Archive for Do It Yourself Websites

The Truth About WordPress Page Builder Plugins

Great WordPress Plugins Available at Code CanyonUPDATE 9/10/17 on the Truth About WordPress Page Builder Plugins! Regardless of the date shown, this post was originally published back a few years ago. After a bad experience with Ether Builder, I had decided I abhorred all page builders! Now, with the emergence of the Beaver Builder Page Builder Plugin, I’ve completely done a 180 and once again can recommend a a few page builder plugins. If you want or need to use a page builder for your WordPress websites, Beaver Builder is absolutely outstanding! I will soon be publishing a full post which will include a full video screen cast to share exactly how easy it is to use and prove how the plugin is light weight and FAST! Stay tuned…

Why You Should Know the Truth About Page Builder Plugins

Before I start my report on the truth about WordPress page builder plugins, you should know that I do use them occasionally, and before I discovered the disadvantages first hand, I was using a page builder on almost all my sites. I have first hand experience with three, Ether Builder (NOT Recommended), Visual Composer (NOT Recommended) and Beaver Builder. I preface this post by stating, I love WordPress and it is my CMS of choice for most of the sites I design. For the sake of this review, I originally used the Visual Composer page builder plugin for this post. Since the original post I have removed the Visual Composer functionality from this post and this site. Visual Composer and Beaver Builder are premium plugins. VC is available at Codecanyon, and you can find Beaver Builder here.

Update September 2017 – Sorry, but now days Visual Composer is out! I will say, the functionality still works well, but it’s no longer at the forefront of page builder development for WordPress. If you’re still using VC on your sites it’s probably not worth it to change, YET! However, I do suggest you start searching out a viable alternative. I can stand behind Beaver Builder 100% but I’m also hearing good things about Elementor and SiteOrigin. Since I’ve never used either I cannot comment but I’m hearing good things from the WordPress community.

Note: Please know I sincerely appreciate your time engaging with this post and want you to know, some of the links on this page are my affiliate links. If you find a product of value, I would appreciate your support by clicking on these links if you decide to make a purchase or learn more.

beaver Builder Page Builder Plugin

Page Builders Important UPDATE – 10/16 – Beaver Builder

It’s now October of 2016 and my opinion of some page builders have changed somewhat. Since I first published this post back in January of 2015, there have been a couple important changes in the WordPress page builder community.

First, NEVER use Ether Builder. In my original post, I was very supportive of Ether Builder but I have no idea why Code Canyon is still offering the plugin. It’s no longer being actively developed and it’s NOT playing well with other plugins. The truth is, there are several much better options. Keep in mind, there are also some pretty darn good free options for page builders, so I encourage some research before making a decision to use one. Personally, I won’t use a free page builder because it makes sense they are more likely to discontinue development or updates.

Next, with the emergence of new plugins such as Beaver Builder, I have a much higher opinion of page builders. I will write a separate post on Beaver Builder, but here’s the best part. If you use Beaver Builder and you later delete it, your content is still on the page. Yes, you will lose the appearance, but all the content will display. This is huge for SEO and with this feature you can easily go back and tweak things a bit to make the post or page appear reasonably good.

Beaver Builder has outstanding support and the developers are first class. The code is super clean, fast and sleek! If you are one of those who like the idea of using a page builder, I can highly recommend Beaver Builder!

FYI – The link to Beaver Builder is an affiliate link but I have NO other affiliation with Beaver Builder whatsoever. Nowadays I now own an agency license and I’m using Beaver Builder on new web projects for clients who desire the ability to quickly and easily edit their own content.

For training purposes, this site originally used Visual Composer, but if you’re reading this post in 2017, I promise, any page builder pages you see will be using Beaver Builder! Visual Composer can no longer compete with Beaver Builder and I have deleted VC from this site! Don’t be confused though, because I also sometimes use my own CSS 3 to create simple text columns and such.

Changes for This Site Coming Soon – I’m actually preparing to relaunch this site without any use of a page builder. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind about Beaver Builder or similar page builders, but because I personally don’t need a page builder. I know all the code necessary to create whatever I want and there’s no reason to ever install a plugin unless there’s a reason for it.

What Are WordPress Page Builder Plugins

Most WordPress page builders enable the user to dress up the content area of their site without using code. By the content area, I mean the text edit area you are reading right now! When making the decision to use a page builder plugin, users should keep in mind, they do require a learning curve and do not always perform as quick and easy as we might hope. Some page builders also allow the user to style other areas of the theme but I never use this feature as I believe this should be left to each individual theme.

