Here’s why I think all pagebuilders (Elementor, Beaver Builder, WPBakery, Site Origins, etc) will soon be obsolete…
REASON #1 – pagebuilders no longer serve a unique purpose
The only reason why pagebuilders were ever used was for creating and managing custom layouts. The native WordPress editor used to be nothing more than an empty textbox. Which didn’t allow many options for cool layouts.
So theme developers had no choice but to create custom page templates. But what if users wanted to adjust colors and spacing, or edit content to their hearts desire. The only solution was a mix between fiddling around in the theme options, customizer options, and reading the theme support forums for snippet hacks. Not only was this a pain for the newer (and less tech-savvy) crop of mainstream WordPress users, it was also a time-consuming nuisance for developers to support.
Here’s what I think happened next…
Somebody (probably a theme-developer) said:
- “Hey, why don’t we build a fancier WYSIWYG editor for WordPress with more options?”
- “Hell yes! Let’s put layouts, effects, colors, font, even preset designs!”
- “I have an even better idea! We’ll market this as a unlimited design tool for non-professionals!”
The public was sold and a new class of “WordPress experts” was born overnight.
- Designers without programming skills could easily build their designs using pagebuilder.
- Developers on a tight budget could churn out custom designs faster using pagebuilder.
- Theme developers had a faster way of creating new themes (and more profit).
- Regular users could easily setup and manage a “cool website design” without paying for a professional.
So what changed?
Up until very recently, pagebuilders were the only way to create custom designs WITHOUT having to code. But now we have Gutenberg and Gutenberg blocks, and all the super cool custom 3rd-party Gutenberg blocks.
What else? The Gutenberg blocks are doing it even better! (And without any of the common pagebuilder issues.)
REASON #2 – pagebuilders are not WordPress-friendly.
They’ve always felt like a hack. An extra editor hacked on top of the WordPress editor to try and take control of page templates and content layouts. That’s what happens when you try to do things that a CMS cannot do…you have no choice but to completely take over and force users into a non-WordPress world.
The coding isn’t clean. The user experience is confusing and un-standardized. Another telltale sign of their unintuitiveness is the fact that pagebuilders have evolved themselves only by offering more OPTIONS instead of more FLEXIBILITY. I know it sounds like the same thing but it isn’t.
- OPTIONS is shoving more and more features into an already-bloated tool to justify it’s essentiality.
- FLEXIBILITY is letting you decide where and how much of it to use. (It would be awesome if you could decide whether a pagebuilder was used for an entire page vs for only one content section. Currently, it’s all-or-nothing.)
Pagebuilders are basically a smaller CMS hacked onto a larger CMS. They have their own settings. And lots of function conflicts over what should be controlled by a theme or a plugin. Truth be told…pagebuilders act somewhat like both. Developers have long complained they aren’t coded in a WordPress way…and definitely not in an efficient way. Beginners have long complained they aren’t easy to use. But sure…some pagebuilders will be easier than others, and even the worst pagebuilder out there is infinitely more empowering than planting code snippets around your site like a graffiti artist.
REASON #3 – Gutenberg blocks are better than pagebuilders
Sure, it’s easy for me to just throw the B-word around without explaining anything. But I’ll break it down for you. Here’s why Gutenberg blocks are better:
If you haven’t already heard. Pagebuilders are among the top causes of slow WordPress sites (if not the main one). Being that WordPress is undergoing a massive “speed up” trend right now, you can bet everyone is looking for pagebuilder-alternatives.
Think of what a pagebuilder is. It’s a giant collection of options. In the backend, it has to load all those options for you choose from. In the front end, some pagebuilders load all options and others only activate the ones you use…but by large they still load entire libraries even if you use only one option in the library. What does all this mean? It means pagebuilders add tons of weight and slow down your site on the frontend as well as the backend.
But with Gutenberg, the only code that’s loaded is the one used within an active block. If you don’t use the block, its code isn’t loaded. No wasted CSS styles or JS scripts loading globally on your site because you activated the pagebuilder for only your homepage. Even better…the blocks don’t trigger giant wasteful CSS/JS full of unnecessary crap like (div) containers and default styling for those containers.
You tell me what’s less bloated…adding a few blocks at a time and only the ones you need? Or adding an entire pagebuilder and then trying to figure out how to disable/deactivate/dequeue all the parts you don’t want?
EASIER TO USE
Gutenberg blocks work in a native WordPress manner. You open up the standard WordPress editor and there it is. Then pick the blocks that have the features or design elements you need, and plug it in! The settings are built into WordPress’ existing block settings panel (on the right). It’s simple to understand. Simple to edit. Simple to add or remove.
Pagebuilders are a giant mess. First, they take over the native WordPress editor and present to you a whole different world of options. Next, they have their own interface, language, and “way of doing things”. And they all function differently from each other. Regardless of which pagebuilder you prefer more…we can all agree that they all come with a learning curve.
And the more custom your site?…the scarier it is to edit it in a pagebuilder. You might feel like any wrong click will be the one to unravel your entire site design. So much for being easy-to-edit, huh? Many of the backend editing screens don’t even look like the frontend. You see only box outlines with shortcodes and other code-speak text in there. You’re never sure if the box you’re editing is the one you meant to edit. So fine…they have the FRONTEND EDITOR option, how confusing! I’m sorry but pagebuilders really aren’t that easy to use. All they offer is a new way of getting lost without having to code (lol).
With Gutenberg blocks, you build things one block at a time. However you like. Smaller more manageable chunks. You don’t have to throw out your standard WordPress editor and build from some alien interface. It’s more manageable not only for regular users but also for contractors who manage many different sites.
Believe it or not, pagebuilders don’t give you all that much flexibility. Sure, add up all the possible settings and it feels like you have a million options. But the reality is, they mostly only allow what the current trends are. In other words, they help you build generic sites. Want to do something truly unique? Hah. Good luck with that. You’ll still be building from scratch and tearing your hair out because most pagebuilders don’t have preset options for anything more than the typical layouts.
What else? You can’t mix options from different pagebuilders. If you choose Elementor pagebuilder, you’re stuck within its ecosystem of plugins and limitations. Granted…the top pagebuilders are full of options and should satisfy 99.99% of (amateur) designers out there but believe me…the limitations still exist. You can’t mix say Elementor and Beaver Builder.
But what about with Gutenberg blocks? It’s fantastic. You can easily download different 3rd-party blocks and even stick ones from different developers inside each other. There’s (theoretically) no conflict! I can use a layout element from Atomic Blocks with another from Kadence Blocks. I can throw 10 other 3rd-party blocks into the mix without any issues.
So what (do I think) happens to pagebuilders?
Of course, they won’t give up overnight. That wouldn’t be good for their existing customers, no. What everyone will do is start focusing more on their Gutenberg blocks plugins. Elementor is already doing it. I’m sure others will, too. (On a side note: I hear Elementor has gotten funding and that’s another good alternative as well, some pagebuilders will evolve into their own CMS/UX solution.)
There’s also the new class of development companies focusing purely on Gutenberg blocks.
- Atomic Blocks
- Elementor Blocks
- Kadence Blocks
- Ultimate Blocks
This list goes on and on. The Gutenberg editor has opened up an entire new ecosystem for developers. And best of all…they all function in a much more native WordPress way. You can bet new themes of the future will be using blocks rather than pagebuilders.
So there’s only one question left…which pagebuilder will be the ONLY ONE to survive?
And that’s because it isn’t a pagebuilder.
…stay tuned for next week (or whenever I’m free) when I explain why it’s different from all the rest. 😉