Why we stopped using page builders like Elementor, Divi and Beaver Builder
A few years ago, a minor revolution started in the WordPress world with the introduction of so-called Page Builders. Threatening services, like Wix and Squarespace began to grow, promising website homebuilders that they could create a new website in record time.
The WordPress community had its own plans for how to respond to this threat by making it easier for anyone to build websites on the platform. But progress was far too slow and the ball was now in the court of smaller players to run along and build their own solutions plugged into WordPress. Today there are more than a dozen such solutions, the most famous being Elementor, Divi and Beaver Builder.
Webbson love new technology, and we were not slow to jump on the train and started testing and working with the different page builders.
What is page builders and why do they exist?
A page builder is a program that makes it very easy to create web pages by dragging and dropping items where you want them and can design the web page visually using sliders and setting panels. They promised it to be quick and that even beginners would be able to do it. On both of these points, the page builders deliver 100%.
The big argument that made us use it was that it would be very easy for our customers to make changes themselves to the website that we built for them.
Together with our colleagues, we have built over 50 websites with these page builders and we have tested them all. But two years ago we had enough. In this article, I want to tell you why we stopped using page builders – of any kind – and why you should avoid them too.
1. Slower loading times and search engine optimization
Have you ever wondered why websites are rarely as advanced as computer programs or apps? The short answer is because websites are loaded entirely over the internet, and it needs to be fast. Unlike programs and apps that are installed on your computer or phone, a website can’t be more than a few megabytes in size.
The problem with page builders is that the creator has to build in all the functionality that their users might need. Do you only need 10 different features on your website? Well then you still have to load in all 100 features that come with the page builder.
To make drag-and-drop functionality possible, the source code must be unnecessarily complex. A simple button written with a single line of code, if a web developer were to code it, would instead become 7 lines, just because you might, maybe, possibly, want to design the button one way or the other.
Above you can see the code generated to add a simple button with a link in the page builder Elementor.
And here you can see the code needed to add the same button in plain HTML.
This not only affects charging times. Try a website built with a page builder in GTmetrix or Google’s own PageSpeed Insight tool. You will most likely get a score of less than 50 out of 100. Sometimes as low as 20 or 10. These tests measure how well-built and fast a website is.
Google, Bing and other search engines have for a long time used website load time and perceived quickness between clicks as one of the markers for ranking in search results.
So a page builder do not only harm the user experience, but it also interferes with your visibility on Google.
2. Makes you bound to a small company
Many people choose WordPress because of its popularity and transparency. Today, the platform has about 35% of the market. The runner-up has about 3%. This means that it will be very easy to find skilled web developers and web designers to work on your company’s website. Are you unhappy with your current provider? Well then you don’t have to stay with it, simply choose another one.
What has made WordPress being so great is that it is built in an open source which makes the development democratic and community-driven. This alone is one of the strongest arguments for choosing WordPress over other tools.
However, the problem starts to arise once you then install a page builder on top of WordPress. Suddenly you go from 35% to a few thousand market share. From open source to suddenly being bound to the control from a small company (often) on the other side of the world.
If you are forced to find a new supplier because your current one has gone underground, it will be the same as looking for a needle in the haystack, i.e. looking for someone who can, and who wants to, work in the particular module that your website is built in.
3. It will restrict the developer
As excited as we were on behalf of our clients about how easy it would be to make changes for them on their website, we were equally ”terrified” on our own behalf about what it would be like to actually build the website from scratch.
Using a page builder is a very limiting and claustrophobic experience for a web developer. It assimilates with the experience of trying to fix the engine of your car while wearing oversized gloves. Or, like building a miniature city with Duplo instead of Lego…. It’s just not fun.
4. A disservice for the customer
So, what about the argument that page builders would make life easier for the customer, i.e. the website owner?
First you have to ask yourself: Did I start my company to build websites, or is the core focus to develop my core business? Is this what I should be spending my time on as a marketer, or is it better to focus on reaching new customers? Is web production within the scope of our IT technician’s skills, or should he be allowed to shine at what he does best?
Producing a website is complex. It must be attractive, mobile-friendly, search engine optimized, fast and sales-oriented. It must also contain a good user experience and a highlighted call-to-action. Not to mention things like image optimization, hosting, domain, DNS, SSL certificates, backup routines and maintenance. And what happens when things go wrong, where do you start looking for answers? Can you afford to have your website down in the meantime? Well, you understand the pressure.
When I talk to prospective clients, I usually use the phrase “just because I know how to use a paintbrush it doesn’t make me an excellent artist”. After all, a paintbrush is just a tool, in the same way a page builder is a tool to build a page.
Unfortunately, there are many people today who pretend to be web developers, when in fact they have only learned how to build a page with a drag-and-drop builder.
Instead, our solution is to consult the client and build a page that’s suited for their request whilst making the desired content editable in WordPress’ own interface. This maintains a consistent design and style throughout the website while ensuring that the code is attractive and representative for the clients business.
We consider web design and web development being an artwork!