WPBakery Page Builder Review: A WordPress Developer’s Perspective

wpbakery page builder | wpbakery review

This WPBakery Page Builder review is not paid or commissioned by WPBakery or any other company. This is my honest opinion as a professional WordPress developer, who builds and manages WordPress websites for a living.

This review is part of our full WordPress page builder comparison, which gives in-depth reviews and comparisons of WordPress’s largest page builders.

Let’s start with the executive summary.

Is WPBakery Page Builder Good?

Heck no. WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer) is solidly in last place as the worst of the four major page builders we’ve reviewed. It’s also one of the worst widely-used software projects in WordPress, of any kind.

If you just want to know what to use instead, here’s your answer: Beaver Builder is our personal favorite, and we also like Elementor.

To see how WPBakery Page Builder stacks up to those options, check out our full page builder comparison:

https://wpshout.com/wordpress-page-builder-review/

WPBakery Page Builder Review Table

Below is a detailed breakout of WPBakery Page Builder’s strengths and weaknesses from our page builder comparison table:

WPBakery Page Builder
wpbakery page builder | wordpress page builder review
User-Friendly?3.2-You can generally squint at it and see how it's supposed to work, whether you have a tech background or not.
-Best if you squint.
Feature-Rich?4.6-High quantity of available modules.
-Market leader status means lots of built-in integrations.
Well-Built?1.5-Shortcode architecture a massive liability.
-Consistent lack of effort to integrate smoothly with its environment.
-Sloppy execution extends to inaccurate helper text and other basics.
Reliable?1.3-Inaccurate previewing, important randomly missing features, endless bizarre bugs: a nightmare if you need to get things done properly.
Overall2.4-The clear worst among WordPress's best-selling page builders.

See more detail about how WPBakery Page Builder stacks up against WordPress’s other largest page builders in our full WordPress page builder comparison.

Full WPBakery Page Builder Review

With the at-a-glance summaries above taken care of, here’s our full WPBakery Page Builder review.

What We’re Reviewing

This review focuses on the premium WPBakery Page Builder plugin, version 5.4.7.

To review WPBakery Page Builder, we put it through the same test (duplicate the landing page of an app named Tile) that we use for the other page builders we’ve reviewed.

About the Reviewer

Hi! I’m Fred Meyer, co-editor-in-chief of WPShout. I’ve been a professional WordPress developer for six years, and I’ve written hundreds of WordPress tutorials for developers here on WPShout since 2013.

Links to WPBakery Page Builder in this article are affiliate links. My opinions of both WPBakery Page Builder’s strengths and weaknesses are my own. In both this review and my related WordPress page builder comparison review, I’m telling you the plain truth as I see it about which WordPress page builder to use, when, and why. Thanks for reading!

Sections of the Review

Click on a section below to navigate this WPBakery Page Builder review.

  • Pros: Things I especially like about WPBakery Page Builder.
  • Cons: Where WPBakery Page Builder falls short.
  • Summary: WPBakery Page Builder review summary.

WPBakery Page Builder Review: The Good

Nice Gesture Toward Mobile-First Inheritance

I like WPBakery’s way of dictating responsive behavior where the default is that things inherit their properties from the next smallest size. This dovetails nicely with the idea of “mobile-first” development, which assumes people are on a phone, and changes things as devices get larger, rather than vice-versa.

wpbakery inherit from smaller

Niceish Integrations

Because of its market power, WPBakery Page Builder has integrations with almost any sizeable plugin on the market. Below is a niceish integration with Gravity Forms that beats the shortcode embed I ended up doing in Divi Builder:

wpbakery gravity forms

WPBakery Page Builder Review: The Bad

Slow and Labor-Intensive

Watch me try to save a change in WPBakery Page Builder:

wpbakery save flow

Notice:

  • The one-second or so pause after I set the background image, before it fills in the empty gray square.
  • How my changes will not live-preview without me clicking “Save changes,” and the moderate pause even after the button click.
  • The three-second or so pause after I click “Update” before the green save bar gradually filters in.
  • The final one-second or so pause when I click to exit the builder.

Some of the issues above are because the plugin is simply slow—presumably because it dumps vast amounts of CSS, JavaScript, and markup onto the page.

The most serious source of UI drag is the clunky, awkward, everything-by-hand previewing and updating process.

However, the most serious single source of UI drag is not slow, bulky code, but rather the clunky, awkward, everything-by-hand previewing and updating process. In the WPBakery page builder, absolutely nothing—changes to content, formatting, or layout, changes to modules, rows, or pages—live-previews or live-updates. You have to push everything through yourself with a button press (or more than one), and wait anywhere from one to several seconds for an updated version to come back. This gives the entire user experience a draining, laborious, rotary-telephone feel.

This is presumably because the WPBakery front-end builder is actually doing the equivalent of pressing “Update” on the post and then redrawing an iframe to show your changes, rather than doing any sort of more intelligent JavaScript previewing. That also carries other consequences, such as making text filters very slow to apply (more on that later).

