Does your old website need an overhaul? Why not consider using a premium plugin like Visual Composer to make it look professional and eye-catching? Oh wait, there’s also Elementor, a plugin and website builder so well-reviewed that it won the “Best Website Building Platform of 2020,” according to MarTech Breakthrough Awards.
Which one is better? It depends on your specific purposes. For some individuals, Visual Composer is a reliable building platform with a history of success. However, the newer plugin Elementor is a popular alternative. Let’s consider both plugins, their creation, their features, and how the two programs compare.
Overview of Visual Composer
Visual Composer is the “sequel” to the very successful WPBakery plugin developed by Michael Makijenko. Although at one time, WPBakery was the same thing as Visual Composer, when the enhanced premium service came out, Visual Composer became its own entity.
The Visual Composer company wanted to charge an annual fee for the new Visual Composer to cover expenses for the plugin’s new features. However, the company had a lifetime agreement with another developer, called Envato, not to mention a large base of consumers who downloaded WPBakery with the agreement that one payment would cover indefinite service.
The new Visual Composer Website Builder launched with enhanced features, including a complete revamping of the old program. The new website builder doesn’t use the same code of the original WPBakery, creating cleaner code with fewer errors.
Whereas the original program (still active and with a one-time fee for life) is still available, the new Visual Composer Website Builder changes the user’s entire way they interact with WordPress. With VCWB, you build the site using the new program, not simply inserting WordPress code.
What Are Visual Composer’s Best Features?
The best reason to use Visual Composer Website Builder is when you don’t want to develop a website from the ground up but want to rely on existing templates to make it look professional and, yes, even a little bedazzling with modern effects.
Drag and Drop Website Builder
Visual Composer is very easy to use, with a front end and back end page builder, based on the drag and drop system. You can instantly see how the site will look as you add on widgets, text, and images/video using front-end, or get a bird’s eye view of the site’s elements with a bird’s eye view.
There are over 100 unique content elements with attributes and options to customize. You design the site just as you see it, meaning you can replace text and image fields with your unique copy and testimonials. You can also integrate social media pages and develop enticing Call-to-Action buttons.
Create a header, footer, and sidebar for each page or a global template. Whether you want a new look or want to keep your previous layout, customizing your page piece by piece is easy. Developing content goes smoothly because of block templates and ready-made elements, which lets you develop unique layouts that are not as confined as the usual WordPress theme.
Design your rows and columns with a Row Layout Builder, built with multiple device responsiveness in mind. Resizing columns is easy, as is customizing the gap space in between columns. When you resize any section, the plugin software analyzes the mechanics according to popular layouts. You’re given a choice of snap-to-grid options to make the site look clean.
Even if you have a bare-bones idea for a site, you can stock it with free high-quality images from Unsplash, directly accessible from the Visual Composer Hub.
Workflow and Performance
Assigning multiple administrators is easy, and you can move elements around the site just using the mouse. You can simplify the virtual work area by using the Tree view editor, which makes the site builder work similarly to Photoshop, or use a recycling bin to delete elements like an operating system.
Create a global header and footer, design custom archive pages, or put your site into maintenance mode with a default page. A pop-up builder lets you boost conversions and develop sales pages. You can replace elements and tabs for better brand consistency or assign a unique name or ID to an element to use it later on.
Suppose you have questions about site design or SEO optimization. In that case, you might not even have to contact customer service — the built-in qualitative analysis tool will give you automated advice on mistakes to avoid and what might help improve rankings. Visual Composer is also compatible with Yoast SEO.
Speaking of performance, Visual Composer Website Builder also has the reputation of being one of the fastest editors on the market since it doesn’t involve creating shortcodes like WP add-ons but generates clean code you build.
Fonts and Colors
Visiting a free cloud marketplace of content elements, you can customize fonts, icons, marquees, message boxes, separators, and the like. The templates and elements library is full of downloadable features and also updated every week.
You also get access to video, parallax, gradient backgrounds, and other visual effects to keep your site looking 2020 fresh. Visual Composer Website Builder works with any WordPress theme and handles practically all integrations. You can replace static text sections with dynamic content text.
