Page Builder plugins for WordPress have come a long way. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’re going to see more of them around the WordPress ecosystem. If WordPress is to continue it’s growth beyond our current 27% piece of the pie, the software will need to keep up with competing platforms like, Wix or Squarespace, which put page building at the forefront of their hosted solutions.
When you match that up with great looking designs, it becomes a very empowering tool for anyone that is scared of touching code. In a world where we’re conditioned to fix our leaky faucet by searching YouTube first, before calling a professional, do-it-yourself on the web becomes just as appealing.
Page Builder plugins feed off of that same energy — it’s a double-edged sword.
On one side of the sword, we can’t blame users for wanting a builder tool since a.) WordPress doesn’t provide one and b.) designing a site on WordPress is still geared towards the more advanced user. Then there’s the other deadly side of the sword, to which, I’ve outlined 5 very sharp points — a strange sword for sure.
They think it’s going to be easy
I know this first-hand because I sell a plugin that creates content blocks for WordPress. People see my videos, read the docs, and click on animated gifs to explore it’s “gui-ness.” They see blocks coming together, widgets resizing and so-on. Instantly their brain thinks that with just a few clicks of the mouse, everything will fall into place for them, when they get loaded on their site.
If users do that with a content blocks plugin, imagine a page builder! When I did my unboxing video of Divi, I found their front-end builder to be challenging, even to a power user like myself. Seeing it in action, versus working with it yourself, are two totally different things.
It’s important to understand that everything on the web is going to come with a learning-curve, page builders are not immune. No matter how easy the marketing headlines read.
They think it will take them less time
Yes, it will take less time — once you know how to use the software.
If you’re new to website building, heck, if you’re new to any software, you’re going to need to learn it and it’s going to take time. Once you get beyond the learning curve, however, there are noticeable challenges between the top page builder plugins. When you start comparing features, you find that one is more efficient than the other, or that you don’t need a page builder at all to accomplish your goal.
I should note, that a lot of page builders, like Beaver Builder and Divi, ship with a collection of pre-made templates. Yes, this speeds up your design time, but you still spin the clock making it fit your look and feel.
They don’t know about the lock-in
As a consultant, this is the biggest trap I see people fall into. To some degree, all page builders are going to lock you in, and I don’t fully blame them for it either. It’s not like you could up and take the Wix drag-n-drop technology to a WordPress website when you move. Some plugins do this because it makes using their software easier, and others do it because they simply don’t care. The former is a perfectly valid argument, but your average customer doesn’t realize this until it’s too late.
Divi, for example, when you disable it, leaves you with a bunch of WordPress short codes, not the content you created using their builder. If it’s on a small 5-page website, no big deal. If you’re running a profitable e-commerce shop, look out.
Their theme lacks support
Picture that you’re in a leaky boat, you see the water coming through one hole, so you patch it. Then another hole sprouts up, you rush to plug that up too. Then another, and another — and so on. Most WordPress themes have a set size for their content container, and that’s the space page builder plugins operate in. If a theme doesn’t have a full-width template or styling available, you lose out on those trendy edge-to-edge designs that they showcase — until hire a developer to make some new templates for you.
Themes can’t account for all page builders, all page builders can’t account for all themes. It’s a cruel world we live in, I know. The downfall of this, back to my patching analogy, end-users start piling on the plugins to “tweak something on this page, then something on that page.” They end up creating a real monster of a website when it’s all said and done.
They think it will solve for all situations
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
This is another situation where you don’t know, what you don’t know. I’ve been in consulting situations where customers think that a page builder will actually change the design of their website, beyond structure, when in fact that’s not true. WooCommerce store owners who feel duped because they thought they could go into individual product pages, and modify every pixel of a product template or that they could change all the colors of some obscure theme.
I’ll reinforce that I don’t blame page builders for this misconception, or even the users, for that matter. On one hand developers can’t (or should) solve for every situation. Every option added requires more support and overhead, plus it adds to the overall complexity of the product. Users just want to design their site, without hiring a professional, why should it be complicated?
Page builders are certainly getting better, but there’s still a ton of room for growth, I didn’t even touch on the performance issues or conflict of usability with WordPress in this overview. Bottom line is, as much as page builders are improving, there’s still a lot of room to grow and learn — on both sides.
What do you think about page builders, and which do you use?