1 August 2011

Drag and Drop WordPress Theme Development

The WordPress platform is very powerful when it comes to managing web site content and being able to add functionality for web site owners. But if you are not a web developer, the options are limited as to how much you can customize WordPress to your specific needs. And this can prove frustrating for most of us.

I am going to introduce you to some new “Drag-and-Drop” development tools that are easy for users of all skill levels to work with.

When I first started researching this topic, I was concerned it might be damaging for WordPress developers. I was pleased to find that these tools have been developed with users of all skill levels kept in mind. They remove many of the mundane development tasks while still allowing developers to concentrate on extending functionality.

I found three tools (listed alphabetically) that provide a well rounded offering of various costs and features:

Headway Themes

Drag & Drop With HeadwayI normally do not start with the best of the lot (in my opinion), but it does come first alphabetically.

From the website, it was very easy for me to get a real feel of how the product worked and how the features were used in a real world installation. All this without having to download or install anything. Headway did this through the use of succinct videos throughout the site.

Headway impressed me for several reasons:

  1. The online pre-sales presentation of the product
  2. The online documentataion
  3. The “value added” features available

The pre-sales presentation was fabulous I thought.

Available on video, was an overview of the documentation with a link to the full product documentation online. This is one of the biggest problems developers face is with well documented tools. Headway have addressed this as a priority.

But Headway did not stop at building a drag-and-drop development tool. They built a fully functioning development tool that offers WordPress hooks, search engine optimization, web site design elements, and an API interface called “Leafs” that work similar to the WordPress plugin concept.

Needless to say, I was very impressed with the Headway offering. This should be your first stop if you are considering purchasing a WordPress development tool.

PageLines – Drag and Drop Framework

Pagelines was next up and the product is also very impressive. But, I found the pre-sales presentation a bit more difficult to work through. I wanted more interaction and documentation.

In short, I wanted more information.

The only video I found was a sales video that provided a minimum of insight into what the product actually does. And the demo wasn’t really a demo. It seemed to be a sight built with the development tool so I could see what was created. As a developer, I knew what was required to develop the demo sight. But if I was new, my appreciation for the product would have easily been diluted or lost all together.

However, the product seems to provide almost as much as the Headway product as far as “ease of use”, and value added features. The integration of WordPress hooks, search engine optimization and other elements weren’t as obvious to me. But after much searching around I determined that these do exist.

Pagelines develops some very professional themes. It is because of their experience in the WordPress environment that I would recommend this product as well.

PressWork – HTML 5 Drag and Drop Framework

I felt a need to include this product in the review for one simple reason:

  • It is a free, open source product – unlike Headway and Pagelines

Presswork doesn’t even begin to match up to Headway or Pagelines in terms of features or power. But it has a lot of potential as an open source product.

I found it to be more of a drag and drop “Design” tool as opposed to a development tool. But it is a great way for beginners to get a feel for the layout possibilities with WordPress. Someone with a good eye for design could easily use the product for design some very nice web site layouts. And the cost is unbeatable.


This seems to be a fairly new area for WordPress development. But the early players seem to be doing things right in what they have to offer. Some of the other frameworks are also beginning to offer some drag and drop functionality such as Carrington, which offers a drag and drop template builder as a part of their framework.

I am wondering how this might effect some of the other frameworks like Hybrid, Thesis or Genesis in the coming months.

But I will continue to keep an eye on this area.

4 Comments on “Drag and Drop WordPress Theme Development

Tasos Koukouvitis
12 August 2011 at 01:45

just a comment to comment on :-)

please check the following pages :

they are almost the same, both in layout, style & content !!!
someone is copying the other one… and this isn’t so good :-(

also the are 2 other frameworks : wpsumo & ithemes

thx, tasos

12 August 2011 at 08:16

Yes, those pages are very similar aren’t they. Have you used WPSumo or the iThemes Builder?

Both look very nice but it’s not clear if they are available as a drag-and-drop environment.

Thank you for sharing.

1 August 2011 at 18:36


Interesting review. Headway and PageLines have been around for a while but I hadn’t heard of PressWork.

I did try a version of Headway a couple of years ago and, from looking at their site a few moments ago, they’ve come on a bit since then!

To my mind Frameworks really are the way to go unless you’re a hard core WP developer. The problem with developing WP core code, though, is that your changes are likely to be over-written whenever you upgrade.

At least with a Framework you can add functions through hooks and do whatever you want with layout and styling and your work will be preserved through upgrades :)



1 August 2011 at 21:34

Hi Martin,

Yes, these have been around for awhile. But they are maturing as is WordPress itself.

Any theme can have a variety of hooks for it coded into the functions.php file or included via this file as well, without the worry of being over written with an upgrade. But there is a bit of knowledge required to understand all of the hooks and when to use them. This is probably the strongest reason for me to use a framework. As the hooks locations are predefined to help take the mystery out of adding functionality.

However, I enjoyed the fact that these frameworks offered a value added solution for a variety of skill levels. making all of us better at what we love to do most.

I know you’re very experienced with Thesis based on the great articles on using the framework found on your web site (
I know they have a variety of hooks available as well. These must make your job a lot easier at times. :-)

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