The ultimate page builder plugin comparison for photographers

To make the test fair and even across the board, we did a few things. First, we used cacheless cloud hosting, which does not come bundled with a page builder at the time of writing this. The servers are all based on the east coast in the United States. The servers used contain no caching, unlike the live servers at Imagely Hosting. The servers are also cloud servers which help websites load extremely fast.

It’s important to know which versions of the plugins we tested. If you’re using an older version then we recommend updating to the latest, as the developers likely improved speed, quality and added new features and addressed compatibility or security concerns. If you’re using a newer version than what we have listed then good for you, and hopefully some of our findings have been addressed.

Code optimization goes way beyond just what we tested. However, the average site owner might have the knowledge to review the following items. And the items we tested have an impact on site speed. The speed of your website is important for search engine optimization. A few kilobytes or milliseconds here and there don’t make a big difference. But once you approach megabytes and seconds, everything changes and tiny differences go a long way. So although small, they’re important.

The next test was to see the load speed of each site with the plugin active but not used on the homepage. The tests were done using Pingdom as well as locally in Chrome’s developer console. The servers we used are based on the East Coast, so to achieve the fastest load times, we set Pingdom’s test from New York. Here is what we tested for:

Next up was doing the same tests as the homepage, but for a page built with a page builder. We decided to keep this simple by doing a text block, an image, and a blog post excerpt – each using modules within the page builders, but the same content for each. That means the same text, the same image, and the same blog post. Here is what we looked for:

We also ran into a roadblock with Thrive’s page builder plugin. Although we’re testing premium plugins (except Elementor which is free), we are not inserting license codes. As it turns out, the Thrive plugin will not allow you to use it without entering a license code. So from here out the plugin was removed from testing. Why did we do this? Because we know that many photographers wind up stopping their premium subscriptions and in turn stop receiving updates and support. We want to be open and honest in this report because as a plugin user, it means you can no longer use the plugin if you stop paying. Keep that in mind!

For this section, we are thinking outside the box. Earlier we mentioned that many of these builders have corresponding themes. For example, you can buy the Divi theme which included the plugin, or the Beaver Builder theme, or X Theme which includes Cornerstone and Visual Composer. But what happens if you decide to use another theme? Or if you decide you no longer want to use the plugin? That’s what you will learn about now. Here is what we looked for:

One of the main reasons photographers lean towards using a page builder is the simplicity of managing and creating a website using them. Coding is not needed, and you can create a website with your mouse, some dragging, and clicking. It is a beautiful thing. But not all page builders are beautiful. In fact, some are hard to use, some are easy to use but not pretty. Some are so pretty but have other downsides. So Corey and I decided to judge the user experience of each plugin on a scale from 1 – 10, with 10 being the best experience.

We also wanted to see if the page builder plugins would work outside of a normal page, which is their first intention. So we tested to see if they can be used in blog posts as well as Custom Post Types. Now, we know most photographers won’t use page builders in blog posts, and most do not know what a Custom Post Type is. But because some photographers might use a Custom Post Type (CPT) or a blog post, we figured we would check and share the results anyway. Blog Posts

I prefer Elementor over the others for a few reasons. First, sites still load fast with pages made with Elementor. The code is optimized for quality, compatibility, and speed. There are so many modules and templates that can help photographers to achieve nearly any design. The importing and saving features for templates make it easy to use a template created by someone else, or to re-use modules in other places around a website. Elementor is definitely is easy to use. There is no guessing of what to do. They have made the user experience enjoyable. And for photographers who decide to stop using a page builder at some point, Elementor gracefully turns the content into standard WordPress content in the page editor. There are no lingering shortcodes. The only lost content are things like number counters which are exclusive to page builder systems. Lastly, Elementor works so well with Genesis themes, like our photography themes.

Because of the specific choices I’ve made for my website, I’ve grown to love the Divi builder. At this point, it is certainly one of the most visually appealing and intuitive builders I’ve tested. The Divi builder supports my personal workflow for building websites, making it fast and easy for me to create anything I can imagine. However, I will be the first to admit that the Divi builder only works well "out of the box" when used with the Divi theme. Using it with other themes often introduces challenges that require more advanced coding.

Now that you have read through all of our findings, it’s your turn to make decisions. Visit each page builder by clicking on the links below. If they offer a live demo try it out. If they offer a free trial, take them up on it. If the plugin is free, like Elementor, it can’t hurt to take it for a spin. But at the end of the day your decision should also be based on some key elements, like ease of use, load speed and much more.