WordPress Page Builders

Page builders are becoming an increasingly popular addition to WordPress as they offer more flexibility and customisation than default functionality and themes, without the costs and overheads associated with hiring a developer.

“They offer customers a solution for personalization that mass-produced themes can’t offer, while at a lower price than working with a professional web developer and web designer.”

Chris Lema

However, a lack of standardisation means a number of page builders are poorly designed which can result in issues appearing at a later stage once you have built your site.

What Makes A Good Page Builder?

No Lock-In

More important than anything else is to ensure you retain the ability to move to an alternative solution in the future. The WordPress ecosystem moves fast, plugins come and go, and so it’s important to avoid getting “locked in” to a page builder solution that, should you have to move away from it in the future, completely breaks your website.

Consider the following before making a decision:

  1. What happens when the plugin is deactivated? Is your content retained or lost?
  2. Can you switch back and forth between the page builder and standard WordPress editor easily?
  3. When you switch from your page builder to the standard WordPress editor, how much of the original formatting is retained?

Native Feel

In addition to an intuitive interface, page builders should strive to blend into the native Wordpress user interface, and retain as much of the standard WordPress look and feel as possible. This includes integrating into standard WordPress customiser settings.

This is encouraged by the WordPress developer community and provides a better, more consistent user experience.

Shortcodes

Many page builder plugins are unable to handle shortcodes, meaning any plugin that utilises opening and closing shortcodes will not work when used within the page builder. Shortcodes are vital in retaining the ability to customise your website, and although you may not need them at the outset, you almost certainly will require them in the future.

Ensure your page builder can handle shortcodes, and that they work as expected across builder elements.

Consider the following before making a decision:

  • Can shortcodes be used inside a single builder element?
  • Can shortcodes be used across multiple builder elements?

Speed

Ease of use and attractive design can come with a cost. Poorly designed page builders can significantly increase load times, which can consequently hurt SEO rankings. When selecting your page builder (and your theme) make sure you research and compare the average load times for websites similar in size to yours.

One of the biggest factors in load time will be the number of additional scripts and libraries that load with the page. Some themes and page builders only load what is needed, some load everything regardless of whether it is needed or not. Scripts and libraries to look out for include:

Posts and Pages

Understand there is a fine line between creating layouts, and creating content. It is advisable to focus on using your page builder for creating layouts and to use more native functionality and plugins for content creation. Retaining separation here will ensure you avoid lock-in, and have more flexibility in future.

To summarise, for simple websites this means using the page builder for pages, and the standard WordPress editor for posts. Remember the new “standard WordPress editor” includes the new blocks editor released in version 5.0.

Other

Here are a few other considerations to also keep in mind:

  1. Can you import existing page content into the page builder, or do you have start from scratch?
  2. Are there known compatibility issues with other plugins, particularly any existing plugins you use?
  3. Is the company behind the page builder actively involved in the WordPress ecosystem?

Stuart Brameld

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