317 – Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 3: Page Builders are the scourge of the internet!

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 3: Page builders are the scourge of the internet!” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

These shows notes are best read in conjunction with the podcast audio.

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Welcome to the 3rd instalment of our ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ series, where we attempt to understand or rationalise controversial opinions on WordPress and web design.
Today’s topic is… ‘Page builders are the scourge of the internet!.

Last time we said we would discuss the view (of some) that WordPress is too ‘woke’. We cancelled ourselves! Forgive us!

This seemed like a good replacement topic, though.

Talking points

This is not a Gutenberg versus page builder discussion.


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Code bloat:
One size fits all is killing the planet and wasting everyone’s bandwidth and time. Too many divs, too many options. Too many things that you don’t need.

Poor user experience (UX goes out the window):
Some are better than others though, and in a way you get used to the tool that you use most of the time, so I’m not too sure that this matters all that much.

WYSIWYG, but not what others get:
Setting the wrong expectation and understanding of the web. (Focuses on what you see (like art) rather than how it works, which is UI design). Perhaps this is the problem. You see what you get and you assume that it’s fine. SEO, speed, accessibility don’t matter because it looks right.

Difficult to scale up (too much unused code to navigate).

Not easily adaptable to technology and browser changes:
This is a great point. The tools that you’re using might NEVER adapt to use Grid (et al.) and you’re stuck with that as the rest of the world moves on. The rest of the world moving on is a real thing. I’m thinking that two years ago, it was all about Elementor. Now I never hear people talking about it. The world has moved on from that fandom.

Limit creativity (likely to be seen when more adopt magazine layout):
It’s now possible with CSS Grid). If there’s no template, it will not happen.


More stuff in one box more to maintain.

It’s not free if you can’t fix it yourself.

It devalues the profession.

More clients think they want it than they actually do.

Can make you lose touch with code and other important changes:
This has turned out to be the most important thing. I think it’s about you losing control / interest / being dependent.

Over sold as easy:
Yes, but I’ve never seen a product advertised as ‘it’s way harder to use than you thought’!

Countering the anti page builder sentiment.

  • Something is better than nothing (it brings more online).
  • Build speed (why pour months into a design when business aims can change as quickly as the internet does).
  • A stepping stone to better development.
  • Initial build savings could be key. More money in marketing the site.
  • Allows collaborations between coders and non-coders.
  • Visual designers don’t have to depend on developers.
  • A nice way to work with relatively low short-term downsides.
  • The weakness of page builders today may not be the weaknesses of tomorrow.

Plus, there’re communities of users that you can rely upon to help you out with that tool.

You don’t need to stick with one page builder, like the recent migration from other Page Builders to Bricks.

Perfect for some types of builds.

Our Thoughts

As page builders became mainstream, I’ve moved away from making them the centre of my business. With returning to hand coding, I have realised how much junk I let into a site with almost no benefits. I think more about the design now as I can’t just drag and drop.
I expect to see a slow move away from them for professional use in line with a move to agile approaches.


I think we ought to mention tools like Pinegrow, which are trying to tread somewhere in the middle of this argument.


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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 317 entitled, Thinking the unthinkable. Episode three page builders are the scourge of the internet . It was published on Thursday, the night of March, 2023. . My name's Nathan Wrigley, and in a few short moments I'll be joined by David Wamsley so that we can have our thinking, the unthinkable episode chat.

But before then, a few bits of housekeeping. The first thing to mention is that in the coming weeks, we've got two live events coming up. We've taken a bit of a hiatus from live events, but we've got two coming up. The first one to mention is, 14th of March, I've got my UI UX show with Pete Janee. We've been trying to do this more regularly and it's back.

If you have a website that you would like Peacher to have a look at, perhaps it's something that you're working on, and from a ui UX point of view, you're not a hundred percent sure. Could be a client site, could be your own site. The way to get that in front of her eyes and on the show so that she can dissect it with her expert opinion.

Head to WP Builds. Com slash UI and fill out the form there. Feel free to share that link with anybody that you know. We are always welcoming new websites that she can take a look at. So yeah, that's on the 14th of March. Bookmark that one. And also we've got a live WS form demo with Mark West Guard, and I'm joining forces with.

Bob Don from Do The Woo Podcast on this one. That's gonna be the following day, so that's the 15th of March. That will be available in the usual spot. So that's WP Builds.com/live. There's no registration or anything like that, but just remember that it's happening. If you're curious about what WS form can do, mark will be there to answer your questions on the 15th of.

The only other things to mention are if you would like to keep up to date with what we do at WP Builds, head over to WP Builds.com/subscribe and fill in the forms there. It's got our social channels, YouTube, Twitter, mastered on and all that over there as well. , if you're enjoying the podcast, we would seriously welcome a review over on the Apple platform or wherever you get your podcasts.

Any reviews are really helpful and I believe that you can add ratings up to five stars, and we welcome that as well. The very last thing to mention is our WP Builds deals page. It's a bit like Black Friday, but every single day of the week, go there. If you are in the market for something, word, pressy, plug in theme, block pattern, whatever it may be WP Builds.com/deals.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of manage WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/WPBuilds. Once more, go.me/WPBuilds. And sincere thanks to GoDaddy Pro for their continuing ongoing support for this, the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. What have we got for you today? We've got episode number 317 in our thinking, the unthinkable series. We take a slightly controversial subject and then we try to discuss that.

