The rise of drag and drop WordPress page builders

I’ve been using WordPress for several years and have developed plenty of websites using premium themes from the likes of Theme Forest. Whilst these themes can leave you with a good-looking website the danger is your site will look the same as countless others using the same templates. They also don’t offer easy customisation without messing about with PHP and short codes.

Personally, I now prefer to develop my websites using drag and drop page builders. These builders are paid for plugins (with the exception of Elementor which has a free version with less features). The WordPress theme still sets the foundation of the site but the page builder allows more design and flexibility for my clients. Some WordPress themes are also now being specifically developed for page builders.

My go to theme of the moment is Astra (this site is using it). Astra is well coded, fast and has a team of professional developers behind it who are constantly working on the advanced customizer options, recently rolling out WooCommerce support for eCommerce websites. Another popular theme is Generate Press which has also gained a large following from developers using page builders.

Thrive Architect - powerful page builder for WordPress
Thrive Architect page builder in use.

What is a WordPress page builder?

Page builders basically replace the default WordPress editor which to be honest is bit of joke when it comes to web development. The standard WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor has remained largely unchanged for the last 5 years. It’s fine for blog posts or pages which use theme styles but for anything more complex it’s unusable.

Standard WordPress editor
The standard WordPress editor – outdated.

WordPress are actually working on an update to their editor called Gutenberg. Currently available as a plugin but with an aim to roll-out in WordPress 5.0 core. This could have a big impact to the page builder community.

Why page builders are great for my clients

My clients aren’t buying 100 hours of website coding, they are buying solutions to their problems. Building a website using a page builder is so much faster, and while I’m not writing 1000’s of lines of code I can focus on the strategy, increasing sales and making money for my client’s business.

Easy to edit and make changes

Regardless of how a new website is developed, if it allows a client’s business to grow and eventually prosper then I’ve done my job well. Custom coded websites can be harder to manage down the line, often requiring the same developer to be re-hired to make changes.

That’s the beauty of using a drag and drop page builder, it’s easy for the client to edit without diving into lines of HTML coding. The user can click on a section of the page, edit it and see the live changes in the front-end of their website. I even provide some hands-on training with new clients so they get a feel for editing content. However, if they would sooner leave the website management to me then that’s fine too.

Brand guidelines can be followed, mock-ups can be matched

The real beauty of a page builder is the customisation of individual elements. Let’s say you need a website to be developed closely following a mock up that’s already been designed? This is where the page builder comes into its own. With so many options available including layout and position, background styles, borders and corners, typography and responsive features it’s much faster to develop a website following pre-existing designs and guidelines.

Does this mean I’m not a ‘proper’ website developer?

I’ve coded websites in the past, and spent weeks writing lines of HTML and CSS for landing pages which have been translated into 16 languages and used for global marketing campaigns. And, for international companies with multi-million pound budgets this is achievable. However, for a local company with a smaller budget this obviously isn’t a solution to their problem.

I don’t sell code to my clients, I sell online marketing platforms so businesses can get more sign ups, enquiries and new customers.

The majority of local businesses looking for a website developer don’t understand the difference between PHP and CSS and they don’t need to know either, they just want to know how to sell more of their products or services online and get the results they need.

Which page builders are best?

There are 3 standout page builders currently on the market. Each offers drag and drop functionality but with slightly different features:

Thrive Architect Page Builder

Thrive Architect

My choice at the moment is Thrive Architect, this is a visual front-end page builder designed for online marketing. It’s an upgrade to the original Thrive Content Builder which was released back in 2014. It works seamlessly with Thrive Leads so you can capture emails (like the sign-up form on my home page). The user interface is easy to use and it has a responsive view (desktop, mobile, tablet) for device specific editing. I find saving templates to re-use on other parts of the site really speeds up the website development.

Adam from WPCrafter has some great review videos on the best page builders available:

Elementor page builder

Elementor

One of the newest page builders on the market, Elementor has gained a huge following due to the free version which is available. One of the best features is global widgets, make a change to an element and it’s reflected across the entire site.

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder

One of the easiest page builders to use for complete beginners and developers alike, Beaver Builder comes with the ability to add sliders, carousels, different backgrounds, content blocks, buttons and much more.

In Summary

It really depends on what my client needs are and what the best solution is for them. If they want to be able to make changes themselves, either by adding an image or changing a line of text then a page builder is ideal. But if they simply need a set and forget website and don’t really need to make changes or add new pages then an off the shelf theme could be better for them.

Page Builder Pros:

  • Build great websites in a faster time
  • Live front end page editing
  • Responsive design options
  • Save elements as templates and re-use on other parts of the site
  • Create custom designs and easily match a client’s branding
  • Easy to edit and make changes

Page Builder Cons:

  • Easier for clients to break a site without training
  • Yearly license fees are applicable
  • Messier code and markup

Web Design for Local Businesses

Interested in a page builder demonstration? Book a free web design consultation with me and I’ll take you through the best page builders on the market.