Of late, website builders and WordPress page builders have both been rising in popularity. Owing to the sheer large number of new websites being built, and with more and more businesses now looking to go online, tools and solutions that make it easy for people to build sites are growing in stature.
However, considering the fact that website builders and WordPress page builders serve more or less the same purpose, which one should you choose and why? In other words, website builders make our life easy by helping us create sites within minutes. Similarly, WordPress page builders tend to do the same.
In that case, are there any specific advantages (or disadvantages) that one has over the other?
Site Builders or WP Page Builders: Which One to Use?
In this article, we will be discussing when to choose a site builder or a WP page builder and for what purposes.
Site Builders – Easy Website Creation for All
If we are to define a site builder in the simplest of terms, it can best be summed up as a “one-stop shop” solution for building websites. Yes, a good site builder takes care of everything that one might need when building a new website.
As such, the following are some of the aspects and features that a site builder brings to the table:
- More often than not, most modern website builders tend to offer their own hosting platform. In other words, site builders are hosted solutions, wherein you do not need to purchase hosting separately.
- All site builders come with a set of predefined templates, that work pretty much like WordPress themes and can quickly modify or alter the look and feel of your website.
- Similarly, identical to WP plugins, site builders have their own ecosystem of extensions or modules that can add additional functionality and features to your website.
As we can see, site builders tend to work on a SaaS model, with the hosted software being provided for a monthly or annually recurring fee. Some common and very well known examples of site builders include:
Site Builders: Advantages
Using a website builder has several advantages of its own. While we can enumerate any particular advantage here, the first and most obvious one is the ease of use. Most website builders tend to be very intuitive and easy to use, with drag and drop page building mechanisms, live previews, etc.
Beyond that, since site builders provide hosting and SSL of their own, the end-users do not need to worry about server space, cPanel security, database management, etc.
Adding or deleting content is child’s play when working with site builders. Need to add a blog? Simply activate the blogging module! Wish to integrate Stripe to your eCommerce website? Just purchase the Stripe Payment Gateway add-on and you’re good to go!
All in all, a site builder serves the sole purpose of saving time, efforts and resources. It can make life very easy for folks looking for a simple website without all the enterprise-level bells and whistles. In fact, solutions such as Shopify offer a fully streamlined website building experience for eCommerce sites, to the extent that one does not need to worry about inventory update, failed transactions, email alerts, or likewise.
Site Builders: Disadvantages
On the downside, a site builder is just that — a set of tools and solutions put together to help users quickly get online. If we are to look for enhanced customization features and/or greater control over our website, a site builder is probably not the best answer.
While it does not apply to tools such as WP.com, in general terms, migrating away from a site builder is more difficult. This is because each site builder has its own method of handling content and databases, and there is no absolute way to perfectly migrate from, say, SquareSpace to Wix, or vice versa. Yes, there are importers out there, but most do not work with a 100% accuracy rate.
In comparison, migrating across self-hosted Content Management Systems, say from Drupal to WordPress or vice versa, has a more certain success rate (albeit the process can take some time or coding experience).
Lastly, when working with a site builder, we have only a fraction of control over the appearance of our website. Of course, the templates can be tweaked to suit our needs, and many site builders nowadays let us work with CSS too. With that said, it still does not come anywhere near the abilities that a self-hosted solution can provide. Need to install custom plugins? How about a custom-coded theme with an entirely unique look? Well, site builders do not work that way, sadly.
WordPress Page Builders – Doing More, Right within WordPress
What happens when you bring the usability of a site builder and combine it with the prowess of WordPress?
You get WordPress page builders.
Over the past few years, many WordPress page builders have taken great strides. In fact, nowadays there is hardly a WordPress user who hasn’t come across a page builder or two. Some of the most noteworthy names in this league are:
The list is endless, not to mention the likes of tools like Assistant Pro that work with almost all page builders. Check out the page builder tag on the WordPress plugin repository! Each page builder offers a promise of its own, and some can now boast of millions of users.
