WordPress Page Builders vs Themes & Hand Coding Websites

When you want to build a website, you could use a website builder. These give you a variety of tools for page building, and most have drag-and-drop interfaces for extra ease. WordPress is the most popular CMS (content management systems) for this, and you can use page builders such as Elementor and Beaver Builder along with WordPress to create an easy design interface without programming. 

Your other options are:

  • To have a website built from scratch by a web developer who is an expert/specialist in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. (Not using any CMS(Content Management System). 
  • Use a website builder such as Wix or GoDaddy. These are web hosts with their own page builders.
  • Use a popular theme with the WordPress Editor.- now Gutenberg. 
  • Get a WordPress Site hand coded by web developer
  • Use a WordPress Page Editor like Elementor or Beaver Builder. Page editors for WordPress are like website builders – except they run on WordPress.

There are pros and cons to each option, so it’s important to consider which one is right for you. Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of each option. You can also use a combination of manual coding and a page builder for different pages on the website. 

The new WordPress editor Gutenberg has a roadmap over the next three years with many features to be added that have traditionally been associated with page builders only! Lastly, some page builders have their own themes, and offer both front office and back office editors.  

gutenberg_view WordPress

Advantages of WordPress Page Builders Vs Non-Wordpress options

  1. WordPress Page Builders provide much more flexibility and power. While not as easy to use as the non-wordpress options, they give you more medium and long term options to progress. 
  2. SEO of WordPress is better. With the non-wordpress options, you are like a store in a shopping mall contributing more to the shopping malls SEO than your own website. You are less of an individual entity.
  3. Ownership. You own the website- even if you want to change web host, suppliers etc. 

Ease of Use of a Page Builder vs Hand Coding Development

Perhaps you are thinking about making a website yourself. In this case, you might not have much or any experience of having done so before. This is when the most sensible option is to use a WordPress page builder. The tools should be easy for you to pick up, even if you’ve never used them before. Coding takes much longer to learn, and it could be a long time before you’re ready to build the website that you want. Of course, you do have the option to pay a web developer to do either of these things, but you are then dependent on the web developer now and into the future. Additionally page builders are so good nowadays, you can get much more features and capability in a like for like cost comparison than using a website design agency to build the website from scratch, or  a WordPress web design company

Divi page Builder

Concepts to Wireframes, Prototypes, Mockups & Landing Page Testing

With traditional website coding, sometimes the biggest challenge is to decide on what the website page should look like. Page Editors like Elementor have thousands of available page and element templates to choose from. This allows you to tap into a community of some of the best creative and graphic designers on the planet. It is easy to create mock up designs- and therefore skip the traditional wireframe and prototype stages that is required in hand coding. Web developers are also often better at the technical side than the creative, and sometimes we don’t know what we want ourselves which makes things even harder. This may mean that you would have a web designer – along with a web developer. The drag and drop ability along with being able to re-use elements makes it easier to work on the concept. Landing page testing can also be easier with a page builder to do A/B testing, which involves changing one element on each page version. 

Cost of Building and Updating your Website

Budget is always going to be a concern when you want to build a website. If you decide to go with the DIY route and build a WordPress site, there are several things that you might need to take into account. These include the cost of your domain, hosting, security certificate, WordPress theme and possibly a subscription for the page builder that you choose to use too. However, a hand-coded website can still cost a lot more if you’re paying for a professional to build it for you. 

Wordpress Page Builders Vs Custom Coding

Customisation abilities of the website

Being able to customise your site however you want is also important to take into account. There’s a lot that you can do with a WordPress page builder but there are still limitations. You can explore lots of different themes and customise those themes too, plus there are plugins and other ways to customise. But there is the possibility that you will run up against something that you aren’t able to do. Hand coding a website allows for anything you want, but it does take much longer to do. It may also mean you rely on your web designer to make any changes later.

wordpress manually Coding

Maintenance of your website

If you want to be able to take care of your website yourself, you might want to look at a WordPress page builder. You can easily learn how to use the WordPress dashboard and keep your site updated, so you’re not reliant on someone who can code. However, a good web developer can also build you a content management system theme so that you’re able to make changes. The key thing is that developers are more suited for project based work than single tasks. The bane of a web developers existence (and yours!) is small tasks from lots of clients who are chasing them. 

