There are numerous reasons behind WordPress's rise to becoming the most popular content management system globally, and ease of use is right up there.
Beginners can have a site online in no time, while experts have the freedom and flexibility to edit code, create plugins and bring their ideas to life. One of the platform's most important quality of life additions involves the wide range of available page builders.
What is a WordPress Page Builder?
As great as WordPress is, it's not necessarily easy to visually customize, especially for beginners. Functionally, it has everything someone needs to create posts and pages out of the box, but a standard WordPress installation can be incredibly bland in terms of the look and feel. As a result, many people turn to one of the thousands of professional themes out there, but others want something more unique to them.
Your site represents you as an individual or business, and the tone and style of your website reflect that. Popular themes look great, but a page builder can take them to the next level. Drag and drop design means that even new users can quickly make their own ideas happen rather than whatever the theme designer had in mind.
Page builders enable site owners to take control of their WordPress site with page templates, unique navigation, custom layouts, widget placement and much more.
Best of all, they require no coding knowledge at all. The intuitive interfaces of popular page builders like Elementor and Divi take care of the code behind the scenes. All you need to worry about is how things look and where they're positioned on the page. They work in conjunction with themes to ensure everything is where it needs to be.
They're excellent tools and can certainly make life easier, but page builders do come complete with some inherent pros and cons.
Pros of WordPress Page Builders
Tools like Elementor and the built-in page builder wouldn't be so popular if they didn't bring plenty of positives to the table. They certainly have a place in modern WordPress design for the following reasons:
No Code Required
As touched on already, you won't have to hire a developer to get something where you want it to be.
For example, do you want a menu in the sidebar or an inline widget on every page? Page builders can make that happen. All you need to do is drag whatever you have in mind to the correct position on the page, and it's there to build around as necessary.
A Head Start on Design
Building with a page builder is more time-consuming than just using an out of the box theme, but that doesn't have to mean starting from scratch. Most popular page builders come with templates for the most used pages.
They, in turn, can serve as the perfect starting point for a unique design. Add more features, take some away or move what's there to wherever makes the most sense – and get your site online in record time in the process.
Replace Multiple Plugins
Overdoing it on plugins can lead to performance issues on your website. In most cases, it's best to use as few as possible without sacrificing functionality.
Our Smart Starter Bundle includes everything that most new sites require to get off to a great start without overdoing it.
The key to this, from a design perspective, is the inclusion of Elementor Pro. You don't need separate plugins to handle social buttons, videos, image carousels price tables.
Instead, they're all bundled as part of the building experience. They offer functionality to rival paid alternatives, too, ensuring you save money in the process.
Whether your site is for personal or professional use, you don't want it to be the same as any other. Page builders work in conjunction with themes, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel with visual elements.
However, you can move or delete parts of any page or template however you see fit. That means your site stands out and does what you need in an entirely different way to any other, even if the sites are similar behind the scenes.
Cons of WordPress Page Builders
While we're big fans of page builders, especially for those with no prior coding or design experience, they're not perfect for every site.
WordPress's own design and building tools have improved over time, especially with the block editor. There are also slight concerns over speed and performance from some page-building tools, as we'll detail below.
Shortcodes Can Cause Future Issues
One way in which these page builders achieve such outstanding functionality revolves around shortcodes. As users drag elements around a page, the code works behind the scenes to ensure they appear in the right place on the page.
It's a fantastic way of working, especially for those more concerned with results than how they reached them. However, the shortcodes themselves, along with how they're implemented, are often unique to your page builder of choice.
There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but things change over time, and you might decide that your site needs something fresh and new. You might then need a different page builder to achieve it. Unfortunately, switching isn't as simple as uninstalling one builder and adding another. Making that change can break all the shortcodes on which your site previously relied, and it can be a mammoth task to put things right.
The best way to avoid this is to start as you mean to go on. There's a reason why Elementor Pro has established itself as our page builder of choice. It has been around for years and is under constant development. In most cases, if you require something new, the team is more than happy to make it happen. Changing your page builder can be a headache, but it doesn't have to be if you get things right the first time.
A Page Builder Can Slow Down Your Site
Site owners haven't always been as concerned with their site speed as they perhaps should have been. However, it's an integral part of the user experience and, nowadays, a crucial component of SEO.
Google uses page experience and core web vitals as part of its ranking signals. So if your site is slow to load, it might suffer in terms of placement.
Page builders can potentially make your site slightly slower than expected due to how they work. They will never be quite as lean and optimized as unique code as they rely on various references and other elements to put everything in the right place.
It can result in code that is more cumbersome than something explicitly created for the site in question.
Fortunately, this doesn't have to be a significant issue. The developers behind popular page builders understand their clients' need for speed and have taken steps to streamline their builders and reduce the bulkiness of what they produce.
So, just as with shortcodes, if you create your site using one of the most popular options, with a track record for updates and optimization, you stand the best chance of avoiding this potential pitfall.
Getting Started with Page Builders
Do you value form over function? Or do you firmly believe the look and feel of your site matters just as much as the content?
Page builders are all about control.
Whether you want an information-packed homepage or a unique navigation system to showcase everything you have to offer, a page builder can turn complex code into a simple drag and drop experience.
If you're brand new to the world of page builders, then there are some important considerations to make before you get started. It goes without saying that you should only use one builder on a site at once. Otherwise, you risk speeding up the shortcode conflicts outlined above.
Remember always to use a child theme if you're handy with code and like to make subtle changes alongside the core page builder. Edit the primary theme directly, and you'll lose your work when the theme updates.
And finally, take your time. As you'll have seen in this feature, deciding on a page builder can represent more of a commitment than it might seem. Some refer to it as being locked into whichever option you choose. However, that's not entirely the case. As we say, however, moving from one page builder to another, or getting rid altogether, can lead to a significant amount of work.
The WordPress block editor, or Gutenberg editor, is an excellent option to have and indicates that the WordPress team wants to provide more customization options on fresh installations. However, it remains some way behind the more established page builders, such as our favoured Elementor Pro option and the equally awesome Divi Builder, especially in terms of features and functionality.
Our Smart Starter Bundle provides everything you need to get up and running, including Elementor Pro. It's a fantastic way to get started in the world of page builders and can make a massive contribution to your site's success both now and in the future.