UPDATE 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.
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.
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.
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