This topic could be very controversial as many people love site builders and find them convenient and easy to use.
Website builders are gaining popularity each day. Indeed, their popularity has already skyrocketed. If you buy a new WordPress theme, the chances that it would come bundled with a Page Maker or a Site Builder is high.
We are a web design company, and many people get in touch with us for new websites with their requirements. Among these requirements are the request to build their site using “Elementor Page Builder” or “WPBakery Page Builder” or one among so many of the page builder available today. The list is quite long. Of course, it is because of their popularity.
People do tend to love them because of their ease of use & instant gratification.
But the question is, should you be using them in the first place?
I believe you should avoid them if you want to create something worthwhile & long-lasting.
Let’s look at the reasons why I feel that way.
Aimed at End Users Who Are No Designers
When I say end users, I mean it is marketed to people who need the website designed themselves. And they are expected to design the website too. So here you are expecting non-designers to design a website for themselves.
They may drag and drop various website elements onto the canvas, but would the design be coherent and pleasing?
This notion that anybody can design is flawed, to begin with. It is assumed that everybody has a sense of good design. They can mix and match colors. They understand user intent. They will be able to place the “call to action” buttons and sections in the right places.
What do you believe? Do you believe anyone can design?
Page Builders are designed for drag and drop use. You drag various elements and place them on the canvas. And your website starts to take shape.
But the thing is, end-users, are not designers. They just cannot design!!
The whole notion of empowering the end-user with easy to implement tools is based on the presumption that anyone can design, which is false.
Many so-called designers cannot design, leave alone the non-designers these Page Builders are aimed at.
You just cannot negate the years of experience real designers acquire working on real-life projects over so many years. The refinement, the artistic flair, choosing the right colors, fonts, typography, layouts, choosing images, editing images and so much more.
If you as an end-user decide to build your site, I can guarantee you it will be subpar. It will lack the professional touch & refinement.
Designers & Agencies Use It To Save Time & Effort
I see many design agencies using Page Builders to build their clients’ websites.
Since we are talking about designers here, they do have the requisite design experience under their belt. And they are qualified to design. They use the Page Builders to churn out professional-looking sites in no time.
So, what is wrong here you ask?
The site built with Page builders is bulky and inefficient. The client should be informed in advance that the site is not being hand-coded and will be designed using a drag and drop tool instead.
Because many times when the client learns about the downfalls of a page builder, it is already too late. Many times, you cannot even get rid of the page builder plugin, as otherwise, the whole site would simply collapse.
The client is made to live with the Page Builder plugin. The client has to purchase a license and renew the plugin that he should not have to.
Also, I believe that many such designers do not even know how to code. Their lack of knowledge is shadowed using page builders.
The client does not understand the difference, and therefore, does not object. They are uninformed. Many agencies, of course, have the prerequisite skills to design and code.
However, if they opt for Page Builders, it simplifies life for them and speeds up the design process considerably. So why take the trouble to hand code?
Creates Ugly Illegible Code
Page Builders create lots and lots of nested HTML and non-semantic, illegible code. So understanding the code is almost impossible.
Why would that ever be a hindrance?
Suppose one fine day, you suddenly encounter an error on your website. You do not know what the error is.
Deciphering the error, going into the code, understanding it is almost impossible when it is built using a Page Builder.
What should have taken a few minutes to understand and sort out, now may take ages.
A hand-coded site has optimized code, and any designer or developer can easily read it and understand it. Make changes to it when needed.
The possibility of things going wrong with a site built with a Page Builder is a lot higher than with a hand-coded site.
If you are looking for something reliable, then I would advise you to avoid site builders.
Final Website is Bulky and Inefficient
Websites built using Page Builders are bulky as they have loads and loads of unoptimized code. The website ends up inefficient. And they may take longer to load.
An example is from a client that came to us as their site had grown and their website was not able to handle the number of increased visitors. Their site was crashing often.
They did an internal review and concluded that the theme was the culprit. It was using a Site Builder to design the website layout and structure. And it was not efficient.
They wanted to know how we can help them hand-code the theme and not use any type of theme builder or Page Builder so that the code is efficient and optimized.
So, if your site has very few visitors you may not notice the difference. But if you want your site to be efficient, you may consider an agency that would hand-code the site for you.
Dependency on Site Builder Plugins
They are easy to use so many people simply start using them without thinking.
The problem starts when you decide to stop using them. As they are hard to get rid of.
In many cases, the website becomes dependent on the Page Builder plugin. Remove it and the whole site is gone.
Let me give you an example, we are maintaining a site for an Australian client. They got their website designed from a local agency. It is an eCommerce website, built using WordPress & WooCommerce.
As part of maintenance, we update their plugins from time to time. But the Page Builder plugin could not be updated.
We informed the client that their site was built using a page builder. And they told us they were not aware of it.
The agency used a free Page Builder tool. But it can only be updated if you buy their pro version. I thought I will just uninstall the plugin and get rid of it.
As soon as I deactivated it, the whole site collapsed. I quickly activated the plugin again to get the site up and running. So, we are now dependent on the plugin. It is not so easy to get rid of it now. We are discussing redesigning the theme.
Who Should Use Site Builders?
The only scenario I can think of is when you don’t have money. Or are looking for ways to save it. When you are just trying something out and professionalism is not important.
Suppose you have started a new business. And you just don’t have the funds for a new website. Then you can go ahead and attempt to build your website using a site builder. Even if the website is not super-efficient, it does not matter.
When you start to earn from your business and want to tie all the loose ends together. You can go ahead and get your business a professional website.
So apart from saving money, I don’t see any other reason to use a site builder. If you can think of other reasons do let me know.
Is Gutenberg an example of WordPress heading the Page Builder route?
Talking of Gutenberg, some love it. And some are not too fond of it.
Looking at how Gutenberg is being forced to the fore, it is not difficult to conclude that the WordPress core team loves it to the core.
But sometimes I wonder if WordPress is going the Page Builder route now. If yes, then I could be the beginning of the end of the leadership position it holds among CMS platforms today.
Right now, WordPress is aimed at Developers & Designers. They work on WordPress to create beautiful, functional websites that their clients love so much.
Going the Page Builder route would mean, aiming WordPress as a publishing tool for the end-user, bypassing the Designer & the Developer.
Making everything drag and drop and easy for the end-user to create layouts and designs themselves.
With Gutenberg, it sometimes feels that the WordPress core team is aiming for that objective.
If that happens, it will lose its position as a market leader and would start competing against other page builders like Wix & Squarespace. It would cease to be a serious CMS that businesses can rely on.
People’s perception would change, and they would view WordPress as a system used by non-professionals. Kind of what people think of the other Website Builders today.
I strongly feel Page Builders are aimed at end-users, who are expected to design their site when they don’t know how to design. So the logic here is flawed, to begin with.
In the hands of designers and developers, it becomes a tool of convenience. Saving time and money for the agency and creating a subpar website for the client.
Many times, the client does not know what he is getting. And by the time he learns of the limitations it is already too late to back out.
Page builders are easy to implement but different to get rid of.
Well, you have heard my arguments, let me know what you think.
Am I being too paranoid? Am I missing something? Enlighten me!