When to Use a Page Builder Plugin
If I’m writing a typical blog post such as this one, I would almost never use a page builder. On the other hand, if I’m building a beautiful landing page, a page builder can be helpful and make my life just a bit easier. To me, the best feature is the ability to quickly and easily add rows and columns, and then place my desired elements within the new layout. Then, those columns and rows can be easily moved around by simply dragging and dropping. If using a page builder plugin, users have the ability to create different styles and design elements on every page. CAUTION! I’m not a creative type, but I know enough to know, from a design perspective, it’s usually better to keep our web pages consistent, Ha!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Page Builder Plugins

As with most good things there are advantages and disadvantages, so in the lists below we reveal the truth about WordPress page builder plugins.

Page Builder Advantages

  • No Code Knowledge Needed: Page builder users can create interesting and contemporary looking pages without using code.
  • Drag and Drop Technology: Finished your page and don’t like your layout? No problem! Users can easily drag and drop elements to edit the page.
  • Apply Motions and Movements: Some page builders enable users to add cool eye catching behaviors, motions or movements to elements on a page.
  • Can Replace Other Plugin: Most page builder plugins include multiple features, enabling users eliminate the overall number of plugins on their sites.
  • Responsive Desig: Nowadays, most page builder plugins claim to be responsive but be very careful with this. Read their doc carefully to insure correct usage.

Page Builder Disadvantages

  • No Code Knowledge Needed: Even though no code is required, plugin page builders take time to learn, and if you don’t use them often, it can be a steep climb! It’s also important you understand the concepts of padding and margins.
  • Drag and Drop can be Finicky: Sometimes, dragging and dropping is does not always work perfectly and content can be lost while dropping. I will say, as of 2017, Beaver Builder drags and drops perfectly! VC does NOT!
  • Motions and Movements Tricky: It’s time consuming to experiment with the different features and understand the various effects. It takes time!
  • Page Loads and File Size: Page builders will increase the size of your site and slow the backend. Use the cool stuff sparingly and the front end will be okay. I must say, as of 2017 Beaver Builder is light weight and FAST! Still, be sure to use a caching plugin on all WordPress sites. Personally, I like Comet Cache and WPRocket.
  • Responsive Design Not Perfect!: 100% responsive design is a whole other subject! Just because any plugin is said to be responsive, does not mean your site will be! UPDATE 2017 – Beaver Builder does an outstanding job with responsiveness. Still, responsive design can be a chore and it does take more though and time, regardless if using a page builder or not!

How to Decide if a Page Builder Plugin is Right for You

In my humble opinion I believe the advantages of using a page builder plugin outweigh the disadvantages, especially for non coders. Deciding if using one is right for you will largely depend on a number of factors.

First, your comfort level with using code? If you are fluent in HTML, CSS and even Javascript, it’s likely you don’t need a page builder plugin. On the flip side, even if you have coding skills, page builders are still a quick and easy way to whip up a quick landing page. If you know very little code and want to create cool landing pages, go for it. Just keep in mind that regardless of your skill level, there is a learning curve, and you will need to spend a good amount of time learning to use the plugin and developing an efficient workflow. Once you “get it,”  after building some nice layouts you can save them as templates and greatly speed up future page designs. You really will be able to quickly create pages you wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to create.

If I had to recommend one page builder, my current choice for sure is Beaver Builder. Despite my previous comments, Visual Composer does work well, but as far as I’m concerned Beaver Builder is now the clear winner. I’ve done some testing and Beaver Builder has another advantage in that, if the plugin fails, our WordPress content will still be visible on our site!

Caution – There is one huge downside to using page builders. What happens to all those beautiful pages you created if the page building plugin should develop problems? The truth is, past WordPress updates specifically involving the visual or text editors caused many of these page builder plugins to fail! Of course, the responsible plugin developers responded quickly and re-issued updates, but it still took a couple days and in one case, it took over two weeks to release the plugin update.

Note To Website Designers and Experienced WordPress Users: In my case, I thought using a WordPress page builder plugin was going to really speed things up my design process and workflow, but I was mistaken. Honestly, the extra time spent learning the plugins and debugging my pages would have been better spent practicing and learning the CSS and JS I needed to just do it myself, without any plugin. After all, plugins are great but we shouldn’t be using them as a crutch or to avoid enhancing our skills.

UPDATE 2017 – Some page builders now come with professionally designed templates you can easily drop into your page and edit the photos and text. This really does speed things up almost immediately.