And today it's page builders. Are the scourge of the internet? Are they making us reliant on technology? Which de-skill us are we, I. Code bloat. Have we got a poor UI or UX experience for our clients? Do we truly get what is what you get? Are they difficult to scale? Are they restrictive? Do they bring along security concerns and dependencies?

You can see there's a whole load that we get into this week, and I hope. That you enjoy it.

[00:04:30] David Waumsley: Welcome to the third installment of our Thinking the unthinkable series where we attempt to understand or rationalize controversial opinions on WebPress and web design. Today's topic is page builders are the scourge of the internet.

Done. Done. Done . Shall we just talk about what we said last time We Yes. Did say we were going to discuss the view of some that were press is too woke and we canceled ourselves. We got round to trying to record it. We thought we can't do this. No,

[00:05:03] Nathan Wrigley: we had a long chat, didn't we? We had a, I think we probably spent an hour chatting about that subject and whether or not we should stray.

Minefield essentially. And yeah, like you said we ended up canceling ourselves, which is probably for the best . Yes. Cowards though

[00:05:20] David Waumsley: we are, I know it seemed like a good topic cuz I think you've got a good understanding of the community and I had this kind of career mapped out, which was academic one around diversity.

So I like the kind of discussing these kind of topics that come up there, but it's just too big for this podcast in a sort of chatty way and. And also, I'm very much outta touch, if you like, with being in India for the last decade. A lot is focused on this topic around kind of US politics and thoughts there.

I would've definitely put my foot in it. So there we go.

[00:05:55] Nathan Wrigley: So we've quickly bypassed that episode entirely, and now we're onto. Page builders are the scourge of the internet. Yeah, this will be an interesting subject. I think for a lot of people. This really is thinking the unthinkable.

And for you, increasingly it's I would've thought this was unthinkable for you two years ago, but now this is what you are thinking. Cranky. How many times can I say, thinking in a sentence? Let's get into it. Yeah.

[00:06:21] David Waumsley: I'd never go that far and I don't think I've ever seen. Expressed in that way, but there are plenty why you shouldn't be using page builders these days.

And there is, of course, within WordPress the debate about Gutenberg versus page builders, seeing Gutenberg's kind of core and different from, external page builders. But for this, we're looking at them all, we're putting 'em all in the same category really. They are page builders or I think Gutenberg is making WordPress more of a page

[00:06:49] Nathan Wrigley: builder.

So yeah. Obviously I, with an ancient LaRue, we do this page builder summit and the, yeah the interest in page builders just doesn't seem to be waning. There's always new things to talk about. There's always new features and things coming to them. They do seem to be I guess it's, the trajectory may have calmed down a little bit, but it does seem that there's almost no objection from the WordPress community.

Now, people go in different directions and choose their page builder based upon different criteria, but the idea of it being some pariah status, innovation seems to have quietened down to the point of silence. Really,

[00:07:31] David Waumsley: it is bizarre. When we started. Podcast, I think not long after it's my one and only talk.

A word camp was literally on the topic of our page builders, the future, I was making a very strong case for that being the case. So in this, I'm gonna we'll start off with some of the arguments against that.

[00:07:52] Nathan Wrigley: First of all though, I think if 10 years ago that was when you did the talk or whenever it was, it probably wasn't 10 years, roundabout, let's say it was five or six years ago, I think you probably were prescient because it did turn out to be the future, right?

Nobody could argue that. Lots of these page builders have come along. Some of them have been extremely successful. Yeah. Making huge inroads into the figures for how many WordPress websites are being used and, the percentage of one page builder over another great talking points in the WordPress news over the last few years.

So I think you probably were right, but it's interesting also that you now seem to have gone full circle. But yeah, we'll get onto.

[00:08:37] David Waumsley: Yeah, I'm going. Yeah I've seen some of the downsides and it's just, my business changing. But yeah. So I think all of these articles are saying not to use page builders include the points we've got here.

And the first one being, I guess the obvious one is the code bloat that comes with page builders. Yeah.

[00:08:56] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. I think at the beginning when Page builders came around, nobody was really paying any attention to this. It was all about the UI and the fact that there was a different experience to building pages significantly easier.

But then after that initial excitement died down, I think people did start to Get really interested in what was being put out and in, I think in many cases there was a lot of concern that, whoa, we've got divs within divs just to achieve something really basic. Yeah. And yeah I think code blow is a legitimate concern.

I'm not sure whether it's still too much of a concern, cuz I don't pay attention to that discussion. But I would imagine it's, the developers of all these different things have gone to town since Google have. This stuff is important. Gone to town to make things a bit leaner, but I don't really have any data for that.

No, and I

[00:09:50] David Waumsley: think we're still, we discussed before the kind of challenge of JAMstack and it's very much on a new performant and to some, a more green web, where you are, putting up on the web only what is needed and I think and trying to serve it to the edge of the web so people their files that they need for a website closest to where they are and all of that.

