Case Study: Converting an old page-builder website

On a Facebook group for the Beaver Builder page builder, someone asked “Maybe a crazy question… Would it be possible to take HTML from another page builder and import into BB?” Here’s how I answered the question.

I did this just the other day (Thursday!) It was a horribly slow site built with an expired version of the popular but old-school Enfold theme/builder. The site broke into a shower of colorful code errors if you bumped the PHP version past the obsolete version 5.6.

So based on my recent experience the short answer is that yes, it does speed things up a little since you don’t have to re-type the content and it’s fairly easy to delete the enormous shortcode blobs that Enfold (and Divi, WP Bakery, etc.) create.

Partial screen shot of the site before disabling the old-school page builder.
Here’s a snippet of the page before the old-school page builder was disabled

The first thing to do is replace the current theme and disable whatever page builder they were using. (Often they’re intertwined so it’s hard to turn one-off without turning off the other.) In my case when I switched to the Beaver Builder theme the client’s site reverted to a whole mess of shortcodes.

When you turn off the original page builder all that's left is a huge amount of text enclosed in [brackets], a.k.a. "shortcodes."
The site was full of shortcodes after turning off the old page builder.

The shortcodes usually have identifying info in them — e.g. column widths, image filenames, colors, etc. And of course I was able to use the original live version as a reference. Between that and the leftover bodies of text it was pretty easy to delete the leftover shortcode text and rebuild the pages.

One big advantage, of course, is that the page and menu/navigation structures are intact. If you’re going to use widgets in your new design instead of Beaver Builder modules and/or the Beaver Themer plugin then you can simply re-add those from the “unused widgets” section of the Appearances->Widgets page.

Another big advantage, sort of, maybe, is that all the images are in the Media Library so it’s a matter of finding them (you can search by the filename if nothing else) and placing them. The downside, though, is that with older sites (this one was from 2016) the images are often too small to look good in full-width situations so I still had to do a little fishing for larger versions.

All in all I’d say it saved me two or three hours on the project.

But there’s no way to do it automatically. (I’ve heard of plugins that will “re-interpret” shortcodes into simple WordPress elements but didn’t find one when I looked before starting the project.)

It’s actually pretty fun — good practice! But only slightly less work than rebuilding from scratch, copying and pasting content from the original site.

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David Innes,

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...