Before purchasing any WordPress page builder plugin, be sure to research all current and past support issues. As long as you purchase a premium version from a reputable plugin developer, you can rest assured any future update issues will be dealt with promptly and efficiently.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to view this post and I look forward to your return. Should you need any help with your web design or internet marketing, I can help. Please contact me directly by sending an email to [email protected].

We look forward to your comments about our opinion on, The Truth About WordPress Page Builder Plugins.

How To Choose a DIY Website Builder for Your Website

Update: 1/24/16 – Be advised, we no longer recommend the website builder previously mentioned in this post. We do recommend having a look at our most recent update regarding WordPress page builder plugins and you’ll find better options from which to choose. One of the most popular methods is to install a typical WordPress theme and enhance it using the plugin called Beaver Builder. There are others so be sure to do your research to choose something that works for you. Here’s another article we wrote explaining the the truth about WordPress page builders.

Building your own website can be a rewarding and money saving experience, but unless you know how to code and design, you’ll need to know how to choose a simple DIY Website Builder. First, keep in mind no matter how easy it might sound to build your own website, it still requires a time commitment and you will need to learn the workflow for using a website builder. Often the do it yourself web builder starts with good intentions but after learning how much work it takes, never finishes the job. Also, no matter which simple website builder you choose, you should plan on going through the tutorials they provide until you are familiar with the workflow and learn the skills you will need to create your website.

Before going further I want to make it perfectly clear, I am a freelance web designer myself. I do offer some very affordable semi custom web design options, so if you prefer a unique website with extended functionality, please contact me today for a free one hour consultation.

About Website Builders
Website builder programs enable non technical users to create a website without the use of code. The user interface is often similar to the document or publishing applications found on most computer devices. For the most part, website builders provide plenty of instruction, but some are easier to understand than others. This is partly because the user interface you will use to build your site is built by developers, and they sometimes get a bit too technical with their instructions. Regardless, the user interfaces are getting better, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to learn. You won’t need to know any code and if you already know how to use the standard word processing software like Microsoft Word or Mac’s Pages, you should have no problem understanding how to use the website builder. It will be helpful to have decent writing skills and have some experience with editing and optimizing images for the web.

When choosing your website builder there are an overwhelming number of companies to choose from. Part of the problem with getting started is choosing a website builder! The best advice here is, to avoid wasting a bunch of time, just choose your website builder quickly so you can move forward! Honestly, the different choices are all quite similar, so don’t waste time on this! Though many people choose one of the huge advertisers such as Square Space or Wix, this might not be such a great idea. First off, just because they spend the most money on huge ad campaigns, doesn’t necessarily make them the best choice for your website. In fact, since you will be using a shared template to build your site, others will be using the exact same site as you. The less uses of any given template or theme, the better it will be for you.

Common Misunderstandings About Website Builders

  • Your website builder provides the overall look and feel of your site. The site is already laid out and you are provided the tools enabling you to make limited edits for example, choose background colors or images, structure options, font types and other basic design elements. This process can be fairly simple or sometimes a bit difficult. Again, there should be a tutorial guiding you through each each step in the process.
  • One of the most common misunderstandings about website builder programs is, who provides the actual content? The personalized content is provided by you, not your website builder. In some cases they may supply you with some stock images and generic copy you may use, but not always. Also, if you want your site to be personalized to fit your “look” you’ll want to use all your own original written and visual content.
  • It’s important to know, your site will not immediately resemble the example website your choose as your website. In order for your site to more closely resemble the example site you choose from, you must first add your written and visual content so your site can start to take shape.
  • There’s more to this, because even though most website builder’s are similar, they all have their differences.

Tip – When first starting and viewing your website, it won’t immediately resemble anything like the sample site you viewed to make your selection. The example web pages you view already contain placeholder generic content, so the until you add your own text and images, your new site will not resemble the example site you chose.

We hope you found this post helpful and look forward to your comments about How To Choose a DIY Website Builder for Your Website.

Web Design is Easy! Anyone Can Build FREE Website – Is This a Joke?

Web Design is easy and you can build your own custom website without hiring an expensive designer, for free! Yeah right! Is this a joke?

Lately, it seems like whatever media we are exposed to, we are exposed to ads claiming, anyone can create their own near custom websites, for free! I’m hearing it on my radio, on the web, in newsprint. They would all have us think web design is easy and anyone building your own site using their service is a snap!

The question is, can anyone really build themselves a reasonably good looking and functional website? Is web design easy enough for the average person to build their own website? Are the ads true?

I can now report, the ads aren’t really true, but they are not a lie either!

