The Content Lock-In Problem: What Happens With Your Thrive Architect Content if You Delete the Plugin?
Today, we're answering questions that we received many times, regarding our upcoming visual editor for WordPress, Thrive Architect.
We learned from our users that many don't use Thrive Content Builder or other visual editors to create their blog content. And this is true even if they prefer the convenience and speed of the visual editor.
Because of looming worries: sure, the visual editor is good now, but will it still be around a few years from now? Will it continue being updated and getting support? What if I can't use it anymore, at some point? What if I have to deactivate this plugin, at some point in the future?
It's a legitimate concern - no one wants to lose their blog content all of a sudden.
In this post, we look at this issue closely and give you a preview of how our upcoming Thrive Architect editor will handle this.
The Question(s) of Content Preservation and Lock-In
I believe it's thanks to this post by Chris Lema that the awareness of the content lock-in problem became widespread.
In short, the content lock-in problem is this: if you use a WordPress editor plugin that is based on shortcodes, any content created with it will leave a huge mess of said shortcodes if you ever deactivate the plugin.
Thus, if you use the plugin once, you're "locked in" to using it forever.
From our readers and customers, we heard this concern a lot as well. And for this post, we boiled it down to 3 questions:
- What happens if I create blog content with Thrive Architect and then deactivate or delete Thrive Architect at a later date?
- Can I use Thrive Architect to edit old blog posts that I created using the default WordPress editor?
- What happens if I use Thrive Architect to create landing pages (from our landing page templates) and then deactivate the plugin at a later date?
The underlying question in all of this is: will my content be preserved?
We answer all of these questions in the video above and the text below.
Shane in Review Mode...
This should have been a simple post with a preview of Thrive Architect. But as I was working on it, I couldn't help but investigate. As you may know, I used to do (and sometimes still do) very detailed product reviews and comparisons. My inquiring mind took over and I felt compelled to answer another question:
How do other visual editors for WordPress handle this (and how does it compare to Thrive Architect)?
And while I was at it, I also got curious about the content's code efficiency, but more on that later.
Let's get to the questions.
What Happens When You Deactivate Thrive Architect?
Because users asked us for it, we created a comprehensive content preservation system for Thrive Architect.
Here's what happens with your content, when you deactivate the plugin: every type of content that WordPress supports will still be displayed. Everything else will be hidden.
- Text and headings remain.
- Images remain.
- Lists and styled custom lists remain in the content as lists.
- Content boxes, columns and other layout elements disappear, but any text or images inside them remain visible on the page.
- Buttons turn into text links.
- There are no shortcodes or artifacts in your content.
- All of this preserved content is fully editable using the default WordPress editor.
WordPress basically only supports text and images and no layouts beyond a single column. That means: your content will probably look very different after deactivating Thrive Architect, if you've created interesting layouts and used many of our elements. However, the content remains clean and visible.
Although it's also worth noting that Thrive Architect is the only visual editor out of the ones I've tested that doesn't add spaces and side margins, change styles or otherwise modify the layout of the content, compared to the default WordPress editor. That means you can create a simple piece of content consisting only of text and images in Thrive Architect and it would be indistinguishable from content created with the WordPress editor.
Can Thrive Architect Edit Content Made in the WordPress Editor?
Not directly, no. If you load a post with WordPress content in Thrive Architect, you'll see that all of the original content remains. It is placed in a single "WordPress content" container.
You can place any content from Thrive Architect before and after this container.
You can click on the container and edit the content in an overlay window, using the WordPress editor. That is, of course, a lot less convenient than directly editing on the page, like you can do with Thrive Architect content. If that annoys you, keep in mind: opening a separate window with the WordPress editor is the default and only way to edit content in almost all other visual editors for WordPress...
What Happens With Landing Pages After Deactivating Thrive Architect?
We apply the same content preservation as we do for post and page content. However, because landing pages are made in large part of "special" layout elements, what you see after deactivating the plugin won't resemble the original landing page anymore, at all. Basics like text and links will still be readable and functional, though.
As you can see, we've gone to great lengths to ensure that you never lose your content. Trust me, this is not easy to accomplish. But we fully understand that your content is unique and that it's hard work to create it, so we want to give you that peace of mind, knowing it will always remain.
At this point, I started wondering about a different question:
So, How Do Other Plugins Handle This?
You can see the results from a practical test in the video at the top of this post, starting at 04:26.
The results show that Thrive Architect isn't the only plugin that preserves your content. But the results also didn't make me want to switch plugins anytime soon...
Oh, and in case you're wondering why the plugin mentioned in Chris Lema's post on this topic wasn't included: that plugin doesn't seem to exist anymore.
Which leads me to the next question:
Will You Have to Deactivate Thrive Architect at Some Point?
For people who read Chris Lema's post and bought the plugin he recommended, I guess it was good fortune that the plugin had a content preservation feature. After all, it seems the developer disappeared and the plugin doesn't exist and isn't supported anymore.
And that's probably where most of this fear about losing content comes from.
To keep your site secure, you have to keep your WordPress version up to date. And if a developer doesn't march in step and keep their plugins compatible with new WordPress versions, compatibility problems will crop up at some point. And then you're forced to remove a plugin, no matter whether you really liked it or not.
There can be no guarantees, but if you ever feel nervous about this happening with Thrive Architect, here's a quick reminder:
- We've been doing this for longer than most developers. When we first released Thrive Content Builder, there were no real front-end editors for WordPress.
- Since then, many visual editors for WordPress have come and gone. We're still here and we're still updating our software.
- We have a stable business model that doesn't include risk factors like a high cost for supporting tons of free users (we have no free users) and includes financial stability from a subscription pricing model (which is optional, but very popular).
- We include unlimited updates with our plugin. You don't have to shell out more cash every year, just to get updates and avoid compatibility problems.
What I hope you can see from this is that A) we understand the problem of content lock-in and B) we're on your side, with this. We could make more money by forcing paid updates, but we choose not to do that.
Bonus Question: What Did the Code on Those Test Pages Look Like?
Last question, I promise. Like I said, my inquisitiveness took over and as I was building these pages, I also started digging around in the source code the different plugins were creating.
After recording the video, I made some adjustments to the test pages, so that they all had the exact same content on them. Since not all editors have all the same elements, that meant removing some elements and adding some different ones. I also used the same theme for each plugin, so that the playing field was 100% level.
There's a lot that can be said about code quality, but I'm not qualified to say most of those things. Instead, let's look at an objective measure.
For the exact same layout with the same content, how many lines of code do different plugins produce?
Here are the results (less is better):
Yeah, it's pretty annoying that we were beaten out by 8 lines of code... but I'm pretty pleased with the result nonetheless.
Of course, lines of code aren't everything there is to whether code is "clean" or "good", but it can be a very basic indicator of efficiency and page speed.
Mind at Ease?
Okay, that ends my little quest into content preservation and exploring competing plugins. I hope this put your mind at ease. And if you still have questions, please let us know by leaving a comment!
P.S.: We'll be publishing a more detailed answer and guide for the question "what happens with TCB content when switching to Thrive Architect?", soon.