Should I Use A WordPress Page Builder or Not?

Should I Use A WordPress Page Builder or Not?
  • 5 min read

When you ask your friends in tech if you should do something, generally the answer is “it depends.” Should you use a Page Builder for your client builds in WordPress? Yes. No. It depends. To get to a better answer than “it depends,” you need to ask yourself why.

This is a question that many of our customers ask our opinion about, the best response is usually trying to understand their motivation and what they want to achieve doing so. In most cases, there is confusion and concern about website performance and how it’s impacting their Core Web Vitals, but we’ll get into that specifically a little later.

The better question to ask is why do you want to use a Page Builder? What are the advantages? How will you use a Page Builder (one site, or every site)? When does it make sense to use a Page Builder (cost, time)? Who will use the Page Builder (just you or also the client)? Then ask yourself the same questions about blocks and Full Site Editing (FSE).

Why Page Builder Plugins for WordPress are Popular

Page Builder Plugins are popular because they allow a user to easily design their own website, without hiring a front-end developer. Before Page Builder Plugins like Visual Composer, Beaver Builder, and Elementor, the best practice for theme customization was to create a child theme. You need a front-end developer with decent CSS chops to build a good child theme.

And here, it’s good to refresh our memories of one principle: themes are for design, plugins are for functionality. So, do you need a plugin? Do you need a theme? Yes, you’ll likely use both. 

So, if you’re a small business owner, and you’d like to customize your website appearance more than what is available with a theme, then a Page Builder is a good option. Well, until a non-designer just starts using elements that make the customer experience poor. But, frankly, that’s another blog post. 

Agencies who want to speed up development and deployment times often use Page Builders. It makes production much easier which makes deployment and invoicing faster. Like a restaurant turning tables, Page Builder plugins for WordPress allow agencies to scale website development.

Page Builder Plugins for WordPress are popular because they save valuable billable time for agencies like yours. If time is a consideration, then you should continue to use a Page Builder in the age of WordPress Blocks, Full Site Editing (FSE), and Gutenberg.

Do I need a WordPress Page Builder?

Do you need a WordPress Page Builder to create and launch a functional, easy-to-use, and beautiful website in WordPress? No. Whether you choose to use a FSE (block) theme or a standard theme like Neve or Twenty Nineteen, you can create a functional site without the need for customization. No one needs a Page Builder. If you want one, that’s different.

Many agencies and freelancers are doubling down on FSE. Why? They find it less complicated than navigating endless screens and UI conflicts with Page Builders. Simple is good in most cases.

Do Page Builders Slow Down WordPress? What about Core Web Vitals?

Anything you add to your site could potentially slow down your WordPress site, that’s why Rocket offers robust hosting that can help minimize those impacts. Slow means calls to the server. Slow means loading images. Slow means relying on the browser to process Javascript. If the Page Builder you choose creates excessive stylesheets or Javascript calls, then your WordPress website could be slow.

“Fast doesn’t just mean building a website in three hours. Did you check the load time of your website? Those drag and drop builder blocks might come at a price.

Warren Laine-Naida

There is usually no doubt that page builders do in most cases add additional bloat, but we can’t place all the blame here on one single culprit.

The hardest thing to optimize for Core Web Vitals is usually on mobile, a poorly-coded theme can have much more impact than the page builder itself. Vitals are about passing the 75th percentile for LCP, FID and CLS on both desktop and mobile devices on real user engagement that you can find in your Google Search Console account.

Your choice of plugins and even down to use of fonts can also drag down performance whether you are using a Page Builder or blocks for that matter. Design decisions are just as important as the tools you use to build your website. It’s easy to fall in the trap of adding too many bells and whistles like sliders and other elements that will and do slow things down that can drag down your PSI scores.

So using a Page Builder is fine if you provide visitors a great user experience, it’s important to keep track of your key website performance metrics and making necessary adjustments along the way. Understanding why your website has a high LCP, or what elements are creating CLS can all be fixed and ultimately get you passing Core Web Vitals.

While switching to definitely helps with the speed of your website, speed and experience are two very different things. Take stock of the plugins you really need, research and test potentially faster themes that perform well on both desktop and mobile – Figure out exactly what issues are impacting your Core Web Vitals and address the things that are holding you back.

Let’s Talk About the Elephant (Gutenberg) in the Room

Gutenberg has always been intended to become a Full Site Editor (FSE). When it was announced at WordCamp Europe in Paris in 2017, that was the goal and the rollout at the time was alarmingly soon. 

Several advocates in the industry spoke up about issues with Gutenberg and its initial rollout and effects including Morten Rand-Hendricksen (who left contributing to WordPress because of it and lack of governance), Rian Rietveld (Make WordPress Accessibility Lead who resigned), and Bridget Willard (GitHub issue) who was the Make WordPress Marketing Team lead at the time.

The uncertainty around Gutenberg (the new WordPress Editor) made Page Builders more relevant than ever. Fast forward to 2022, are there advantages to using blocks? Sure. There are also disadvantages including speed of iteration, steep learning curve, accessibility issues, etc. We give you this for context. It’s your agency, client base, and website. Choose wisely.

Advantages of Using Blocks Over Page Builders

There’s always an advantage to using native software over add-on UIs. For example, with Twitter, there are often updates that roll out for the app that aren’t available in Hootsuite, TweetDeck, or Sprout Social. Native platforms, including WordPress, give us stability and reliability.

There are more people working on WordPress Core than each individual Page Builder company has. That is a huge advantage of using native WordPress blocks.

“Gutenberg makes it easy to organize blocks into one media-rich post or page. You can also use pre-made block patterns to access reusable elements.”

Will Morris

If you use native blocks in WordPress, you won’t have to add additional plugins; that’s a big advantage with respect to looking for blocks, trying them, and seeing if they work or not. However, not all blocks are native. Formerly known as plugins, there are also plenty of blocks available on the WordPress Plugin Directory (formerly known as the Repo).

Advantages of using Blocks and FSE over a Page Builder

  • You don’t need an additional plugin to design your website.
  • You don’t have to worry about that plugin being updated (or vulnerable).
  • There are a growing variety of Block authors to choose from.
  • Patterns are getting better. 
  • Many people believe that the future of WordPress is blocks and not a Page Builder.

“Gutenberg is very similar to the Medium editor, so if you are acquainted with that, you will likely appreciate the Gutenberg editor.”

Formation Media

Future of WordPress Publishing

This is why WordPress Page Builders like Beaver Builder, WPBakery, Visual Composer, Divi, and Elementor will play a role in he future of WordPress publishing alongside Full Site Editing and block-based tools.

Whether you’re an optimist or a realist, the future of WordPress publishing is what we make it. This is why open source is so valuable. WordPress, with its collaborative and open nature as well as market share, is the future of publishing 

Just the other day, we heard of a case where a website built with Apple (remember those?) is no longer being supported by its host. It’s easy to get locked down in a closed platform, without an easy way to migrate elsewhere. This is why we’ve built a different kind of hosting business for WordPress. We believe in the future. We believe in publishing.

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