Page Builder: Curse or Blessing For The World Of WordPress?

Pascal Prohl Last updated 21.10.2020
8 Min.
wordpress pagebuilder
Last updated 21.10.2020

Page builders have enjoyed great popularity for years. The reasons for this are clear. After all, page builders have some advantages. But the disadvantages of Elementor, Visual Composer and Co. are often completely ignored.

It's almost impossible to imagine a WordPress world without page builders. In the feature arms race of the big WordPress theme makers, providing a page builder is almost a given.

However, I myself am torn about the use of such little helpers. Through my work, I've not only been able to test some of the most famous page builders inside and out, but I've also needed to solve many customer problems associated with such tools.

What is a page builder?

A so-called page builder usually comes as WordPress -Plugin . It is more or less a "construction kit" for the content of your website, in which you can drag and drop individual elements to the desired locations and fill them with your own content. Typical elements are not only text boxes or images, but also sliders, portfolio elements or even entire blog views. Such page builders were the model of the new Gutenberg editor and are therefore very similar to it in terms of operation and functions.

Popular providers on the page builder market

Almost every WordPress user will surely know at least one page builder. The market is highly competitive and is dominated by a few big names. Many website operators see a "website building kit" as indispensable.

Some well-known names include:

WPBakery Page Builder

The WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer ) is one of the most popular page builders in the WordPress world. You can purchase it on Codecanyon, almost 400.000 sales counts that Plugin. In many cases the WPBakery Page Builder as a component of numerous WordPress - Premium -Themes free of charge. The developer himself speaks of the Plugin being used on over 2 million WordPress websites.

A license to use the plugin on one website costs a one-time fee of 64 USD. Future updates are included in this price.

Visual Composer

Quite confusing: Today you can find under the name of Visual Composer you can still find a construction kit system for WordPress websites. But it has not much to do with the former page builder with the same name. While you can use the WPBakery Page Builder you can only edit the content area of your WordPress -website, the Visual Composer offers you customization options for the entire website including header and footer.

The developer attracts customers with a free version of the WordPress plugin. Premium features are available for an annual fee of 59 USD.

Elementor

Elementor is seen by many WordPress fans as the new star among page builders. And indeed, the downloads of WordPress -Plugins have been increasing at a rocket speed, especially since 2019. Users praise here especially the more intuitive operation compared to the WPBakery page builder.

Elementor  pro features
Elements of the paid pro version of the WordPress page builder 'Elementor'.

The developer speaks of over 3 million active installations in over 180 different countries. This puts Plugin even ahead of the former top dog of WPBakery. You can start with a free version. More features are available from 49 US dollars per year.

BeaverBuilder

The page builder with the beaver as mascot has nothing to fear either, even if it is a little less well known than the other plugins. The developer claims the plugin has over one million active installations.

The range of functions is similar to the other page builders. It starts at 99 US dollars, updates of the BeaverBuilder are then included for one year.

Three big advantages of page builders

Of course, the reasons why WordPress builders are so popular are manifold. I've summarized some of the arguments for these tools below.

Simple operation

Page builder plugins like Elementor are suitable for advanced WordPress users as well as absolute beginners. Thanks to the simple handling and self-explanatory features, it's very easy to create WordPress website according to your own wishes. Background knowledge in HTML, CSS or even PHP isn't required as long as you stick to the provided features.

You don't need to use an external service provider to make changes to your website and can implement any changes yourself quickly and easily. This is a huge advantage, especially for inexperienced users.

Wide range of functions

Page builders are real multifunctional tools. Even the simplest WordPress templates can be turned into a real jack-of-all-trades with the help of a page builder. Once installed, the user has almost unlimited possibilities to build his own website. The developers of Elementor offer so directly over 300 ready-made templateswhich can be filled with your own content and individualized.

wpbakery frontend editor
Modern page builders such as WPBakery not only offer content editing in the backend but also directly in the frontend.

As you can see, page builders offer nearly everything that both WordPress beginners and advanced users want. Without any additional plugins, you can create simple company websites, modern blogs and stylish portfolio sites in just a few clicks.

Cheap price

As mentioned, the simplicity and wide range of functions of WordPress page builders allow you to create a high-quality website in the shortest possible time. In many cases, where previously a freelancer or even a whole web design agency would have been needed, all it takes to build said website is a WordPress theme with a page builder and some time.

Thanks the WordPress page builders, those previously denied a modern website with a competitive range of functions due to financial constraints now have a suitable solution. The difference in price between using a page builder plugin and hiring an external developer for an individual solution are obvious.

disadvantages pagebuilder wordpress

The biggest disadvantages of WordPress page builders

Besides the three main advantages mentioned above, WordPress page builders also carry some significant disadvantages, many of which I've personally encountered through my work. 