So it comes into this. It is tricky, isn't it? If you're going to make something that's gonna save people time, then you do. Yeah, and it's for multiple people, then you need to put more in that system, then it's actually required, and that any one individual will need. But this is the balance we have with everything, isn't it?

There's no way We're just gonna go back to, notepad and write out our CMSs each time.

[00:10:44] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I like that line. I do wonder as well for a significant proportion of people using page builders, I do wonder how much all of this matters, code bloke the, really, the prime motivation for using a page builder is just to make it easy.

Yeah. And so long as the website behaves and looks how they designed it on the, that canvas, they don't really care. Yeah. It's people like, you and I and people in the WordPress industry or website building industry that care about this stuff, probably slightly exclusively. But yeah, it, it does matter and it's a, it is definitely a strike against page builders in that you certainly can achieve most of the tasks that a page builder would achieve with, I would imagine a significant amount less code just by the nature of what the page builder's trying to do.

It's trying to, do multiple things at the same time and make the interface easy to use and so on. And it's probably corners that need to be caught or I should say corners that need to be made bigger.

[00:11:45] David Waumsley: It's always a trap that a page builder ends up in whatever they do because the appeal of 'em is it makes it a lot easier for people to just get a website up and, the more people it attracts them, the more diverse the requests are for that.

Page builder, to do this. Yeah. And trends change, so it's very hard to deprecate something that you've put in because sites are running that, but you need to put the new trend that's come in as well, so it's really hard for it to stop.

[00:12:13] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, we did see that trend, didn't we, over the last several years.

We saw. Page builders adding in feature after feature because their users were clamoring for it. And then, I dunno, if it was the same users or a different set of users, then shouting, put the brakes on. Yes. No more new features. Let's just refine what we've gotten. So it's, yeah, it's curious. It's a lesson in not being able to satisfy your users ever.

Not all of them anyway.

[00:12:39] David Waumsley: It's, it is always a balance. I've put in this one, I don't know if it's mentioned in articles I've seen that are critical. I've put this one in. It's not in so much, but it's poor user experience. And what I'm arguing here is that if you use a page builder, which I have for a long time and loved it, but UX does go a little bit out the window because you can drag and drop so much in there and make your site so quickly it.

it can lead you away from thinking about does this need to be there for the design? Does this help users?

[00:13:11] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. We'll come onto other, we'll come onto aspects of this question later, possibly. But yeah, essentially you drag in a module or an element or whatever the wording is for your page builder, but you drag something onto the canvas and you just fiddle with.

Yeah. You don't really worry too much. Okay. That's the default. Let's just use those I'll type a different set of words and then click save. And you may not be thinking about whether you've used the right, I don't know, H Tag, for example. Something like that. Yeah, I think you're right. I think where wherever there's an option to save us time, we're gonna use it.

Whether or not that's the correct thing to. I guess an another thing to be thrown into that is just cookie cutter. You get the feeling that a lot of websites are just cut from a template and it just feels a bit formulaic, yeah. You can see that over the internet in spades these days, can't you?

[00:14:04] David Waumsley: That was one of the points that were put down about it can be a killer on creativity. And we were talking earlier, weren't we? And for me that was a bit like how. Language copy that's used on websites become blah, blah, because it's cliche. Yeah. And I think templates are visual, blah, blah sometimes, and yeah, because you tend to follow these sort of templates and then it becomes very difficult when technology, I think particularly at the moment, we've got one thing that would challenge.

Page builders at the moment. Certainly WordPress ones is grid CSS because it allows you to do all these kind of unique layouts quite easily with very minimal code, which most page builders are still based around the concept of rows.

[00:14:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah I'm curious actually, I wonder what the listenership would make of this.

I wonder what people are typically doing when they start a blank page. Let's say you've just got a brand new project and it's for, yeah, I don't know. I dunno, fitness club or something like that. I wonder if. There is a temptation rather than use your creative juices or a designer to use their creative juices to come up with a nice layout, I wonder if there's a temptation just to go and find the approximate best template or collection of rows that seem to do the best job and tweak from there because it gets you to the end goal quicker.

It may not be the best solution, but it certainly is a quicker solution. So I don't really know, I suppose the budget and everything really. really do impact on that. But I wonder as a proportion of the users, I wonder what percentage of us attempted to just throw in temp templated rows and everything just to make it a whole lot easier.

I know that temptation's real cuz I've done it myself. It's just quicker to chuck something in and build off of that, even if it's just the inspiration and then you just mimic it underneath with your own take on it. But it definitely is easier.

[00:16:03] David Waumsley: I guess this. Debate over this is the same as only even like the template ones because it's, you've always got this balance.

So you take a template because it gets you up and running very quickly, but then you spend, it's the balance between how much time do you then spend fighting against the way the template works? That doesn't work. Yeah, quite as you want it. The responsibility of it hasn't been set in the way that you would like it, and your content isn't quite fitting.

what's there.

[00:16:30] Nathan Wrigley: So Yeah. Yeah. That's a big one. Yeah.

[00:16:33] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I think page builders are pretty much like that. They save you a load of time because you've got something off the shelf, how much time might it take up later when it's not quite fitting exactly what you want? And then you've got the, and this is the other points we've got here on the, here, was about the, it's not readily it's not something that you can easily scale up if you've got too much code that you didn't actually need in the first place.

