In case you’ve missed it, one of the dominant trends in the WordPress world is the overwhelming demand for products that can do just about everything. I’m talking about multi-purpose themes and, the focus of today’s post, page builder plugins.
Page builder plugins give WordPress users an easy way to build custom layouts for their websites, and pack lots of powerful features and functionalities into one place. They make our lives easier, and the WordPress community can’t seem to get enough of them — with many of the top page builder plugins dominating the sales charts.
Now, there are plenty of great page builder plugins out there — Visual Composer, Beaver Builder, Divi Builder, MotoPress, VelocityPage, and Themify Builder. Today, though, I’m not interested in deciding which is best. Instead, I want to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this category of plugins as a whole.
Advantages Of WordPress Page Builder Plugins
We’ll start with the positives. Here are three reasons you need a quality page builder plugin installed on your WordPress website.
Page builder plugins are, for the most part, a one-stop-shop for all the cool on-page functionality that really sets a website apart. I’m talking image carousels, content grids, social sharing buttons, pie charts, pricing tables, call to action buttons — I could go on.
To achieve these results without a page builder, you’d have to install loads of dedicated, single-feature plugins. If you were to take the premium plugin route, the cost of all those plugins would really stack up – and that’s before we consider the research involved in finding the right plugin for each purpose, the learning curve for each plugin, and the time it takes keeping those extra plugins up-to-date.
In other words, without a page builder, you might need to install six, seven, or even eight plugins – and who knows, maybe more. With a page builder, you just need one.
Beautiful, Custom Layouts
For those of us not fortunate enough to know how to code, we depend on WordPress themes when designing our websites. We view lots of theme demos, pick a favorite, and then let our chosen theme take care of our site’s aesthetics.
Of course, there really are some great themes out there, but how many of them meet your requirements down to a tee? I’m willing to wager, not many — there’s always some design compromise involved.
With a page builder plugin installed, you can flex your creative muscles and build your website as you’ve always envisioned it. Want to add an extra header to your homepage that isn’t supported by your theme? Well, with a page builder, you can.
Page builder plugins essentially give you a blank canvas from which you can build. This gives you the opportunity to craft stunning, tailored layouts to really wow your visitors — if you can think it, you can create it. To help out the creatively challenged, myself included, many page builder plugins provide pre-built templates as a starting point.
No Coding Required
Another of the main advantages of page builder plugins is that you don’t need to know a single line of code to use one. For any non-developers out there, this is a major draw.
Most page builders include a user-friendly interface, usually with drag-and-drop support. This makes it super easy for you to add modules to your page, and then rearrange and resize them.
Many page builder plugins also include a front-end editor, which means you can play with your layout on a working version of your site — this is ideal for seeing how the page builder modules integrate with your theme’s existing design elements.
If you can’t code very well, all of this would take weeks to create from scratch — and with mixed results, too. With a page builder plugin, you can be up and running with your custom website in a matter of hours, if not minutes.
Disadvantages Of WordPress Page Builder Plugins
It isn’t all plain sailing with page builder plugins, unfortunately. Let’s take a quick look at three of the main drawbacks of using them.
The Lock In Effect
So far, we’ve discussed the abundance of awesome functionality and the beautiful custom layouts, without paying attention to how the results are achieved.
In a word: shortcodes. And lots of them.
Sure, you won’t personally have to get your hands dirty with shortcodes — you’ll be too busy using the polished, intuitive UI. However, your page builder plugin will convert your layout into its component shortcodes. This is how is achieves relatively complex designs with so much flexibility — the code is hidden in the shortcodes.
This a problem because shortcodes are plugin specific. The moment you deactivate your page builder plugin, you make all those shortcodes effectively redundant.
This means the design you’ve spent hours crafting will only work while your page builder plugin is installed. In other words, once you’ve started using a page builder, you’re essentially “locked in” to continue using it. If you want to stop using it, you will have to build your website from the ground up.
Fortunately, some page builder plugin developers — notably VelocityPage — are catching on to this problem and building their plugin without an over dependence on shortcodes.
All those fancy features and functionalities come at a cost — I’m talking, of course, about site speed and file size.
We all know that too many plugins will slow down your website. So just installing one plugin to do the job of many solves this problem, right? Well, not exactly.
Those simple shortcodes we were talking about before are basically shortcuts for longer, more complicated strings of code. When you use lots of modules, you’re placing more shortcodes on your page, and this means there’s lots of extra hidden code. This places a greater demand on your web server. The result: a slow, sluggish website.
Unfortunately, this problem is often exacerbated, too. To allow for so many features, the drag-and-drop interface, and the flexible layouts, some, but not all, page builder plugins are inefficiently coded.
Throw in the fact that we are more trigger happy with the fancy modules already at our fingertips, and there’s real potential for performance issues — and a slow website is bad news for SEO, too.
You Aren’t A Designer For A Reason
Remember when I said page builder plugins give us the opportunity to flex our creative muscles? Well, just because we can design a custom website doesn’t mean that we all should.
Page builder plugins empower us to build our own websites, sometimes with disastrous results. Remember: There’s a reason that many of us didn’t become designers — because we’re just not very good at design!
Sometimes, it’s best to leave the design work to the professionals. Invest your time in things you do well.
It seems that WordPress users can’t get enough of the all-in-one page builder plugins and multi-purpose themes. With so much demand out there, it’s little surprise that top developers have released a number of fantastic products to meet our needs.
The benefits of page builder plugins are there for us all to see: lots of awesome functionalities, cool designs, and a shallow learning curve.
There are some drawbacks, but it’s worth pointing out that many developers are working to address these known problems. This means that, going forward, we’ll have a better quality of plugin, and installing a page builder will become an even more attractive proposition.
What are your thoughts on WordPress page builder plugins? Do you have a favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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