Let’s get one thing straight: websites, and the technologies that drive them, are getting increasingly complex. As are the demands that businesses put on them. Back in 1999 when we produced our first website (thank you wayback Machine), anyone with a text editor and a how to book on HTML could create a website. But a site that would – by today’s standards, be considered rudimentary at best.. Fast forward 19 years, and the websites have moved on. As has the technology and complexity of the systems driving them. Whilst this means that websites are now capable of much more, the skills & knowledge needed to create than have also expanded beyond “html for dummies“. Fortunaly, as is often the case much of this complexity can now be handled by a friendly user interface. In this way fully functioning websites can be created with the need even to resort to HTML code.
Enter WordPress Pagebuilders
A Page-builder is basically a WordPress plugin that allows you to manage the layout and content of your site using a friendly drag & drop/fill in the boxes interface. It will then convert this into the code needed to display your site correctly. As with most plugins, there are many options out there if you want to use a page builder. After some research, we have come up with 2 that we are focusing on:
WP Bakery, was one of the first page builders, and is bundled with a number of themes. It is therefore worth consideration. For our money though, Elementor seems to be the better option. There is even a page builder that is being considered for addition to the WordPress core – Gutenberg – Whilst this is rudimentary at present, the fact that it has WordPress behind it means it is definitely one to watch. It is currently expected to make an appearance in the WordPress core later this year. Whichever page builder you choose, there are a number of things to consider. Hence we have decided to look at the pros & cons of using a page builder over getting a WordPress template custom coded from Scratch.
Pagebuilders – Pros
- They simplify the process of creating & managing page layouts – This is pretty much the nuumber one reason for using a page builder, they alow you to create professional page layouts using a verity of technologies including jquery and css animations & effects without the need for any coding knowledge.
- They give more content control to non-technical users – Using a page builder allows non technical users to manage their content without needing to resort to “coding”. Once you understand how the page-builder works, you should be able to manage the content on your website without trouble.
- They Allow focus on Marketing rather than tech – As we have stated in another of this weeks posts Technology should be the servant not the master. Pagebuilders do tame the technology, and so allow you to focus on creating & delivering the marketing message, putting you rather than the techies back in control.
- They handle the visual complexity in your site within a plugin – Typically a pagebuilder is a wordpress plugin, thus using them to drive your layout & content allows you to use a basic theme (What is a WordPress Theme?) as a starting point. This means that all the complexity in the site is kept in one place (Plugins). In our experience, because they are more general & less influenced by fashion, plugins tend to be better supported, updated more regualrly, and become obsolete less quickly. Thus keeping the complexity in your site with the plugin arena is a good move.
OK, so those are the reasons to use a page builder, but what about the reasons not to.
Pagebuilder – Cons
- They restrict flexibility of detailed layout tweaks – Because the page-builder adds a layer of flexibility & complexity into the site layout, it is much more difficult to edit the site layout directly. This means that changes to the core content & layout have to be done via the page-builder removing the ability to simply add bespoke functionality. In reality not a major issue, but you have to accept the limitations of the page-builder. Whilst additional custom coding can sit along side page-builder content. There is no doubt that it’s inclusion does place restrictions on the way a site can be developed.
- Adds reliance on third party support (of Pagebuilder creators) – by using a page-builder, you are relying on this being supported by the plugin’s developers, and requiring those developers to maintain & update the plugin into the future. Whilst not an issue in its self, you do need to choose carefully when deciding which page-builder to use. You must also have confidence that the support will be there when you need it.
- They are an additional layer of complexity – As with anything, ease of use for the end user means complexity hidden elsewhere. In this case, the page-builder is acting as an interface translating the drag & drop actions of the user into code that makes up the web page. This added complexity creates additions potential for issues & conflicts with other elements of the site. This is the key reasons to select a page-builder with a good track record for support.
- There is no (realistic) going back – or is there? – Once you start using a page-builder, you are pretty much committed to using your chosen builder into the future. Another reason why support is key!. Being WordPress, there is always the option to switch to a new theme & rebuild the layout of the site, and whilst the content would be unaffected, it would require a fair bit of work, so this definitely needs consideration when selecting to use a page builder.
If you want to maximise control over your site layout without the need for support from a more technical partner, then a page-builder may be the answer. However, having support from someone who understands WordPress is valuable. As is someone who can offer direct technical back up when you need it. Even if you do decide to use a page-builder. It’s the 80:20 rule. 80% of the time, you will probably be able to deliver great professional results using WordPress & a page-builder like Elementor, but for the 20% of the time when you want to do something a bit extra, outside the capabilities of the drag and drop, then having someone on the end of a phone to assist is invaluable. If that person also understands you business& marketing objectives, all the better.