What's the point of this review? To share my experience (as pro web designer / programmer / copywriter) for the "best" WordPress all-in-one package that'll design ANY type of winning website.
I'd like to give you the bottom line based on my experience of using them extensively, in detail and spending considerable time with each.
If you disagree, great! I'm only sharing my subjective point of view... from someone who absolutely needs to analyze to exhaustion... each and every component through extensive comparison and testing.
My criteria for testing is: Show me any site on the web. No matter how professional, sales-lettery, modern 3.0ish, traditional, etc the site is... I'll be able to copy and design an exact replica in record time and enjoy the process.
So the question is: Which builder online allows me to do this? That's exactly the point of this post.
In summary - if you're in a hurry: Get this combo: HeadwayThemes + Shortcodes Ultimate
All the plugins/themes I've used and tested: OptimizePress 2, Headway, Genesis, Dynamik Website Builder, Visual Composer, Ultimatum, Pagelines 2.4 Framework, Pagelines DMS, Shortcodes Ultimate, Intense Shortcodes, InstaBuilder.
(I also use Dreamweaver CC 2014 with DMX Bootstrap 3.0 Extension. This method to create sites from scratch gets 10/10! More on this below if you're into Dreamweaver)
I haven't used, but closely analyzed from videos: Thesis, Catalyst. And read almost 80% of reviews on all themes/plugins on this page. So my evaluation is also based on others testing.
Now for the notes on my experience. I won't go in detail. For that, see their respective websites.
HeadwayThemes: ver 3.7
I'm only interested in popular themes with a BIG community around it and lot of plugins. Because this tells me they'll be around for many more years. Face it, 90% of themes are built as a one-time money maker by the ego-driven author. Or author has no real business plan for future updates. Or author has a divorce and loses motivation to live, let alone continue updating the plugin. That's what you DON'T want!
Headway is the ONLY theme I found that understands web designers needs, order, steps and logic of working... so you get the site designed from scratch to finish... as fast, efficiently and smoothly as possible.
It's the Dreamweaver of WordPress theme web design. Meaning you can edit ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. It's extremely easy and straight forward once you've invested at least 3-5 days playing with it. So yes, there is a learning curve. But it's a fun one. Not the technical, painful, boring one.
For example, you can right click on absolutely any component, text, element on your Wordpress page and change dozens of variables about it. No coding! You can also apply manual CSS.
I totally got hang of it in 1 day... attempting to replicate a premium ThemeForest theme (Porto - Responsive HTML5 Template Preview - ThemeForest) from scratch. Did 100% replica in 3 hours.
It's code and template is clean and small, so loads super fast... in fact Headway has FASTEST loading time from all themes tested. And has ZERO conflicts with any plugin I threw at it. (Except OptimizePress 2.)
What's more... ANY template from OP2, LeadsPages, 10 Min Pages, ProfitsTheme, Premise, Kajabi... can be replicated in Headway in under 1 hour. Another reason to love Headway.
In my opinion:
I rather create my own theme (which is what Headway is - a theme creator)... then use a predefined one (like you'd find hundreds on ThemeForest, StudioPress, WooThemes, etc).
Because with Headway you can change anything, anytime. EG: I'm never happy with my theme. Always making small changes inspired from other Themes/sites. With Headway, you're not mercy to styling preference of someone elses theme design.
Also, Elance has tons of Headway theme designers. So can outsource theme creation by telling them to replicate any blog/page you like on the internet.
All in all: Headway is for you if like web design, enjoy expressing your creativity, and are a control-freak. Otherwise if you just want a money-making site/blog ASAP... then I 100% recommend Optimize Press 2.
InstaBuilder V1 PLUGIN (This does NOT apply to V2 as I haven't tested V2)
This is the most perfect, trouble-free plugin I ever used for building sales letter-y and high-converting optin pages pages. No bugs, no layout inconsistencies with themes, nothing but pure "It just WORKS!" perfection.
It's obvious author put their heart and care into this project.
However, I don't use InstaBuilder at all anymore. OP2 and LeadPages is years ahead of InstaBuilder.
UPDATE 20 FEB 2014: InstaBuilder adds extra 100KB of file size to your site. Meaning it slows down page load time significantly. For this reason alone, I'd never use InstaBuilder - and simply replicate it's awesome sales letter designs using Headway or OP2... and it's awesome shortcodes using free plugin "Shortcodes Ultimate".
For those who think 100KB is nothing are still living in a narrow-minded world of ADSL2 near their home. You obviously haven't traveled to 3rd world countries and spent weeks there running your business every day. Or been to villages in your country with ADSL1 like speeds (very slow). This will ALWAYS be the case. Amazon.com said just 1 extra sec of load time on their site equates to 4 million dollars loss per year. YES IT'S THAT SIGNIFICANT!!!