Yes, you've got something to fight against and not necessarily because you've set yourself to something which is more complex, adaptable to technology changes and changes in browsers.

[00:17:11] Nathan Wrigley: Did did you ever discover a website in the Wild? So an actual website that's being used is, somebody's built it and it's deployed and it's out there.

Did you ever come across one which. Obviously from a template, from a page builder that you are familiar with, because I get it probably once every sort of six or seven months, I'll see a website and I'll say, boy, that, that's literally a template that I'm familiar with. They haven't even changed the default images.

It's just exactly the same. And I've seen it a couple of times. Yes. And I think that's curious.

[00:17:44] David Waumsley: Yeah, I think I have sometimes, it is, Quite, I was able to spot on look sometimes which page builder might have been used and then, I dunno what the giveaway signs were,

[00:17:56] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah.

Okay. So you, there's a look and feel to a certain page builder that you can. That you can fit. Yeah. That's interesting. Yeah. Some, sometimes


[00:18:03] David Waumsley: elementary, cuz it was one of the first to do a lot of this kind of scroll animation stuff. Yes. So when you see a site where, perhaps that animation really shouldn't be there, but someone's just had it available so they've used it and you just think I bet that's an elementary site.

Yeah, it is. , the tools were there, very

[00:18:22] Nathan Wrigley: interesting. Yeah. So poor user experience, possib. A thing. The next point you've got is what is what you get, but not what others get. What were you meaning? Oh, I was

[00:18:34] David Waumsley: just meaning that I guess we've got two audiences for the page builder. I think, one of the difficulties I've had with, it's not a difficulty for me.

I know how responsive settings work and how to go to it, but if I hand that over to clients they don't know. So what they see is what they get. , but it's not what others are seeing when they go to the site cuz they haven't thought about these things. They've started to move stuff around. So it's really a little bit about the danger of putting the page builder in the wrong hands.


[00:19:05] Nathan Wrigley: interesting. Okay. So it wasn't a question of Yeah, what is literally what you get, because I feel that. That. Yeah. That bridge has now been crossed, isn't it? It almost pixel perfect. Yeah. Yes. Are the layouts that you'd see in your typical page builder. You click save and the only thing that's different is the UI of the page.

Builder's gone away, everything else literally looks the same. But I do think that Gutenberg still is really curious in that respect, in that it. Really? Yeah. There are large gaps between what and what you get, and you have to infer and use your imagination a little bit in some cases. Okay. That that padding at the bottom there, that won't be there when I click save.

Yeah. So yeah, that's, that was my take on it in some cases, especially Guttenberg, I think we're not there yet. Yeah. It's interesting

[00:19:58] David Waumsley: with Gutenberg, do you think. Because I'm really not up to date with the due debates. Do you think that's the ultimate aim for Guttenberg? Or not. Cause obviously that's where page builders, gates guttenberg come in.

Cause they,

[00:20:10] Nathan Wrigley: I think it can't be at this point because there's been so much time where they could have changed things. So the example which always sits with me is that you've got these great big plus icons, which end up in all sorts of places in Guttenberg. And it, I dunno, it's probably about 30 pixels high.

I don't know exactly, but it's big, right? It and it often sits inside a container of some kind. And let's say for example, I dunno, you've got a blue background color. That blue background color in the container that it's in, it looks as if it's going 30 pixels further down the page than it is.

Yeah. And of course, soon as. Remove yourself from the editing experience and go onto the front. And it's not there, but it was there before. And I'm, they've definitely made moves to alter that. There's now just a little little plus black box that appears in different places, but still it's not quite what is what you get.

And I'm guessing that having. Having had enough time to, to tweak that, if that was the desired outcome, they've decided it isn't, it's an approximation of what you're gonna get.

[00:21:22] David Waumsley: Yeah. And that's, the tricky thing about the page builder, that's the, obviously that's where a lot of third party Page builders will win over Guttenberg if that's the aim.

If that's what you expect, what is what you get. But really why I mentioned that was just the fact that, maybe that's not the best way to be looking at websites anyway. It's a ui which works on lots of different types of devices and that's the way we should be viewing the website.

It's not a. Masterpiece of art, which looks, fabulous on your screen. Does it actually matter that it doesn't match? Cuz you actually need the knowledge to know how it works. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, that's a downside of page builders. I think they've. , if you like, almost made us think that we are just working on a canvas as art,

[00:22:12] Nathan Wrigley: yes. It's, it is literally like a blank canvas, isn't it? And we're, yeah. Dumping assets on it and expecting it to be pixel perfect. Yeah. Yeah, that's a really good point. Next up, you've got setting the wrong expectation and understanding of the web . I guess

[00:22:27] David Waumsley: that's just following on for one, saying, yeah, that's what you.

It covered. It's linked in with the other point I put about perhaps devaluing our profession. If we do learn some code and we do understand, how copy will work on the web for how it's gonna serve people for usability and also for seo. If we understand. Responsibility and accessibility and all of that kind of stuff.

