Page Builders are a Joke!

Page Builders are a Joke!

May 13, 2018 By Jake

In the WordPress community, there are those who stand by “Page Builders” and those who hate them.  Seems to be no middle ground.  I tried a page builder a year ago, on the recommendation of a friend.

The ease of use was great but the “bloat” or “BLOAT” it caused was devastating. My speed ranking on a project went from 92% to 44%.  That ended my use of page builders.

Last week while doing some market research, I ran into a website owner who was asking questions about my services.  We will refer to him as Jerry (as per his request). His concern was speed, and he told me he was using a page builder theme.

I politely told Jerry I was not interested in doing the work.  He asked why and I told him.  The fact that he paid close attention to the information I gave him, made me realize it is not said enough — “Page Builders Suck!” and here is why …

Unless you have been living under a rock, it is now Mobile First.  For those of you fighting this, good luck.  Personally, I like it and I’ll play it smart by being on Google’s side.

Now, since we know that over 60% of the internet usage is on a mobile device, and increasing every day, we need to know what they expect.

Mobile users want the site to load in under 3 seconds. Google says for an eCommerce site 2 seconds is acceptable but the goal or recommendation is 0.5 seconds.

So, we now know what is an acceptable time for a mobile site to load. So how is the industry holding up, you tell me …


Mobile Expectations

Key Average Goal
Speed Index 8.66 sec <3.0 sec
Page Size 1.88 MB 0.5 MB
Server Delay 2.11 sec <1.3 sec

But wait a minute, if the time expectation is 3 seconds for my page to load and it takes my server takes 2.1 seconds to respond, does that mean my site needs to load in 0.9 seconds? YES (See why the server is so important.)

So you decide, well if everybody else averages 8.66 seconds, your load time of 8 seconds is good enough.  You are above average.  Well, think again …

The users decide.  If the load time goes from 1 second to 6 seconds, chances are 106% higher the surfer will become impatient and leave your site.  (In other words, he left already.)


Abandon Rate Probability

Page Load increases Probability of Bounce
1s to 3s 32% increase
1s to 5s 90% increase
1s to 6s 106% increase
1s to 10s 123% increase

So then where are all the surfers going? Good question, they will usually go back to a site they were at before that is similar to yours, or they will find a site that has acceptable load times. Please keep in mind “they will usually go back to a site they were at before” we will discuss that again shortly.

So, after I explained all of the above information to Jerry, he was still puzzled.  So I asked him what made him choose a page builder?  Jerry said a friend told him not to spend “thousands” of dollars on a website from a developer.

The friend told him his teenage son could build him a slick site for only $100 using a page builder for WordPress. Jerry’s friend said, “It is that easy with the “drop and drag” interface”.

I then asked Jerry, if you are in the market for a car and your buddy told you to buy a certain car; would you buy it without test driving it? He looked at me puzzled and said “Nope”.

I also asked him, at the time you were looking at how to build your website, you knew that speed was important right?  He giggled and said, “I sure did and still do”. He told me that the only website he will wait for over 5 seconds to load, is his bank’s website.

I then told him about my experiences with a page builder, and how I should have tested it first, before spending 2 wasted weeks of time on a final product that would not satisfy the target audience.

He asked, but how do you test drive a page builder or theme?  I told him to use GTmetrix. He told me that is what he uses to currently test his site.

At that point, I knew I was writing this blog.  So I sat down, went to each of the popular page builders I knew of, and test drove them. I picked one of their demo themes and ran it though GTmetrix.

Now for all of you tried and true users of Page Builders, who will tell me that is not fair.  I say to you, If I want a fast car, I am going to the dealers to test drive it.

If it only does 55 max speed in the test drive, and I need it to do 85, I am not going to get it. If I get it without test driving it, well then I made a mistake.

If I am the car dealer, I am going to make sure the demo a customer drives, meets his needs.  It is just good business practice.

So here are the results from test driving the desktop versions:


Desktop Test Results

Product Page Speed Y Slow Load Time
Elementor A C 5.6
Site Origin C D 8.3
Beaver Builder D C 1.6
Divi E B 4.2
Themify B D 5.1
BoldGrid E F 2.2
PW.A A B 1.1

Then I test drove the compact versions (mobile) and here are the results:


Mobile Test Results

Product Page Speed Y Slow Load Time
Elementor B A 15.3
Site Origin E E 15.7
Beaver Builder D C 4.6
Divi E C 16.3
Themify D D 18.3
BoldGrid C D 5
PW.A B B 2.3

As you can see, the ease of use comes with a price, and that price is speed.  To overcome this, you can turn on compression and leverage the user’s browser cache.

Remember – “they will usually go back to a site they were at before”.  If the user has visited the site before, and you are leveraging his browser’s cache, the site will load very quickly for that user.

If it is the user’s first time, the question to ask is how long will he wait for it to load the first time?

You can also use 3rd party cache tools for WordPress.  Those work well if the content of your site is usually static. But if it is dynamic, you accept payments or a membership site that requires a login, then those page caches are useless. (IMO)

So you can see that PW.A is the winner.  WHO? Well, I tested them against the Timer-Boot theme I offer for WordPress for free.  It is the starting block for my custom designs.

It uses Bootstrap for mobile first and then Timber/Twig as a fast templating language where it is compiled in PHP and runs super fast.

And, I did try to be fair in the testing.  I did not put in any test cache, where others do on their demo sites. The Page I tested on my theme had a 3 slide carousel, 3 picture parallax, a product parallax and a features parallax all on the same page, not just 1 parallax like some of the page builder demos.

But then again, mine does not have a slick drop and drag interface.  You actually have to go into the editor for the page, assign it one of the built-in Bootstrap components, pick your image(s) from media, and type in some text.  That may take you 5 minutes.

OK, well that is why, in my opinion. the page builders SUCK. Gotta run, Jerry is calling me.