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 is almost impossible to imagine the WordPress world without WordPress page builders. In the feature arms race of WordPress theme providers, the use of a page builder is almost considered an absolute standard.
However, I myself am ambivalent about the use of such helpers. In the course of my work, I was not only able to put some of the best-known page builders through their paces, but also had to solve some problems for clients in this regard.
What is a WordPress Page Builder?
A so-called page builder usually comes in the form of WordPress plugin. It is a kind of construction kit for the content of your website. In a way, it is a construction kit for the content of your website, in which you can move individual elements to the desired places using drag-and-drop 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 pages. Such page builders were the model for the new Gutenberg editor and are therefore very similar to it in terms of operation and functions.
Known WordPress Page Builders
Almost every WordPress user will certainly be familiar with at least one page builder. The market is hotly contested and dominated by some big names. For many website operators, such a construction kit plugin is indispensable.
Some well-known names include:
Page Builder: WPBakery Page Builder
WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer) is one of the most popular page builders in the WordPress world. You can purchase it on Codecanyon, which has almost 400,000 sales plugin. In many cases, the WPBakery page bu ilder comes free of charge as part of numerous WordPress premium themes. The developer himself says that the plugin is used on over 2 million WordPress websites.
The licence for using the construction kit plugin on a website costs a one-time fee of 64 US dollars. Future updates are included.
Page Builder: Visual Composer
Quite confusing: Today you can still find a building block system for WordPress websites under the name Visual Composer. However, it does not have much to do with the former page builder with the same name. While you can only edit the content area of your WordPress website with the WPBakery Page Builder, Visual Composer offers you customisation options for the entire website, including the header and footer.
The developer lures with a free version of the WordPress extension. Premium features are available for an annual fee of 59 US dollars.
Page Builder: Elementor
Elementor is seen by numerous WordPress fans as the new star among page builders. And indeed, the downloads of the WordPress plugin have been increasing at a rocket speed, especially since 2019. Users mainly praise the more intuitive operation compared to the WPBakery page builder.
The developer speaks of over 3 million active installations in over 180 different countries. This puts plugin even ahead of the former top dog WPBakery. You can start with a free version. More features are available from 49 US dollars per year.
Page Builder: 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 that of the other page builders. The price starts at 99 US dollars, and BeaverBuilder updates are included for one year.
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Three advantages of WordPress Page Builders
Of course, there are numerous reasons why those WordPress builders are so popular. I have summarised some of the pro arguments.
Building block plugins like Elementor are aimed at both advanced WordPress users and absolute beginners. Thanks to the simple operation and the self-explanatory functions, it is very easy to create a WordPress website according to your own wishes. Background knowledge in HTML, CSS or even PHP is simply not necessary, as long as you stick to the given functions.
Changes to one's own website do not require an external service provider, but can be implemented independently, easily and quickly. This is an absolute advantage, especially for inexperienced users.
Wide range of functions
Page builders like Elementor 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 their own website. The developers of Elementor offer over 300 ready-made templates that can be filled with your own content and individualised.
Page builders offer almost everything that not only WordPress beginners but also advanced users could wish for. Simple company websites, modern blogs and chic portfolio pages can be implemented and customised in just a few clicks without any additional plugin .
The aforementioned simplicity and the wide range of functions of the WordPress page builder make it possible to create a high-quality website in a very short time. In many cases, where a freelancer or even an entire web design agency was necessary before, a modern WordPress theme with page builder and a little time is now sufficient.
Those who were previously denied a modern website with a competitive range of functions due to a lack of financial resources will now find an acceptable solution thanks to WordPress Page Builder. The costs for one of the construction kit plugins are low - compared to an individual solution by an external developer, absolutely not worth mentioning.
The biggest disadvantages of WordPress page builders
In addition to the advantages of page builders for WordPress that I just mentioned, website building kits naturally also come with some disadvantages, which I have experienced myself in my work.
As we have already learned, thanks to the popular page builders, it is easy to create a pretty WordPress website without much background knowledge. Nevertheless, running a website requires expertise and necessary prior knowledge. After all, with just a few clicks, a website can not only be destroyed, but in the worst case, sensitive data - for example, in the form of customer data of 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 click together attractive websites using Page Builder, they have little idea of the actual subject matter. This makes it increasingly difficult for potential clients to find really competent service providers with the necessary know-how.
Vulnerabilities and missing updates
Every WordPress plugin is of course a potential risk for security vulnerabilities and hackers who exploit them. With the widespread use of page builders, these in particular are an attractive target. The changelogs of well-known plugins show that WordPress plugins of this type are by no means safe from critical security vulnerabilities. Not only are bugs fixed at regular intervals, but critical security leaks are also plugged.
Especially critical: Page Builders that come bundled with a WordPress theme from marketplaces such as ThemeForest, for example, usually do not receive any direct updates from the developer. This means that the developer of the respective WordPress theme 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 was demonstrated in October 2015. The most well-known WordPress page builder at the time, Visual Composer (today: WPBakery), contained several serious security vulnerabilities. Attackers were thus able to gain control over a website.
The problem: The developer had closed the security gap promptly - but many template developers who used the Page Builder as the basis for their themes and therefore offered it free of charge in a package with the template took their time or simply did not update the Page Builder at all.
More features = longer loading time
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 theme without any extension is hardly achieved. Those who rely on a well-known page builder are quickly forced to eliminate the disadvantages in terms of speed with a WordPress pluginfor load time optimization (or suitable WordPress hosting). Labour, 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 only becomes apparent 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, after uninstalling the WPBakery page builder, it leaves behind vast amounts of cryptic shortcodes from which the plugin had previously created the appealing designs. If plugin is missing, WordPress cannot interpret these shortcodes and all content has to be rescued manually.
During my work as a WordPress freelancer, I have also experienced many cases in which website owners suddenly had a lot of work ahead of them. Once you have decided on a certain page builder, you will have to invest a lot of time in transferring your content to a new construction kit plugin or even to a WordPress theme without any page builder at all.
Fortunately, some developers have recognised this problem: Elementor, for example, leaves clean, readable code even after uninstalling the plugin.
Conclusion: WordPress page builders are great, but ...
There's no question about it: with Visual Composer, Elementor and Co., the developers behind them have created really useful plug-ins. 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 non-professionals.
Nevertheless, the disadvantages of those drag-and-drop builders should not be ignored. Just like choosing the right WordPress theme, the use of such a WordPress plugin 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.
For my own projects, I try to avoid using the popular drag-and-drop plug-ins as much as possible. For my own projects, I usually rely on my own developments, not only to satisfy my personal demands in terms of functionality, but also to achieve the best possible results in terms of performance.