Amateur designers can count on professional touches like a filter library (Instagram quality filters) and lightboxes to direct users on where to click.
Themes and Forms
You can choose from over 100 templates and dozens of content elements, whether you want to install charts, forms, sliders, headers, footers, or entire sections. All elements are responsive (meaning they can display accurately on various devices), and you can choose different formats for landing pages, portfolio pages, product pages, and business or service descriptions.
Visual Composer integrates with other form plugins-in like Captain Form, WP Forms, Gravity Forms, and Ninja Forms, among others.
Integrate with WooCommerce and build a store, display products, and store categories, and let customers click to buy. Not only can you count on price listings and add-to-cart and checkout options, but you can also use Gutenberg blocks anywhere on the page, even with the store.
Visual Composer offers customer service through a ticket system. With a yearly service fee, you get updates for life and a 24/7 technical support team. You also get updates whenever available, including new versions of Visual Composer.
Overview of Elementor
Based out of Israel and founded in 2006, Elementor is a website builder and just one product of Elementor Ltd.
Using a drag and drop interface and built-in responsive mode (meaning it displays accurately on all devices), Elementor is a powerhouse, with 700 add-ons, 50 available languages, and five million installations so far.
According to the company, Elementor is built for professionals at all stages, from freelancers to agencies. The all-in-one approach includes visual design, optimization, web development, and marketing. Its pixel-perfect design offers clean coding and open-source programming, making it easy for developers to develop add-ons.
You can create a website and e-store and customize them down to the last detail, all without knowing any sophisticated programming language.
Like Visual Composer, Elementor is a website builder plugin. Despite it being a WordPress add-on, there are few if any limitations. The plugin has numerous individual features spread across broad categories like a visual editor, workflow, marketing, layout, typography, e-commerce, theme builder, or theme content.
Drag and Drop Interface
Build a website by dragging and dropping the content you like and customizing your site from scratch or choosing one of 300 designer-quality templates.
In addition to an easy-to-use interface, you get nearly 100 widgets with Elementor that lets you customize headlines, buttons, and other important site content. Easily showcase images and videos in a carousel, or a slideshow, with activity effects.
The responsive editing keeps your site looking organized and professional, from PCs to mobile phones, TVs, or tablets. One of the best features beyond website building is creating standardized content on any page without any limitations.
Navigation is fluid, as you can quickly access multiple page elements or “layers” to maintain control. Designing your site from “one place” keeps things simple and yet customized to your liking.
You can also optimize your website building with hotkey shortcuts, a cheatsheet pop-up window, redo and undo, or even a “find” feature to navigate to any page or dashboard for easy customization. You can even search for revision history, just to make sure you don’t get lost in all the features.
The building style is easy to manage using an in-line editing feature that lets you type directly into the tabs and create it as you write it. You can also streamline the process and use a global widget and save your settings for reuse on another page, once again, using a drag and drop system.
Elementor code is clean. Just to show you its reliability, you can run your website in Elementor “safe mode” to figure out other plugins that might be causing issues. Basic SEO services are also provided, such as replacing URLs automatically when you change domain names.
Fonts and Colors
Choose global fonts or customize different fonts for titles, paragraphs, and button text. Use drop-cap to increase the size of a beginning letter to give your site a magazine-like feel. Add your custom Typekit font and see how your fonts look in a live preview as you type.
You can also design a global color scheme or apply one system to just one element on your site. Customize background gradients for a sleek look or even add background videos/images to make it look more interactive. It’s easy to put a slideshow in the background or use a Canvas template to design a landing page with a different look.
Add special effects with CSS filters, scrolling or mouse effects, or blending effects to give your site a more theatrical presence. Working with Elementor also gives you access to the little things that make sites look and run better, such as shape dividers for text, box shadows, an icon library, testimonial carousel, and even a count-down widget for those last-minute deals.
Themes and Forms
While various features are nice, one of the most significant advantages of Elementor is the control you get over layout, theme, and style. You can customize the header, footer, background and take advantage of text editor columns to maximize the space.
Choose between contact forms, subscription forms, logins, or another call-to-action. You can even auto-send an email when they submit a form.
