A drag and drop WordPress Page Builder: Good or Bad?

Some context for the discussion

A couple months ago I started work on a website that will soon launch. The reality is that much of the time on the project has been spent on discussion—determining the right solutions to the right problems and a design that will deliver the right results.

Mind you, when I say design I'm not talking about the graphical elements as much as I'm talking about information design, and (of course) the design of the user experience. To get that right, we've had to talk segmentation and we've had to spend time looking over Google Analytics.

A majority of this project hasn't been the work to actually put the site together. But that's been important nonetheless. Because all the talk in the world won't make a new site appear out of thin air.

Early in the discussion, I asked a question about how others would use the site. I'm not talking about the people that visit the site. I'm talking about the staff that would support it.

And while it's not a huge site, several different people will engage in different parts of the site to keep it fresh and engaging.

In this way, this project isn't different from all the projects you work on.

  • Multiple people updating the site
  • Multiple people with limited WordPress experience
  • The key point of contact is smart and has a lot of ideas
  • The scope of the project won't likely include all of the ideas
  • More work will happen on the site after I'm gone

These two factors (in bold) often help me decide which approach I'll take on a project. And you can likely guess why a drag and drop WordPress page builder would be useful in this context.

But before I make the case for why I think they're useful, let me address some of the main reasons I know some folks don't like them.

Not everyone likes Page Builders

Let's face it – the reality is that every page builder out there solves some problems at the expense of others. This is a problem for developers. It's not the only problem. But it's a real one. Constraints that shouldn't exist for a developer coding a theme are suddenly introduced and these constraints slow them down, and create quick frustration. When you make some hard things easy, you have to make sure that the easy stuff is still easy. And when a developer uses a page builder and discovers that some simple things are now hard—they declare page builders bad. I totally get that.

Page builders, especially drag and drop ones, require a lot of clicking. That's a lot of mouse work. And that means that page builders, by their very nature, can be slower than simply writing code. And trust me, I've never met a serious developer who wants to use their mouse. It's about speed and the mouse slows everything down.

Page builders are power tools. When you give a novice a power tool, they can do great things or they can make a mess of the world. No one needs to remind you of MySpace. It was an ugly world back then. All because anyone could do anything. And page builders can give anyone a simple and powerful way to mess up their site, which doesn't happen in the same way when they'd have to edit theme code.

These are just three reasons:

  1. They make things more complex (when they should be simple)
  2. They slow people down with all the clicking
  3. They make it easy for ugly to take over

But these are the three that I hear the most.

The casual fourth is never spoken out loud—”real developers just don't use drag and drop crap.” It's hinted. It's nodded at. It's a declaration kind of like when I say, “real developers don't use ACF.” So trust me, I have opinions and I understand the feeling.

But here's why I don't think any of this matters, and why I recommend people check out Beaver Builder (my favorite).

Consider other Builders…

When home builders frame a new construction home they use tons of tools. Nail guns, power drills, saws, and more. Developers that put up skyscrapers also use tools—often those that will create huge holes in the dirt to build out a foundation. Boatbuilders use a variety of different tools to create the large sailing yachts that I love.

But here's the thing. Whatever tools these folks use is up to them because it often doesn't change how we participate in using the thing that's been built.

  • When I come into my house, I can't even see if nails or screws or something else was used in the framing of my home.
  • When I enter a corporate building, I have no idea what kinds of tools they used and it doesn't stop me from using the elevator.
  • When I get on those big sailing boats (which is far too rare), how it was built is immaterial.

The reason is because I interact with the built product but don't continue the development.

This is why I like Drag and Drop WordPress Page Builders

The reason I recommend them, even when I know those other downfalls, is because I know there are cases where our customers will continue the development beyond us.

If you're building a site that no one will touch, other than to produce content like blog posts or regular pages, feel free to skip all of this and code your own theme like the wind!

If you're building a site that is just made up of some pages that will never refresh, stop wasting your time on page builders and get a move on.

But if you're building a site that a site owner will accept, and then will continue to do things with, then your choice of tools now impacts them. Your decision about what tools you'll use will affect how easily they can do anything beyond writing text.

And that's when you realize that while you may be frustrated with the speed of your initial theme development because of those clicks, your clients will love you because of how much you've sped up their process. 

The core of the question is this: who are you coding for?

If you're coding for yourself, maybe you don't need or want a page builder.

But if you're coding for a non-developer who has more ideas than they can pay for, and plans to keep doing work on the site? If that's your situation…

Maybe you should embrace them and check out all the different ones that are out there. There are a ton.

Like I said, for me, my favorite is Beaver Builder. But I know folks like a lot of them. Check them out and let me know which ones you dig.