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 almost is standard procedure.
However, I myself am torn about the use of such little helpers. In the course of my work I was not only able to test some of the most famous page builders, but also had to solve some problems with customers.
A so-called Page Builder usually comes as a WordPress plugin. It is a kind of "construction kit" for the content of your website, in which you can drag and drop individual elements to the desired position 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 their operation and functions.
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. For many website operators such a "website building kit" is indispensable.
Some of the well-known names are:
WPBakery Page Builder
The WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer) is one of the most common page builders in the WordPress world. You can purchase the plugin on Codecanyon. In many cases the WPBakery Page Builder is included in numerous WordPress premium themes. The Makers of the plugin say that WPBakery Page Builder is used on more than 2 million WordPress websites.
The license for the use of the plugin on one website costs a one-time fee of 64 US dollars. Future updates are included.
Quite confusing: Today you will find under the name Visual Composer still a modular system for WordPress websites. But it has not much in common with the former Page Builder with the same name. While with WPBakery Page Builder you can only edit the content area of your WordPress website, Visual Composer lets you edit the entire website – including header and footer.
The developer attracts with a free version of the WordPress extension. Premium features are available for an annual fee of 59 US dollars.
Elementor is supported by numerous WordPress fans as the new star among the page builders. And indeed, the downloads of the WordPress plugin are rising at rocket speed, especially since 2019. Users especially praise the more intuitive operation compared to WPBakery Page Builder.
The developer speaks of over 3 million active installations in over 180 different countries. This puts the Plugin even ahead of the former top dog WPBakery. You can start with a free plan. More features are available from 49 US dollars a year.
The page builder with the beaver as mascot does not need to hide either, even if it is a little less well known compared to the others plugins. The developer claims over one million active installations.
The functional range is similar to the other page builders. Starting at 99 US dollars, updates of the BeaverBuilder plugin are then included for one year.
Of course, there are many reasons why those WordPress builders are so popular. I have summarized some pro-arguments.
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 is very easy to create 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 provided features.
Changes to your own website do not require an external service provider, but can be implemented easily and quickly on your own. This is an absolute advantage, especially for inexperienced users.
Page builders truly are multi-functional tools. Even the simplest WordPress template 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 for example provide over 300 ready-made templateswhich can be filled with your own content and individualized.
Page builders bring almost everything that not only WordPress beginners, but also advanced users want. Without any additional plugins, you can create simple company websites, modern blogs and stylish portfolio sites in just a few clicks.
The previously mentioned simplicity and the wide range of functions of the WordPress Page Builder allows 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 was necessary, a modern WordPress theme including Page Builder and some time are all it takes.
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 builders. Compared to an individual solution by an external developer the costs for a page builder plugin are almost not worth mentioning.
Besides the advantages that I mentioned, page builder plugins also have some disadvantages that I have experienced in my work.
As we have already learned, thanks to the popular page builders it is easy to create a nice WordPress website without much background knowledge. However, the operation of a website still requires expertise and necessary prior knowledge. 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 from an online shop – is also at risk.
It is precisely this simplicity that has ensured that more and more self-proclaimed web designers are offering their services on the market. With the help of page builders, they create good looking websites but have little idea of the actual matter. For potential customers it is thus becoming increasingly difficult to find really competent service providers with the necessary know-how.
Any WordPress plugin is of course a potential risk for security holes and hackers who exploit them. Because of the widespread use of page builders, they are an attractive target as well. This is also apparent in the change logs of said plugins as you can regularly see that not only bugs but also critical security vulnerabilities are fixed.
Particularly critical: Page builders which come with a WordPress theme from marketplaces such as ThemeForest usually do not receive direct updates from the developer. This means that the developer of the respective WordPress themes is responsible for ensuring that the customers also receive the latest version of the page builder in a timely manner.
Vulnerability in WPBakery Page Builder
The harm that a vulnerability within a page builder can cause became apparent in October 2015. The probably best known WordPress page builder at this time Visual Composer (today: WPBakery) contained several serious security vulnerabilities. This allowed attackers to gain control of a website.
The problem: The developer had closed the security hole in a short time - but many template developers, who used the Page Builder as a basis for their Themesown and therefore offered it free of charge in the package with the template, simply did not take the time or update the Page Builder at all.
Especially in times of mobile internet and the boom in load time optimization, it should be clear that this is not beneficial for the performance of a website. Page builders almost inevitably increase the load time of your websites.
The developers of the most popular drag and drop builders try to solve the performance problem with various tricks and settings, but the page speed of a simple WordPress theme without any additional plugin is hardly achieved. If you rely on a well-known page builder, you will soon find yourself forced to overcome its disadvantages by installing even more plugins to optimize your website speed (or by switching to more powerful WordPress hosting).
One of the biggest problems that a page builder brings with it, you only realize when you want to turn away from it. If you deactivate your page builder plugin, there is no more than a pile of chaos left. For example, after uninstalling WPBakery Page Builder , there are a lot of cryptic shortcodes, from which that plugin created the previous designs. If the plugin is missing, WordPress can't interpret these shortcodes and all contents must be rescued manually.
During my work as WordPress freelancer I experienced many cases where website operators suddenly had a lot of manual work because of this. Once you have decided on a particular page builder, you will have to invest a lot of time to transfer your website content to another page builder or theme.
Fortunately, some developers have recognized this problem: For example, Elementor leaves behind clean, readable code, even after uninstalling the plugins.
There's no doubt: The developers behind Visual Composer, Elementor and Co. the developers behind it have created really useful Plugins ones. It has never been easier to design a professional website with a huge range of functions even without a lot of background knowledge. The websites look good, are usually absolutely competitive and can be easily edited even by laymen.
However, the disadvantages of those drag-and-drop builders should not be overlooked. As well as the choice of the right WordPress theme you should also evaluate the pros and cons of such plugins before building your whole website on top of it. Ideally, you should consult an experienced WordPress user and not solely rely on a page builder plugin.
Personally, I usually try to avoid using drag-and-drop builders. For my own projects I 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 performance.
Photos: Burst | Pexels, Jungwoo Hong | Unsplash