Page Builder or Code By Hand?

Picture of CSS code snippet
Page builders offer rapid development but those who code by hand retain creative and technical control of website development when page builders poop out.

What comes first when designing a new website? The chicken or the egg? Sometimes we find we do not have a concept in mind until we’ve done some sketching and begin laying out a web page.

Spontaneity often produces exciting results. I find myself with an initial idea: the so-called light bulb moment and I jump right in with little to no preparation. That’s where page builders provide optimal value.On the other hand, when using page builders the person creating the website is on an endless quest to find a plugin that generates the code he or she needs for a specific task. 

The page builder plugin development business has adopted the subscription business model. Sure there’s lots of free plugins but –you get what you pay for– continues to ring true. Paying the renewal subscription fees for the most robust plugins can easily amount to the paying out the same cost –or more– as coding an entire website manually.

That said, it is really great to have “Website Page Builder” software such as the current King of the Hill Elementor that helps us design and lay out web pages quickly. Elementor offers two versions: free and pro. That’s typical these days. Elementor itself is a plugin for WordPress (global market leading website development framework.) that has become the de facto standard framework for developing websites.

Used with a variety of free plugins and the current King of the Hill that provides push button app development such as Crocoblock there’s still a need for a person to have solid coding skills for writing HTML, CSS and Javascript. PHP server-side coding skills are also called for to meet Best Practices.

Website development has become brutally competitive from Day One; there’s –always– something to learn and page builders and plugin developers cannot stop to rest lest a competitor will show up and grab market share. Its a feeding frenzy for the most part due to the fact that many totally incompetent people have become “web designers” that build portfolios selling to bottom feeders.

I use a plethora of tools to design and code websites. Take a look at this page where I have an image collage of the tools I am currently using to build –this– and other websites.

As I say on the homepage of –this– website I am a Design-Builder. An old one. I am a Day One website designer and developer. Having tried most of the website page builders I currently use Elementor Pro as I alluded to earlier.

When all is said and done Elementor Pro remains the best of the worst so to speak. New page builders are constantly emerging. Each time a new page builder will emerge I as well as others will flock to it like hungry pidgeons being fed popcorn thrown to us by children visiting the park. 

However that is not to say each new page builder is worth the time and effort to adopt as one’s mainstay. Is it worth the time and effort because a new page builder has improved the way to make a button on a web page? None of the page builders generate code that can be used with other page builders so a website developer cannot expeditiously maintain the body of their works. Furthermore, the new page builder is still going to require manually coding at some point in the development of a website.

ALL page builders poop out –always have and always will– so it behooves those who design and build websites to learn early there has NEVER been a software program that does not fall short of our ideals.

Ergo, this is why every COMPETENT web developer –must-– have the ability to write code: HTML, CSS, Javascript (for any and all websites) and PHP when using WordPress. I paid my dues with ASP.NET using C# seveeral years back but migrated over to the WordPress camp when learning the hard way that coding and entire website manually takes a hellishly long time.

If –you– are working with somebody that is ONLY using a page builder or if –you– are using a page builder and cannot code a lick you are not working with a competent web developer nor are you a competent web developer.

That is the cold hard reality of the nature of web design and development. This is irrefutably true because web design and development is fundamentally software development the art and science of which constantly changes never to be generated entirely without conflict simply by dragging and dropping or pushing buttons.

Personally, hanging out online and begging for help from competent developers wore away my self-esteem so I started to learn to code from Day One back in the 90s.

Neither I nor anybody I’ve ever met has escaped what we call Imposter Syndrome; a common malady most if not all musicians, software developers and others who delve into the realm of the most challenging endeavors known to man are touched by at some point during the practice of their endeavors.

I’d like to say learning to code so one does not need to depend on page builders or begging for help on Facebook or Twitter provides the means to achieve and maintain self-esteem but I cannot. Its a constant challenge as web development is a moving target.

This is perhaps the most difficult reality to convey to those who hire web developers. Those who understand and empathize with us are worth working with and for and value the fees they pay accordingly. Those that do not and will not are not and may never will be.