Interview with Thomas Ehrig of Bricks Builder

October 4, 2021 | By Lawrence Ladomery | No Comments
October 4, 2021
By Lawrence Ladomery

No Comments
Having a performant solution, both in the builder and the frontend, plays a big role. -- Thomas Ehrig, Bricks Builder
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Bricks is one of the latest visual page builders for WordPress and is positioning itself as speed demon, which is why many people are excited by it.

I'll start with a full disclosure: I'm a fan, a customer and... will not re-new my Elementor licence because of it. A couple of months ago I built my personal website with Bricks and while there were still quite a few features missing compared to the alternatives the performance gains were noticeable.

Head over to the Bricks Community on Facebook and you'll find a lot of likeminded individuals.  There's quite the buzz. So I thought I'd reach out to its founder, Thomas Ehrig, and ask him to explain what Bricks is about, what the future holds and his views on a number broader points about WordPress.

Before we get going I want to point out that at the moment of writing this there's a 40% discount on offer to purchase a lifetime licence of Bricks Builder. Head over to the launch post to learn more about its features and the offer itself.

Interview

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with WordPress

My name is Thomas Ehrig (35), self-taught web developer & designer, from Germany.

I believe it was back in 2008 when I first started using WordPress (2.x) on some of my own websites. I didn’t really consider developing and offering WordPress products up until 2014, when I launched my first premium WordPress theme, Worx, on CreativeMarket. To my surprise, it made it into their TOP100 that year. So I know I was onto something.

I then ventured into selling themes on ThemeForest and made it to their Elite level.

The idea to develop Bricks, a visual site builder for WordPress, with a focus on customizability, performance, and design, started to form at the end of 2017. Which we launched earlier this year, in March 2021.

In between I launched HappyFiles, the best-rated media folder plugin for WordPress, in March 2020.

2. What problem are you solving with Bricks?

In short: Bricks aims to provide users with an all-in-one platform to build performant & beautiful WordPresss sites visually.

It’s about more than just the feature set, though...

There are already some well established solutions in this market. Before I started to develop Bricks, I noticed that there wasn’t much or often no transparency at all about a builder’s development process and no real user-driven development.

When you as a user commit to learn such a complex piece of software, I always thought, how great it would be to have a say in the product’s development, and to know at all times, what is going on behind the scenes.

I’ve first used this 100% public & fully transparent system of idea board, roadmap, and changelog for HappyFiles. Users can submit their own ideas (feature requests), and upvote & comment on their favorites ideas. Which then, based on popularity make it onto the official roadmap, which is divided into a “Planned”, “Next”, and “In Progress” stage.

It was a bit scary at first to be that transparent & then having to commit to this process. But as it’s been received so well, we are using the same system and user-driven development for Bricks. It’s great for the user to become an actual part of the product. But it also gives us a much better idea of what users actually want. And not just to develop what we think they want.

3. What are the key differences between Bricks, Elementor, Oxygen and other established page builders? Also, why is it a Theme and not a plugin?

That’s a really difficult question for me to answer. As I’ve basically stopped following everyone else's development. When you’ve got all the information you need to develop the product forever, because of the feature requests our community submits via our idea board every day, you don’t need to look anywhere else for inspiration or ideas.

As we are trying to cater more towards the advanced end user, having a performant solution, both in the builder and the frontend, plays a big role. We constantly update all parts (modules) of the builder, which runs on VueJS, to the latest version. This might not raise any eyebrows on the changelog, but it ensures the builder can fulfill its foundational role. The 1.3.4 release introduced a big asset loading optimization for the frontend as well.

Other parts, such as the workflow & design of Bricks, seem to attract a lot of users, too.

So does the entire customizability & dynamic data integration.

Lastly, but this should really come first, is the community that has formed about Bricks. We haven’t spent a single $ on marketing, have no affiliate program (yet), but the project is growing every day thanks to our members. Which are also very active in our Facebook group and the forum in helping new members to get started with Bricks.

Offering Bricks as a theme builds the foundation of our “all-in-one” platform promise. You never have to ask yourself what’s the best WordPress theme for my builder? It also helps us to ensure developing a well-oiled & cohesive codebase that doesn’t depend on any third-party products on a fundamental level.

4. How does Bricks play with Gutenberg and what are your thoughts about the latter?

Right now we offer a two way migration between Gutenberg and Bricks data. So if you’ve already created some pages with Gutenberg, you can convert and load their Gutenberg blocks into Bricks, and vice versa.

Once Gutenberg has brought true full-site-editing to its editor, we’ll start looking into establishing a more interconnected experience between the two.

Personally, I definitely appreciate the visual editing experience the Gutenberg project is bringing to WordPress. The more we, as WordPress developers (no matter the project), can help lower the barrier for users to create beautiful, powerful, and easy to maintain sites, the better.

5. You publish a roadmap, which is great. What will Bricks look like in 3 years time?

We’ve made some great progress & shipped a lot of awesome releases in the first six months alone, as you can see on our changelog over at https://bricksbuilder.io/changelog.

As the project is so heavily user-driven, it’s impossible to tell for us how Bricks will look like in three years.

As a development team we want to bring all of the most requested features into Bricks. But also ensure that the codebase becomes more stable, extendable, and performant as time goes on.

6. Elementor are launching their own cloud, a more SaaS-type offering. Is that something you would consider doing too?

Launching a “Bricks Cloud” solution is not something we consider any time soon. From a revenue & development perspective it is very attractive, though. There is no denying that.

