Zen and the Art of Web Design & Maintenance
A short introduction to web page builders and bespoke website builds
As the technology that drives web design and apps continues to evolve, so do the ways we can manage, curate and extend them. Over recent years, new software solutions for creating and building new pages within a website have emerged, and many of them are linked with some of the most popular content management systems currently available. WordPress is one of the most widely-used content management systems today. The three leading bespoke page builders for WordPress are Divi, Beaver Builder, and Elementor; all of these offer excellent functionality for creating and customising new pages within a WordPress site.
Divi is arguably the leading off-the-shelf web page builder right now. Rather than simply a WordPress theme, it’s more like a fully functional web development platform that essentially replaces the standard WordPress editor toolkit with a much more sophisticated visual editor. This enables multimedia content to be inserted, arranged, and optimised to the user’s requirements. It can be used by IT professionals and non-experts alike; it’s a page building tool that works really well from a fairly basic level right through to complex web design featuring multiple layers and content channels.
Beaver Builder is the second most popular WordPress page builder after Divi. It’s a drag-and-drop page builder through which anyone can easily create striking websites and landing pages without writing any code. From user reports, Beaver Builder would appear to load a little faster than Divi, and its user interface may be easier to become familiar with. However, Divi offers considerably more potential for the customisation of pages, and various other additional features that are missing in Beaver Builder. Overall, Divi probably remains the market leader here for good reasons.
Another recent addition to the WordPress Page Builder arena is Israeli company Elementor. It claims that it offers “the leading website builder platform for professionals on WordPress”. In contrast to Divi and Beaver Builder that caters for both IT professionals and non-experts, Elementor’s software only serves web professionals, including developers, designers and marketers. It offers extensive drag-and-drop editing, full web design, and in-built hosting facilities. It’s potentially a powerful tool for an in-house IT team or tech support partner to use to modify an existing WordPress site, or indeed to create a brand new site. Elementor bridges and blurs the gap between page builder software and a full-service content management system; in this respect it may represent the shape of things to come in the WordPress web design arena. It also offers a more affordable pricing plan than its arch-rival, Wix, and may therefore disrupt both Wix and, possibly, Squarespace in the future. In digital technology, incumbent providers don’t hold on to their customers for long if a rival company starts providing an equivalent (or better) product for less money, and this may be about to happen in the world of off-the-shelf page builders and content management systems.
Drupal is one of the main rivals to WordPress as a content management platform. It’s recently introduced a new feature called ‘Layout Builder’, which is essentially a drag-and-drop page builder in the same mould as those found in Divi and Beaver Builder for WordPress sites. Drupal’s launching of this feature in its own system may be a direct response to the tools that Divi, Beaver Builder and Elementor are offering, and clearly shows just how important this type of effortless functionality is becoming in the world of website creation and design.
These days, anyone can create a beautiful website; you definitely don’t need to be a software engineer to do it. Whether they are IT professionals, marketing executives or business owners, the users of content management systems today all need to have the flexibility in their digital toolkit to create new pages from scratch that do everything they need to do and which look fantastic at the same time. Off-the-shelf page builders of the type discussed here all offer excellent ways of doing this, and at surprisingly reasonable rates. If, however, you need a more extensive level of customisation in your website, or you need a single page to do several things at once (such as selling a product in different territories, currencies, and time zones) then a more bespoke page builder might be required.
Bespoke web design page builders are a consequence of the rapid advancement of digital technology. The web browsers we use today are massively more powerful applications than the web browsers of a decade ago. Back then, none of the page builders we’ve discussed here would have been able to run as the browser technology wouldn’t have supported them. Page builders are useful and popular because (with some exceptions) they don’t require programming skills; they’re a lot faster than building a website from scratch; they’re generally significantly cheaper than bespoke website builds; and they make the workflow much simpler, as the business owner can build a website in-house, without the need for an external provider.
If you’re tech-savvy, and running a small team on a limited budget, then using a bespoke page builder is a great plan. If, however, your website has complex needs, and you need it to work perfectly to maximise the value of your business, then considering a completely bespoke build is a very good idea. If you want updating to be simple, if you need to upload large amounts of content, and you don’t want either the complexity of an off-the-shelf page builder or the risk of getting the design wrong, then it’s almost certain that a bespoke solution will be the best one for your needs.
It might be useful here to introduce a couple of case studies to understand the practical difference between off-the-shelf page builders and bespoke website builds. Business X is a commercial photography business that provides wedding, portrait, and property photography services to a wide range of customers within a mainly local area. The site mainly needs to look great, show the photography on offer, and to facilitate bookings online. And that’s pretty much it. The owners are two tech-savvy photographers with a good eye for detail, but no actual coding skills. They don’t need any e-commerce functionality in their site, and have the time to build and curate something special themselves. Business X’s website, then, is the perfect case study for an off-the-shelf page builder.
Business Y, in contrast, is an international travel business selling holidays and experiences to individuals around the world. They’re a fast-growing company with five offices in Europe, two in North America, and three in Asia. They sell their holiday packages online to customers in more than 30 countries worldwide, and their website must process lots of different transactions in a range of currencies. If the site goes down or the e-commerce functionality fails, they’ll lose revenue. Business Y, therefore, is a perfect example of a company for whom a bespoke web design would be a much better solution. It might have cost 10 times more than an off-the-shelf solution, but if the site then works perfectly, never goes down, and processes all customer transactions efficiently and safely, then a basic cost-benefit analysis would show than the return on investment in this case was several orders of magnitude higher than for a cheaper off-the-shelf page builder.
Other important areas of modern websites include feed pages, which are central pillars of many news-based sites and present the very latest content that is updated on the site in real time, often as a live blog. Another fundamental page for busy websites is the search page, which helps a user find what they are looking for on that site or its affiliates.
Those examples might be a useful general guide to making a decision about how to build your website, but in a nutshell the very best way to work out the best solution for your business is to talk to an experienced professional who lives and breathes website development. That’s exactly what we do at Modular Digital, so feel free to give our team of friendly experts a call to discuss your requirements in more detail.