On today’s show we are focusing a bit more on WordPress and exploring what is commonly known as page builders.
Now in the past when I was designing WordPress sites, I was first exposed to a site builder theme for WordPress in 2009, which was quite a few years ago. And obviously, they have come a long way. But our focus today is primarily on using a page builder to create your online store in WordPress: in a nutshell, the pros and cons.
To help us navigate the world of page builders I thought of the perfect guest, someone who has not only built one, but works with users day in and day out, hearing their feedback of what works and doesn’t work. And that person is Robby McCullough, one of the driving forces behind the Beaver Builder plugin for WordPress. Robby shares some great thoughts on reasons for using and not using a page builder for your WordPress online store. He also shares some cool insights for developers and designers. So let’s get started and chat with my friend Robby.
We chatted about:
- Why we are seeing such growth in page builder use
- What sectors are we seeing the most growth in
- The top benefits of using a page builder for your online store
- When Robby wouldn’t recommend a page builder for an online store
- How to prepare yourself as a non-tech person before you dive into a page builder
- The best practices around page builders for designers and developers when it comes to client
Bob Dunn: Hey, Robby. Welcome to the show.
Robby McCullough: Hello. Thanks for having me.
Bob: You bet. Now, before I hit you up with the hard questions, you know I always have some hard questions, can you tell us a bit about yourself? And what you do with Beaver Builder?
Meet Robby McCullough, partner, Fastline Media
Robby: Certainly. My name is Robby McCullough. I live in the San Francisco Bay area. I'm about an hour south of San Francisco, down in lovely Los Gatos. I'm one of three co-founders of Beaver Builder. The company behind Beaver Builder is called FastLine Media. Previously, we were a web design agency, so we were primarily building websites for clients. Then we transitioned over to software a couple years ago when we released Beaver Builder, which is a page builder for WordPress, like you mentioned.
Bob: Okay now, page builders for WordPress. Page builders are becoming more and more popular, I feel, just seeing the discussions, seeing what people are using, your active Facebook page, all this stuff. So users, DIY-ers, designers, even developers, are jumping on the page builder bandwagon. Can you tell us why, and where the largest growth has been recently?
Why is the use of page builders growing right now?
Robby: That's an interesting question. I feel like the growth is kind of happening across all the different spectrums of people who need a website. Most folks who are using page builders are someone— there's no Facebook page builder, or Instagram page builder, right? So these aren't maybe folks that are doing social media, or are just regular internet browser users. It's folks who are trying to build a website, be it for maybe a hobby, or a small business, or a club, or an event. We've seen a lot of growth in all those different areas. I think for Beaver Builder, for us in particular, we've focused a little bit more towards the professional end. So people that are building websites maybe as a career, or building websites as a profession, kind of similar to our roots as being designers. In the WordPress space, it seems like there isn't a particular kind of niche or area that there isn't growth happening in that page builder space.
Bob: Very cool. So, where is this growth? I mean, I think it's kind of obvious to some of us in this space, but what is really driving it?
What is really driving the growth of page builders?
Robby: It's a lot of different things. It's hard to point a finger and say, "Aha, this is the one finger on the lever that's making all the movement." There are tools out there like Shopifys, and Squarespaces, and Wix, and some of the other WordPress competitors that have really been pushing the technology forward, like the in-browser software, and the page builder experience. I think a lot of those other services are generating a demand. Users are getting a taste of what that experience is like over there, and they want it available on WordPress.
So, yeah, demand that's being generated from other kinds of similar tools. Plus the technology progressing: browser technology and browser-based software, I think. Page builders have been around forever, like since the web started. They've always been a kind of pain to use, and the code that got outputted at the end was never very SEO-friendly or usable. So as the technology's gotten better, and as other companies similar to WordPress have driven up that demand, it's a combination of all those things, I think.
Bob: Yeah. I think that it was interesting because even back in 2009, a lot of the DIYers were like, "Wow, I can do this now without using code?” even though back then they were a bit more complicated; they weren't quite as easy to understand. Still, people jumped on the bandwagon because it was like, “Wow, I don't want to have to learn code and start designing.” So, for a lot of those people, that was kind of the driving force.
I think the other thing, it's interesting because there were a lot of designers— I think you touched on this a bit—who felt that, "Hey, now I can get into more designing the actual look of the site, not just going in, and looking at basically colors, and font type, and stuff like that." There was a lot more they could handle. A lot of designers kind of turned into, I don't want to call them developers, but they were able to offer their clients a lot more than just taking an out-of-a-box theme and working with it.
Robby: That's really a good point. The required skill level for publishing on the web in general, and then in particular, for publishing a website, has gone down so much over the years. Looking 10,15 years in the past, before Facebook and Instagram, and some of these tools. Now, the idea of publishing something on the web, even just a photo, is normalized. Everyone expects it's as easy clicking a button and, "Why can't my website be the same way? Why can't I just click a few buttons and swap out some text and images, and publish a website the way I can on a Facebook post?"
Bob: Now, specifically for an online store, can you give us what you feel are the top two, three benefits of using a page builder when creating either an online store for your client, or an online store for yourself?
What are the benefits of using a page builder?
Robby: I think one of the biggest benefits to using a page builder is going to be the speed improvement you're getting when you're building your site: being able to build out pages visually as opposed to building them out in code, I mean, unless you're really, really handy, and quick at developing. For most people, that cuts out a huge amount of time. So being able to build out pages, particularly in the context of eCommerce, being able to test out your marketing ideas, and being able to spin up supporting pages and marketing pages faster means you're going to be able to test more ideas, like maybe AB testing your different product layouts or landing pages, things of that nature. Then also, just being able to grow your store, expand the content that you have available, and grow your audience.
Bob: That's interesting, what you just said about the testing. With a lot of eCommerce plugins in the WordPress space, you have a product page. A product page typically depends on the theme, of course, but is built in a certain way. Being able to actually test that product page, change it a bit, add things that maybe aren't normally on the product page, take away things that you think are a distraction, a lot of that stuff gives you a lot more control over being able to decide in the end, "Hey, this is how my product page is working best."
Robby: Exactly. It's fascinating that whole world of AB testing. The classic example is the button color, where you have your product page, and the ‘buy now’ button is red, and you change it to green, and all a sudden 10% more people are clicking it and buying. I think there's a little bit of a get-rich- quick kind of too-good-to-be-true story in there, that in AB testing, all you need to do is tweak a few colors, and you'll turn on the money faucet. On the other end, it is a science, and there is some truth to it. It really does work.
It's fascinating when you start digging into it what the changes are that produce the outcome you want. Usually it's not just button color. Button color is kind of a silly one. You know, like changing a headline, changing that main call to action the first time a visitor views your page, and reads your initial line of text. Whatever that initial line of text is going to have a big impact on how they feel about your site, and what you're offering. Then what they in turn go and do, whether that's purchase a product, or close the browser, and go somewhere else.
Bob: Now on the flip side, are there any specific instances where you would not recommend a page builder for an online store?
On the flip side, do you ever recommend that an online store owner not use a page builder?
We just released a new extension for Beaver Builder, which really quickly allows you to create a template. So you can create a template for your product, and say, "I want my product image here. I want my ‘buy now’ button here. Then I want the ratings underneath." You can lay it all out visually. Then apply that template to your entire store if you've 50 products, a 100 products, 200 products. Before, you would have had to build each of your product pages one by one when you were using a page builder.
So if you were just selling a single eBook, or maybe a store with five or six products, it was a lot more understandable to use a page builder. If you had a store with 50 plus, a 100 plus, or more products, it wasn't always going to be the fastest way to go about customizing it.
Bob: I was actually thinking of that example when I created that question. Obviously, you saw the issue, and saw the problem with that, and made a solution, so that's cool.
Robby: Thanks. That came up a lot for us. In the earlier days, t was products, and also blog posts. WordPress being a blogging platform, a lot of people wanted to style their blogs using a page builder. Until we came out with the Beaver Fever extension that was never really a possibility. It was just for building one-off pieces of content.
Bob: Now for the DIY-er, the store owner, we kind of talked about the benefits of using a page builder. You can create a custom site without knowing code. Now, there's some very no- tech people out there who are challenged with even the basic WordPress skills. Are there any words of wisdom you can share with them before they dive into learning a page builder to create their online store, or even just their site?
What advice do you have for online store owners who are diving into page builders?
Robby: Yeah. Man, these are all really good questions, Bob.
Bob: I told you, I'm going to come up with the hard ones now.
Robby: No. I'm almost excited for that person, because there's such a wealth of resources out there. If I had one piece of information, it would be just to put yourself out there, and meet people, and try to build relationships, and ask questions. I don't know. When I was younger, I was always really hesitant to raise my hand, and ask questions. In school, I was always like I'd think I'd know the answer, but I'd never raise my hand. As I've gotten older, I've gotten a lot better about just not caring, and just going out and asking questions. To circle back to your question, if you're just getting started, and you're just learning about the web, and eCommerce, there's so much information out there.
You just kind of have to jump in, and have that sponge mentality. Just try to suck up as much as you can. Don't get too hung up on specifically on should I use a page builder or not, or should I use WordPress or Shopify, or this or that. There's going to be tons of little decisions like that. At the end of the day, the faster you can get through them, and just put something out there, and keep learning, I think that's really the most important part of all that.
Bob: That's something I learned when I was teaching people WordPress, and themes. There were some people that like you said, you've got to have a desire to jump in there, and explore it, and learn it. Some people obviously weren't at that spot. They just wanted something quick, and down and dirty that they opened up. Not necessarily even a page builder If things that were overly complicated to them, they would just freeze, and say, "Wow. I just need something basic here. This is way too much." So that's a good point.
Robby: I'm trying to think of a good real-world example. Want a good one? Fishing. I really got into fishing. I would go to the fishing store, and talk to all the guys who worked there, and look at all the lures, and try and figure out what fishing line was best, and read about the lake I wanted to go to, and what season it was in. I would do all the research, but then I'd do all this work, and then I'd never actually catch any fish. Sometimes that's fun. Sometimes getting into the nooks and crannies, or the tooling for a particular hobby, or a particular skillset can be really interesting.
Guitar is another one. A lot of people you will see talking about their pedal board setups, and which amplifiers are the best, and running around trying to chase the perfect guitar tone. I think some people have more fun doing that then they do actually playing guitar, which is fine, right?
Robby: It's one of those pitfalls. I, for better or for worse will get into those. I'll sit down to do something, write a piece of code, and I'll end up spending time with my code editor, tweaking the tooling.
Bob: Now, I'm going to kind of move over to the designer/developer end of things. So as a store owner, somebody develops a site. They use a page builder. They hand it to me, and I'm in there doing some stuff. Then I start looking around, and this doesn't look like my other WordPress site, or maybe I'm starting to Google all these tutorials on basic WordPress stuff. So for designers and developers who use page builders to create sites for their clients, are there some best practices they should consider when handing the site over to a store owner? What should that store owner expect from somebody who does build in the page builder? Does that make sense?
Any best practices for designers and developers who hand completed sites over to the store owner?
Robby: Yeah, definitely. When we were doing client work, that was essentially what we would do: build a website using Beaver Builder, and then hand it off. In terms of best practices, it's a big question. I think every situation is a little bit different. I guess a general rule is that it would be better not to just hand the site over, and be gone, and walk away like send the email, and then you're done. Doing some sort of onboarding process for your client, or if you are the client, requesting some sort of training.
When we were doing client services, we had a few clients who were local. We would invite them to our office, and sit down with them for an hour, or an hour and a half, and go over their shoulder, or have them over our shoulder, and walk them through their website. Walk them through how to make a few of the critical changes of pieces that they knew they were going to want to be able to change regularly. I guess in hindsight, when we were doing client work, we were never all that savvy when it came to reccurring revenue sources. So we would build websites. We would quote projects based on the amount of time it would take to build the site. Then we would hand it off.
What we could have been doing in that scenario is having some sort of an ongoing relationship with our clients where when they have problems, or when they have things they want to change on the website that are beyond the kind of scope of their skill level, whatever that may be, that we either have them on a retainer, or they have us on their speed dial. You have a process set up where they can pay you to make those additional changes, and become a revenue source as opposed to being a burden if you're not structuring it right. If all your old clients are just emailing you for little fixes, and you're not getting any billable hours out of it, you've got a problem.
