If you’re wanting to really customize your WordPress website, you’ve probably heard about page builders. They are great tools for being able to customize the look of your webpages without hiring a developer to touching any of the code yourself.
But they do have their downsides and some are clearly better than the rest.
So today let’s go over the top page builders, how they can help you, how they can hurt you and compare it to the (relatively) new block editor.
Hey there and welcome back!
When it comes to customizing your WordPress website, one of the most versatile options you have at your disposal is a page builder. These are plugins that turn your editor into basically a drag and drop builder where you can create interesting pages without touching any code.
And you have a lot of options when it comes to page builders. It’s a pretty saturated market to be honest. So today let’s discuss what they are in more detail, your best options for page builders, what they are good and bad at and whether or not you should be using one for your website.
Now before we get too far along, I do want to be upfront with you. I don’t really use page builders and as a developer, I’m not a big fan of them. I know that they do have a place in the WordPress ecosystem and that people do use them and like them. But for reasons you will hear later on, I don’t really like using them on websites I work on.
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Now let’s get started.
What is a page builder
WordPress page builders are, well, just as the name says. They are tools to help you build a page, whether it’s just a simple page or something more complex with rows and columns and all of that fun stuff.
They make it super easy to customize how your pages look and you don’t have to worry about any code.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as I’ll mention later on. But for the most part, they are good tools for non-developers to create interesting pages.
Page builder options
The good news is that when it comes to page builders, you have a lot of great options to choose from.
I personally would take a look at Beaver Builder, Elementor, Visual Composer and Divi in that order.
While I haven’t had a lot of time with page builders, what time I’ve spent with Elementor and Beaver Builder has been a great experience, while Divi has just been a nightmare to be honest. And Visual Composer is a pretty solid product from what I hear.
Each of them feature their own drag-and-drop interface where you can add rows and columns and a bunch of other content types to create interesting pages.
What page builders are good at
The main selling point for page builders is that you can create cool looking pages without touching any lines of code. You can create layouts with columns and rows and a whole bunch of content types. And you can do that right from the editor.
You don’t need to be a developer and you don’t need to hire a developer to create complex pages. You have control over basically everything.
So if you want to have full control over how all of your pages look, you might want to try out a page builder.
What page builders are bad at
On the flip side, I do have some reservations about using a page builder.
The biggest problem is that most, if not all, of the page builders use shortcodes to layout the pages. Now, that doesn’t necessarily hurt you while you’re using that page builder.
But if you ever move away from that page builder, you’re going to be stuck with a lot of random shortcodes inside your content and that just looks really weird. In fact, I’m working on moving a website currently away from a page builder onto a StudioPress theme and I’m having to run a plugin just to get rid of all of that shortcode. It’s really annoying.
Also, there’s no uniform way for page builders to interact with WordPress, so each of them kind of do their own thing, and it can take a little bit of adjustment if you’re moving from one to another. And that also relates back to the shortcode issue I just mentioned.
Finally, if you’re not careful with what you’re doing or even know what you’re doing, you can end up with a web page that looks just awful or takes forever to load because of all of the styles and code and what not. If you’re going to use a page builder, I highly recommend learning about web design and sticking to the best web design practices to make sure that you’re creating pages that look good to the reader and not just you.
Page builders vs. Block editor
Now, in the past couple of years we’ve had sort of a new contender into the page builder space and that’s the block editor or Gutenberg. From when it was first introduced back in the summer of 2017, I always kind of thought that Gutenberg was supposed to be sort of this competitor for the page builders. Or that it would sort of unify the space. But now I’m not 100 percent sure.
If you’re trying to figure out whether you should use the new block editor or just use a regular page builder, here’s a little bit of a guide to help you out. If you’re wanting to do complicated things with rows and columns and all of that fun business, then you’re probably going to want to stick with a regular page builder. The block editor is getting better with each update, but there are still some things that aren’t exactly intuitive to use and do.
But if you just need simple changes to a couple of pages and you don’t want to throw out everything that you have, the block editor and a theme that supports the block editor is a pretty good way to go.
Should you use a page builder
Personally, I’m not a big fan of page builders as you’ve heard, so I won’t be using them on my projects. But that’s just a personal opinion.
I do recognize that they have a place in the WordPress ecosystem, and that they do help a lot of people. If you want to create more interesting pages without hiring a developer or without learning how to be a developer, they are a really good place to start.
But I also think that for most people, selecting a good, quality, clean theme and using the new block editor is probably what you’re going to want to go with.
As with basically anything, there’s no one right answer that works for everybody. There’s only what works best for you and your website. Just know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
So what questions do you have about page builders in WordPress? Is there a page builder that you would recommend or that you would recommend against? Be sure to leave them down in the comments section below.
Next Wednesday we’ll be talking about some of the best WordPress contact form plugins in 2021.
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Until next time, happy WordPressing!