Using the WPBakery Page Builder feels like trying to run underwater.

The sum of this and numerous other UI slowdowns is that using the WPBakery Page Builder feels like trying to run underwater.

Awkward, Unintuitive, and Clunky

The WPBakery page builder is not just slow, it’s also awkward and unintuitive on almost every level imaginable.

Quick, tell me what each of the “pluses” down the middle do. Bonus points if you can explain the yellow one that’s mostly hidden by WPBakery’s own layout elements.
wpbakery review user interface

Using the WPBakery page builder, I frequently feel annoyed and hemmed-in in a way that is very different from all of the other builders reviewed.

Using the WPBakery Page Builder, I frequently feel annoyed and hemmed-in in a way that is very different from Divi Builder, Beaver Builder, and Elementor, all of which have invested strongly in intuitive, coordinated user interfaces. I feel like I’m using MS Word ’95.

Let’s take another example of bad UI: in WPBakery’s (mostly rather sensible) “Image Gallery” module, you have a chance to choose image sizes for your gallery images. How do you choose? A dropdown of available image sizes, right?

No:

Yes, it’s a text field, for you to type in the slug-ized name of the image size you’re looking for—that is, assuming you know what image sizes are registered in your theme, and how to use WordPress’s slug conventions for size names like “Medium Large.”

Of course, since WordPress’s existing PHP functions make it easy to access a list of registered image sizes, the choice to make this a text field rather than a dropdown of size options is as nonsensical as a “Date of Birth” field that expects a MIDI file. By itself, this single design choice won’t break anything (unless the user typos), but the accumulated weight of it and dozens of similarly careless choices make the WPBakery page builder a gnat swarm of frustration even in those instances in which it technically “works.”

Speaking of which:

Everything Is Broken

To use WPBakery Page Builder is to immediately invite baffling bugs and errors into your workflow and website.

To use WPBakery Page Builder is to immediately invite baffling bugs and errors into your workflow and website—even an environment as clean as, in this case, a stock, customization-free starter theme and no other running plugins.

The first thing I noticed was that my page developed a horizontal scrollbar. This means that something’s pushing the page out to be wider than it wants to be, and so you have to scroll left and right on every device to see the full content. This is ugly anywhere, but it’s an especially efficient way to ruin the user experience on mobile devices.

It turns out that the step to get this bug on your site is, simply, to use WPBakery’s stock “Pageable Container” module:

For the record, this bug isn’t confined to full-width page templates (not that that would excuse the problem). You can get horizontal scrollbars in a boxed layout as well, by using a pageable container in a “stretched” row:

It may seem like I’m making a big deal of this, but you have to understand that “My site has a horizontal scrollbar all of a sudden” is not a small misstep by the plugin developers. It’s the exact kind of problem that people spend hundreds of dollars having WordPress developers like me debug.

It’s also the type of work that I absolutely hate doing: writing inherently hacky, fragile custom code to wrench very bad but deeply embedded commercial software back into place. Giving WPBakery’s page builder a close examination was very much an experience of staring into the dark heart of a huge percentage of these dismal debugging jobs.

On the same subject, the WPBakery Page Builder’s previewing is consistently, persisently different from how the actual page ends up looking to users, even on very simple layouts:

Again, you may not realize how significant a problem faulty previewing like this is—until you have someone (say, a client) who wants her design implemented actually correctly. Then you’re stuck trying to compensate for a tool that’s broken for obscure and unfixable reasons.

While we’re discussing inaccurate previewing, let’s mention the WPBakery page builder’s strange habit of hiding the nav menu on some—but not all—page templates:

wpbakery inaccurate previewing

We want a slider section that runs up right against the nav menu. How are we going to get that, when the preview not only lies to us about the amount of margin there actually is, but also hides the menu itself? Mysteries of the WPBakery page builder.

If it needs saying, no, multi-part shortcode embeds like the Restrict Content Pro shortcode don’t work.
wpbakery multiple shortcode test

And text filters don’t apply until after you’ve exited the editor mode—because of WPBakery’s thoroughly awkwardly updating flow—causing potential confusion.
wpbakery text filters

You simply cannot assume that any piece of the WPBakery Page Builder will work as it should.

Also, as with the Divi builder, deactivating the WPBakery Page Builder plugin is a one-way trip to Shortcode Hell, where you get to see exactly why the builder is as fragile as it is.

These examples aside, the broader trend is that you simply cannot assume that any piece of the WPBakery Page Builder, used for any purpose, will work as it should.

Nonsense

In reviewing this plugin, it can be difficult to get across the crucial distinction between defensible shortcomings and plain, actual nonsense.

It’s actually hard to review the WPBakery plugin, because so much of it is broken so badly that it’s hard to explain. Specifically, it can be difficult to get across the crucial distinction between defensible shortcomings—“rough edges,” “questionable design choices,” and so on—and plain, actual nonsense. So much of WPBakery Page Builder is, quite simply, nonsense.

