What better way to start the day than a lengthy comparison between SiteOrigin Page Builder and Visual Composer? I will state it right now, I love frontend page builders, so my preference naturally leans towards Visual Composer. However, I will try and stay as objective as possible, and deliver the pros and cons of every page builder (with a concise conclusion at the end, of course).
SiteOrigin Page Builder
This is perhaps the oldest page builder for WordPress, and it’s been along for quite a few years now. It is one of the most popular plugins in WordPress, and is shortcode based.
Visual Composer is one of the first frontend page builders for WordPress. It has become a standard for Themeforest themes, and also works with shortcodes.
I am going to do this comparison rather differently than what you would normally get. Instead of comparing feature by feature, I am going to describe how these two page builders compare in important metrics that I find the most helpful when using plugins in general and page builders in particular.
First Use Experience
This first point compares how easy it is to use each page builder for the first time. Even though I am a long time user of both plugins, I haven’t used them in a while (been using other frontend page builders instead). So when I revisited each one, it involved getting to know them all over again.
In terms of using SiteOrigin page builder for the first time, results are not in favor of this plugin. It actually took me some time to remember how to create a basic layout with the page builder, even though I had created similar pages in the back. There is no way around it – once you get accustomed to editing the design with the layout right in front of you, it is hard to go back to backend editing. Switching back and forth between the preview and the backend felt like switching from a car to walking. It’s much slower.
SiteOrigin panel – Even finding the widgets was not so easy. The classification of SiteOrigin into different and unintuitive categories: widget bundle, page builder widgets, WordPress widgets and recommended widgets, was really confusing for me. Some widgets were closed, and I needed to go to the other widgets bundle plugin and switch them on. The panel widgets are also without icons, making it harder to use.
SiteOrigin main widgets – Using the basic widgets: headline, button and image, was really not a friendly experience at all. When I edited the headline it opened a large popup, covering my entire screen. All the settings were textual and hard to understand, just a long list of settings I had to scan to find what I was looking for. All in all, it felt like designing with my eyes closed. I never know what it looks like.
Visual Composer panel – After struggling with SiteOrigin’s panel, VC’s panel was a breeze. The widgets are seen with a visual icon and are colorful and nicely spread out. VC also has categories of widgets that make much more sense the SiteOrigin’s, like content, social and structure. I love the fact that all the widgets appear before your eyes, and you can search for them easily as well. The panel includes a lot of widgets to choose from, which is a great plus. Everything from media grid, tabs, Pinterest and FAQ.
Visual Composer main widgets – It was really easy to add some basic widgets to the page. Just like with SiteOrigin, I added a headline, button and image widget. Each widget is customizable by going through the settings in the floating widget panel. You see general and design options tabs, making it very easy to find the setting you are looking for. The downside of VC was that I had to do a save after every change I made, so if, for example, I re-aligned the headline to the center, this was seen only after I pressed save. This was a huge downgrade from the live design I got used to in Divi, Beaver Builder and Elementor.
Winner – Visual Composer is the clear winner here. If you are a first-time user, you will most likely find VC much easier to learn than SiteOrigin.
Playing with the layout
After the initial test, getting to know how everything works, the next step in deciding how you like the page builder should be the control it gives you over the layout of the page.
SiteOrigin layout control – This may start to seem like I have a bias against SiteOrigin, but I didn’t like the layout control for this page builder. It wasn’t intuitive at all in my mind. I wanted to add a top margin to the row style and only found a bottom margin control. There seems to be a lot of guess work involved when designing with SiteOrigin. One positive feature I found was the widget style section, that stayed consistent and in the same location to the left of the panel.
Visual Composer layout control – I simply loved the layout control of VC. You first set the number and structure of your row columns, and then can easily go to column setting and set padding, border and margin. The layout control is fairly intuitive and easy to use.
Winner – VC is another winner here. The fact that you can see everything in front of your eyes really helps the user design the layout just the way they want to.
A page designed by a page builder has 2 important components: the layout of the page and the widgets that fill it with content.
SiteOrigin Widget Control – You will not be surprised that I personally did not like the widget setting controls. Setting aside the backend design drawback, If you examine a widget like the price table, you get a fairly basic design that can hardly be customized. Even the default design of the price table doesn’t look good, right out of the box. Since it is a backend builder, I was hoping the result would be decent, and when I pressed the live editor button (not really live, simply preview screen), I was very disappointed. The design of the price table, even the one that came as a template, was boxy and old-fashioned.
Visual Composer Control – VC doesn’t come with a price table, so I couldn’t really do a comparison of the two widgets. Instead, I’d like to pick as an example the Call to Action widget. The widget was very easy and intuitive. The Mansory Media Grip widget was also really nice to use and get the hang of.
Winner – You guessed it – VC wins this one as well. I was kind of disappointed the price table didn’t come with the basic plugin, but the other widgets were very handy and easy to use.
I hope I haven’t turned you off completely from SiteOrigin. It still is a powerful and completely free page builder and is a great option if what you are trying to create are simple page designs with simple default widgets. If you want to have more control over the layout and over widgets, and design your site on the frontend, I would recommend going for Visual Composer. We have just touched about the capabilities of this popular page builder. You can buy extra extensions and get every feature you can think of pretty much. There is a large community of developers around this plugin, so you can find a wide array of addons.