by Aaron Reimann
September 14, 2023
It’s easy to forget the days of WordPress before page builders came on the scene. While the Visual Editor made it possible to cover the basics, you really didn’t have full control over the page content unless you possessed some skills in HTML and CSS. Then, in 2013, the magic of WordPress page builders was born. Finally, clients could update their site more easily without having to take a coding class! The first couple of years were a bit rough, though. Code was unreliable, shortcodes were used way too often, and they weighed the sites down so that they ran far too slowly. Around 2016, some serious development shops saw an opportunity and finally, we had some solid long-term options.
I used to speak at WordCamps all throughout the WordPress community comparing all of the page builders. Those talks were always well-attended because the entire community was trying to figure out which page builder was best and would be around for the long haul. It took some time to sort through which one I should run my whole business on, but that was time worth spending. In the first iteration of this Page Builder Showdown talk, I compared WP Bakery, Divi, Beaver Builder, SiteOrigin, and Thrive. It didn’t take long to figure out what was important when it comes to selection criteria:
- The page builder can’t be built on shortcodes. In the event the plugin broke and was no longer working, you ended up with completely unreadable content on the site. Not on my watch!
- It needs to be stable. If it breaks all of the sites we support with a single update, that’s a dealbreaker for us as an agency.
- There has to be a community around it. If there are a lot of users behind a plugin, that means the developers will spend energy and time maintaining it and making it better. In addition, there will be add-ons and other integrations that will make life easier for both agencies and clients.
After comparing all of these page builders and walking through the pros and cons, I wound up only recommending one: Beaver Builder. It was the only page builder that fit all of the requirements. It’s not based on shortcodes, the development team prioritizes stability, and there was a strong user base to support longevity. It was the clear winner with no close second, so we bought the pro license and started using it to build all of our sites. We’ve been using that page builder ever since. Fast forward to today, and we’ve started to move into the Gutenberg world on a few select projects, but that wasn’t an option back in 2016. Beaver Builder is still the tool we use for the vast majority of our projects.
Another page builder that gained a strong user base is Elementor. Elementor came out several months after we had chosen Beaver Builder, so it wasn’t an option in our original list. I do tell people that if Elementor were around a few months earlier, we might have started using it. But I’m extremely glad that we did not, and the rest of this story is about why I believe we lucked out.
Once Elementor came on the scene, I saw that it was going to be popular. The free version had a bazillion (technical term) features. It had so many more features than any other page builder out there, and was probably more feature-packed than the paid version of Beaver Builder. As a data point, there are 5 million active installs right now:
Five million people couldn’t be wrong, could they? (Spoiler alert: yes, IMHO.) After a handful of years supporting 8-10 Elementor sites for some of our maintenance and care plan clients, I’m willing to go on record and say that Elementor is not stable enough to recommend or use. My opinion is based on multiple major issues I’ve run into over the past 4 years. The most recent issue is just prompting me to write an entire blog post explaining why I can’t recommend it.
A couple of years ago, version 3 of Elementor came out, and that’s when I started dreading updating Elementor. I ran updates as usual on all of my care plan sites, and the 3 Elementor sites I managed at that time were all down. I had to roll them all back and wait until Elementor fixed their plugin update. Now, it’s 2023, and I’m in the same boat again with version 3.16.
One of the bad things about being popular is that everyone notices when it breaks. Elementor does have a “roll back” feature built in, which is *great* but that also shows that it’s so unstable, they have to have that feature built in. I was able to roll back to an older version, but that’s not stable enough for me. I’m also not the only one that noticed. On the support page, you can see what everyone was saying:
There is also the support group on Facebook where I saw a plethora of people having similar issues with the newest version of Elementor:
It makes me sad to write this; I mean no harm to the team at Elementor. In fact, I know some of the people there. They are brilliant developers and marketers who have built an impressive tool that makes it so much easier for people to build pages. I’m not sure if they have a gap in the testing of new releases, or if there is something else going on that led to this issue happening far too often over the years. Unfortunately, I am at the point where I probably need to charge more for our website care plan if a site is built on Elementor. It has been time after time where the site breaks and I have to spend time fixing it.
My advice: steer clear of Elementor, at least until they figure out how to update their plugin without breaking your site.
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