wordpress pagebuilder

Page Builder: Curse or Blessing for the WordPress World?

Page builders have been extremely popular for years - 35.4% of all WordPress websites use Elementor or WPBakery. The reasons for this are clear, as these website builders have a number of advantages. However, the disadvantages of Elementor, Visual Composer and the like are often completely ignored.

WordPress page builders are almost indispensable in the WordPress world. In the arms race for WordPress theme features, the use of a page builder is almost an absolute standard.

However, I myself am ambivalent about the use of such little helpers. As part of my work, I have not only been able to put some of the best-known page builders through their paces, but have also had to solve a few problems in this regard.

What is a WordPress Page Builder?

A so-called page builder usually comes as WordPress plugin . In a way, it is 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 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 everyone will already be familiar with at least one page builder. The market is highly competitive and is dominated by a few big names. For many website operators, it is impossible to imagine a website without a page builder.

I will briefly introduce some of the well-known names below.

Page Builder: 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. In many cases, the WPBakery Page Builder comes free of charge as part of numerous WordPress premium themes.

The license for the use of the construction kit plugin on a website costs a one-time fee of 74 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 offers a free version of the WordPress extension. Premium features are available from an annual fee of 49 US dollars.

Page Builder: Elementor

Elementor is the star among WordPress page builders. Today, a good quarter of all WordPress websites use Elementor. Users mainly praise its more intuitive operation compared to the WPBakery Page Builder.

You can start with a free version. More features are available from 59 US dollars per year.

Page Builder: BeaverBuilder

The construction kit with the beaver as its mascot also has nothing to hide, even if it is somewhat less well-known than the other plugins. The developer advertises with over one million active installations.

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

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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.

Simple operation

Construction kit plugins such as Elementor are aimed at both advanced WordPress users and absolute amateurs. Thanks to the simple operation and self-explanatory functions, it is very easy to create a WordPress website just the way you want it. Background knowledge of HTML, CSS or even PHP is simply not necessary as long as you stick to the predefined functions.

Changes to your 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, there are almost unlimited possibilities for building your own website. The developers of Elementor offer over 300 ready-made templates that can be filled with your own content and customized.

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

Page builders offer almost everything that not only WordPress beginners but also advanced users could wish for. Simple company websites, modern blogs and stylish portfolio pages can be implemented and customized in just a few clicks without any additional plugin .

Cheap price

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.

Anyone who was previously denied a modern website with a competitive range of functions due to a lack of funds will find an acceptable solution thanks to WordPress Page Builder. The costs for one of the construction kit plugins are low - absolutely not worth mentioning compared to an individual solution by an external developer.

disadvantages pagebuilder wordpress

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. 

Deceptive simplicity

As we have already learned, thanks to the popular page builders, it is easy to create a beautiful WordPress website without much background knowledge. However, running a website still requires expertise and the necessary prior knowledge. After all, not only can a website be destroyed with just a few clicks, but in the worst-case scenario, sensitive data - for example in the form of customer data from an online store - can also be 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 builders, they have little knowledge of the actual subject matter. This makes it increasingly difficult for potential customers to find truly 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

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.

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 extensions is hardly achieved in this way. 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 loading time optimization (or suitable WordPress hosting). Work, costs and possible display problems included.

Dependency: Once a page builder, always a page builder

One of the biggest problems with a page builder only becomes apparent when you want to turn away from the 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 behind tons of cryptic shortcodes after uninstallation, from which plugin previously created the appealing designs. If the 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

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 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, you should always consult someone with experience and not rely solely on the work of well-known page builders.

For my own projects, I try to avoid using the popular drag and drop plugins as much as possible. For my own projects, I generally rely on my own developments, not only to satisfy my personal requirements in terms of functionality, but also to achieve the best possible performance results.

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2 Comments on "Page Builder: Curse or blessing for the WordPress world?"

  1. Being a programmer, I wouldn’t need to use a Page Builder. I can customize the code, or even develop a website from scratch without using a tool like WordPress at all.
    However, a lot of websites I am maintaining are used by non-techies. They should be able to change the content of the website easily. Adding and changing agenda events, blog articles, all that kind of things are a lot easier when I just teach them how to use WordPress and a Page Builder. That comes with the cost of slower page loads maybe, but the benefit is that they don’t need me for each and every textual change on the web site.

  2. 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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