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Native Blocks vs ACF Blocks - a WPRiders Developer Analysis - Inside WPRiders Article

Native Blocks vs ACF Blocks – a WPRiders Developer Analysis

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One of our skilled WordPress developers put together the following analysis between native Gutenberg blocks and Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) blocks.

A basic block describes the default blocks that ship in the Gutenberg editor, the content editor in WordPress, as well as the fundamental unit of a website or a page. These content blocks are ways in which you can add text to your site, images, galleries, video and audio, and many other media elements to your pages.

However, ACF blocks are blocks that developers create with the Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin. ACF blocks took the solution to the next level, allowing for complex data querying, highly customized block designs, and flexible content layouts. They really shine when it comes to creating sophisticated site layouts that need unique data input and daring.

The comparison is made by the developer, and he discusses the features, compatibility, and performance, and also he put together a small website to check the different features each one offers.

Native Blocks

Native Blocks vs ACF Blocks - a WPRiders Developer Analysis - Inside WPRiders Article

Features

  • Rich Content Creation: Allows the creation of rich content with a wide range of built-in blocks such as paragraphs, images, galleries, quotes, and more.
  • Full Site Editing: Gutenberg is moving towards full site editing capabilities.
  • Block Patterns: Developers can create patterns for commonly used block configurations.
  • Performance: Typically performs well as it is optimized and streamlined for WordPress.

Compatibility

  • Future-Proof: Being the default editor, it is continuously updated and improved.

ACF Blocks

Features:

  • Advanced Queries: Allows for advanced data query options like relationship fields, which can be more complex than Gutenberg’s capabilities.
  • Highly Customizable Blocks: Enables the creation of custom blocks with unique fields using PHP (Leverages PHP to manage and render block output, offering more control to developers.)
  • Flexible Content Layouts: Ideal for complex website layouts that require unique data input.
  • Using PHP only, no need to learn or understand React.js
  • Seamless Integration: Works seamlessly within the Gutenberg editor once blocks are defined.

Compatibility:

  • Plugin Dependency: This relies on the ACF Pro plugin, which may not be compatible with all themes or plugins.
  • Updates and Maintenance: Dependent on third-party updates from the ACF plugin team.
  • They are constantly upgrading, you can check Blocks in ACF 6
Native Blocks vs ACF Blocks - a WPRiders Developer Analysis - Inside WPRiders Article

Comparison

Gutenberg is strong in user-friendliness (if blocks are constructed directly in the editor/ default ones) and integration with WordPress’s core, but it may lack the flexibility in data management that complex sites require. It also requires the user to have little to medium React.js basics.

ACF Blocks offer profound customization and control, ideal for complex, data-driven sites, but they require 3rd party management (ACF plugin) and are less friendly if the user is not a developer.

Speed

There is a difference in speed between Gutenberg blocks and ACF Blocks, primarily due to how they are implemented and managed within WordPress.

  1. Gutenberg Blocks: These are generally faster because they are native to WordPress and optimized for performance within the core platform. Gutenberg blocks are directly integrated into the WordPress editor, which reduces the overhead associated with additional plugins. But as per statistics say, “try to use core blocks whenever possible”.
  1. ACF Blocks: While offering greater customization, ACF Blocks can be slower because they rely on external plugin logic and additional PHP execution for rendering blocks. This can introduce more database queries and PHP processing, which might affect the page load times, especially on complex sites with many custom fields. Statistically, they say ACF blocks are better compared to ACF fields since they save data in post_content().
Native Blocks vs ACF Blocks - a WPRiders Developer Analysis - Inside WPRiders Article

Recommendations

Choosing between Gutenberg and ACF Blocks largely depends on the specific needs of your WordPress project. Gutenberg blocks are ideal for general content creation, offering ease of use and seamless integration with WordPress’s core. They are also future-proof, being continuously updated by the WordPress team.

On the other hand, ACF Blocks are better suited for complex, data-intensive websites that require custom fields and tailored database queries. They provide developers with greater control over content rendering but require PHP knowledge and can impact site performance due to additional processing.

Real-world

I created a dummy website and made one page, containing just a bunch of images with some large texts and a gallery at the bottom of the page. Also, I created a mirror page but this time with ACF Blocks inside only.

All pages had 18 images and the same length of text.

ACF Blocks: 

  • Finish: 300-432ms
  • DOMContentLoaded: 199-213ms
  • Load: 208-222 ms

Native Blocks: 

  • Finish: 400-433ms
  • DOMContentLoaded: 171-201ms
  • Load: 199-212ms

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