some more are added. This will no doubt make the tool’s feature list more competitive and more formidable.
Having said that, it is also worth mentioning that being a new entrant to the WordPress site builder tool niche, you can reasonably expect Layers to include a lot of improvements in the future.
Overall, Layers offers users an intuitive interface to use for creating custom website designs for WordPress. You do not need to be equipped with a good amount of design skills to make your website work, although it would be an advantage. However, with Layers, you can turn all the ideas in your head into actual pages – in a relatively easy manner. After all, that is what really matters.
So, is Layers the ideal WordPress website builder for you? After learning about all its features and weighing them against the few downsides, the answer should be quite obvious.