Over the past few months, I’ve been approached by three clients to make modifications to their WordPress websites. In each case, I found that the sites were built using WYSIWYG “page builders” as part of their WordPress theme.
The page builders (different on each site) allow the administrator to drag and drop a selection of page components.
The standard WordPress Visual Mode editor is a little cumbersome to use, and adding fancy user interface components often requires arcane shortcodes. On the surface, a WYSIWYG page builder is a big improvement. But there are significant disadvantages that most business owners may not understand.
(1) Site Bloat
One of the biggest issues with elaborate themes, which include page builders and UI components, is that they are very large. Displaying a page may required hundreds of files to be downloaded. Slow sites give a bad user experience, and are penalized by search engines.
Site builders include a built-in library of UI components. But if you prefer a different component, it can be difficult or impossible to make it work with the site builder. There are over 40,000 WordPress plugins currently available, but a site builder may prevent you from using all but a handful.
(3) Learning Curve
One of the great advantages of WordPress is the fact that it is a de facto standard. There are hundreds of thousands of designers and developers who work with WordPress. But when you base your site on a specific site builder, the typical WordPress designer will need to start from scratch to understand how the theme works – and this may add a lot to your expenses. (Of the three projects I was recently offered, I turned down one because the site builder looked too “non-standard.”)
When you build your site with a page builder, you are tying the future of your site to the developer. If the developer stops making updates, you may well be stuck when problems or incompatibilities show up. You may even need to rebuild your site from scratch!
(5) Software Bugs
In the two page builder projects that I accepted, I quickly found things that did not work as advertised. One of the developers responded quickly to me, and fixed the bugs I found. The other never responded.
Most theme developers are individuals or small companies. Their products may not be well tested, and they may have little or no budget for support and updates.
I would love to see the WordPress team up their game and include a WYGSIWYG page builder in the core WordPress code. But until that happens, I will avoid page-builder themes, and advise my clients to do so as well.