The problem with the page builder is that it does attract a lot of people who then can really quickly make something that's beautiful and as far as to where they are in their understanding of how the web works, that is all that a website is. So it's quite difficult to overcome that. I, what I found a little bit is I want to move away from page builders because I feel that when I say that they think they already know what I do and miss what I actually bring to the table.

Yeah. So in some ways, separating myself is, seems to be a way of separating myself from a di wire.

[00:23:27] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So in an example where a client, so let's say we've got a non-technical user and they've downloaded a page builder and they've become familiar with it over time, then their expectation is that the page is finished when it looks.

The design that I want to achieve is exactly this. There it is. I've got all of the bits and pieces, the jigsaw is built, and of course, that's only a proportion of the problem that needs to be solved because as you said, seo speed optimization of images and so on. You mentioned accessibility.

They all go deep below in, in a sense it's a bit like the iceberg, isn't it? You've got the visual bit on the top. That's the bit that everybody's concerned about. Yeah. And then underneath is the, is all the other bits and pieces that only people that do this for a living well. Mostly only people that do this for a living would give concern to.

And yeah, I think it does set that expectation. The page builder, you are finished with your job as soon as it looks right and you've published it. And that's the end of that game I think, , but there's a lot more. If you want your website to be successful, if you want your website to be green and accessible, then there's definitely more to be expected from that page.

[00:24:44] David Waumsley: And I think, in some ways page builders do encourage us to think of the web in the, perhaps the way we did initially. It was always about, oh, I can put my brand on it, on my space, on the web, and it's a new place to sell my stuff. And they were brochure sites and then it was all about how we can make ours look really fabulous on the web with the technology we had.

And it was very difficult in the early days and I think we can get stuck in there. over time we've realized that the web works differently. We can the beauty of it and how it's different from all other mediums is the fact that we can see in real time how users are using it. We understand a little bit about how traffic comes, the long tail and stuff.

We've adapted and slowly as we realize, people for most sites don't have the time to appreciate the artwork on it. It's a UI to help them get a job done. We start to see it rather than a piece of artwork. And I feel in some ways the way. You sell a page builder is. Beautiful template stuff. You can create something like that.

You can do all these wizzy stuff and you can animate this and you can do it with no code. And I think sometimes it's the focus that is on the wrong thing. You know what's gonna give you success on the web is simply whether you can reach the right people and you can help them to achieve their tasks in the most easy.


[00:26:05] Nathan Wrigley: it's in, it's interesting. I was just, as you were saying all of those words, I was thinking about carpentry for some reason, and I was thinking that in most scenarios, I just really want to go into somewhere and buy a table. I just want to like, examine a bunch of tables and get a table that fits for me, whereas there, there's something about the art of carpentry, knowing how it's done and how was the lathe set up and all of the bits and pieces and what type of wood to choose and which varnish you went for.

It's all of that layer to it, isn't it? And I feel that at the minute you are really enjoying. Being the carpenter again you've found that you want to drop the page builder because you are enjoying the process of going back, stripping it, but down to nothing and building the canvas op all by yourself with the tools that you are either learning or have learned, and there's some enjoyment there that you, couple of years ago, didn't even know that you were anticipating that you wanted to learn.

Yeah, a

[00:27:03] David Waumsley: absolutely. And it's just getting back, I guess to, I guess when clients come now what I've realized and they never realized for a long time is that mostly what they want is not what they need. Because they haven't let yet got a concept, if you like, on the web. They know what one looks like and it's even with functionality.

The last couple of clients have asked me for can, the first thing they've asked me really is if I can create them an appointments calendar. And when we've explored it with both of the clients, it's the last thing they need because there is not enough people. Yeah. Yeah. It's really, and you went off in a whole different direction.

And I think sometimes, I like the way of building up from the beginning and I think the page builders, why I'm moving a little bit away from them that while I am almost totally moving away from them, is that you have that maintenance, you do have that you are dependent on somebody else for what they will do to that software.

And you are also it's not so easy for you to fix things along the way. You end up fighting with it, I think, in the long term. . So I've got to the point now where I've got clients that are now. 10 years who, who haven't really paid me anything. So I to update their sites in any real way. So we've not been able to change out their technology.

And some of it started to fall pallets. Some of it's not working any longer. And that's the risk with any page builder, is it? You've got to rely on it working and being around.

[00:28:37] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. It's really interesting. So

[00:28:40] David Waumsley: I think we've probably just agreed here that page builders are actually the scourge of the the internet ,

[00:28:47] Nathan Wrigley: except for all of the things that we're about to say.

Yes. Because there's an awful lot of positives, isn't there? Did we go through that whole list of negatives? Have we done all that? I think we, I don't know actually. I think

[00:29:00] David Waumsley: we probably.

[00:29:02] Nathan Wrigley: Covered, I think. Yeah, there's a whole bunch of things which David wrote down, which I then responded to, and we've broadly, I think, covered most of that.

But I'll put them, I'll copy and paste most of it into the show notes so you can see our full thoughts there. Yeah. So shall we,

[00:29:18] David Waumsley: Yeah. So we will counter this argument, shall we, with the the other side of the equation. , the thing I put down is something is better than nothing. And it brings more people online.

