What is Visual Composer ?

I’ve been through a neat tutorial on using Visual Composer, which is a WordPress plugin. As its name implies it allows you to make Web sites in a kind of WYSIWYG fashion.

This tutorial uses a basic theme and shows how to create a one page scrolling web site. Here is my effort ( work in progress !)

So anyway, here are my thoughts on Visual Composer so far:

 

Pros:

  • Rapid development, once you get the hang of it.
  • No need for CSS/HTML skills ( in theory at least)
  • Good for inspiration, trying out ideas etc kind of like the ultimate mock up tool ?
  • Comes with loads of neat ‘building blocks’
  • It’s actually quite fun to use once you get going with it

Cons:

  • Very messy HTML code with inline CSS settings all over the place. This matters when it comes to trouble shooting and maintenance.
  • ‘Vendor Lockin’ … if you /ever/ disable the plugin your site will stop working.
  • Endless clicking and dragging and reloading( works best with two monitors)
  • Documentation is not great, there are mainly  just a load of YouTube videos with annoying music !
  • Relies  on the WordPress short code API ( Don’t believe me ?… have a look at the raw text content of a page or post) This could be slow, although cache plugins would help. The bigger issue  is perhaps that short codes are just that; code not content. Mixing code and content, goes against the whole point of using a CMS
  • Does not fully  integrate with WordPress development ethos , e.g.    PHP template replaced  with   custom queries .
  • Inevitably when building sites for other people, they will eventually ask for something that Visual Composer can’t do… then what ? Best dig out that CSS book 🙂

Visual Composer does come with some advanced features such as custom query building and templates. If you were coding a theme you would use the appropriately named template file and build the page using PHP, which would infact be a lot easier!

 

Screen Shot of Visual composer in action
Drag and Drop components in Visual Composer page editor

 

There is obviously a market for this sort of plugin. I think its main strength is that developers can integrate it into their themes and allow their end user greater flexibility.

Personally I find it an interesting thing to play about with, but I’m not sure it’s a perfect solution.  I’d rather be honing my  HTML/CSS/JavaScript skills than learning how to make Visual Composer behave. i.e. it seems to raise as many problems as it sets out to solve.

The funny thing  is that the sort of user who would be attracted to a WYSIWYG Web development system is the sort of user who is bound to run into problems or limitations and not know how to fix them !  This is another area where developers can try to make money, by charging for support services I guess.

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One thought on “What is Visual Composer ?”

  1. Hi Simon,

    Thanks for referring to my tutorial, much appreciated! I agree with your points. In my opinion, VC is mostly suitable for people who want to develop their own website but have limited coding experience. Your last point under cons hits home with me.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with VC, very helpful.

    I am looking forward to next reviews!

    Regards,

    Joep

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