Deceptive simplicity

As we've already learned, creating an attractive WordPress website without much background knowledge is easy thanks to the popular page builders. The operation of a website still requires expertise and necessary prior knowledge, however. A website can not only be destroyed with a few wrong clicks, in the worst case scenario sensitive data, e.g. customer data from an online shop, is also at risk.

It is precisely this simplicity that has led to more and more self-proclaimed web designers offering their services on the market. Although they can use page builders to create attractive Internet pages but have little idea of the actual subject matter. For potential customers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find truly competent service providers with the necessary know-how.

Vulnerabilities and missing updates

Of course, any WordPress plugin is at risk of potential risk security holes that hackers can exploit. Because of the widespread use of page builders, these are also an attractive target. This is also apparent in the change logs of such plugins where you can regularly see that not only bugs but also critical security vulnerabilities have been fixed.

Particularly critical: Page builders that come bundled with, for example, a WordPress -Theme from marketplaces such as ThemeForest usually do not receive any direct updates from the developer. This means that the developer of the respective WordPress -Themes is responsible for ensuring that his customers also receive the new version of the appropriate page builder in a timely manner.

Vulnerability in WPBakery Page Builder

The extent of a security vulnerability within a builder can have, was demonstrated in October 2015. At that time, the most well-known WordPress Page Builder Visual Composer (today: WPBakery) contained several serious security vulnerabilities. Attackers were thus able to gain control over a website.

The problem was that although the developer quickly closed the security hole, many template developers who'd used the page builder as the basis for their theme and thus included it for free within the package either took a long time to update the page builder or simply didn't bother updating it at all.

More features = longer loading time

The large range of functions of well-known page builders can obviously only be realized with many thousand lines of code. In many cases, these are divided into different files (CSS and JavaScript) all of which needed to be loaded to view the page.

page builder page size
Statistics already showed in 2017 how much page builders influence the size of a website. Source: Primary Image

Especially in times of mobile internet and the boom in page speed optimization, even laypeople realize this is bad news for a website's performance. Page builders almost inevitably increase the load time of your websites. 

Although the developers of the best-known drag-and-drop builders try to solve the problem with various tricks and setting options, the performance of a simple WordPress -Themes without any extension is hardly achieved. If you rely on a well-known page builder, you will quickly be forced to eliminate the disadvantages in terms of speed with a WordPress -Plugin for load time optimization (or suitable WordPress Hosting). Work, costs and possible display problems included.

Once a page builder, always a page builder

One of the biggest problems that a page builder brings with it, you only become aware of when you want to turn away from that builder. If you deactivate such a builder, you are left with nothing more than a pile of chaos. For example, the WPBakery Page Builder leaves a lot of cryptic shortcodes behind after uninstalling it, which were used by Plugin to create the appealing designs before. If the Plugin is missing, WordPress cannot interpret these shortcodes and all content has to be rescued manually.

During my work as WordPress freelancer, I've witnessed many cases where website operators suddenly had a lot of work on their hands because of this. Once you've decided on one WordPress page builder, you can expect to invest a lot of time if you later want to move to a different one or transfer your WordPress theme without the use of a page builder. 

Fortunately, however, some developers have recognized this problem: For example Elementor leaves clean, readable code even after uninstalling Plugins .

Conclusion: page builders are great but...

No question: With the Visual Composer , Elementor and Co., the developers behind them have designed really useful Plugins . It has never been easier to design a professional website with a huge range of functions, even without much background knowledge. The websites look good, are usually absolutely competitive and can be easily edited even by laymen.

Nevertheless, the disadvantages of those drag-and-drop builders should definitely not be ignored. Just like the choice of the right WordPress -Themes the use of such a WordPress -Plugins should also be considered. Ideally, an experienced WordPress user should always be consulted and not rely solely on the work of the well-known page builders.

Personally, I usually try to avoid using drag-and-drop builders. I rely on my own developments for my projects, not only to satisfy my personal demands in terms of functionality but also to achieve the best possible results in performance.

Photos: Burst | Pexels, Jungwoo Hong | Unsplash

In 2010 Pascal came in contact with WordPress for the first time. What began with a simple hobby blog, he quickly made into his profession. As WordPress and SEO freelancer he worked on websites of numerous clients. Today he is employed in an online marketing agency and runs a blog about WordPress.

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Comments on this article

There are ofcourse other CMSs that are built ground-up on a more flexible, api-based and plugin-free philosophy.

Sadly drag-and-drop page builders and quick themes have turned WordPress into the popular choice over more advanced options. I use ProcessWire (but there are other great WP alternatives too).

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