So just having page builders, it's just allowing, it's what WordPress's mission isn't it? Democratizing publishing.

[00:29:41] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. It allowed me to do things that I could have done, but in my case it probably would've taken me significant amounts of. . Yeah. Just dragging things onto a canvas was so much more straightforward than having to come up with all the divs and figure out the CSS that would belong there, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, I think something is definitely better than nothing. And, it's not a lot of money. The site licenses for these things, WordPress is free. The licenses for the number of sites that you may get, generally speaking, if you're doing this for a living, it's a very affordable. To have a tool in your back pocket that you can throw out websites, honestly, in some cases, in a matter of hours.

If it was a teeny, tiny little website, you could totally do that.

[00:30:29] David Waumsley: Yeah. And for me, I think having a page build allowed me to build things quicker than I could do with my coding skills as they were then. And even though I'd done it before, I it wasn't enough for some of the clients and there was a real benefit being able to bring this way.

Allowing clients to be able to edit because they had a page bill that they could go in and make their changes themselves in a way that. Made sense to them. So there was a demand for that. Interesting enough, it's that which is turning me a little bit away because as I realized, sometimes it's just a lot easier for the client to give it to me.

To put in rather than them. Yeah, no, that, but still for a long period of time, I don't, I don't think I would be around if it wasn't for Paige Wilders. I don't think I would've kept a business.

[00:31:19] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Wouldn't have got through. Yeah. Cuz it did allow you to suddenly turn out websites for a, yeah. For a fee in a very short space of time.

Yeah. I agree with your the fact that it was very big ising to clients that you could show them the UI and they could really get a hold on that really quickly. No more short codes, no more surprises. How did that even get onto that page? What did I do? How is that there? With a page builder, it was just so obvious anybody could grasp it.

I remember showing, in my case, it was Beaver Builder to quite a range of different clients at the point of trying to convince them to, to come onto my into my business and I would build the site for them. And in, in every case there, there was a real sense of, wow, okay, that's really easy. That's not what I've been used to.

And you just say yeah, you just drag this thing in and you can see now that you change the text over here, and so on and so forth. And a real sense that, wow, okay, now I can do things online. Now we've got sass that does all of that as well. So it's probably less surprising to clients.

Yeah. I'd suppose there's gonna be many clients who are gonna go, whoa, look at that. You can actually edit it on the page. But for a period of time, that was a really compelling thing. I.

[00:32:38] David Waumsley: Oh, absolutely. And it seemed, it seemed what people wanted. Now I've, I, I guess with maybe eight years of experience with clients doing it, I've realized it, it's maybe not what they want actually, or not always.

Some will, but I think, in many cases , they're gonna forget, that it was a wow thing for them in the first place. And I still have it, in fact, a recent client I've had, I'm taking them down on a, not on word in fact I'm using WordPress, but I'm actually flattening everything so they won't get access to the display.

And when I was saying, you've got two options, we either go with the kind of WordPress where you can come in and see it, or I take care of it and do your updates for you. And I could feel. You know that they weren't quite happy with the idea that it would be dependent on me for their content updates.

. But then what's the other side was whether I'm saying actually why I'm gonna build you though, you could take away to anybody, not somebody who knows WordPress or anything, and it will, or it will live on forever if you get rid of me. Yeah. Yeah. That was the upside to it. But yeah.

It's still there. And I think there are some people who would just need an interface,

[00:33:45] Nathan Wrigley: yeah. I think it's curious and whilst we're trying to, obviously on the whole in this part of the show, we're trying to give the benefits of page builders. I do think it was interesting to me at least anyway, that most of the clients that got enthusiastic about.

It. The page builder really didn't interact with it. It was just, yeah, it was almost like it was a sales tool. Look, should you get interested in building your website pages and amending things, then look how simple it is. But on the whole, the phone would ring and they'd say, could you just, could you change the telephone number?

Or whatever it may be. And you just think, actually, do you know what we did? We did tell you how to do this, but okay, it's fine. It's probably easier for me to do it. So I agree. Yeah, and also, I guess in a, in a certain sense, you make your business, you protect your business a little bit more if yeah, you maintain that kind of mystery about how the website is created.

If the client doesn't know how to edit things, then at least they're gonna phone you up when the changes are needed, even though that might be a little bit annoying. . Yeah,

[00:34:47] David Waumsley: absolutely. And I think, build speed. Let's take for example, on one hand it sounds ridiculous. If you just wanted to create a landing page for it, and it really didn't have any functionality on it.

It really just had images, buttons, and text and, a form or whatever. It seems crazy that you would stick it on something like WordPress with kind of half a million lines of code and then stick on a page builder with probably the same again and various plugins for this one page, but

if you do, it's so much quicker, isn't it, than having to go the H T M L and stick that up. And if it's only temporary for a campaign, you know that build speed is probably all you need.

[00:35:35] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's a really good point. Especially with modern hosting software, and also things like, I don't know, cloud waves or whatever, where literally 10 seconds after pressing a button, you've got yourself a.

Yeah. That is incredibly persuasive, isn't it? And like you said, if it's a disposable website especially, or if it's a landing page or whatever it may be. Yeah. The speed of deployment of that, and especially WordPress because of the ecosystem around it, all the development tools, the fact that there's managed WordPress hosts that will just get you up and running in an instant is just great.

