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Interview with Thomas Ehrig of Bricks Builder

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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.

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