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Our Visual Composer review is rooted in the fact that we were curious to see why it was rated as the top-selling WPbakery page builder by some experts. As professionals that often manage multiple sites, we are always on the lookout for innovative and new page builders to speed up the process. However, Visual Composer is neither new, nor is it uniquely innovative, which is what piqued our interest to do this review.
Developed by WP Bakery, the drag and drop plugin comes bundled with over 300 themes available on ThemeForest. Plus, the developers proudly state that it runs on just under 100,000 websites across the world. Evidently, it is a popular plugin, but is it easy enough for anyone to use? Can we use it to build WordPress pages with drag and drop ease? That’s exactly what we’ll examine in this Visual Composer review, leaving our final verdict as always for the very end!
Visual Composer Overview
The Visual Composer plugin product was one of the original WPbakery page layout designers to hit the market many years back. The plugin allows users to design pages using blocks of content. These ‘blocks’ as they are called are also referred to as ‘modules’ and ‘widgets’ in some other page builders. In Visual Composer, they care called ‘Content Elements’ similar to the naming convention used by Thrive Architect. Regardless of the naming terminology, it is essential to state that they all refer to blocks of content which fortunately can be dragged to any part of the page are needed.
Visual Composer has over 40 elements, which include social media buttons, text blocks, image carousels, post grids, video players etc. The good news is that all the page elements available are responsive, which means that they will adjust themselves to screens of all sizes from laptops, to tablets and smartphones. However, it is also possible to customize individual product elements in WPbakery page builder to make pages stand out.
The interesting thing about Visual Composer is the fact that unlike Thrive Architect, Elementor or most other page building product WPbakery website builder WordPress plugins you can style pages both on the front and even over on the backend. While styling pages over on the backend isn’t for everyone having that option does make handling certain tasks easier.
Furthermore, the Visual Composer product is compatible with most if not all WordPress themes. The plugin supports multiple languages and is compatible with WordPress’ popular translation plugin called qTranslate.
Visual Composer Features
Our Visual Composer review took a while because this WPbakery page builder has a boatload of features. Some features overlap which can be confusing which you’ll see as we go into each feature below.
Front-End Page Builder
Visual Composer is primarily a front-end WPbakery page builder. It means you can design a fully functioning page by dragging and dropping builder elements to where they need to be. Similar to newer WordPress page builders, Visual Composer offers a myriad of options to customize a page if you choose a template or an existing page. However, it is perfectly OK to layout a page of your own. For this Visual Composer aka WPbakery overview, we decided to see how easy it would be to design a page layout from scratch!
One of the inherent downsides of Visual Composer is that it does not come with dozens of ease of use templates like the competition. You get just six templates, i.e. landing page, call to action page, feature list, service list, description page and product page. The selection of templates are down to the bare minimum, and they look outdated. Fortunately, they do offer a good starting point for anyone who wants to speed up the process of laying out their page. The downside though is that you’ll still have a lot of work ahead of you, which is why we decided against starting with a template. But we have all rights reserved for our template!
Speaking of templates, once you create a page layout, it can then be saved as a template in this WPbakery page builder. Once we were able to layout a pretty decent looking page, we saved it as a template. That template was then reused multiple times for other pages, and the feature worked flawlessly. Our word of advice is not to choose Visual Composer if you’re going to rely heavily on the templates that come with it despite its ease of use.
Visual Composer or WPbakery page builder comes packed with 40 product elements or widgets as some people like referring to them. Either way, the elements provided are more than enough to layout most professional-looking pages. What’s more, is that you don’t need to worry about them being responsive.
Upon further inspection you’ll notice as we did during this Visual Composer page builder testing, is that out of the 40 elements, 12 are default WordPress widgets, 25 of these are content elements, four are social media content elements, and there are three are the builder’s structural elements. However, every one of these elements can be further customized beyond their default look and function.
Visual Composer allows you to customize every content element. However, the settings you can tweak vary depending on the element. Simple elements like social media buttons have fewer settings so you can only change the size, with more advanced elements like post grids offering more options.