Do It Yourself Free Websites? Is it True?

So, is it true you can you can build your own website and that web design is easy? That’s a good question and I’m going to answer it as best I can. First, I must qualify myself as a freelance web designer and WordPress developer.

The True Facts
Yes, you can go to a number of different online venues to create your own websites. It’s kind of like in the old days when we could go to the hobby store and get a paint by numbers kit. It still takes a lot of work to create the painting, but the end result may not be something to show off. I must preface this by saying, when it comes to web design it’s more like “IF,” you get to the end of the project.

Even using the most simplistic and intuitive design interface in the world, it still takes lots of time to create a site! It’s not near as quick or easy as the ads would have us believe. Many  do it yourself designers also end up with incomplete websites. I would love to know what the percentage of customers who finished and if so, do they keep it maintained. I would not be surprised if it’s under 20%!

The truth is, it’s not quick or easy to build a DIY website. Very few people have the skills or the time to devote to creating something nice.

WordPress has been free forever, but as all of us WordPress developers know, if you want something special it takes a lot of hard work, a good bit of knowledge and a basic understanding of design principles. Most newbies to web design haven’t a clue and end up sadly disappointed!

Update Story 2/25/16 for Web Design is Easy

Yesterday I agreed to help and coach a friend with her DIY website. She also had heard web design was easy and she could do it herself. She was smart enough to know she would need help and asked me to  help her to get started. I began by setting her domain so it would forward to her future website location. My friend started the day with enthusiasm but ended the day discouraged.

The only thing she had to show for six hours of work was one poorly written “about” page. She did however walk away with a general idea of how the web design user interface worked. Her last words were, “maybe I’ll just use the replicated content provided by the website builder.” I encouraged her create her own original content and start the site small, with five or six basic pages. She can add the rest, little by little.

So, she has a website with her own domain name. It looks a little worse than average. Because she finally decided she didn’t want to devote the time, it will likely never rank anywhere near the top of the search results, for any search terms.

Had I not coached her through it, she would have NEVER made it as far as she did! But, I’m sure I gained a future custom web design client! I will be the first person she calls when she decided she wants a real website.

The truth is, you can build you own website but it’s NOT easy and it takes lots of time. It also requires some decent writing and creative skills.

Web design Made Easy With Nice Simple Template and User Interface

Even if you find a nice do it yourself design template with a simple user interface, it still takes time. Don’t be fooled into thinking web design is easy.

First, you must spend some time learning the interface. Once you think you understand the basics, you start to comprehend what you might have got yourself into. Here are a list of helpful things to start thinking about before you get started:

  • Purchase your own domain
  • Preliminary website layouts
  • Color schemes to consider. Matching your brand?
  • Font types to select
  • Images to find, edit and optimize. Be careful here and use creative common free images or purchase licenses.
  • Content to write (it doesn’t write itself and if you’re not a better than average writer, hire someone!
  • links to consider. How are you going to link your pages and posts to each other?
  • There is much, much more!

Once there is plan in place, it’s time to get started! Most do it yourself designers have no idea how long it takes to create a good looking and content rich webpage. Even if using a simple DIY interface and writing it in a standard word application. If you want good on page SEO, it takes even longer. Do you even know how to write content that at least appears professional? Do you understand basic search engine optimization?

Keep in mind, there are very few web design professionals that believe web design is easy. Because it’s NOT easy, most freelancers have a group of associates they rely on for graphics, written content, photos, video, SEO, and much more. Creating a custom website often requires a team of talented individuals, or one very talented freelancer.

It's NOT true that web design is Easy

My Redesigned Website

This site you are on was my first website, but has since been redesigned and updated! It’s a premium iThemes “Air” theme, and originally I did very little customization. I really had no idea what I was doing and thought it would be easy! Even though iThemes comes with an optional no code style manager, I discovered it still takes time to learn and comprehend. Regardless, at the time I had little experience but I was able to create my own website. I was not really proud of it, but now that I’m redesigning it’s sure to finally be something really special.

Sorry to Ramble – Closing Comments

Please understand, I think do it yourself websites are wonderful. I love web development no matter what, but I think it’s important consumers understand what they are getting into before they devote their valuable time and money to a project.

If you think web design is easy, you will will learn this is false. It requires some creativity, can be quite complex and it’s extremely time consuming! Most DIY’s quit, and hire a freelancer like me to do it for them. What’s worse, some quit and never have the website they wanted in the first place. That’s just sad! We can only hope they learned something and please know, I’m happy to help out if needed!

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