It's really compelling. I think that's a really good. and,

[00:36:15] David Waumsley: and the page builder, I guess I'm talking about myself I guess to on this one, but it's can be a stepping stone to better development. You start with something like it, it can work in reverse, of course it can stop you developing more because you've got it so easy.

But I think sometimes it can be just a way in for people to get started and produce. Pages a website in the easiest way, and then slowly pick up bits of coding skills as they go along.

[00:36:45] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it always surprises me at the Page Builder Summit, how many of the attendees, when you get into email chats with them, or whatever it might be, how many of the attendees are.

Really novice. So they've got a business that they own. They require a website, but as of this moment, they don't really have the capacity to get somebody professional to do it. And so they show up and they discover all sorts of new things at that summit. And, but it, but the point is it's empowering a whole load of people who otherwise would've just said I'm not having a website then.

If that's the, if that's what I need to go through to get a website, I'm not doing it. Yes. And I think that's the exact thing that the whole SaaS industry is tapped into as well, isn't it? The likes of Squarespace and Wicks is that I'll shell out a little bit of. Press some buttons, change some text and I'm done.

And I think that has been created, that whole class of people who've built their own website has been created in the last 10 years by page builders. And you only have to look at the data, the growth of WordPress, I think it's fair to say, has in the more recent past, in the last five years, been largely driven by the adoption of page.

[00:38:05] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's definitely stepping stone. I think, both of us would agree that we were both hobbyists who dabbled in this kind of new webby stuff, and you just that's how it turns out to be a job. And for a lot of people that's been there rooted, isn't it? With Page.


[00:38:22] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. But it's curious that you are about to do an about face on that, and I know you haven't really got fully into that yet, but I'm curious as to, I wonder what level. I'm gonna use this word and it's not really the right word, drudgery will be born by you in doing that. And I know that you're excited about doing things manually and writing your own code and all of these kind of things, but I do wonder if in a few years time there'll be some part of you which says, oh, do I really have to do this again?

Wouldn't it? I've gotta upload this image. S3 bucket or whatever it might be, , wouldn't it be better if there was a UI where I could just literally drag it in and all of the optimization will be taken care for me and all of that. I wonder, it would be interesting to see in a few years time when you've really stopped using page bill as where you're at.


[00:39:13] David Waumsley: exactly. And I think I always have to be mindful of the fact that you just, it's not one or the other really. I think depending on the job of the client and the overall what you needs to be. I can think of plenty of examples where a lot of the arguments I've got against the page builder are just not relevant, really.

A page builder might be the best and quickest way to get this thing going. So I'm not, I. definitely all out. It's just a direction, a challenge for me to step away from them. And like clearly there are negatives with it, so Yeah. But yeah, and I'm not sure. Yeah, I guess it depends on your talents here, but initial build saving could be key for a lot of businesses if they do.

I've definitely had clients who won't pay what I need to, but they want to get up and I think, okay, we can take you one of the templates and just amend it, and that's what you get.

[00:40:06] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's interesting. I wonder what the data is across the industry. I wonder if the cost of websites has been driven down by page builders over the recent past.

If you go back 10 years ago the fees that you could charge. I wonder if the, let's say, okay, let's just pluck a figure out a thin air, let's say a thousand dollars, right? I wonder if it was easier to charge a thousand dollars before page builders for the, for something broadly similar than it is now.

I wonder if it's crept in that people know I can do this. Yeah, there's a page builder. You just drop in a template and you're off to the races. I wonder if there's some cost benefit that's gone in the wrong direction for us all, or if we're just trying to push different services now.

Seo, speed optimization, core web, vitals, knowledge, all of that kind of stuff.

[00:40:58] David Waumsley: or there is Pat's gonna be a topic for future chat, which will be about whether the kind of prices are remaining up, what's being charged, but the skills and the quality required to do the job are lowering. So our clients getting ripped up.

How dare you. I know, but it's a topic I think, for the future. Yeah, I

[00:41:19] Nathan Wrigley: agree. Yeah. Anything else in that little laundry list there? You've got visual designers don't need to be dependent upon developers. Yes, I agree with that. Yeah. Collaboration is now possible between coders and non coders. Yeah.

That's really interesting. Cuz I, I really wouldn't class myself as a, as an out and out Cody, I can I'm dangerous with PHP and usually at breaking it, I can figure out my way around various bits and pieces, but, Yeah, it's definitely allowed me as a, let's say, non coder to, to talk to other people and to get things out of my websites that I wouldn't have been able to do had I not had a page builder.

[00:41:56] David Waumsley: Yeah, one of the most enjoyable days I've had, doing this job was working with somebody and I used to try and. Fit people into a day when we were going to actually do the visual building of it. And, we were working together at the same time because of the page builders allowed us them to be able to upload certain photos that they wanted and I would adjust them and that would never be possible under the new system that I'm going.

There's no way that they can be in there with the code there, try to add the stuff in so it, There was some real, that, that kind of cooperation was lovely, but it's, most of the time it's not gonna work with clients anyway.

