March 27, 2018

Using a page builder for your next project

by The Evolve team in Brix, WordPress

Page builders are among the most popular plugins in the WordPress world because they attempt to offer an answer to an increasingly common problem: create a full-blown website fast.

Some of them are great pieces of software, some others have bigger margins for improvement, and while each product is different from its competitors, nearly all of them have a not so great reputation.

As you know, we have created a page builder ourselves, Brix, so we know a little something about this subject.

In this post, we’d like to illustrate how having a polarized view about page builders is probably the wrong way to tackle the topic, and why you can use a page builder today to build your next website.

A bootstrap system

In a nutshell, page builders are a quick and easy way to create layouts. Much like you’d do when using a bootstrap template, you can create just about any layout you can imagine, with the additional bonus of being able to do so in a matter of seconds.

Having a tool that helps you in designing the page layout offers exactly the same benefit which CSS bootstrap systems are known for: predictability.

But what does predictability mean?

It means having control of what you’re doing, by knowing beforehand what will happen to your layout when you add a column or a new section of content, without having to sketch the page first, even when you’re resizing the browser’s window, or accessing the website from a phone.

Our idea, which is more and more like a core philosophy, is that having control is possibly the single most desirable quality to have when working on a Web projects.

Having such a structured system in place allows you to treat a layout’s responsiveness as it should: not as an additional feature, but rather as an intrinsic property of your page, that smoothly adapts to the conditions it’s been displayed on.

Build websites faster

Predictability translates directly into quicker development times and you know all too well that saving time equals saving money.

I think that we can all agree on the fact that we’d be perfectly happy if we all had bigger budgets and less tight deadlines to work with in our daily jobs, but the trend here is pretty clear: in small-to-medium projects, the amount of money a client is willing to spend is shrinking, and yet their demand for a quality output isn’t.

So, in order to stay profitable, we need to be smarter and adjust our work by using not just different but better tools.

You see, we are mad about building great, usable and fast user interfaces, and in Brix we always think about ways to ease the work of our users.

Page builders in general, and our own specifically, are great in this regard: they allow you to have complete control over your content, with drag & drop interfaces that really simplify complex tasks and get you up and running fast, with top quality results.

Developing a workflow

Another great benefit of using a page builder for your project is that you learn to use it better and better project after project.

Not only you’re not reinventing the wheel each time you start a new job, but you also get an extra bonus, which will always turn out to be priceless: developing your own routine and your own workflow.

Also, one of the things that we’ve learned developing Brix is that page builders can help bringing together people from different disciplines and let them work together on the same task.

So, whether you’re a freelancer or a Web agency, instead of having to start from scratch every time, page builders can become the instrument you always bring in your toolbox. As a result, by getting more and more accustomed to it, your productivity and the one of your team will naturally increase as well.

Now, not all page builders allow you to think this way, since some of them are bound to the use of specific themes, while others leave a code mess behind them the moment they’re deactivated.

It goes without saying that this is not an approach we like: in fact, in Brix we’ve chosen to constantly sync the regular page content with content generated within the page builder, and store the data in the database in a structured format.

This choice turned out to be great for two reasons:

  1. we are able to work on the performance of our tool in a much better way,
  2. since the page layout is attached to the page itself rather than its content, you can switch themes and resume the editing of your page like nothing happened, or even share templates across entirely different projects.

Ok, but aren’t page builders slow?

Look, the greatest lesson that we’ve learned developing Brix is that no product is perfect from the start, and that you need to always keep an open mind and be available to tweak the product down the road.

There’s an expression that savvy people like to use that is “technical debt”. In the case of page builders I think it can vaguely translate to “will my website be slow if I use a page builder?”.

Simply put: it is impossible to answer such question in a generalized fashion, because each page builder is different from the others.

What we can tell is that page speed optimization is, just like security, a matter of posture: even in the case of page builders, a website will be fast if you want it to be fast, and you can achieve performance by working on the server specs, adding caching systems and by optimizing the loading process of static assets.

Does this mean that page builders are perfect? Of course not, and we’ll be honest with you, even in Brix there are circumstances in which we’ve made choices that favor a wider compatibility instead of a more terse markup.

Software development is also made of compromises, after all.

Our advice to you, intrepid adventurer in the vast page builders world, is to take your time and consider each option carefully, evaluate multiple aspects of what using a page builder can mean and select the one product/producer that is most similar to you.

And ultimately, keep an open mind, just like we do everyday when we’re pushing Brix forward.

Hey, why don’t you start doing so trying out the free version of Brix and let us know how that goes?

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