The main “dilemma” I personally see when offering a self-hosted and a cloud-based builder solution are the long-term implications for the end user.

Once a WordPress builder has reached a feature, design, and performance saturation & satisfaction of at least 90%, I’d say it’s safe to start looking into the whole “Cloud” idea.

Launching a “Cloud” solution before that could potentially lead to a loss of focus of the self-hosted version. Especially once the “Cloud” revenue overtakes the former solution.

You are now also playing in a completely different market alongside even more established & bigger players like Webflow & co.

That being said, I wish Elementor and their cloud solution all the best. I just think we don’t need to rush anything in that department, as there is so much more to accomplish with the self-hosted version of Bricks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lawrence Ladomery
My first job in digital was back in 1998 and have worked for all kinds of organizations, from startups to Government, agencies and businesses of all shapes and sizes. I've been using WordPress 12 years but fell in love with it in 2017 when I started working in the web hosting space and getting to know the community. I am also a big fan of Elementor and run the Elementor Melbourne Meetup.
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7. You’ve positioned Bricks as a tool to build “WordPress sites that rank”. Page load speed is a factor here - tell us how you’re making WordPress faster.

Good question, at a good time, as we’ve just released our biggest performance update with Bricks 1.3.4. If you read the changelog entry, you might think “Okay, I now need to load a few assets less”.

Yet, under the hood, that meant rewriting thousands of lines of code, to get from loading 647kb down to 79kb. That’s 88% less assets to load (view our YouTube video to learn more about this - Bricks 1.3.4 - Asset Loading Optimization).

Beyond that we want to further reduce the DOM size to get down to the absolute possible minimum.

Bricks also comes with a built-in lazy loader for images & videos, which helps to further reduce loading times, a lot. Especially on media-intensive sites.

Basic SEO settings are part of the builder too. So you don’t necessarily need an extra SEO plugin, if all you know to adjust SEO-wise, are just the basics.

8. There’s a lot of talk about WordPress becoming a more complex platform for developers. What’s your take on this?

I agree. Although that’s not really something unique to WordPress. Most developing and progressing software comes with an increase in complexity at some point. Especially when you are trying to introduce a more interactive software experience, as is the case with Gutenberg or Bricks.

Developers who want to break into the Gutenberg product space definitely have a higher barrier to entry. From that point of view, I’d have preferred WordPress had chosen Vue over React.

I remember sitting in the audience of WordCamp Europe 2016 listening to Matts’ interview with Brian where he already talked about “Learn JavaScript, Deeply”.

As JavaScript is eating the world of software, it doesn’t stop at WordPress. If you are a web developer and only know jQuery, it’s definitely a good investment to start learning JavaScript, deeply 😉 It will also serve you well outside of WordPress. Especially outside of WordPress, I should say.

9. We’ve seen a lot of acquisitions and investments recently. Do you think there is a risk of WordPress - the platform and ecosystem - becoming too commercialized?

As someone who makes a living off of developing software for WordPress, it’s tricky to answer this sort of question objectively, but I’ll try.

I personally welcome this increase of investment capital inflow and seeing the overall market capitalization expanding. As long as it's deployed in an effective way.

As an end-user I understand the worries that arise when your favorite plugin suddenly gets a new owner- and leadership. Unfortunately, that worry was sometimes justified by the new owner not honoring certain previous deals, introducing not well-received new pricing plans, etc.

But as the usage of WordPress products for commercial purposes and sites has increased tremendously over the last decade, so has the cost of developing and supporting those products.

There is no free lunch, and developing software (well) is very expensive. Without an influx of capital, ideally the right kind, you can’t really attract the talent required that helps bring WordPress as a whole to a new level.

We’ve been spoiled and conditioned by tens of thousands of free plugins over the last 15 years, and some users still have a hard time adjusting to paying B2B prices for B2B software.

The vast majority of WordPress products are still heavily under-priced in my eyes compared to other non-WordPress solutions. But that’s a topic for another day ...

10. Any final thoughts that you want to share with our readers?

Yes.

If you are a WordPress developer looking to strengthen & expand your dev skills, mastering JavaScript is going to be your best bet. Picking up a framework like React or Vue is going to serve you well in the future. Don’t delay it.

If you are using open source software in your commercial products, consider donating to those projects, and sponsor the people behind them. Even if it’s just a few dollars every month. It adds up.

It can be the difference of a project being continued or not. Programs like GitHub Sponsors, Patreon, and Open Collective, make this super easy.

As a WordPress user, know that your plugin & theme purchasing decisions have a real impact on the continued development & support of the software you are using.

So does spreading the word about your favorite WordPress products. It’s not just free, but also the best way to support & strengthen the software toolset you rely on & use every day.

Bricks Builder - under the hood

Screenshot of the Screenshot - WP Mainline website

Theme: None - Bricks Builder is installed as a theme

Page Builder: Bricks Builder

Key Plugins: Advanced Custom Fields, Meta Box

Hosting: Cloudways Vultr High Frequency

Learn more about Thomas Ehrig and Bricks Builder

Bricks Builder website: bricksbuilder.io
Bricks Community Forum: forum.bricksbuilder.io
Bricks Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/brickscommunity/
Twitter: @thomas_ehrig

Get Bricks

There are two options to purchase Bricks:

  • Starter, for 1 website - USD $59 (discounted from USD $99) for a lifetime licence
  • Ultimate, for 1,000 websites - USD $149 (discounted from USD $259) for a lifetime licence

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