What’s a WordPress page builder?

A page builder is a plugin that helps non-tech users build more complex page layouts than just plain blog posts.

Imagine you need to build or edit a website page with a title, subtitle, parallax slider, text, and a contact form. It’s quite a simple layout, but to build such page without a visual page builder, you need to know HTML, CSS, Javascript… Even if you only need to edit a page, some HTML knowledge is still required to read and understand the code.

A page builder turns web page code into editable drag and drop blocks. So you have separate blocks for your title, subtitle, your slider, your contact form, etc. All you need to do is just pick a suitable type of block (Title, Image, Gallery, Toggle, Countdown, Slider, Chart…) and change the settings, e.g. choose background color, set parallax speed, set block width and padding, enter content, etc.

Pros and Cons of page builders

There are both pros and cons of using a visual page builder. Let’s briefly list some of them:

Pros:

  • Makes page editing easy and intuitive. Drag and drop elements to change your page layout. No HTML knowledge required to change basic settings
  • You don’t need to hire a developer for minor page edits
  • Most page builders require a yearly fee, but it’s cheaper than hiring a developer anyway.

Cons:

  • Makes the entire website slower. An extra plugin always means extra load time, and page builders are not the most lightweight ones
  • Replaces HTML code with shortcodes that won’t work with another page builder or without one
  • Too many options included to fit all possible needs (which negatively affects load speed)
  • Creates extra lines of code, unnecessary HTML classes etc.
  • It may be too tempting for an unexperienced user to use too many different options/blocks, which leads to inconsistent design. For example, you may end up using too many fonts throughout the website or having different layouts for pages of same type.

So should I use a page builder on my WordPress website?

What I wrote above may sound contradictory, but page builders just aren’t a one-fit-for-all solution. They can be good or bad for your website, depending on many factors.

I recommend using a visual page builder if at least one of the following is true:

  • You don’t have anyone who knows HTML in your team and you can’t afford to hire a developer every time you need to edit your website
  • Your website is quite small and static, it can be cached easily and doesn’t otherwise consume a lot of server resources
  • You need to test different page layouts

A possible strategy is to use a page builder on specific pages only – the ones that need to be easily edited by a non-tech website admin. If we don’t load page builder scripts on pages that don’t utilize it, it won’t noticeably affect website speed.

So, if you’re a small business owner, a solopreneur, or a startup, using a page builder on your WordPress site will definitely save you money and time.

What is the best WordPress page builder?

There are many popular page builders out there, for example Divi, Elementor, Beaver Builder, or WP Bakery (formerly known as Visual Composer).

In my opinion, the biggest problem with these builders is that they’re overloaded with features you probably won’t ever use. There’re even more addons available so if you’re not a very experienced user, you may be tempted to buy more and more features, which always results in bad load times. I also find the interface of page builders like WP Bakery too colourful and distracting.

WordPress now has its own page builder called Gutenberg. It’s still very raw and WordPress developers critisize it a lot. If you recently updated your website, you may have noticed that Gutenberg is now the default page editor. I recommend disabling Gutenberg and installing the Classic Editor plugin that reverts to the old, traditional editing interface.

One of the page builders I enjoy working with is Fusion Builder. It’s free, simple, and you can disable components that you don’t need. The interface is minimalistic, not too colourful, not too cluttered with unnecessary graphics. I’ve got some very positive feedback from my clients on using Fusion Builder.

Fusion Builder admin interface
Fusion Builder admin interface

Can I build a WordPress website myself using a page builder?

I would not recommend building a WordPress site from scratch if you don’t have any web development experience.

Page builder demo websites scream that web development has never been so easy before. Anyone can build a website in minutes… Really? What about optimized sctructure, caching system, consistent design, responsiveness, custom graphics and animations, load speed optimization, hosting setup, SEO, security? What about choosing stable and safe plugins? I recently wrote another blog post about what’s included in website development costs┬áto show that web development is not about just adding some pre-built blocks of content.

Page builders are great for non-tech clients to edit their websites, but websites should be built by professional developers. It’s also important to know that page builder options are usually quite limited and you can not really do whatever you want with just a page builder. You need to write code to get a truly custom look. That’s what a web developer does and then you, the website admin, can make minor changes using a page builder.

If you’d like to discuss your project and get a quote, please feel free to contact me.