Use absolute positioning to drag widgets precisely where you want them, even if they are not on a grid. Connect your audience to action links, or even set up forms to boost conversion rates.
Even better is the marketing assistance Elementor offers by integrating with the MailChimp, Active Campaign, ConvertKit, Campaign Monitor, Hubspot, Zapier, GetResponse, Drip, ReCaptcha V3, Facebook SDK, MailerLite, and Slack.
Customize your favorite theme with your text, or adapt an existing layout and theme to your specifications. You can even customize 404 pages or the search results page for a more personalized user experience. Integrate all social media accounts, and even embed your best quotes or social comments on your site.
If you want full control, you can set the width, height, and column width of every section. If you want two widgets side-by-side in just one column rather than the whole page, use in-line elements, fixed positions, or nested columns to tweak your presentation. Besides video sharing sites, you can also easily integrate your site with Google Maps.
Finally, give your call-to-action section some pizazz with boxes, animations, parallax viewing, mouse effects, and even some 3D elements.
While visual design is the key advantage of Elementor, you can also benefit from e-commerce solutions, like a price table or list widget, specifying products and filters you want to display. Create a cart, as well as a checkout page, and set up your entire store onsite.
Elementor offers 24/7customer support via a ticket system.
Comparisons Between Visual Composer and Elementor
At first glance, it appears that the main difference between these two plugins is in price. Elementor has a less expensive agency plan. Elementor is also the newer software.
There are variations in the number of features, as Visual Composer offers 200 elements and 100 templates. Elementor offers only 90 widgets but 300 templates. For more designer options to base your site on (while also customizing to your own preferences), Elementor has a slight edge.
A closer look at the specifics, however, also reveals that Elementor lacks a back end builder. A back end builder lets you see all main settings at the same time, including all visible elements and page and post settings. To most users, however, it could be a minor issue.
Elementor offers slightly more options on its free plan (reviewed below).
Visual Composer Pros and Cons
- Has more header options
- Better reviewed for professionals who design themes and know basic coding
- More total elements and widgets
- Lower prices for developer/agency customers
- May have extra requirements, such as Webpack 4.0+
- Slightly more complex to learn than Elementor
- Some complaints of compromising on web loading speed — however, you also have to consider the quality and quantity of your hosting web package
Elementor Pros and Cons
- More layouts and themes to choose from
- Intuitive design makes it easier to use for newbies
- More customizable elements/widgets
- Complete “kits” for website builders that don’t know how to design professional sites
- Newer company
- Some complaints about customer service
When it comes to payment options, you will find that both companies and plugins are comparable in free options and membership plans.
Visual Composer Payment Plans
The Premium edition of Visual Composer Website Builder comes in three paid plans:
- Single Website
- Three Websites
For $49 a year, you get one website with full editing features, as well as 200 elements and 100 templates. You get full access to Woocommerce, pop-up builder, insights analytics, and even customer support. The only limitation is one site per plan/payment.
For $99 a year, you get three websites with full features and access to the same number of elements and templates.
For $349 a year, you can get a developer’s access with “unlimited options,” an ideal choice for agencies. However, there is a limit of 1000 websites per developer plan.
Elementor Payment Plans
Elementor has three payment plans:
You get one site for $49 a year and access to over 90 widgets and 300 templates. Included in every package deal is access to a theme builder, WooCommerce builder, pop-up builder, and updates and tech support for one year.
For $99 a year, you get the same features but for three websites.
For $199 a year, you get up to 1000 sites with the same features.
Both free options are limited and do not contain the modern features previously mentioned. They are both, however, sufficient opportunities for sampling each respective product.
Upgrading to a paid subscription is as easy as clicking on the new plan button and making payment. If you upgrade to a premium level, you pick up where you left off without any interruptions or rebuilding.
Visual Composer also has a free version, which is an ultimate page builder and membership to the Visual Composer Hub, the cloud-based marketplace of elements. Free members get access to 30 elements and ten templates, as well as updates, analytics, and API options.
Unlike WPBakery, which has no free option, Visual Composer Website Builder does let you create a site for free. Refunds are provided but must be within 15 days.
Elementor comes in two options: a free version or Elementor Pro. However, there is no demo version of Elementor Pro. If you buy Elementor Pro and are unsatisfied, you can cancel the service and get a refund within 30 days.
