Why do people want WordPress Page Builders? Before I get into this, I need to take you back several years ago. Make that a few hundred.
It's likely you don't know much about how furniture was built in the 17th and 18th century. But you likely didn't come to this site to learn about woodworking either. So let's do the short version.
What do you know about the furniture industry?
In the 14th & 15th centuries, there was enough money for people to start wanting enough furniture that suddenly, a new profession developed. Instead of carpenters making furniture, a specialization arose for cabinetmakers to craft furniture. Everything was going so well, and the growth of furniture-making was so good that by the 17th & 18th centuries, specialists left cabinetmaking to become chair makers.
Additional trades sprung into existence—from turnery to carving to upholstering. By the 19th century, the cabinetmaker wasn't doing any of the finishing—because that had become another specialized trade. And in another big split in that century was the introduction of people who sold furniture—in large stores. The sellers were not the makers.
Let's talk about the web design and development industry
When websites were first created, there was one person—the webmaster—who did everything. Much like the early carpenters that not only built the building but the furniture too.
Over time, we saw more and more specialization. And in our own industry it's not hard to trace all the different roles that have sprung up—though instead of taking 500 years, it's taken 25.
Today we talk with customers who want a website and we tell them they likely need:
- A hosting company
- A web developer
- A web designer
- A maintenance support team
- An SEO specialist
Are we surprised that the web space has seen large marketplaces with mass-produced themes that aren't of the same quality as custom-created code?
Are we surprised that the web industry sees web hosting, design and development as commodities with an expectation that prices should be lower?
We shouldn't be.
Today someone can walk into a furniture store, pick any mass-produced piece they like, then go pick what color fabric they want on it, and the kind of material they want for the legs, and have their custom chair, couch or bed delivered to their homes in a matter of weeks.
Why do people want WordPress Page Builders?
Simple. They offer customers a solution for personalization that mass-produced themes can't offer, while at a lower price than working with a professional web developer and web designer.
After all, since 1974 they've heard Burger King tell them “have it your way,” and they like the idea. For the last twenty-five years, they've heard specialists try to educate them on the nuances of a specialty they don't care to learn.
When I walk into a furniture store I'm thankful that an upholstering specialist doesn't want to educate me about the kind of material that might be great on my new couch. Even if they're right, it's a waste of time since I don't plan to get into the business of putting material on furniture.
Too often our web industry experts want to educate customers far past what they need or want to know. And more often than not, they want to be paid a premium for that kind of education.
The market allows for that at the high end—just like custom furniture is still a thing that has lasted since the 14th century. But it's a very small percentage of the furniture that's made and paid for these days.
Five things we know about customers buying WordPress Page Builders
They don't want to start from scratch & they are not trying to be a professional designer. I'm the first to tell you that you're not a designer if you're not a designer and buying a WordPress page builder won't make you one. But the truth is, most of the people buying them don't think they are a designer. They just want to solve a problem – quickly and easily without spending a trillion dollars. If the page builder has some nice templates, they're thrilled.
They don't understand the code being generated by their designs and they're not interested in learning about it. When people start complaining about the code that is produced by page builders, and yes I've done that about one of them, they're focused on a problem that customers aren't trying to solve. Customers want the end result, not a discussion on the process. After all, I eat sausage without knowing how it's made.
The most important thing they care about is making changes easily and quickly. Time is of the essence. Page builders offer customers a way to make changes without calling a developer. Those calls can often feel frustrating because developers don't answer the phone, sometimes disappear, and charge a premium (while sometimes being rude and/or impatient). It's not shocking that some people would rather skip the drama.
The next most important thing is the amount they have to or don't have to pay. Page builders offer people a nice alternative to the cycle of buying and trying themes that don't work out. I don't know what the average is, but of the customers I interact with, a majority have purchased and attempted to use 3-6 themes before picking something that they hope they can use on their own to get their site complete. At $75 per theme, that's close to $500 wasted. And professionals will charge 10x or more for a website—regardless of the role the site plays in their business. Page builders make more sense to them.
There's a group of non-developers using them to make their own living making sites for others. While we like to think the only people buying these page builders are site owners who want to try their own hand at having it their way, it's not the case. There are groups of site builders who are selling their services to site owners and using page builders to get the job done. This should not shock anyone. It's the invasion of the lightweights and it will always happen.
If you're a professional that hates WordPress Page Builders…
There is nothing wrong with not liking page builders. Absolutely nothing wrong. And if you're at the very top of your game, you may never lose a client to one—whether you're a designer, developer, or theme developer.
But the marketplaces aren't going away. The commoditization isn't going away either.
I think they're a response to a question—one that you need to have an answer to.
Why does it have to cost so much, take so much time, and have such mixed results when I want to hire someone to create or fix my website?
Until there's a satisfactory answer to that question, I think they're here to stay.
If you're a customer looking try one out…
My favorite of the bunch out there is Beaver Builder. It's a silly name. But the product delivers on the promise of keeping the easy things easy while making some hard things easy. It lets you see the changes you're making in real time. And the price point makes it worth skipping all those other themes you might try out. Plus, their templates are gorgeous.