Alternatives to WordPress Page Builders

UPDATE: This article was written before the release of the WordPress block editor (a.k.a. Gutenberg). I have written a new blog post using the block editor.

Page Builders have become so popular that sometimes new WordPress users get the impression that they are expected to use one. My own view is that it’s best to keep things simple and use a page builder only if you have a need for it.

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A Note About WordPress Backups

If self-hosted WordPress was both inexpensive and maintenance free, then I doubt I would even consider the alternatives.

What’s most likely to scare people away from using WordPress is the fear that they will lose their website if it is hacked, they make a mistake or something breaks. This is why it’s important to have a contingency plan.

You can minimise the danger of your site being hacked by keeping your plugins up to date. The WordFence plugin has a number of security features which include emails to tell you when an update is required. When you log into your WordPress dashboard you’ll be prompted to carry out the update, which is easy to do.

dashboard with update showing

wordpress dashboard listing updates required

However,  it’s impossible to 100% guarantee that your website will be safe.

Many hosts keep backups so, if something did go wrong, then your host may be able to simply replace your site with a copy taken before the problem occurred, and this would probably be your first port of call.

However, you should also be keeping your own backups in case this isn’t possible.

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Website Solutions – Part 3: Squarespace

squarespace logo

This is the last of a three part series in which I have set up a test website on different platforms to see how they compare.

Squarespace could be a good choice if you want plenty of control over the way your website looks and works, but don’t want the responsibility of maintaining it yourself. It doesn’t seem to have quite the power of WordPress, but it’s pretty good and a bit easier to use.

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Website Solutions – Part 2: Weebly

weebly logo

In the first post in this series, I described how I set up two versions of a test photography site to compare self-hosted WordPress with WordPress.com.

In this article, I consider another alternative – Weebly.  Weebly could be a good choice if you are looking for something simpler than WordPress and you don’t want to be responsible for backing up your website and keeping your theme and plugins up-to-date.

You may find the limitations of Weebly frustrating, but if your site is fairly basic then it could be all you need. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised and quite impressed. Weebly’s drag and drop editor is easy to use and there are options allowing you to personalise your site.

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Website Solutions – Part 1: Self-Hosted WordPress versus WordPress.com

Much as I like WordPress, I realise that some of the alternatives could also be good choices for building a website. I decided to make a test site to compare a few of the popular options. This post concerns self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com.

Self-hosted WordPress is flexible and customisable.  It can be extended, using plugins, to suit a variety of different types of site. But, if you choose to use it, then you should accept that you will be responsible for maintaining it.

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Transform Your Website with a New Theme

watercolour butterflies

Every WordPress website needs a theme to tell it how to display the site’s content. The theme contains templates to determine where all the different elements should go and a style sheet to control their appearance.

One of the great things about WordPress is that you can transform the way your website looks and works just by installing and activating a different theme. The same content can be displayed in a completely different way to give a very different look to your site.

 

To illustrate this, I set up a test site for a fictitious photographer and tried out several different themes. You can see screen prints of the results below.

Please note that I am not necessarily recommending these themes; it was just an exercise to show how easy it is to change a site’s appearance. In each case I have just used the default settings whereas if I was using one of these themes on a live website then I would spend more time personalising it.

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Add Functionality with Plugins

WordPress plugins add functionality

Plugins contain code that adds extra abilities to your WordPress website.

For example, the slideshow below was produced using the Meta Slider plugin.

  • beetle
  • butterflies
  • hoverfly
  • plant
  • seedheads
  • skipper
  • spider

 

Installing this plugin added an extra section to the WordPress dashboard for putting slides into the slideshow and controlling its appearance, speed etc.

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CSS Controls Your Site’s Appearance

Use CSS to decorate your website

A WordPress theme includes a style sheet containing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code that determines the appearance of the elements of the website – from the size and colour of the text, to the way the images line up on the page.

For example, if I want to add a blue dashed border around my images, as shown below, then I could do it by adding this CSS to the style sheet:

“border: dashed 2px #4c5ea0;”

cakes

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