Take post grids for instance, which allows you to add more rows by clicking on the ‘+’ symbol in the header, there is also an option to place content into all of the columns. When it comes to columns there are 11 presets like the following sizes: 2/3 + 1/3, 1/4 + 1/2 + 1/4, and 5/6 + 1/6. Once the columns are added, you can easily move the content around from one row or column to the next. The look and feel of these rows and columns can also be customized. The ‘general’ tab, for instance, allows you to change the font colour and add more CSS classes.
The content editing part of Visual Composer as stated earlier in this article is done both on the front and the back end. The front end is an excellent way to style how the pages will look live. Switching from the back end to the front-end editor requires clicking the small button you see in WordPress’ post editor. However, before you do switch over to the front end make sure to save any changes you might have made because if you don’t those changes will be lost…suffice to say we learnt this the hard way.
Now the major difference between the front and back end editor is that the backend tends to be better for initially structuring the page. The front-end editor, on the other hand, makes those smaller tweaks easier. That said most novice users would feel comfortable solely sticking to the front-end editor.
When you click on the content block, it will present the same options as those on the backend editor. The options include the ability to add new columns and rows, edit, delete and add page builder elements etc. On the top of the page, there will be options from where you can add new elements, launch the template system, save the page as a draft, adjust settings of the page, and choose to publish the page. Also, switching back to the backend editor can be done from here as well.
One of the most useful features at least for us during this Visual Composer or WPbakery article is the ability to disable the element box options. Doing so allows you to see how the page will look with all those editing boxes removed from your screen.
Furthermore, the ability to preview how the page will look in up to five different screen sizes or devices is another nifty feature. Being able to see how the page will look in multiple resolutions as it turns out is a very useful feature, but Visual Composer’s execution of it is a little finicky. For instance, you can’t edit the page for that view or size of the device only, like it is the case with rival Thrive Architect. Also, the previews aren’t all that accurate, in terms of how the page will look on a mobile device, for instance.
During the time we were drafting this WPbakery page builder article, it was evident that the pages were automatically scalable. All the page builder elements are mobile compatible, and that’s something we checked multiple times. However, there are times when your page may look fine in desktop view, but in mobile view, things look chaotic. That boils down to optimizing the layout, by moving elements around and generally maximizing whitespace so that all the essential stuff is clearly visible on a mobile screen.
The one issue we did have with mobile compatibility is that the preview you see on screen isn’t what you see on mobile devices that have 4K or UHD screens. For instance, a couple of elements looked blurred and slightly off on our Samsung Note 10 Plus but looked perfectly fine on the older Note 4. Also, the colors on pages in the Safari browser using our iPhone X looked washed out. However, that could boil down to each screen having a different color and refresh rate. But we didn’t face these issues when using other WPbakery page page builder plugins.
Visual Composer is compatible with just about every WordPress theme out there at least in our opinion and experience. We used several themes to test things for this WPbakery page builder article and had no problems. It is also something we double checked with customer support. Furthermore, there are several themes you can find on ThemeForest that were designed using Visual Composer, so if you have one of those, even then there are no compatibility issues.
Visual Composer Pros
- Easy to Use:
Visual Composer is comparatively easy page builder plugin owing to its drag & drop interface on the front end. It is also the reason why it was one of the first beginner-friendly WPbakery page builder plugins.
- Front and Backend Editor:
The ability to edit a page both on the front and backend makes creating pages easier on the whole. In our experience its speeds up the page creation process by around 25%.
We didn’t experience any issues with the plugin.
- Easy to use Margins:
Margins are easy to remove, and any images are left behind sit flush with the edges. Plus various options make working with margins very easy.
Visual Composer Cons
- Issues Resizing Images:
Resizing images is nearly impossible. Our Visual Composer page builder became impossibly frustrating as we weren’t able to scale down the images without knowing their exact required dimensions.