I spent days searching for every shortcode plugin I could find.
Shortcodes Ultimate is clear winner. It allows you to insert any "Twitter Bootstrap 3.0" like component. Adds things like: Tabs, Accordion, etc...
Basically: Use this to insert super modern components throughout your pages/blog.
What's more, "Shortcodes Ultimate" has smallest file size when activated. It's only 18kb on average. Meaning it won't affect your page load at all.
(I've also used "Intense Shortcodes" from Codecanyon. Avoid this! It adds extra 180kb to your pages just when you activate the plugin. That's suicide to your page load times.)
Optimize Press 2
Want to cut all the review B.S, and only care about high-conversion templates... and just want to make money ASAP? Then go for OP2.
(Or) Go for LeadPages. I see both of them pretty much the same and use them both.
However, here's what I noticed about OP2:
1) OP2 Plugin: I tried all it's components. 80% of them broke with any theme, except OptimizePress 2 theme. Here's what I mean: http://i.imgur.com/n3zutqo.png
So it's incompatible with Headway.
Also, OP2 level of customization is only 50% capable of Headway. Meaning you're greatly limited in customizing the styling in OP2.
What got me into buying monthly membership to this is the fact that all templates are proven high-conversion designs. Meaning I don't have to worry about colors, style, fonts, etc.
Meaning, LeadPages appears to be by far the FASTEST and surely the easiest way to put up a webpage for your product/service - with least amount of knowledge required in web design on your part.
I still more prefer OptimizePress 2.0, because it's very similar to LeadPages, with added benefit of it being a WordPress Theme, hence allowing so much more personal customizing of components, CSS.
Only reason I'm with LeadPages is it's reassuring having membership that contains proven WINNER money-making designs that I can replicate in OptimizePress 2.0 or Headway.
Second choice after Headway. Ultra loaded with all the right stuff to make any site.
My issue with it: Too hard to use at the start. Not intuitive and takes way longer to build something by the way it's made. At least nowhere near to Headway's speed, efficiency and structure. This is subjective of course and my experience ONLY with it.
Also, I'd rather resort to something else that's clearly run/maintained by MANY people and has a LARGE popularity online. Hence another reason why I was biased towards Headway instead. But I almost ended up sticking to Ultimatum.
Besides seeing here what this is: WordPress - Visual Composer: Page Builder for WordPress | CodeCanyon
... it's one of the most popular visual page builders for WordPress.
NOTE: It's used to align content and insert content into your pages. It's not a THEME builder like Headway. Meaning you CAN use the 2 together.
Summary 20 Feb 2014: I don't recommend this anymore. Shortcodes Ultimate is 1000x better, faster because it's code is tons smaller.
Headway 1000x quicker and more fun to accomplish the same thing. And Headway has tons more customization options.
Dynamik Builder: Yes, I get it. It's hundreds of fields that allow you to enter values in order to customize the look of your theme. To me, this is ridiculous. Because...
Most people are visual... and need to see LIVE and INSTANTLY how changes look like in a LIVE PREVIEW. Just like you'd see in Dreamweaver or Headway.
Same case as Genesis/Dynamik above.
Dreamweaver + DMXzone Bootstrap 3
Bootstrap 3 is awesome. Some of most popular sites in the world are built on Bootstrap framework. Because it's so reliable, flexible and mobile responsive.
Knowing this, I now make sites using Bootstrap inside Dreamweaver. It gives power to replicate absolutely any design in the world ever made since beginning of internet, in record time and 100x better looking. That's the power of using this combo to build your sites.
Because why on earth would you create a single page WordPress site? That's when you'd use this Dreamweaver/Bootstrap combo.
So you'll need these 3 plugins:
DMXzone Bootstrap 3 - Extensions - DMXzone.COM
DMXzone Bootstrap 3 Elements - Extensions - DMXzone.COM
DMXzone Bootstrap 3 Navigation - Extensions - DMXzone.COM
Get those 3. When you do, install them to Dreamweaver. Now you can design a PRO looking site in 10 minutes. Compared to professional coders who would take 3 hours to do by hand coding.
Advanced / Intermediate or those who care and love their businesses and put lot of time, energy, money into it - and have big plans to expand their service/product empire in the future...
Get this combo: HeadwayThemes + Shortcodes Ultimate
Beginner / Guy who likes to make cash FAST and a LOT of it by churning out their good/crap products to the market...
OptimizePress2 (or) LeadsPages.
If you need membership capability, go for "Wishlist Member". Which is light years ahead of OptimizePress2 or InstaMember membership plugins.
* Yes, I also recommend "Wishlist Member" as #1 choice for membership sites. Extremely intuitive, with superb control over your members, content and payments. Also it's 100% compatible with all reviewed products in this post.