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Wed May 08 2019

Visual Page Builder vs. Custom Fields

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Websites have become far more user-friendly over the past year or two with the rise of Visual Page Builders. It allows content editors more control over not only what content is displayed on the page but the structure and design as well. But is this a good thing?

Whether Visual Page Builders are a good thing, like everything, is dependant on the company. We work with a lot of different types of businesses from 4-10 person companies up to large corporates with hundreds of employees in a multitude of industries and they each have different drivers and requirements.

What is a Visual Page Builder?

A Visual Page Builder allows a content editor to add rows, columns, videos, text boxes, headers, line breaks, sidebars and a massive array of other formatting elements wherever they want on any page of a website. It allows you to drag and drop these sections to re-order them, hide and remove sections as they see fit and add custom scripts and styling. Basically, it gives the content editor almost complete design control.

Visual Page Builder

What are Custom Fields?

This is not the technical term for the Visual Page Builder competitor but it merely is an alternative. Having just the custom fields required to build a page means a content editor only has the options they need. Take a Blog for example – it may contain a title, a body of content, a featured image, and an author. If this is all the content editor needs, why give them access to build a table, or add a slider in the middle of the blog post, or change the background of the blog post to green? Most of the time the answer is, well you shouldn’t. This is what custom fields are, the custom fields you need to build the page you are working on and nothing more.

Are Visual Page Builders a good idea?

Large businesses need consistency. A header font must always be the same size and colour, a blog post must always be structured in a similar way, SEO is extremely important and they would prefer content editors not have the ability to negatively affect this. Due to this a Visual Page Builder is generally not a great idea. It is very hard to consistently police every content editor in the company and ensure their content matches all brand guidelines. So providing the ability to do anything is not the best option. In addition to this, most corporates work with Digital Marketing Agencies like Arcadian which provide SEO services. Whenever a content editor ‘enhances’ a piece of content it can have a negative effect on SEO. This may be because they have added a header where they shouldn’t, didn’t add structured data, added an incorrectly-sized image or various other things. While a digital marketer is happy to assist in fixing these things, we’d rather use the effort on optimising other areas rather than fixing areas which could have been avoided if the content editing ability was more restricted.

Smaller businesses are focused similarly to large businesses, but they also have other drivers and limitations. Generally, budgets are smaller, staff perform more than one role, things aren’t as planned, and content creation and changes are more reactive. This may mean things like landing pages for marketing campaigns are created internally, or new page templates or guidelines are developed internally by staff who are not marketers or developers. To do this successfully, more control generally needs to be given to a content editor. This works well in some cases and not in others. We have worked with a few businesses who have savvy individuals who keep branding and structure consistent and it works perfectly. We have also worked with a few other businesses which have somewhat re-designed pages and slowed down certain sections of the site by trying to add their own scripts. In turn, they have produced a sub-par section of the site and dropped that page out of Google’s ranking.

Which one should you choose?

The answer to this question every time I am asked, is to look at your business. If all of the following are true, use a Visual Page Builder. If not, it won’t matter having a non-Visual Page Builder and you have the added luxury of knowing your staff will pick up content editing quicker and have fewer chances of a content editor breaking your brand guidelines online.

  • Do you have any long-term tech staff? If so, great. Chances are they will have used Visual Page Builders before and if not, they will pick them up quickly and have a low chance of making errors. Even techy staff who have been with you for a short period of time would refrain from recommending this as they may not be there next year and a website is a long-term investment.
  • Do you run a lot of campaigns, create a lot of different landing pages or require unique pages to be set up regularly? If not, why invest and put the site at risk for something you may use once a year?
  • How important is SEO and site speed to you? If the answer is 10/10 then look elsewhere. Visual Page Builders slow down the site a little and, while this would not be a driving factor to not choose a Visual Page Builder, if you don’t have a large budget to address this with fancy coding and infrastructure, then it needs to be brought up. We have done sites with the new WordPress Visual Page Builder and the site ranks very highly. It required more time and effort but SEO was a high priority for this client.
  • Will you use it? It’s great having every option, but more often than not you won’t use every option. If you gave me access to every ingredient to make any recipe in the world, I’m probably still going to make pizza because I know how to make it. If I did make another recipe, I’d probably butcher it (pardon the pun) and end up with something resembling food, but not quite food, and wishing I had stuck with my pizza. This is an elaborate comparison, but I’m sure it makes sense.

I hope this has helped you think wider to make a decision on a Visual Page Builder for your next site. This is not meant to sway anyone either way, but we build with both options every day. Simply open your thinking to the flow on effects of a small decision.

We’d be happy to discuss what all of this means for your business. Contact us today.

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We’d love to hear about your digital requirements. Even if you don’t quite know what you need, get in touch as we can help formulate a whole digital strategy to meet your business objectives.

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03 9090 7070

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