If you are a developer, it's possible for you to create a beautiful, well-designed site on WordPress without plugins. But if you are like the average WordPress user, you most likely don't have the skills to turn an ugly WordPress site to an attractive one. That's why most webmasters turn to page builders, a plugin or theme that adds drag and drop functionality to the backend of a WordPress site, to help bring a conceptual design to reality.
With page builders, you don't have to know coding to make your site look beautiful. You don't even need to use a specific theme to make your site look the way you want it to look. But should you use them? And are there possible drawbacks that can give you severe headaches down the line?
The truth is that some page builders can leave behind a huge mess of code after being deactivated, which can create a ton of unnecessary work for you. However, a few allow for a smooth transition to other plugins of your choice.
The Problem With WordPress Page Builders
Leaving Behind a Huge Mess of Shortcode After Deactivation
One of those things that are common with WordPress sites is plugins. And just as webmasters install plugins on their site, they also uninstall some of them for one reason or another. Uninstalling a plugin shouldn't bring up any problems after the fact, especially if you need to do it to solve a specific problem.
That, as you'll soon see, is often not the case with most of the page builders out there. Some builders like the WPBakery Page Builder will leave behind a giant mess of shortcode after deactivation. This means, if you have dozens of pages already built with it, you'll have to go through lots of pain to clean it up.
Some others, like the Divi Page Builder store the content as shortcodes. While this is good as you are using it, it can become a problem when you want to switch to another page builder. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, you don't want to go through several pages removing code.
Saving to a Different Database Table
Some plugins save your content to a database that's outside the standard WordPress (wp_posts) table. This is a bad idea at the onset but can be a real problem when it's time to get rid of the plugin. In such cases, the content on your site can disappear after you turn off the page builder since the content isn't available at the usual location. What's scarier is that you can lose all of that content if you aren't careful.
If you have been working with the plugin for months, and have built dozens of pages with it, it isn't going to be as simple as moving a few pages. This is known as the “Lock-in Effect in WordPress.” Also, if you don't do this on time and your license for the plugin expires, your website could be exposed to attackers, which can make it even scarier.
Does this Mean Page Builders are Worthless?
No. This is not to say there are no advantages to using page builders, in fact, there are many. One of the prominent aspects of these sites is the all-in-one functionality they give you. Often, you won't need any other plugin for your pricing tables, social sharing buttons, pie charts, image carousels, call to action buttons, and a whole lot of others. Not only will you save the cost of premium WordPress plugins that'll do some of these for you, but you'll also save yourself the hassle of dealing with several single-feature plugins, which can slow down your site.
Another good feature of page builders is they allow newbies and non-coding webmasters to build a great looking site. And most page builders have a simple, user-friendly UI, so navigation is quite easy.
What you should be aware of is that these advantages are truly evident while you make use of the page builder. The problems begin once you decide to jump ship.
Why is this so?
If you don't already know, page builders make use of shortcodes. It's where the design elements are hidden and that's what makes it possible to create those great looking pages. It's also these shortcodes that cause the problem when you uninstall. Usually, they are specific to each plugin, meaning each page builder has distinctive shortcodes that are immediately rendered ineffective after it's deactivated. And since it's not compatible with other page builders, a smooth transition may not be possible if you are moving to another builder.
How Can You Avoid this?
A simple solution would be to use a plugin that's not dependent on shortcodes. However, there is a scarcity of these on the market and only a few developers are looking into this.
So, it's either you don't use a page builder at all or choose one with the least amount of mess after deactivation. The problem with the former is that it's nearly impossible to create eye-popping design with basic WordPress functionality.
So to create something that's truly amazing, you may need to invest in a page builder.
If that's the case, you want to ensure you are choosing the right page builder, one with little to no code-mess up after deactivation. Fortunately, some popular page builders, like Elementor, Beaver Builder, etc., don't make a mess of your site after you turn them off. The Elementor plugin actually has the least problems but you can still face problems if you don't use it properly. For this reason, it's important to first learn how to use Elementor, or any other builder for that matter, so you can minimize any possible side effect you may encounter in the future.
Final Thoughts on WordPress Page Builders
As you can see, all page builders have one problem or another, only that it is worse for some. This is why it's important to select your page builder carefully and learn how to use it properly. You don't need to have a poor experience with a page builder if you just do your homework.