๐ŸŽ™๏ธ VMPro Podcast Episode #002: How to Choose the Right Page Builder for Your Project?

By
Fabrizio Van Marciano

Podcast Script + Show Notes

What is going on guys, welcome back to the VMPro Podcast, and this is Episode two. My name is Fabrizio Van Marciano and I will be your host for this show, where we are going to talk about choosing the right page builder, or website builder to use for your WordPress site. So, if you are new to the world of visual builder tools, hopefully, you’ll find this episode useful. Let’s dive into it.

Welcome back guys and if you are new to Van Marciano Pro or stumbling upon this show for the first time, please consider subscribing to my email newsletter for future updates and all that good stuff.

I deactivated the pop-up opt-in form on this site but I will have a link to a signup page if you’re interested in joining my email list.

First of all, if you’re wondering: What on earth is a website builder?

Surprisingly, not everyone gets it. In fact, a recent client of mine asked that very question. For years she has been using a ready-made WordPress theme and wanted to learn about website builders.

If you go to Google and type in ‘the best website builder’, you’re going to get all kinds of things from Squarespace to Wix and the like. You may even see Elementor on the list, but you will see the likes of Bricks, Breakdance, or Oxygen.

In the WordPress community, we generally refer to website builders as visual design tools. These can be used to create a customized WordPress theme for your website, giving you complete control over the layout, design, and functionality.

So, how do you choose the right website builder for your project?

That is the topic of this episode, and let’s assume you’re not a web designer or managing a creative agency or anything silly like that. You’re an entrepreneur, like myself, with a few businesses in various niches and you would like to create and manage your WordPress sites and take care of the design and everything else in between.

As a freelance designer, I’ve seen many small businesses and entrepreneurs wanting to take on that challenge themselves. I think with the rise of generative AI and the advancement in website builders, most folks are becoming more comfortable with the idea of building and managing their own websites.

I’m not saying that designers and agencies are becoming obsolete in any way, I don’t think that is the case at all because there is a difference between putting up a DIY website and creating a professional website, regardless of what tool or medium is used. But if you are following any of my visual design courses, you will see how easy it is to build a great-looking and performant WordPress website that doesn’t look like a DIY template.

I continue to manage websites for my clients and have taken on a few larger projects this year using Oxygen Builder mostly, and a few asking for Bricks Builder too. I’ve not had many requests for Breakdance or anything else. I’ve not even used Gutenberg properly and I know there’s a lot of chit-chats about how great it is and whatnot, but it isn’t something I particularly enjoy using. and I don’t think I’ll ever create content using Gutenberg especially when there are plenty of other creators doing it and doing it well.

But just going back to Oxygen, I think what has surprised me the most is that Oxygen Builder is still a force to be reckoned with, I don’t care what anyone says or thinks. It’s still a powerful and flexible builder that is battle-tested and has withstood the test of time. It’s a fantastic builder if you learn how to use it properly.

As you know, Van Marciano Pro is built using Oxygen, and I plan to keep it that way for many years. Then maybe I’ll switch to Bricks. I didn’t use Bricks on this site because some of the plugins and applications that I use don’t play well with Bricks. I’ve tested them and it just doesn’t flow smoothly enough for what I want to achieve.

So, as you can assume, sometimes it’s not just a case of jumping on the ‘most popular website builder’ bandwagon because that’s what every other Dick, Tom, and Harry is doing. I think it depends on a lot of criteria. You know, when I start a website project, I always ask myself –

  1. What is the purpose of the website?
  2. What features do I need, i.e. SEO, social sharing tools, etc.
  3. What other technology will I be implementing into the site?
  4. Will everything work seamlessly together?
  5. If I am building a client website, what about maintainability, ease of use, cost, security, and the rest of it…
  6. What about future-proofing the site?