If you can make the ad-hoc changes yourself and have a developer or Page Editor designer do the project work, this is often the best way to go.  

Page editors were originally better for basic websites, but larger companies are now using them more frequently. Hand coding may be the better option if you want more functionality and flexibility, but will cost more and take longer.

SEO of Page Builder vs Manual coding

In some instances manual coding is better for SEO. However that is assuming that the manual coding has been done very well- and not using a mass of third party plugins. If it is complex features and functionality on the page, this may require advanced technical features such as React Javascript. If the SEO has not been done well with manual coding it will perform worse than with a page editor, however if the SEO has been done very well- it may actually be better than using a page editor. Some website owners build their home pages or other key service pages with manual code, and all other pages with page editors. However just as many use page editors for all pages.

Summary

There is no clear winner between a page builder or manually coding, it just depends on external factors such as budget, available skills, time and personal preference. Some companies prefer to use both a page builder and hand coding. For example the home page may be manually coded, but the landing pages for advertising may use a page builder. Some website owners will initially build all pages with a page builder, then eventually have say the top 3 pages manually coded in the future. This provides a best of breed approach. 

3 thoughts on “WordPress Page Builders vs Themes & Hand Coding Websites”

  1. Erm I have some gripes with this article. First you state that you’re comparing wp page builder, themes and hand coding website. But the whole article reads like you’re idea of “hand coding” website means that you write it in wordpress. Which is quite far from my view of hand coding website which means writing your own html, css and adding javascript if required and going with somekind of framework(angular, react, vue take your pick…) if the project is large and adding backend to serve/process data if required.

    What makes me say this. Well phrases like this: “WordPress Page Builders provide much more flexibility and power. While not as easy to use as the non-wordpress options, they give you more medium and long term options to progress. ” You just bundle up every other solution (and ou there are plenty) in this “non-wordpress” options(ie. hand crafting you’re solution) and claim they dont offer the same flexibility and power that page builder does. Like seriously? you’re saying that writing you’re own code is more limited than wp page builders? which has been hand crafted by some dev as is wordpress itself. And then you go against this later saying “Hand coding a website allows for anything you want, but it does take much longer to do.” the whole article starts to feel as much mess as wordpress core …

    Also this: “SEO of WordPress is better. With the non-wordpress options, you are like a store in a shopping mall contributing more to the shopping malls SEO than your own website. You are less of an individual entity.”
    wtf wordpress generates god awfull dom structure(which affects you’re SEO)and running through those page builder codes before you can even start to think of rendering something on the page takes fucking ages (which also affects negatively on you’re SEO… And “if the SEO has been done very well- it may actually be better than using a page editor.” if the SEO is done well it will 100% score better SEO scores than page builder / wordpress site.

    “Ownership. You own the website- even if you want to change web host, suppliers etc.”. Basic website that does not need database and backend to serve you date, is far more easier to migrate than wordpress which requires backend capable of running php and having mysql database atleast. While static hand crafted webpages does not require either.

    “content management system theme” so wait while I add some cms to your cms? …

    1. Hi Sissi,

      You are correct, I should have included more comparison information to cover 100% hand-coded websites, instead of using a CMS like WordPress- and themes/page builders.

      I have seen some fantastic websites which have been written 100% by hand. When viewing the source code in a browser it is so clear, concise and easy to understand.
      Instead of mountains of Javascript within the HTML that a CMS provides as standard, let alone what a theme adds, and then even more from a page builder.

      There have to be some SEO advantages to websites that have been hand-coded- especially by an specialist/expert in HTML, CSS and Javascript.
      Page load speed is certainly faster with hand-coded websites not using a CMS, Theme, Page builder- at least on a like for like basis

      Having said that, I have also seen some of the worst websites I have seen developed 100% by hand.
      For a web designer/developer that does not have advanced skills in HTML, CSS and Javascript, using a CMS is most likely a better option.

      CMS, Themes and page builders make it easier for a user to make some content updates to the website themselves.

      Best Regards
      Liam

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