I could give so many examples here, so I’ll confine myself to a few that are representative. The first is a detail about WPBakery’s front-end interface. Do you know what the single largest UI item on the page is? It isn’t something like a “Save and View Changes” button (which is actually a small “Update” button and, separately, a plain X), or any other piece of useful UI.

No. It’s a hat that links you to the WPBakery purchase page. Not to documentation, tutorial videos, or tech support: to the purchase page, for a paid-only commercial plugin that you logically must have already purchased to be seeing this interface.

wp bakery is bad

This single design choice itself doesn’t do much to break the WPBakery user experience—but it is a great, simple illustration of the thoughtlessness that runs throughout the entire project.

Here’s another example: the WPBakery page builder plugin has no boxed layouts. Without using external CSS, there is no way to, for example, create a full-width row with a light gray background, which contains an 800px-wide centered text box. If you look at the Tile homepage, about half the content is boxed text in a fullwidth layout, and this is simply impossible with WPBakery by default.

wpbakery no boxed layout

What you see in the GIF above is all the places where some notion of “boxed layout” should be, and isn’t. What WPBakery does have is a way to “stretch” (with JavaScript) either rows or columns outside a boxed page template. So if your page template’s content area was 800px wide, you could have a few 800px text modules, plus a full-width “stretching” image. This is handy and actually an advantage of WPBakery over other builders.

But in simply assuming that we’re dealing with a boxed page template, and then giving no fallback for actual full-screen layout creation like you’d use to build almost any landing page in the world, WPBakery is shipping a bizarrely incomplete product that puts what builders should find easiest—having the full screen to work with and only using part of it—out of reach.

I’ll give a few more examples. The way WPBakery lets you save “Templates”—full pages of content—but not modules, columns, or rows. Or the decision to let you add new “Deprecated” modules (rather than just continuing to support them if they’re there already)—but only if you use the “Add New Element” dialogue from the big white plus in the top left. The handling of widgets, which lets you add some kinds of widgets as modules (like “Recent Posts”) but not others (like “Audio”) for unclear reasons.

The identical “If checked, video will be used as row background.” helper text on both Rows and Columns:

I’ll close with a final example that, to me, summarizes the whole plugin. The “Separator” element (for creating <hr>s) lets you pick colors not with a color picker, but with a dropdown of around 16 color options with obviously custom-defined names like “Peacoc,” “Mulled Wine,” and “Juicy pink” (yes, with irregular spelling and capitalization)—including one color, “Vista Blue,” that is in fact a light sea-green—plus a “Custom color” option at the bottom that opens up a new option, “Custom Border Color,” that is the color picker that the entire interface should have been all along.

Again, these are just examples, chosen more or less at random from within a piece of software that simply does not make sense. If you’re not convinced of that at this point, you’re beyond my power to persuade, and may want to try the product for yourself.

WPBakery Page Builder Review: Summing Up

Avoid.

I came into this review believing WPBakery Page Builder was badly broken and an enormous source of badness in WordPress overall. After working closely and attentively with the plugin, now I know it. Avoid.

Want to know what to use instead? Here’s the short version:

The Best Page Builder in WordPress

Beaver Builder

More than any other single plugin, Beaver Builder has changed how I do my work as a WordPress developer, and made good front-end layout building a reality.

Thoughtfully built, feature-rich, and above all reliable, Beaver Builder is our favorite page builder in WordPress.

And for a lot more detail on WordPress’s page builders, have a look at our full page builder comparison:

WordPress Page Builders, Reviewed: Beaver Builder, Divi Builder, WPBakery Page Builder, Elementor

Thank you for reading!


5 Responses

Comments

  • Elena says:

    I’ve gotta agree on most of the points you mentioned, Fred. WPBakery Page Builder is simply unintuitive and pretty hard to use. It might be a pioneer page builder but seemingly can’t keep up with its competitors.

  • David R. says:

    Another hard-to-understand feature is that it gives you options to change the background color of a row or column (though you can’t pick #000000 with their color picker) but it doesn’t give you an option to change the corresponding text color.

  • Jacques Sapriel says:

    I totally agree with your conclusion Fred.
    WPBakery is not intuitive and it is buggy as hell, which is why what you see in the visual editor does not match what a user sees.
    Should I mention they WPBakery does not reply to tickers opened on their own support site.
    Never, ever again.

  • Carl says:

    What stinks for me is that WP Bakery is integrated into the theme I purchased.

    If I install another page builder within a theme built on WP Bakery code will it work?

    Or am I stuck using WP Bakery if I want to stylize my existing theme?

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      You can’t use the theme’s WP Bakery modules if you use with another page builder. You can use another builder, though.

      As a sidenote I don’t recommend most themes that bundle with WP Bakery, for lots of reasons that tend to be issues apart from their choice of builder.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *