The WordPress post and pages editor is great for working with articles where the primary focus is on content. However when things get more complicated, for example building a more visually rich home page, it may not be enough to get the job done.
Page Builders give site administrators a way to build pages using a visual drag and drop editor, giving you far more control over how the page will look.
Additionally they will often supply pre-defined widgets and templates to allow building pages relatively quickly.
They can however be difficult to migrate away from - removing these page builders will usually, at the very least, remove all styling associated with the pages built with the plugin, and often leave the content riddled with now redundant shortcodes.
Common features shared by page builder plug-ins
Every site host has a default admin view that users see when adding content. Page builder plug-ins allow you to customize how you interact with the page and post features to add content and build your site. Depending on the style and features in your page builder plug-in, you can:
Use a drag-and-drop function to arrange elements on your pages
Add pre-existing elements to your page from templates
Edit templates to suit your needs
Move blocks on the page with a block editor
Copy and insert element blocks into other pages
Upload, edit, and place photos, graphics, and videos
What benefits or functionality do these plugins add?
Adding a page builder plug-in to your site gives you more control over how you style posts, pages, and site content. Instead of relying solely on the in-built visual or HTML editor on your website, you can add the features you want while adding content in a way that works best for you.
Drawbacks & things to watch out for when choosing a page builder
Page builders will always make the resulting HTML & CSS more bloated and complicated than if these pages were hand built by a skilled developer. While this won't necessarily result in a noticeably slower site or a worse experience for the users, it's something to be aware of.
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, migrating away from these plugins can be a pain. Any pages built with the page builder are going to lose their styling and will most likely end up littered with unhandled shortcodes. Affected pages will probably need to be rebuilt using whichever plugin is being migrated to.
Are page builders necessary now that we have Gutenberg?
Gutenberg was released at the end of 2018, and overhauled the default WordPress page and post editor to give a more interactive, block oriented experience. Gutenberg is still however more appropriate for content pages rather than the stylised, visual heavy designs we expect for home pages, but the lines are slowly blurring.
There is no doubt that Gutenberg is headed towards a more full page builder experience, but it isn't quite there yet.
On the other hand, it is native to WordPress, adding in a page builder will always add additional bloat. You may want to see if Gutenberg will do the job if you want the fastest, most responsive site.
A page-builder plug-in offers many options for customizing your site. From easy-to-use functions that beginners will love to in-depth customization for developers, page builders allow you to take more control over your online presence. Depending on how many sites you plan to build, you may need different pricing tiers or may need to upgrade later. Whether you prefer a block editor, visual editor, or drag-and-drop functions, there is a page builder plug-in for the task. Knowing your future goals will help you choose between a yearly subscription option or look for a plug-in with a one-time fee for lifetime use.
The default WordPress editor is great for article an content pages, and while it's capability is getting incrementally more with each release, Gutenberg can be a little cumbersome for creating more visually oriented pages.
WordPress page builders aim to address this, giving the user the flexibility to create pages of any structure or design with relative ease.
They will also usually come with plenty of user interface elements and page templates to allow you to fairly rapidly put something reasonable looking together.