- Font Family Issues:
All fonts are inherited from the theme, which is why we were not able to alter them in a page specific way.
- Drop Shadows Don’t Work:
We were told that drop shadows could easily be applied. In our experience, you’d need to play around with CSS code to get it working.
- Inline Buttons Cant Be Aligned:
We tried, and tried but couldn’t get two buttons to align one, next to the other.
- Can’t Customize Background Images:
We weren’t able to customize the background images used. Not only is the positioning impossible to change, but if the image repeats itself, that can’t be fixed either.
Visual Composer Pricing
All things considered, Visual Composer is one of the more competitively priced drag and drop WordPress page builders. There is a free product of the plugin, which albeit limited still gives people on a budget an opportunity to build a couple of basic pages [we examine Free vs the Pro version in the next section below]. However, the real power of the tool is only evident once you upgrade to the full version for which there are three packages.
The basic package starts at $57 a year for a single website. The next one up is $149 for 3 websites. Agencies that build websites for clients or who may have a few dozen of their own will benefit from the generous $349 a year subscription.
Visual Composer Free vs Pro Edition
Now the biggest difference as you might imagine between the free and paid version of this visual composer website builder is the fact that the latter has all the features enabled. That said the ‘Free’ version while still capable of making it possible for a person to design a WordPress layout has many important features disabled. For instance, the ‘Free’ one does not have a much-needed icon library, no header builder, no footer builder, no global templates and no way to export or import created pages. So, you’ll be spending a lot of time trying to work with it and with no customer support it will soon be a nightmare.
Free users of WP Bakery also don’t have access to stock images, Gutenburg Compatibility, menu items, etc., which makes it near impossible to build a meaningful page. So, unless you’re starting with no money in the bank to invest in your business, we wouldn’t recommend the ‘Free’ builder especially since the Pro Edition of Visual Composer is just $57.
Should You Upgrade to Visual Composer Pro?
During this Visual Composer Pro page builder article, we tested both the free and the Pro Edition. Despite our best efforts weren’t able to figure out how to work our way around the limitations of the Free Edition. Also, there is no customer support for this page builder.
Almost every meaningful element is disabled, which makes the Free Edition a waste of time and it shouldn’t even be included; instead, there should have been a trial version with all the premium features enabled for a week or so. So, if you want to use the product or plugin the free builder isn’t good to say the least. That’s why if you’ve decided to use Visual Composer, make sure it is ‘Pro’ version.
Visual Composer: Popular Questions & Answers
Q. Is Visual Composer and WPBakery the same?
What started off as Visual Composer a WPbakery page builder nearly a decade ago, later became WPBakery. WPBakery should be considered the latest version of Visual Composer which has since evolved into a website builder. Visual Composer Website Builder as it is now called is a full-fledged website building program and not just a page builder like WPBakery.
Q. Is Visual Composer free?
Visual composer has a free product version which can be downloaded and used on any WordPress website. However, the features, as mentioned above, are severely limited.
Q. Which WordPress Builder is the best?
Visual Composer is by no means the best WordPress Builder, but it is amongst the best. Since everyone is different, there is no one ‘best’ WPbakery page builder. So, you’ll want to figure out what works for you based trying out a couple of top plugins for free. There are other WP builders out there that might compete against Visual Composer such as Thrive Architect and Elementor.
Visual Composer Review: Conclusion
Visual Composer is a drag and drop page builder, which has come of age but is now faced with stiff competition from a growing number of plugins that serve the same purpose. The one thing that’s going in favour of Visual Composer is the fact that it is virtually bug-free. We didn’t experience any stutters or icons disappearing when building pages. The resulting pages are also pretty stunning thanks to the depth of customization options.
However, the resulting pages built using Visual Composer are bulky and slow. The content blocks, despite being visually appealing, aren’t as varied as what you get with the competition. That’s why we conclude this Visual Composer article by only recommending it to agencies, i.e. people who build WordPress templates for a living, understand CSS and are willing to work around the nuances of the plugin.