The other day I explained why we were going to keep seeing Page Builders everywhere. If you don't know what a page builder is, think of it as an easy solution for people to drag and drop various items onto a web page so that they can make their own sites and pages look how they want without developer intervention.
Then we saw a great review of a bunch of page builder plugins by Pippin, who looked at many of the solutions from his own perspective—and a very valuable one at that, since he sees a lot of conflicts with some of his popular plugins.
So you've not only seen why they're here, there, and everywhere, but you've also seen lists of solutions and their reviews by a credible source.
It still leaves one big question: how do you choose which is right for you?
Choosing a WordPress Drag and Drop Page Builder
I want to suggest four steps you should take when evaluating the various options you have. You may end up choosing something I would choose. Or something Pippin might choose. But the right solution for you is the one that makes the most sense in your own context. So here are my suggested steps.
First, sketch out a page design: on paper
When I first started testing out some of these solutions, I knew that the core way I would evaluate their ease of use was to compare all of them with the exact same design. So I sketched on a pad of paper a single page that I wanted.
You can imagine it had a hero image, a row of call outs, another row with a testimonial, followed by a two-column text area, and then a span across the page for a call to action, followed by a footer.
But yours could be anything you want. You don't have to be an artist to know the rough layout of a page you like. So sketch it out. Get a handle on what you want. That's where you need to start.
Second, use some free products to test your own skills
Once you have that, check out some of the free alternatives. Pippin recommended three products at the end of his post. I think it's a fine list.
Each of these products is freely available on the WordPress plugin repository. Each gives you a chance to play with their own take on how this should work. Each of these page builders is a plugin that you can install, activate and try out.
And once you have them installed (activate only one at a time), you can try your hand at creating a page – specifically, the page you had sketched on paper.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is this as easy as I had hoped?
- Am I able to make the page look the way I want it to?
- Am I comfortable with the expectations this product has of my pre-existing knowledge?
- Am I enjoying the use of this plugin?
- Could I keep using this to create 5 or 10 more pages?
This step helps you evaluate the product in a way that only you can. Does it work for you? It doesn't matter if it works for me, or Pippin, or the marketing departments of other plugins. What matters is your ability and enjoyment in using one of these (or any other) product.
When you're done with this, rank each of them in order. Which was best? Which was worst? Take some of your list if you know you'll never use it. But we're not done.
Third, evaluate the performance of each
Once you have a ranked list, delete the pages that were created by the other plugins. Just have your main plugin activated. And go create 5 or 10 pages. Whatever you think is likely for your site. They don't need to be perfect. Just do a quick pass.
What you're trying to do is increase the weight of your site to match a more realistic dynamic than a single page. When that's done, you're ready for the main activity of this step – testing the performance.
What we want to do here is test the performance of your site given that you're now using a WordPress page builder.
One simple way to test a single page is to go to Pingdom Tools. This will look at the overall weight and performance of a page. You can test multiple pages on your site and see how good (or bad) things are.
If you're seeing really poor performance (it is taking 3, 4, 5 or even more seconds to load), you'll want to pick the next best page builder on the list and try again.
If you really want to get into performance testing, you can also use a tool like Load Impact to create a script of how a user might navigate your sample pages. From there, run it with 25 virtual users and see if it falls apart.
My main point here is that you shouldn't just evaluate a WordPress drag and drop Page Builder based on how well it lets you express your vision for a page's design. You should evaluate it on performance as well. If it doesn't perform, you should look at alternatives.
Fourth, send in a question
Of course, nothing tells you more about how well a company can support you, today and in the future, if you don't test their support. So do it. Submit a ticket. Post a question. See if you can get an answer to a question you have.
If you do, great. If you don't—maybe it's time to look at the next one on your list.
There are tons of products out there. Most of them, as you read in Pippin's post, do not play well with others. That is often something you find out after you've made a purchase. Don't make that mistake.
Instead, by following the four steps above, you have a way to figure out which page builder will work for you, in both good and hard times.
There are a lot of bad page builders out there. Thankfully, there are at least three that I think are fine (though I have my favorite). But your interests and needs aren't necessarily mine.
So take these four steps to help you decide when choosing a WordPress drag and drop page builder.