Pagebuilders and why you should avoid them

They make content look pretty and you feel like you are in control when you create pages with a pagebuilder. However, there are more considerations to be made before losing your content to a pagebuilder format.

Sircon has seen many pagebuilder in various WordPress installations, and we have seen many reasons for simply avoiding using them. They seem to bring more problems than solutions, despite looking gorgeous with a few quick clicks.

Some pagebuilders are added as a plugin and “just works”, while others are built into the theme itself. You may also find pagebuilders as part of “build your own free website” offers, which we generally don’t recommend.

While this article mainly talks about the problems with WordPress pagebuilders, these problems are still considerable for any kind of pagebuilder, WordPress-related or not.

Problem: Performance

The short version: Pagebuilders are usually too complex to be optimized for speed.

There are many reasons why WordPress is so slow, and one of them is poorly written plugins or themes. Quickly testing a popular pagebuilder plugin, we found that simply activating the plugin without using it added nearly 10% to the loading time for visitors. This may not sound like much on it own, however, adding plugins that increases load time for visitors will quickly rack up to an unbearably slow website. Optimally, a plugin should not add measurable load time before doing any work, and preferably not even then.

A website should respond within 200ms. Anything over 350ms is considered slow.

Further evidence is found when we troubleshoot various other websites and find that the pagebuilder plugin or theme leads to several seconds of extra load time for each visitor. This leads to heavy server usage which leads to even slower response times for every website on that server. New visitors are sending more slow requests to the server before the server has finished any of the previous requests. The server essentially drowns in work from the code in these plugins or themes.

servers react badly to pagebuilders

Problem: Requests vs Traffic

The short version: Pagebuilders sometimes solve their complex problems in bad ways that generate unecessary and slow extra requests to the server.

Some pagebuilders seem to struggle to provide the customisability they promise. Most pagebuilders come with many wonderful features and layouts, while trying to juggle every thinkable (and sometimes unthinkable) page-layout the user can muster.

Some pagebuilders solve this by generating the stylesheet dynamically when it is requested. Technically, this means they ask WordPress to generate styles instead of using premade .css styles. This sounds like a neat idea, right? Nope, it’s actually a very bad idea. WordPress is loaded one extra time for each generated stylesheet, for every visit. Loading WordPress means that all the plugins are loaded, the entire WordPress codebase is loaded, and all the actions and setup and checks etc are performed, every time.

A website should generate as few requests as possible for each visitor.

1 visitor will generate more slow requests towards a server, meaning that the already slow and heavy workload is increased without increasing the amount of traffic to your website.

Problem: Visual continuity

The short version: Pagebuilders generate static single-use content, meaning you have to manually remake content to show it more than once.

So you created a fancy 3-column list of links to your products or locations, spending time adjusting the position, font, color and layout, even add some animations and rules on what links to show to whom. It looks great, and you want to reuse this call-to-action link layout on every relevant page. You will soon realize that you can’t simply copy-paste this item to every page, and neither should you.

A pagebuilder usually lets you build a piece where it should be, then that piece is left there until it is changed. You then have to remake this layout on each separate page where you want it to show if you are stuck in a pagebuilder.

Smart coding can make your website a robot, that works for you 24/7. Pagebuilders usually prevent just that.

If you stick to non-pagebuilder content, then you will find that your content is suddenly reusable. A web developer could easily help you achieve what you want, if the pagebuilder is not in the way. That way you don’t have to do a lot of extra work, and the presentation looks the same every time.

Problem: No longer your content

The short version: Pagebuilder content can usually not be exported, transformed or upgraded.

Pages are no longer readable content, but complex structures of specific layout that possibly has some content positioned absolutely or in relation to other content. When you want to upgrade, move or redesign your website, you will have to manually re-add all the content, piece by piece.

Pagebuilder content cannot be easily converted because every single element in the pagebuilder is a specifically added to be exactly where it is on that specific page in this specific setup. There is no automatic AI smart enough to fully decipher what the content should look like in your new layout, which means all the work has to be done again. You usually have to create every piece of your website from scratch.

Without a pagebuilder you are pretty safe. Pages are simply preformatted textly content with images. This preformatted content is predictable and reliable, because all text related browser formatting is following the same standards throughout the entire internet.

Problem:  You are limited to the capabilities of that pagebuilder

The short version: If it cannot be done with the pagebuilder, then any other means will equally struggle to do what you’re trying to achieve.

Would you believe that there are actually companies dedicated to selling websites created using pagebuilders exclusively? How much are you willing to pay for a person to click the pagebuilder buttons for you? $5000? $10000? Those are real prices that these companies charge for their button pressing. You could easily do this button-pressing yourself, or even better: Use a decent WordPress Theme.

A webdeveloper is a person that, when faced with a problem on the internet, can solve this problem using his skills or knowledge, usually by means of coding or databasing (sometimes using workarounds).

A pagebuilder user cannot fix limitations in the pagebuilder code using pagebuilder, because there is no button for it. This is why we are sometimes contacted by other “webdevelopers” who simply cannot make their pagebuilder do what they wanted. We usually offer them a viable alternative to the pagebuilder: Remaking the entire website.

Problem: Complexity

The short version: Pagebuilders usually try to solve too many problems at once, leading to a sub-optimal overall experience and flexibility.

Every website looks and feels different, because each website serves a different purpose from different sources, targeting different audiences. Pagebuilders try to accomodate everything for everyone, which leads to complex coding that is hard to optimize and hard to keep flexible.

When you want to develop extra features on your website and ask for a quote from developers to create custom code or styling, the answers may vary. A pagebuilder usually introduces so much complexity to the foundation of a website, that further custom development is itself complex and challenging. Your website is essentially stuck in pagebuilder mode.

Are there any solutions?

The short version: Stop using pagebuilders, and do it properly instead.

A pagebuilder may be a good makeshift solution if you need your own simple website to look good, quickly, but there are much better ways to achieve this. Sircon recommends that you stay away from any kind of pagebuilder. Generally speaking, if you are on a budget we recommend you find a theme you like (there are so many free themes out there) and stick to that.

If you are a customer at Sircon Norge AS, you can ask us for a flexible, pretty and optimized theme for your WordPress. We offer support for this kind of product directly.

When you need complex layouts or specialized functionality, you should consider investing the time and effort it takes to do it properly in the first place. We can code everything you need for you. WordPress has the capability to be your stable and flexible website platform for many years to come.
Don’t let a pagebuilder ruin it.