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Why "Page Builder" is no longer a dirty word

Page Builder, Template, Theme, Framework, Design System, Component Library, Pattern Library, I'd even lump in Squarespace — these are all industry terms intended to represent concepts and systems that can assist with a website design project.
page builder hero

There are so many web building tools out there now it’s pretty crazy. I remember when I first started out in WordPress web development, in order to create a website, you basically started from nothing and hand coded everything. Sure, we would repurpose or piggy back off things we did in the past, but nothing to the degree of what these tools today provide… It’s CRAZY.

Here’s a quick breakdown of my stance on the tool they call “Page Builder”.

What exactly is a Page Builder?

A page builder is a drag & drop visual content/layout builder that is typically an add-on (or plugin) to a WordPress theme. WordPress has also recently come out with their own embedded page builder tool that does not require the need for a plugin. You can find these drag and drop tools everywhere now. Tons of companies are competing in this space and are raising the bar on the level of features & functionality they provide. Do not be fooled, there are dominate players out there who, in my opinion, excel far above the rest. We’ve explored a number of these and have recently found the most success using Elementor – which is now our go-to for marketing website designs.

Recommended Page Builders:

  1. Elementor (our fav)
  2. Divi Builder
  3. Sailent / WP-Bakery 
  4. Gutenberg Block Editor
elementor page builder
Screenshot of the "Elementor" page builder

As with any advancement in this type of technology, it’s important to understand the purpose of the tool, who should use it, what it’s good for and the hurdles that come along with it.

The perks of using a Page Builder

Time Savings

The number one benefit of using a page builder is that it saves time while designing and developing a website. At Solid Digital, we’ve been able to leverage a page builder on a number of web design projects now, which allowed us to streamline our typical web design process. Because you can essentially build a page in minutes, we have been successfully experimenting with wireframing & designing in the browser. This gets us to a point of visualizing the experience much quicker and results in more focused conversations around strategy, content and branding.

Focus on Strategy, Content & Branding

Saving time developing the site, allows for more time to spend on strategy, content development and perfecting visuals. Speaking from a designers standpoint, we believe the most important component of a successful marketing website is the visual presentation of your company, coupled with what/how you are communicating to your users. To differentiate using a page builder, we fill in layouts with custom messaging & visuals that represent your company in a way that will set you apart from your competition. By reducing the time needed to code a layout, it allows our team to really hone in on the site goals, aesthetics and message.

Digital Marketing

The beauty of a page builder is that you can make rapid adjustments very effortlessly. So many times a client has come back to us and asked to design a new experience or develop a landing page that supports a new initiative. Without a page builder, you’re either bound by templates that were previously established or need to take the time to design & developed a new one. A page builder tool not only allows us to design a layout in WordPress without the use of code, but also supports the use of custom html or javascript snippets for things such as forms. This comes in handy as forms are typically created and spit out of 3rd party tools like MarketoPardotMailchimp or Infusionsoft.

A few cautions with Page Builders

They do not solve every problem

While they’ve come along way and offer many out of the box solutions, there are plenty of things page builders cannot do for you. If you’re looking to create a database driven e-commerce store with a highly immersive checkout experience, unfortunately a page builder isn’t going to magically get you there.

Hopefully this is already clear, but page builders do not offer any sort of foundational steps needed to actually setup and launch a website. They have nothing to do with your domain, hosting, server configuration, WordPress installation, deployment, etc. These tools are also not bullet proof – a full QA on all browsers and devices is still needed.

They do not design for you

With the popularity of these tools growing extremely fast, everyone is eager to try them out. Page builders essentially empower non-designers to build their own website. The problem is that they do not design the site for you. If simply using the defaults, a design will appear way too templated and present your brand in a generic light. There is still a high level of design thinking and development knowledge necessary to create an appealing, high performing website.

There can be a bit of a learning curve

To really take full advantage of customizing a site with a page builder, you need a fundamental understanding of how code works. Because of the flexibility that comes along with a page builder, they can take some time to figure out all of the different options, settings and approaches when keeping things organized. We’re constantly working to find that balance of fully utilizing the tool while making it easy enough for our customers to edit content in a way they feel safe from disaster. Without some level of training, it’s pretty easy for inexperienced users to mess something up.

Who knew Page Builders would come so far

I for one never imagined the power a page builder would have when creating a website. I was pretty stuck in my ways of ensuring I had my hands on every little detail of the code. But with so many tools out there it wouldn’t make sense not to take advantage of at least some of the benefits. The purpose of a website should ultimately be to increase your digital value. To make sure that happens, we put a lot of focus on our clients overall digital strategy and how their website fits into this. Taking the time needed to get the message right, designing unique visuals, and setting up the proper funnels for ongoing marketing initiatives, will put you in the position to succeed (regardless of what your digital goals are).

With the proper setup and configuration, page builders can be powerful tools for web designers & developers to leverage when creating a website. But just remember, they are page builders and nothing more.

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