Drag and Drop Review Redux: Divi by Elegant Themes

The sophistication of new drag and drop theme and page builders has been on the steady incline as WordPress becomes the gateway for both blogs and brands alike. Enthusiasts welcome the relative ease in which websites can come together, while front-end designers bemoan the slow death of their craft (will drag and drop eventually kill front-end design? It’s perhaps too soon to call).

The battle of the theme builders took place last year on the WPMU DEV Blog and featured many of the heavyweight contenders. Noticeably missing from the shootout was Elegant Theme’s contribution to the D&D arena, Divi, primarily because it is not actually a theme framework so much as a theme that uses a built-in page builder.

This review is also particularly timely as it just so happens to follow a review by Crowd Favorite’s Chris Lema.

Divi 2.1 was released this past summer, and with Elegant Themes hinting at a new drag and drop magazine theme, the time seem right for an in-depth peek under the hood.

Elegant Themes released Divi in 2013 and it’s since become their flagship product. The theme company has touted the ability for non-coders to create endless and elegant page configurations. Their sales copy says it may be the “only theme you ever need.”

But can it stand up to the hype?

Drag and Drop Redux: Elegant Themes’ Divi

Elegant Themes' Divi

What Does it Cost?

Divi is part of Elegant Themes membership, which includes access to every theme in their portfolio.

A personal license is $69 per year and a developer license, which includes the four Elegant Theme plugins and layered PSDs is $89 per year.

Alternately, lifetime access is a one-time payment of $249.

Plans and pricing details can be found here.

What Do you Get?

There’s no framework to install and Divi comes pre-loaded with all the modules, pre-made layouts, and additional features.

There’s no other add-ons or integrations to purchase, which is really kind of refreshing.

How Does it Work?

First off, it’s important to understand that you’re not creating custom themes with Divi. Divi is the theme. When you install it, you’ll be prompted to set your preferences in the ePanel—which includes some theme settings (but not all of them).

The ePanel includes a section for navigation (which is awkward and redundant since Divi also supports menus); layout settings which just control post and page thumbnails and comment preferences, and metadata post info, some very basic ad management, and SEO settings (which I’d recommend you not tie to your theme if possible), and a place for you to enter any custom code (in various places), or CSS.

Options for the way Divi looks are found in the “Customize” section under “Appearance.” You can decide between a full-width or boxed layout, whether you want your logo centered, where you want your navigation (top or side), and whether to toggle social media icons or contact info.

There’s a section where you can choose font, link, and accent colors, but if picking colors isn’t your thing, Divi also comes with several predefined color schemes (in blue, green, orange, red, and the obligatory pink).

Elegant Themes Divi theme review

Regardless of what colors you pick, you’re not going to have control over certain visual effects (like buttons, for example), unless you’re prepared to do some heavy customization. So any website you create with Divi will essentially look like Divi—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re a developer, and your clients don’t mind that their site looks and acts suspiciously like every other site you create, you could probably get a lot of traction out of this single theme.

You should also know from the onset that Divi is a page builder—which is ironic considering the whole point of a CMS like WordPress is to separate the content from the page design. On a five-page site, this won’t be too big of a deal. But for huge, complex projects, having to go through page-by-page will get real old, real quick. Divi gives you the ability to save, reuse, export, and import your page layouts though (but content and module settings would have to be tweaked on each new page). There are 32 really nice looking premade page layouts to get you started, and going through those is an excellent way to get comfortable with Divi’s options and features.

Divi WordPress theme review

Divi builds your pages section by section, which it populates with rows, columns, and then modules. Each section can have a unique background (including gorgeous video and full-width backgrounds), and if you add a CSS ID or class, you have further control over the styling.

Divi WordPress theme review

This, for example:

Elegant Themes Divi Theme Review

Becomes this on the published page:

Divi for WordPress theme review

What Features Does it Come With?

The range of modules and page layout options is truly impressive. Out of the box you can create headlines, call-outs, subscription and contact forms, galleries, filterable portfolios, blurbs, image sliders, counters, pricing tables, insert audio and video, and more—all on the fly.

Divi is WooCommerce-ready and fully responsive, supports multiple post formats, and can display your blog in standard format or offers a masonry-style blog feed.

Divi by Elegant Themes review

Divi 2.1 introduced one-page layout features such as smooth scrolling internal links and floating side navigation. While Divi might be overkill for a simple one-page boutique or agency site, if your business involves putting together a bunch of landing pages, Divi offers a menu-less page template—which could save a ton a time and money on your squeeze and sales efforts, making Divi a very attractive option.

How Did Building the Test Site Go?

As if by magic. When you familiarize yourself with Divi’s range of features, are comfortable with the default styling, and know what your site needs, you can easily put together a stunning, fully responsive website with beautiful parallax effects and animation in no time. A simple five-page test site came together in a few hours, looked and worked fabulously.

Again, it’s a theme, not a framework—so with that in mind, you can’t use Divi to build from scratch. If you’re going to be frustrated by the inability to fine tune the buttons, fonts, colors, and margins, etc., and like me, you’re a designer/intrepid code hack rather than a developer, you’ll probably spend a good chunk of time pulling your hair out combing through that CSS.

