What if you could create a custom looking website without any development or coding experience?
We all know website design and creation have changed over the years – website builders and drag and drop editing have made it easier than ever to create a custom-looking website without years of development and coding skills. And having the right tools makes it that much easier to implement.
The best news? With how simple WordPress is to use, coupled with page builder functionality, it has ever been easier to keep your website up-to-date.
Enter the page builder.
A page builder is designed to help you build your WordPress website with little coding or development skills. Page builders allow you to build sites faster, and most come with lots of features that previously had to be hand-created using HTML and CSS.
These builders allow you to create pages and websites without knowledge of advanced techniques, making them ideal for the DIY crowd or designers who do not consider themselves developers.
Page builders also work using design modules which include prebuilt or custom-built options and add-on functions. Meaning that the bones of the module are done for you; you need to make it your own by adding content and images.
As a result, you get pre-configured layouts that have been tested for usability and functionality.
Like our favorite Beaver Builder and Elementor (most popular with DIYers), most page builders have been around for a good while in terms of internet years. But there are many on the market now like Divi, Visual Composer, Blocksy, and you also have WordPress’s Gutenberg block editor.
However, all page builders are not created equally.
What should you look for when selecting a page builder?
Front end editing
Front-end editing is a real WYSIWYG experience for creating and editing your page(s). Having front-end editing allows you to see the pages as a user or visitor would see, so you get a great representation of how the site will look and function.
Front-end edit also allows you to create more effective pages since you can immediately see how the page would act or look to make adjustments in real-time. It’s also a big time-saver for website owners since you’re not bouncing back and forth between the back and the front end.
Straightforward editing and interface should be non-negotiable because who wants to have to read volumes of documentation to edit and update their website. While there will always be some learning curve, it shouldn’t be that you need advanced education to make things happen.
It’s also helpful that the editor works in realtime so that when you drag a row on the page or add a pre-built module, you will know exactly how the changes will look. It’s nice not to have to guess or preview to know if a change is working.
And you want to be able to find things quickly and easily while creating the page instead of hunting down where to find the module or what you think it should be named or called.
Retention after deactivation
Technology changes frequently, and there are new players on the market quite often, including the newer Gutenberg block editor. This makes the shelf life of a website design between two to three years, so keeping your options open is vital.
Like most technology, some page builders have a shelf life or stop being developed and maintained; if this becomes the case, you would need to move on to something more stable for security reasons.
Page builders like Bakery/Visual Composer and Divi use shortcodes to display the content, so if you disable or remove the plugin/theme, you are left with a mess of code or, worse, deleted content.
It’s important to know what happens to your content when the page builder is no longer active because you don’t want to add missing content to the other heap of mess.
Beaver Builder, Elementor, and MotoPress will save your content in a simplified version, so if you disable the plugin, you retain readable content but without fancy styling. So it’s safe to say you aren’t locked into these plugins should you decide to move away from them.
You’ve heard that content is king, but speed and performance are truly in charge. Poorly coded plugins or those heavy with all the bells and whistles will take time to render and load, and that will add to your overall website speed.
Besides affecting the user experience, it can also affect your SEO rankings. Google is implementing metrics that measure site load times and will use it as one of the ranking factors, making performance a key metric in the decision.
Having everything and the kitchen is not always a good thing, and the more additional features, the more resources will be needed and added to the plugin. Just having the functionality, even if not used, can affect the load times of your website.
It’s a given that the builder is compatible with the latest WordPress core version and should be regularly updated and supported. You also want to be sure that the plugin plays nice with most themes on the market.
In addition to theme and core compatibility, you also want to be sure that it truly is mobile-friendly. Some builder comes with a built-in emulator to check how a page will look on different size screens and make adjustments based on the devices’ breakpoints or screen sizes.
You may also want to check that your builder of choice supports custom post types and translations. These two items may not seem relevant now, but if your building your site with growth in mind, chances are one of these items will pop up down the road.
Of course, fast and effective support is a must for any plugin or premium option on WordPress. In addition to developer access to help you troubleshoot issues, detailed documentation and forum/community support are helpful too.
Be sure that you have access to either a helpdesk, chat system, or ticket system for your page builder so when you run into a problem or issue, you can address the issue accordingly. Some of the more popular options also have Facebook groups and Slack channels to find even more help from the community.
With fewer baked-in options, the plugin stays lightweight and user-friendly. To keep site speed reasonable, you don’t want your builder or theme to have too many baked-in animations, functions like portfolios, sliders, and unneeded extras, but that doesn’t mean that a few aren’t helpful.
Of course, you want to pick and choose what you need, like testimonials, accordions, form styling, and the likes. That’s why extensions are helpful. But like the plugin itself, added unneeded functions don’t help your site no matter how cool they may be now.
Having extensions will allow you to cherry-pick which additional features you need or want for your site. For example, if you use Gravity Forms, you certainly would benefit from a module with prebuilt styling. Or, if you use WooCommerce for your shop, having modules build for the e-commerce tool is something that will help.
With extensions, you can add what you need without having to hire developers to custom code your site, or you can add helpful functions like FAQs or testimonials that are styled to help blend in with your design and brand.
Page builders have changed the game in WordPress design by allowing us to think differently about the design process as a whole. They are not the be-all to end-all because you still need strategies and planning, but page builders help shorten the curve for implementation.
If you’re not sure about your setup or need a second set of eyes on your site, our Health Check will give you the information you need to be sure your site is on the path to growth and greater usability.
And since you might be wondering, our favorite remains Beaver Builder because they meet all the criteria above. How about you?