So let’s look at each one in more detail –

What is the purpose of the website? You might be thinking, well what does it matter what tool you use? If I’m designing a simple brochure website, any builder will usually do. If it’s something more intricate or complex, the next question I’ll ask myself is –

What features do I need? Will I require a blog, SEO tools, social sharing tools etc. And also…

What other technology will I be implementing into the site and will it work with a particular builder? So for example, I needed to use LearnDash for Van Marciano Pro, and from previous experience, I knew that Bricks Builder would not make this process smooth. Oxygen Builder, on the other hand, handles LearnDash LMS very well. So that contributed to my decision to use Oxygen. Which leads to the next question –

Will everything work seamlessly together? And again, that is not always the case. Often you have conflicts with plugins, custom code, pop-ups not behaving properly, and all the rest of it. I always like to test things on a dummy website first.

What about maintainability, cost, security, etc? Again, something we need to keep in the back of our minds when picking the right builder. It’s quite simple enough to update a theme or plugin, but if something were to go wrong, it takes time to identify rogue plugins or code that are not compatible.

The cost can be a big issue with website builders –

If you haven’t even purchased the website builder you want to use yet, they’re not cheap what with their annual fees. And if you use the one you want and nothing else, as in no additional plugins or add-ons, then that’s fine. When you begin to purchase additional plugins and add-ons, then that’s when things can get costly. For some transparency, let me break down the cost of running and managing the tech stack on Van Marciano Pro alone.

As I said, the site uses Oxygen which I purchased when the LTD was available. However, there is –

  1. Web hosting – $380 per year
  2. LearnDash LMS – $199 per year
  3. SureCart – $228 per year
  4. SureMembers – $99 per year
  5. ACSS $69 per year
  6. WPGridBuilder $49 per year
  7. Tido (live chat feature) $290 per year

The total cost: $1,314 per year

Add-ons usually have an annual subscription slapped to them. These days, it’s rare that you can buy a plugin and use it for life with free updates.

I get it, it takes time and money to keep plugins up to date. But this ‘subscription thing’ I think is a pricing model that is dying in my opinion, a hybrid pricing model would be more fitting for this current climate, where a company offers both one-time fees or subscriptions, but I suppose that’s another argument for another episode.

So yes, things can get very expensive when you start to add plugins and add-ons to enhance your website builder, which is something I’m personally against doing as time goes by. I don’t mind paying for something that will add a feature that I need, I love the WPGridBuilder plugin, for example, but I’m reluctant to pay money for an add-on whose only purpose is to make my life easier. For me, most of the time it’s just not worth the annual subscription.

As for security, there are no guarantees with any website builder let alone WordPress. We need to ensure we put measures in place to lower the risk of a security breach. Recently a security vulnerability was found in Bricks Builder, which caused a little bit of alarm in the WordPress community. But it was dealt with quickly. However, this highlights that just because we pay good money for a well-coded builder or add-on, nothing is truly safe and it would be wrong to believe that.

The last one, what about future-proofing a website is something none of us can answer properly. WordPress powers almost half of all the websites on the internet. I think it’s around 43% or something crazy like that. So I think that’s a true testament to the dependability of the platform. I can’t say the same for page and website builders. At some point in the future, something else will come along and the builder you use now will probably go away. It’s just the way it is.

So picking the right website builder for your project, as I said, depends on a few criteria and I mentioned some of them already, but also you need to take into account things like –

How comfortable are you using a particular builder?

I’ve spent countless hours using Oxygen Builder and Bricks Builder, so, these two builders are my first tool of choice. Neither of these tools has a reputation for ease of use. There is a learning curve at first, but once you become familiar with what these page builders offer and how to use all of the features, etc. the rest is history.

If I had to start learning something else, that would take considerable time and I’ve never thought it was a good idea to begin building live websites with a builder you’re unfamiliar with. Maybe build a few dummy websites with it first.

OK, so there you have it, some food for thought there. Hopefully, this episode was useful in some way. If you’re completely new to the world of visual website builders or even WordPress, whatever your objective, I wish you the best of luck.

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