If you stick to the free Elementor program, you only get the basic features with none of the sophisticated add-ons. However, access to the drag and drop editor, responsive editing, and 40 widgets and 30 templates may be enough to accommodate your site.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I use WordPress and a website builder, or invest in a competing CMS system similar to WordPress?
WordPress is liked in the web design community by amateurs and professionals alike. Namely, because it offers CMS-exclusive benefits like:
- A point and click, a graphics-based system of management
- The ability to enter and adjust your site from any web browser
- No HTML or FTP knowledge is required
- You get an SEO boost since internet search engines are comfortable with WordPress format
- Blogging is built-in and easy to direct attention to when designing
- Plugins can be installed with one click
- Site Management is scalable with your business
- You can easily assign multiple users and or administrators
- WordPress is free and has an active community
Some users find that competing website software, like Joomla or Wix, is not as fast-loading or as easy to learn as WordPress. That said, merely using WordPress does not necessarily make your site look professional or eye-pleasing.
Why do most web designers use website builders when there are free or low-cost themes?
Free themes can give you an attractive layout, as well as some widgets. However, most of these themes do not have customizable elements, nor do they have drag and drop flexibility since this is a premium-quality feature.
You cannot only move elements all over the screen, point and click style, but you can also rewrite text paragraphs or upload your photos to image holders. You can borrow an existing template (legally, of course) and make the site your own.
Free themes from WordPress users tend to be limited by comparison and have more rigid elements that cannot be moved, reshaped, or customized to personal specifications. With a website builder, you also get access to libraries of stock photos and elements and widgets that might not be offered with individual themes.
Most companies or individuals that create themes use a website builder. Using a site builder within WordPress lets the creator focus on the theme’s aesthetics, rearranging widgets, and other elements according to what they think will sell.
The “blank sheet” approach of a website builder is precisely why both Elementor and Visual Composer come with templates and layouts so that you can work from an established formula, making your custom adjustments. All you have to do is add your unique graphics, content, and brand message.
Why do most web designers rely on website builders instead of just using WordPress plugins and widgets?
In theory, you could install individual widgets or use WordPress’s block system to organize your site better and not spend the money on premium site builders. Or, as mentioned, you could buy a theme individually.
But one other significant advantage in plugins like Visual Composer and Elementor is that they come with many third-party applications pre-installed, making your job easier.
Downloading just one site builder (especially if it has a cloud-based marketplace to install additional elements that are guaranteed to work) eliminates the chore of downloading and installing multiple widgets and themes.
Website builders guarantee clean code, functional layouts and elements, and seamless integration with other competitive plugins, like forms, email lists, and social media embedding.
How do you install these plugins?
You can do it in a few different ways.
Option 1: Upload the plugin files/folders via ZIP file to your site’s file directory, or use an FTP program. WordPress will find them and then allow manual installation and activation.
Option 2: Look at your web hosting company’s apps (or even WordPress’s business hosting options) and then search for the automatic one-click installation option. Clicking “download and install” automatically installs the plugin and all you have to do is activate it.
Option 3: While on WordPress plugin-search, enter Elementor or Visual Composer and choose the plugins when they come up for a manual installation.
Our research has shown that Elementor and Visual Composer Website Builder are both excellent choices. These site builder plugins are particularly helpful for beginners and theme developers who need more control over multiple elements and settings.
Visual Composer had some advantages in freedom and complexity — a plus for developers but not necessarily for individuals starting their first or second website. Visual Composer also had seniority by a few years, first launched in 2011, though it had fewer overall downloads than Elementor.
Elementor, on the other hand, has received better reviews from users because of its intuitive design, which translates to “easier to use” than VCWB. The agency price for Elementor is also significantly less than that of Visual Composer.
While reviews for Elementor’s customer service were mixed, overall, Elementor is the beginner’s choice, and five million downloads and counting can’t be wrong.
If you are building or updating a site, then sample one of these two programs and see the difference between professional and standardized layouts and elements. Both plugins are available with a money-back guarantee. You will immediately notice the difference in design and in results. Why not download a free version today?