Of all of the tools available to the freelance web designer, the page builder is perhaps the single most important as a contributor to productivity, time saving, and the overall quality of the final product.
Early page builders were adept at positioning blocks of text, graphics, and various page elements such as sidebars, but these tools were often somewhat cumbersome to use, and many of them required some knowledge of coding in order to be used to their full capabilities.
Page builders, including those designed for use with WordPress, have come a long way, but some are naturally better than others, and if you are looking for a truly complete page-building tool, it should feature the 5 essential characteristics outlined below.
A Page Builder Should be Intuitive
It should be possible to explain the basics of a premium page builder in a paragraph or two. While you may have to refer to an online user manual to determine how best to use some of its features, an intuitive page builder is an extremely user-friendly tool to have at your disposal. It features a combination of power and simplicity. After a few trail runs, you should find yourself getting into a rhythm, as you create your first page.
A Page Builder Should Feature Flexibility
Flexibility means being able to do a great many different things with a few single clicks. Set a margin, reset a margin, place elements where you want them, and then move them around if you have a better idea, all with a few simple clicks. A truly flexible page builder will feature commonly used elements that you will not have to create separately, such as buttons, FAQ pages, multiple header formats, widgetized sidebars etc.
Adaptability is an Essential Characteristic
A complete page builder does not place limits as to the types or complexities of pages you can create with it. There is no need to purchase a different page builder for another type of project, simply because you have to contend with limitations. eCommerce and product-oriented websites can often be quite complex, and place significant demands on a designer. A truly complete page builder should enable virtually any project to proceed smoothly.
Look for Versatility and Theme Independence
If you plan to use the same WordPress theme for each and every project you do, and your chosen theme comes with a built in page builder, you may elect to stop at this point, but that could be a mistake. There is no need to limit yourself by sticking to specific page builders tied to specific themes. The limitations of doing so may not be readily apparent, but they are there. Look for a page builder that can be used with any WordPress theme and you will be money ahead in terms of productivity, and with respect to the quality of your final product as well. Make purchasing a complete page builder your objective, and you will soon notice the difference.
Purchase a Tool with both Page and Post Building Capabilities
Purchase a tool that can create beautiful posts as well as attractive web pages, and you won’t have to constantly be searching for just the right theme to get your project off to a fast start, not will you be tied down to a dedicated theme. You want to be able to create anything you want with any theme, or without having to use a theme at all. Independence is a wonderful thing, even in the world of website development. A complete page builder offers the best in user friendliness, flexibility, adaptability, and theme independence.
Case Study: The Complete WordPress Page Builder – Visual Composer
Visual Composer just happens to be the most popular drag and drop page-building WordPress plugin on the market today. Developers, who have created more than half a million websites using this tool, obviously know a good thing when they see it. Visual Composer, or VC, is by anyone’s standard, intuitive, flexible, highly adaptable, and not only theme independent, but can be used as a standalone tool as well.
A Separate Plugin or Bundled within a Theme? – Most WordPress themes come with a page builder as part of the package, and a majority of them use VC as the page-building tool of choice. This would appear to be an ideal situation, but there can be definite limitations involved. Many WordPress themes disable certain VC features and functions, so you end up getting something less than a complete page builder. In addition, a bundled VC is not supported, nor will you receive upgrades. For those services, you need to purchase a VC license. This is something worth keeping in mind.
Seamless, Streamlined, and User Friendly
With VC, you are always in full control of what you are doing, even though its seamless operation may at times lead you to think otherwise. “Intuitive” tools are sometimes like that. VC’s frontend and backend editors ensure that this powerful plugin is doing precisely what you want it to be doing. Since it is a mostly a matter of drag and drop, you don’t have to worry about coding, or having to refer constantly to a user manual.
WYSIWYG – Nothing is Hidden – There is no need for an admin panel feature to tell you what you have just done. VC shows you exactly where you are during every step of your web page creating process, so there is never a need to go back and try to get things right a second time. You will also be able to see, at any time, how your page will display on any of the standard platforms or devices.
Only Use a Premium Theme if You Wish To – Premium WordPress themes have much to offer, and you are likely to be using one or more of them at one time or another. In fact, a premium theme in combination with VC can be a powerful tool to have at your disposal. You don’t have to purchase a theme however; Visual Composer has the necessary features to serve as an excellent standalone tool for creating a website.
All the Flexibility You will ever Need – with VC, you have 45 (and counting) different elements to work with, in addition to the 40+ available grid sizes, which is more than enough to give freelance website developers all the flexibility they are likely to need, even without having to take advantage of the features embedded in a premium WordPress theme, as the VC content elements featured include sliders, tabs, special pages, widgets, charts, and much more.
Visual Composer is in fact the most complete, flexible, and versatile page builder on the market today. A majority of WordPress themes include VC in their packages, and they even highlight the fact that they are doing so, further attesting to the popularity of this plugin. If there is one thing this page builder lacks, it is a steep learning curve, but that is a feature website creators can happily do without. Visual Composer is powerful, easy to use, and highly recommended if you are in the market for a superior page-building tool.