VelocityPage, Robust Product That Falls Short Of Bold Claims
VelocityPage, a WordPress front-end drag-and-drop page builder, comes with impressive developer pedigree, bold claims and a not insignificant price tag.
But does it mean “no more WordPress Admin Panel”? Can you “be in control of your WordPress site (no technical skills required)”? Above all, is it value for money?
There is no doubt that VelocityPage is a rock-solid plugin. In all the time I played with it, it never missed a beat or exhibited any unexpected behavior. Perhaps that is to be expected, given the caliber of those behind the development, but that’s certainly not always the case.
And the front-end editing experience is delivered via an interface that is among the very best in its class: simple, unfussy and intuitive.
But I was still left feeling short-changed, that something was missing. The problem is not necessarily the product itself (although it is fairly light on features) but the fact that it doesn’t really deliver on the bold claims made on VelocityPage’s website and perhaps never can considering that VelocityPage only provides front-end editing for a single content type.
VelocityPage may work with 94% of all WordPress themes but it is clearly at its strongest when working with one of its own professionally designed themes, the design of which definitely suggest that VelocityPage is, at heart and possibly by intention, a landing page builder rather than a general purpose front-end editing tool.
If one of the included 4 themes matches your requirements then you can easily save a couple of hours building a professional-looking landing page and build it all from the front-end and all without coding, which would, depending on how you value your time, make the plugin a worthwhile investment.
Of course, that is a fairly narrow use case and whilst you can build custom pages you are going to have to rely heavily on your current theme, especially when it comes to responding to different screen sizes. Almost inevitably you’ll need to tweak your CSS to get the appropriate responsiveness.
Despite being critical of drag-and-drop front-end builders, I found myself warming to VelocityPage’s interface and I even found myself lamenting that it doesn’t work with posts. There is potential, I think, in letting authors, or perhaps producers, create complicated content simply by working with pre-built templates. A potential solution to my main objection to front-end editing of the lack of separation of content and design.
This is, of course, only version 1.0 of VelocityPage and no doubt there’s an impressive roadmap of features, functions and templates but at the moment, despite its robustness, it feels underpowered.
Even so, at $97 there is value for money to be had here for some. For many though it might be more a sense of supporting a product of clearly massive but, as yet, not fully realized potential.
Built-in templates provide rapid route to professional-looking, responsive pages
VelocityPage works best when editing one of the built-in templates. The templates are professionally designed and it is a case of changing the copy and inserting your own images.
Assuming that the color scheme is okay (otherwise you are going to have to delve into the CSS as there is no way to change the colors from the front-end) then you can have a professional looking landing page edited and published in no time at all.
The real value of VelocityPage and, indeed, its future appeal, may depend on the range of available templates. Given the structure of the plugin, it is relatively straight forward to add your own template and this may well appeal to developers who wish to provide a set of “custom” templates to clients.
Best-in-class, uncluttered, intuitive layout interface
The learning curve for VelocityPage is very shallow thanks to an interface that is easy-to-use and intuitive. Working by splitting a page into rows, the formatting of the columns for each row is as simple.
Within each column, you then add an item, again through an unfussy interface. This simplicity has been at the expense of some flexibility but the trade-off, especially for an early version of the product, seems appropriate.
The only thing I did find a little disconcerting is when adding some items, for example media, you are presented with an empty text area with no prompting for what input is expected (in this case a URL to a video).
Robust code with no obvious bugs or unexpected behaviors
If you play with any major plugin for long enough you’ll generally find some minor bugs or some unexpected behavior that makes causes a confused pause.
Not with this product. Across several days of hammering away, it never missed a beat.
Product doesn’t yet meet bold claims
Whilst running the risk of being accused for lobbing stones in a glass house, I don’t think that VelocityPage meets some of the bold claims made on its website.
The claim of “no more WordPress Admin Panel” is fanciful at best given that this product is only working on a single content type and even sites that have a hard split between content creators and designers will still have a requirement for authors to create posts in an admin panel of some description.
And given that VelocityPage is only for editing pages it also seems a bit of a stretch to claim that the product enables a site owner to “Be In Full Control of [your] Website With VelocityPage (no technical skills required)”.
In fact, the whole “no coding required” argument depends entirely on what how coding is classified. To my mind, CSS and HTML at least is coding and I would even argue that shortcodes could also be classified as such. To get the full value of VelocityPage potentially includes all 3 of these and therefore “coding” is very much a requirement.
For example, to add a button to the page requires the entering of an <a> tag with the button class in a custom HTML item. A “no coding” approach would surely be selecting and configuring a button item?
Personally, I’d prefer to lay the blame at over-zealous copywriting (more lobbing of stones) but regardless the outcome is the building of expectations that the product does not meet.
Limited functionality and features
A product that is only version 1.0 obviously needs to be cut some slack when it comes to functionality and features but even taking that into consideration, VelocityPage feels a little underpowered.
Text editing options are restricted to alignment, bold, italic, link editing and format removal. You cannot change the font family or size, add common styling such as underline, change the color of the font or add a background color. Background colors and images cannot be applied on the rows themselves from the front-end.
And the list of items that can be added to columns is fairly small, with extended functionality only available via custom HTML or shortcodes. Access to installed widgets would be nice as would an comprehensive “undo” feature (only on text editing) or common page elements such as the button item discussed above.
The pricing for VelocityPage is tiered with a basic 1 site licence at $97, a 3 site licence at $167 and a professional unlimited site licence at $247. Be aware that a “site” is one that “you or your company own” so does not cover client sites. For clients the preferred pathway is for professional licence holders to purchase a discounted single site licence.
The plugin code itself is licenced as GPL.
Many readers may dismiss VelocityPage simply because of the price but that would be hasty. Like all products, you have to work out what the value is to you and that will depend considerably, perhaps, on how much you value your time.
VelocityPage is a professional product aimed at professionals. In this context, the pricing model is to be applauded as it is clearly designed to provide a sustainable platform for the continued development and support of the product, as well as an appropriate reward for the team. An approach that is all too often catastrophically shunned by vendors in favor of (overly) optimistic high volumes of sales at rock bottom prices.
If, as plugin purchasers, we want high quality plugins to grow and thrive then we have to be prepared to pay a price that supports that sustainable approach.
The problem for VelocityPage at this stage is that the product is still fairly basic and the range of professional templates small (only 4). This perhaps requires more faith in the product and the team behind it than buying a bargain-basement throw-away plugin.
In these early versions, there is certainly an element of supporting the project but that is possibly justification in itself.
Note: Thanks to VelocityPage for providing a free copy of the product for review.
Have you used VelocityPage in a project? Share your experiences and impressions in the comments below.