Elementor and other WordPress page builder plugins have skyrocketed in popularity over the last 5 years. These plugins can make it easy to build a new website, but they come with several drawbacks.
What are page builder plugins?
A page builder plugin such as Elementor, Divi or Beaver Builder is a WordPress plugin which allows you to edit your website visually, using a drag-and-drop style interface. It replaces the default WordPress post editor with a more powerful function that allows you to lay out images, text, headings, buttons, videos, and all kinds of other content.
Page builders were created as a response to the limitations of the WordPress Classic Editor. The Classic Editor provided very limited design and layout capabilities, and while also being a visual editor, required the user to tweak the HTML code directly a little more often than most people would prefer.
With a page builder generally no coding is required. On the surface this sounds great. So what’s the problem?
What’s wrong with Elementor and the other page builders?
As the market for page builders has grown, a number of flaws have become apparent:
- It slows down your website and hurts your SEO. Tests like Google’s PageSpeed Insights consistently rank websites built with Divi, Elementor or Beaver poorly. The bottom line is that page builders bring in a lot of extra complexity, which slows down how quickly the page is rendered and sent to the user. According to Google, slow page speed is a factor which can get your site demoted in search engine rankings. As a result it’s possible that you might spend considerable time and energy on your SEO, only to have your efforts defeated by Elementor.
- The designs produced with it aren’t actually that good. If you need something quick and dirty, a design produced in Elementor might be acceptable. But if you’re working with an established brand or visual presentation is simply important to what you’re trying to accomplish, the limitations of a page builder become apparent very quickly. You’ll spend a lot of time fiddling around with the tool to produce something which lacks the polish of what a professional designer could create.
- Your content is stuck in their format and migrating is a lot of work. When the limitations of Elementor become apparent (and given the number of clients who have contacted us asking how they can move off of their page builder, this really is a question of when, not if), you’ll find it very difficult to get your content and design out of their format. While it’s easy enough to copy these things from one Elementor site to another, there is no simple way to convert the content to a more portable data format which could be used on a standard WordPress site.
If you choose to use Elementor or another page builder, you therefore run the risk of being locked into a system which slows down your site, harms your SEO, and doesn’t let you achieve the visual quality you need.
What are my alternatives?
Since page builder plugins were first introduced, WordPress has evolved substantially. With WordPress 5.0, the Classic Editor built into WordPress was replaced with a new, more powerful editor called Gutenberg.
Gutenberg is designed to be fully compatible with the custom theming system in WordPress. This enables developers to create a new, custom-coded theme from scratch, with the site’s content fully editable in the backend.
This approach has a number of advantages over a website created by a page builder:
- A professional designer is free to fully express their creativity, knowing that the developer creating your theme will be able to realize just about anything they come up with in code.
- With a custom-coded theme the developer is able to write a minimal amount of code that doesn’t load unnecessary components. The end result is that top Google PageSpeed Insights scores (90 or higher out of 100 on both desktop and mobile) are routinely achieved through this method. With such fast load times, your site ranks better in Google and users are less likely to click the back button while waiting for it to load.
- Content edited with Gutenberg is stored in standard HTML format that can easily be exported to another website or another content management system entirely.
In short, a custom WordPress theme built with full Gutenberg support is a far superior alternative to a site created with Elementor or another page builder. Creating a site with a page builder will admittedly be cheaper up front, but the long term hassle isn’t worth it. We create every client’s website on top of a custom theme built from scratch, utilizing a world class designer and experienced WordPress developers.
Send us a message if you’d like to learn more about our method or request a quote!