Bob: That makes me think of one of the last sites I designed used a different page builder, but it was a kind of more around a certain theme, a specific page builder. The client at some point wanted some changes, and I realized that the page builder would solve that situation. I explained to them since I'd already known they were going to be in there doing stuff themselves, once I handed it off to them. He was a very hands-on type of person. I wanted to explain to them that, "Yes, now before I even do this. I want to explain what I'm doing. I'm putting this page builder in here. This is going to add a whole new level of learning for you on your particular site, because this isn't your typical WordPress default settings. This is something I'm adding new."
So I kind of warned them. I guess that might be something, I guess designers, and developers if there's a point where they are saying, "Oh, I'm building a site," and the client's expectations, especially if they are on hands-on will be, "Oh, it's going to be that basic WordPress site. That same kind of basic WordPress site I've had forever." Being up front at the beginning, and saying, "Yes. I'm going to also include this page builder, because this is what's going to benefit. Also, you need to understand, you're going to have to get in there, and learn that piece of."
Robby: Yeah. Well, that brings up a couple thoughts. One thought, and I'm sure this is obvious to most people listening, another best practice would be to have a backup, a process in place to restore the site, if you hand it off to your client, and something goes horribly wrong. That said, I think it's easy to forget that if you're purchasing a website from a developer, or a design agency, I would imagine that's really an exciting experience. Once that process is completed, and you get your website, you go through this long, potentially arduous process of creating a website with a professional, and going over your content, and going over the imagery.
I mean, it's rarely a short process. You get to the end, and it's like probably building a house. You go and you have a custom house built. Then when it's all finally done and said, it's really exciting to get the keys, and to get into the house, and to start putting up your decorations, and your potted plants, and things like that. So I imagine a sense of excitement with your clients too. Just keep in mind: this framework is a new toy for you to play with, and here's how it works, and here's what you should do, and here's what you shouldn't do, and have at it.
Bob: Then what ended up happening with this particular client was of course when I told them what I was putting on there, they were very excited about it. He said, "This sounds awesome. Go ahead and do it." Once I did it, I him how it worked. He emailed me back later on, and said, "God, I love this thing. I can get in here and do amazing stuff. This is so cool." So he was the perfect client for that. In fact, that was my last design job, and he was like the perfect client in the world. I thought, "Why couldn't everybody else have been over the last 23 years been like this guy?"
Robby: Been like this guy, yeah. Even getting one is a good one, right?
Bob: Right. So anything else you want to add that we haven't covered that you want to touch on?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Robby: Oh geeze, no. I don't think so. I could wax on. It is a fun ... Just in the light of what we've been talking about here, thinking about just where we ... just as far as we've come in 10 years of what's possible now in terms of publishing on the web, but then also creating businesses, and earning money, and earning a living from something you enjoy, and how WordPress, and the web, and technology has made that lifestyle so much easier. Gosh, it's so cool. It's cool to kind to take a step back, and look at what we have right now.
It's easy to get caught up in the, "Oh, I'm so sick of my Facebook notifications going off. I have to check all these hundreds of emails today." The nitty gritty kind of grime part of this lifestyle, but yeah man, it is pretty cool to look at how far we've come, and how fast everything's progressing.
Bob: That's for sure. Well, this has been excellent. I loved having you chat with us about this. Where can people connect with you on the web?
Okay, so where can we connect with Robby on the web?
Robby: Yeah, sure. Likewise, really good chat. That was fun. Thank you so much for having me. So yeah. My name's Robby McCullough. I'm on Twitter @Robbie McCullough. Although, I do most of our tweeting, or my tweeting through our Beaver Builder Twitter account. You can also find our blog, and a contact form to get in touch with me, and the team at Beaver Builder at
Bob: Cool, and you have a very active Facebook group too. Don't you?
Robby: Yeah, We do. It's Beaver Builders with an S. It's a Facebook group. That was our community driven Facebook group. Yeah, it's a really great place. I think we're up to ... I think we're going on 8000 members here pretty soon. It's a good place to come, and ask a question. If you're building a website, if you're new to WordPress, it's a really friendly group of folks available to help out, or share projects, and share knowledge.
Bob: Well Robby, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time today to join us.
Robby: My pleasure. Yeah, thanks again for having me.
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