The pros and cons of WordPress page builders
Though WordPress is marketed as a simple, easy-to-use platform on which to build your website, the reality is often less than straightforward.
If it were truly that simple, that is, if just anyone could pick WordPress up and build an incredible website with no training, then marketers and developers like us would be out of a job.
The fact is, WordPress may be straightforward in some ways, but in many others, it’s quite complex. You can create a beautiful design for your site, but turning it into reality on WordPress is another task entirely.
That is, unless you use a page builder.
What is a page builder?
A page builder, in WordPress, anyway, is just a plugin — it adds drag-and-drop capabilities to the backend of your website.
That means you don’t have to know HTML or CSS to build a website that looks like your design. You also don’t have to rely on picking a theme that looks exactly the way you want it to look or is easy to manipulate.
From a new designer’s standpoint, this has the possibility to be a godsend. Creating a website, even with the power of WordPress, an excellent parent theme, a stellar child theme, and high-quality plugins, still requires a set of web development skills that many creatives just don’t have.
A page builder gets around this issue. It lets you bring your design and your words to life without having to hire a developer or pull your own away from client work. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, it sort of is and sort of isn’t.
Page builders help you create your website, but is it a good idea to use one?
This is the real question — do these things actually work?
The short answer? It depends.
It depends on the page builder you choose.
Some page builders have serious problems. Some leave behind a mess of code everywhere they tread, some don’t save all your content or design if you deactivate the plugin, some are clunky and almost impossible to use…
And some are really awesome. For some creatives, they can be a perfect solution in a variety of situations.
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For example, if you have an awesome developer build you a website, but you can’t pay for ongoing development work, a page builder may be just the thing for creating beautiful landing pages, or adding the rest of your products/services pages that you just can’t afford to pay for at the moment.
To put it simply, page builders put the power in your hands. They let you turn your designs into reality without having to let someone else mangle your design (and charge you to do so).
That being said, they do have limitations, and many of them have drawbacks. It’s critical to choose the right page builder; otherwise, you may end up with a mess of a site down the road or a mess of frustration as you fuss with a page builder that just isn’t great.
What page builder should you use?
For us, this is a pretty straightforward question, but I’ll let you take a look at some reviews and make up your own mind.
Chris Lema of WordPress and Crowd Favorite fame wrote a fantastic review of many different page builders, and you can read the whole thing here, but I’ll save you some reading and just give you his recommendation:
He likes Beaver Builder, and, at least for the moment, so do we at Blue Steele Solutions.
Beaver Builder doesn’t destroy your content if you deactivate it, it’s simple to use while still being pretty powerful, and it has a pretty painless learning curve.
I would even go so far as to say you could build an entire website with a page builder this powerful, though it would take a while and I personally wouldn’t want to do it.
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Think of a page builder more as a stop-gap solution: It lets you add new pages to your website and make simple design changes without having to pay a developer. It keeps your website looking awesome between now and the day you can hire a developer in-house or pay a developer or agency to handle this for you on an ongoing basis.
However, if you’re starting your website from scratch, a page builder is only a piece of the puzzle.
Choosing an awesome theme, picking your plugins carefully, and backing up even further to think about audience, branding, and your goals for the site is critical.
Do the planning beforehand so you don’t spend a ton of time (and money) trying to fix your website down the line.
If you’re building your own website in-house, a little bit of planning goes a long way
A page builder is only a tool — if the tool isn’t used as part of a well-developed plan, it’s not going to save your website.
For all our clients, we push design to the end of the project. Start with audience, branding, and content, and let these critical components drive the design.
And we have an ebook that walks you through this entire process. You can download it here.
If you use page builders the way they were meant to be used — as a tool for the average person to design a few pages here and there, they can be immensely valuable.
Just don’t come to rely on them.
Blue Steele Solutions is a full-service marketing firm located in Denton, Texas. They build websites in WordPress constantly, and they even wrote an ebook on the process, 8 Steps to Building a High-ROI Website. Download it here.
Elementor is another solid option, which does not use shortcode and has a clean UI and decent UX.
Thanks for replying Luke! Elementor is definitely another great option. If only out-of-the-box WordPress had these kinds of capabilities, we wouldn’t need page builders!
I also use and recommend Elementor. We are a web agency and we use it for make fast landing pages.
Thanks for reading Luis. Elementor is certainly another great option.
Elementor is about to release a Pro version that will blow the doors off, and it has one of the best UIs out there. I agree that a page builder can be useful only if you think through its use as part of a larger design and site maintenance plan.
Yes, we’ve certainly seen a lot of excitement about Elementor here in the comments! They’ve definitely got a potent offering — I think we’re starting to see page builders come into their own.
And you’re right — page builders need to be used carefully and thoughtfully. They shouldn’t be relied on heavily if it can be avoided.
+1 for Beaver Builder. We’ve developed an addon for Beaver Builder that allows you to extend the basic functionality and get more custom modules and templates.
Thanks for sharing Sujay! We love Beaver Builder, and we’ve been using something similar to your offering to for a while.
Great article but I suggest looking into Page Builder Sandwich too. Aside from having an easier learning curve (since it has the usual Word processor UI) and does not destroy your website, it has a shortcode mapper which includes 100+ popular plugins.
I agree with your point in knowing what you want in your website and having a plan of execution. WordPress devs constant update seems too overwhelming sometimes! :)
Thanks for reading Patricia! I’ll take a look at Page Builder Sandwich — I love the name!
The constant updates are a pain, but I guess what really grinds my gears is how useless they often seem for most of us. The things that we really need (like a more robust native word processor, for example) never seem to materialize, yet we get things like “distraction-free” writing, which, frankly, is even more distracting!
We use Layerswp for our clients!
It is clean and fast!
I’ll have to take a look at that plugin Dieter; thanks for letting me know! One of the primary benefits of page builders, as you’ve mentioned, is their ability to accelerate development. When you’re charging by the hour, this makes a huge difference in your profit margin.
Thanks for your comment.
I’m using WooComposer on the theme Enfold and I get quite locked. Anyone has the same experience?