[00:42:34] Nathan Wrigley: It's interesting, isn't it, because rewind the clock, several years we had loads of podcasts where we talked about your new way of building websites and the Do It with me approach and all of that.

And and you were very enthusiastic about that. So let's fast forward a couple of years. I wonder if we'll be having a conversation. You are saying ? No. Yeah. Do you remember the time when I used to talk about not using page builders and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was straying away from WordPress and Yeah, it'd be just be interesting.


[00:43:02] David Waumsley: interesting what? Yeah, it's interesting what comes up out of it. Cause if I think about it, the frustration with that wonderful joyous build that we had when we were doing it together is the fact that. I wish we'd have spent more time at the beginning thinking about what the aims were for this website.

Yeah. Yeah. Because it had have done better if we had, so I guess that's what's led me a little bit back to the code. Yeah. Yeah it's an interesting journey,

[00:43:25] Nathan Wrigley: isn't it? I think you've got a really nice point. The very last one on your list is, The weakness of page builders today may not be the weaknesses of tomorrow, and I think that's, that points to like light at the end of any tunnel, really, that, yeah, e even if you've got something that you can moan about your page builder, it may do something in a way that you wish it didn't or it doesn't have a particular feature that you wish it did, doesn't do grid, blah, blah, blah.

There's nothing to stop tomorrow's page builders doing all of the things that you wish. So you know, there's. that

[00:43:56] David Waumsley: that's exactly it. And they get better when performance hits. People got better at trying to keep them slimmer, it's not in WordPress yet, but I'm sure it'll come. It's definitely a web flow that they've been able to adapt their interface.

So you can use grid, so when it's moved from, so you've got flex and grid that you can use. Yeah, that's the thing. I'm moving away from, I guess from my own skills and the present moment, but with one eye to the fact. The technology in those page builders is likely to improve and, I may have to turn around again.

[00:44:30] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. And I think you are quite well, not quite good. I think you're really good at being introspective about this. And you've come up with this idea that I'm gonna try life without page builders. I've had a decade or more with them. Let's see what it's like. And, but I don't think you're a closed book there.

Are you? You'll give it a go and if it doesn't work, yeah. See what's in the market. You never know. Maybe in development right now is the, Page builder for David Wamsley, the David Wamsley page builder. I dunno who's developing that, but , it may be on the cards somewhere. I just wanted to end on a little thought, which is there are some solutions at the at present, and I'm gonna mention one pine grow, which kind of feels like a nice happy bridge.

Although I know you, you're probably not going to be using it, but if you like page builders, but you're also quite fancy. Doing it yourself? Obviously there's blocks For one thing. You could do it that way. You could use the block editor and try to build things up in that way. But also, yeah, I just want to mention Pine grow as a bit of a bridge between, okay, I don't really want to use a page builder, but I want to use the code and, oh, I don't wanna write the code, but I want to use a page builder some.

It's a bit of a tool in the middle.

[00:45:41] David Waumsley: Oh yeah. Oh, pleased to mention that. I've been watching so much of the Pine Grove stuff, cuz I really like the person behind it and the way that they think and even though I'm not gonna go down that room, it's not the David

[00:45:54] Nathan Wrigley: Walmsley page building


[00:45:55] David Waumsley: isn't. But it's a fabulous tool and I think the people behind it are great. So I'm quite happy for

[00:46:00] Nathan Wrigley: that to be called out. Yeah. I don't really use it either but hat tip to them for coming so it's finding a new area Exactly. To put themselves in. So yeah, so the jury's out. There was our conversation, our thinking, the unthinkable.

All about our page builders, the scourge of the internet. I dunno what we've decided there. I guess they're not because what's right for you, exactly. Do we know what's coming up next time? Oh, we don't, we haven't

[00:46:24] David Waumsley: discussed it, but do you wanna throw in as, it's a sort of follow on, although it might be a bit boring, but the, you said, can we do without WordPress?

[00:46:31] Nathan Wrigley: Yes. Should we do that? Let's do that one. Let's add that into our show notes. So next time we come is gonna be, do we even need WordPress anymore? Or something like that. Yeah. Okay. For today, David, thank you. That was great. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Cheer. I hope that you enjoyed that podcast. Always a pleasure chatting to David Worsley.

This Our Thinking The Unthinkable series is turning into a bit of clickbait fun, but I hope you enjoyed it. Nevertheless, if you've got any thoughts about Page Builders and whether they indeed are the scourge of the internet, why not head over to WP Builds.com. Search for episode number 317, and leave us a comment there that could be something that you agree with or disagree with.

Feel free to leave us a. Alternatively, WP Builds.com/facebook will get you into our Facebook group, and you could search for the thread there.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of manage WordPress hosting that includes free domain ssl, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/WPBuilds. And we truly do thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, just before we fade in some really quite strange cheesy music this week, just a little reminder, two events coming up.

The UI UX show on the 14th of March. You can fill out the [email protected] slash ui and hopefully get your site on that show. And also we've got the WS form demo walkthrough with Mark West Guard, myself and Bob Don. That's happening on the 15th of the third bookmark that we will hopeful. See you there.

All that it remains for me to do now is say stay safe. Thanks for joining us this week, cheesy music fading in. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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