We’re going to dive right in to this one today but before we do, I want to get a couple of things out of the way:
- This article is written with Enterprise organizations in mind (not that a small business owner won’t learn from this, you will!)
- FlowPress will, when the situation makes sense, recommend a Page Builder to Enterprise clients
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into this!
In a world of Wixs’ and Squarespaces’, the WordPress community has again risen to the moment and built out plugins and themes that mimic some entire SaaS companies’ core products, right inside of /wp-admin/. This along with end user demands to do “everything, easily” has lead to a race to build out the most performant, yet the most feature rich Page Builder.
Page Builders are valuable. Without any HTML and CSS knowledge, these plugins (that are commonly sold alongside themes) allow website owners to build any layout they so choose. Pretty awesome! They make making changes simple and less cumbersome. In years past, maybe you had to call in a developer or have a developer on the marketing team. Nowadays the content owners and marketers can truly control all aspects of the websites’ content and layout.
The most popular Page Builders out there are likely Beaver Builder, Elementor, and Visual Composer and though they all do roughly the same thing in different ways, we aren’t going to dive into each one. This is not a product comparison post. Rather, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of Page Builders in general and give you a definitive answer at the end as to whether or not you should be using one!
Page Builders allow you to do so many things without a developer. Add social sharing buttons, video popouts, tables, CTAs, content grids, and even sliders and carousels.
Without a technical background, a plugin would be required for almost all of the features listed above. That makes for a lot of load time, a bunch of payments, and a lot of extra maintenance. Safe to say, Page Builders can be thought of as a single source for most standard website functionality!
For us non-developers out there, it’s a common thought to jump over to Themeforest and buy a theme. In our experience at FlowPress, this is consistent for every organizational size. We are all afraid of technical debt up front so this line of thinking actually makes some sense. Get something beautiful and responsive up now, see if the market responds, rebuild the whole thing later!
This all sounds great, but if your business has a unique offering or you have wireframed a more complex design, you’ll be hard pressed to find a theme that meets all of your requirements. This is where a builder can come in really handy!
This one speaks for itself. There is not much financial pressure involved to purchase a Page Builder. Even if you find it too cumbersome, they are worth a shot based solely on price.
If it does work out for you, then what a great small investment you’ve made. You can build a site that doesn’t look exactly like all the other sites out there and it probably cost you a bit less than that flashy Enterprise theme you were scoping out!
No Technical Skills Required
Though this subtitle is true, a caveat would be that it is always beneficial to have a basic understanding. Many Page Builders still require the user to customize the margins and padding but a brief online course or some research in your spare time should be plenty!
You can’t have your cake and eat it too! Every action has an equal and opposite reaction! You can’t swim and stay dry!
Okay, we get the point.
All of the benefits of Page Builders come with some very real burdens. When you build an entire site with a Page Builder, all of that functionality (whether you use it or not) also has to load on every single page. If your site is scaling rapidly, this can cause loading issues. It’s precisely the same thing that happens when you have way too many plugins.
Now, for the bakery down the street, no big deal! For an enterprise with lots of concurrent users, it can get a bit sticky.
Tread lightly, there are ways around this but loading times should always be kept in mind.
If you read our other articles, we’re probably sounding like a broken record here but hear me out! The one thing enterprises using WordPress get wrong over and over again is missing out on plugin maintenance. It is important to make sure that the plugin is being updated with every version of WordPress, that the support section is active, and that the author is still involved. If the Author abandons the Page Builder or it no longer works with current WordPress versions, guess who gets to take care of all of that functionality? YOU! You’re stuck, you’re either going to have to have a developer maintain the plugin internally from now on or you’ll need to rebuild.
I will say that the Page Builders listed in this article are highly reputable companies and this is extremely unlikely with those three BUT that’s no excuse not researching and not keeping an eye on the authors.
When Google crawls your site, one of the things it does is test how clean your code is. Because Page Builders need to be flexible enough to allow for an infinite amount of stylistic permutations, it’s difficult to output clean code.
Beaver Builder has allowed developers to still offer clients and teams a lot of the main benefits of a Builder by offering a developer centric boilerplate version of their robust Builder. FlowPress has found the code quality actually pretty good here.
For the most part however, it’s not going to be pretty!
A major issue is that other plugins commonly do not play nicely with Page Builders. This is one of the reasons many Page Builders attempt to be all-in-one. When using a Page Builder try to picture which other plugins you would need first, then do your research to find compatible plugins.
As an Enterprise focused agency, FlowPress takes this seriously. Especially when we hand off a site to an internal content or marketing team. If said team doesn’t use the checks and balances that we do, it can cause severe functionality issues with the site when adding and activating new plugins.
Answering the Question – Should I Use a Page Builder?
If you work in an organization where the website lives in the marketing silo, then a Page Builder can be a great asset. If your team is constantly A/B testing, updating user workflows and stories, and adjusting layout, then a Page Builder (in the right hands) is going to be the least expensive and most efficient way for your team to rapidly make changes.
That being said, we would still recommend something like the boilerplate version of BeaverBuilder. This will undoubtedly require developer involvement up front thus increasing cost, but in the enterprise, this should be negligible. The reason behind going this route is that your developer can build out only the modules required in the design which in turn pushes back on bloat and sluggish loading. This will also give you acceptable outputted code. This scenario will actually allow you to scale with great Google Insight scores and FlowPress has done so in the realm of over 100,000 monthly pageviews.
If you are under no circumstances prepared to introduce up front developer assistance and you’re working in enterprise, then it’d be irresponsible to recommend a Page Builder. There are far too many things that can go wrong as your site scales and you’ll quickly find that your up-front savings have been withered away from all of the patch-work and debugging that will be required.