But what can a WordPress page builder exactly do for us?
Well, the simplest answer is that it provides an easy to use interface for building page elements, custom layouts, specialized sites, etc. No matter what purists might argue, even the new WordPress block editor (Gutenberg) has embraced the page builder ideology.
It allows developers to add custom Gutenberg blocks that can help users quickly build customized page layouts. This is similar to what a page builder does, by providing custom elements to quickly put together page layouts.
WP Page Builders: Advantages
The benefits of using a WordPress page builder are plenty.
For a start, it saves a lot of time. If we are to build an agency site, for instance, all from scratch, it can take a few hours. On the other hand, we can use a page builder to import predefined layouts, and then modify as we go along. No coding needed, and we end up saving all our time.
WordPress page builders play well within the WordPress ecosystem. This means we can keep using our favorite WordPress plugins, the well known and robust WordPress interface, as well as all other WordPress-related stuff alongside the page builder of our choice.
Most WordPress page builders tend to be premium in nature. However, nearly all of them (with the possible exception of Divi) have a free variant too, and it comes loaded with a good set of features. This implies that even if we are on a budget, we can still make use of the page builder functionality and not find ourselves missing out on the action.
WP Page Builders: Disadvantages
Pretty much like site builders, page builders are not without some drawbacks. Strictly speaking, the biggest negative is that once we start using a particular page builder, we might find ourselves locked down to it.
Say, we are building sites using Elementor (just an example, it can be any page builder for that matter). Now, it is indeed a very popular and handy solution, but what if it were to ever change its route? For example, no longer under active development? Perhaps a change of ownership for the worse? Maybe a hike in their pricing or added bloatware? It can be a disaster for the users who might have built several websites using Elementor — migrating away from Elementor to some other page builder will take days, if not weeks, depending on the website in question.
Another negative aspect of page builders is that in order to use the complete set of features, we have to opt for the premium versions. For freelancers and agencies, it is a worthy investment as it can save a lot of time and effort in the long run. But for folks looking to maintain and deploy just a single site? Naturally, a recurring fee per month for just one site is an overkill.
Head to Head: WordPress Page Builders or Site Builders?
Now that we have seen the advantages and disadvantages of both WordPress page builders as well as site builders, which one should we opt for?
There is no golden answer to the above question. It all boils down to our particular needs and requirements.
Generally speaking, you should consider using a page builder on WordPress if any of the above apply:
- You really need to use WordPress. This can be due to its familiar interface, or robust code base, or simply because you love WordPress and open source!
- You are running a complicated setup, such as a WooCommerce store with custom extensions and payment methods. No matter how powerful it might be, a site builder does not come anywhere near a proper CMS like WordPress when it comes to advanced tweaks.
- You need to tinker with code often or wish to use a more bespoke theme. Readymade templates are all good to have, but they do not match the uniqueness that a custom-coded theme can provide.
On the other hand, it might be a wiser choice to opt for a site builder if:
- You do not wish to worry about hosting separately, cPanel or other tools, SSL certificates, and so on. Site builders are almost always hosted solutions that handle it all for you.
- You need a lot of third-party tools that might add up the bill. For example, a custom payment gateway (premium), with a custom page builder (premium), plus hosting, and maybe a premium SEO plugin. All of this combined can prove costlier in the long run. A site builder will offer a more simplified and cheaper pricing for all of this.
- You only need to build simple websites, such as corporate sites, portfolio projects, magazines, and other basic eCommerce stores. A site builder can help you build all of these sites in no time!
So there you have it! We have seen when we can use a site builder and when we should turn towards a page builder plugin. Unless we really need to use the WP interface, we can consider giving site builders a spin.
What do you think of website builders and WordPress page builders? Which ones do you use and how has your experience been so far? Share your views and thoughts in the comments below!
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