Elegant Themes’s themes are clearly meant to be used as-is out of the box. If you’re going to do a lot of customization, a child-theme is recommended.

In other words, it’s easy to put together a Divi site. If you want a site that doesn’t look and feel Divi-ish, much less so.

Ratings

Ease of Use / Learning Curve

Divi is by far easier and more user-friendly than Headway, Pagelines, or any of the drag-and-drop-like theme and page builders I’ve tested. The support for Divi includes video walkthroughs of all the modules and features. Elegant Themes has done a rockstar job of creating tutorials on their blog that support and trick out Divi, and WordPress n00bs would learn a lot by playing around with the theme.

Features

Feature-rich would be an understatement. For most basic websites, Divi offers pretty much all you’d need. Keep in mind though, this isn’t a framework that developers are going to be creating integrations for. That said, the basic lowdown includes theme support for:

  • Mailchimp, Aweber and Feedburner newsletter signup forms
  • WooCommerce support
  • Mega menus
  • Side navigation and smooth scrolling for one-page websites

And modules that include:

  • Google Maps modules (including a gorgeous full-width map module)
  • Blurbs, toggles, tabs, and accordions
  • Sliders (including fullwidth and video support for sliders), galleries, portfolios
  • Pricing tables, animated and bar counters, countdowns
  • Audio embeds
  • And more!

Even though there are SEO settings and ad management in the ePanel, those features aren’t so robust—so you’d probably want additional plugins to handle that part of your site. I wasn’t impressed by the default theme font control, and ended up installing a plugin to better manage the typography.

Flexibility

For small to medium sites, businesses, agencies, and portfolios, and for building landing, sales, and squeeze pages, I can’t think up a more flexible page builder than Divi.

However, I don’t think it has the nicest looking blog and post-feed controls, and I’m curious as to how Elegant Themes is going to remedy that in the theme they’ve been sneak-peaking since June.

Also keep in mind that if you build with Divi and then later decide to go with another theme, expect to spend a fair bit of time cleaning up your pages.

Out of the Box

It’s relatively straight forward to get up and running with Divi and because it’s all self-contained, no third-party integrations are needed to take advantage of its features. You simply install the theme and create your pages.

Value for Money

Looking at the theme market and other drag and drop themes and frameworks, even at the developer price point, Divi is a really good value.

Of course you get access to other Elegant Themes themes and plugins too (but frankly, beyond Divi, much of their catalog is pretty niche or outdated).

Final Thoughts

For all the mixed feelings I have about Divi, I actually can’t help but like it. What can I say? It’s shiny and it does what it does well.

Only theme I’ll ever need? Unlikely. I think the philosopher’s stone of a WordPress theme is one that, once installed, configured, and live with the site’s unique content, doesn’t look like a theme. And for the endless configurations, Divi still walks and talks like Divi.

It’s a solid theme that can do a whole bunch of different jobs. But one theme to rule them all? Not quite there yet, and maybe will never be.

The Good

  • A crap-ton of modules to play with (32 to be exact)
  • Multiple advanced section layouts to choose from
  • Fantastic out-of-the-box features like scroll to the top, side navigation, and support for background video
  • Support for WooCommerce, Google Maps, MailChimp, Aweber, and Feedburner
  • Easy to use, even for beginners
  • Page builder platform gives you layout control over every individual page on your site

The Bad

  • It’s not a theme builder and if you expect it to act like that, you’ll be disappointed
  • Additional styling seems unusually tedious and laborsome
  • No developer support
  • You’ll have to build every individual page (see page builder, above)
  • If you ever switch themes, you’ll have a mess on your hands

Divi by Elegant Themes

  • Learning curve / ease of use:
  • Features:
  • Flexibility:
  • Out-of-the-box:
  • Value for money:
  • Overall:

19 Responses

  • New Recruit

    I agree with the article. Divi isn’t a solution for a large website, but it’s great for what I use it for, specifically one-page sites. Because making one page is easy and the page builder is easy to use I’m pumping out one-page sites for clients who want to promote a book, DVD, or simply themselves.

    As for changing some styles, it really isn’t that hard to do. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I don’t ever leave the styles for a site the same when using a theme. I don’t want it to look like everyone else’s. I like to put my own spin and flair on it.

    Anyway, I basically agree with the article.

  • Dan
    New Recruit

    The analysis is spot on. Divi’s drawbacks are the cost of its strengths. As Lema points out, the main drawback is your content will not be easily portable to a different theme because it will be mixed in Divi’s shortcodes and markup, effectively destroying the wall of separation between content and presentation that makes a CMS valuable to large content sites that expect to grow and exist a long time. But this is more or less true of every page builder theme.

    The tradeoff in limited portability is not a barrier for small or temporary sites that won’t change much or where it’s really important to have an easy way for admin users to create and modify complex layouts with all the bells and whistles Divi provides. It’s possible to avoid dealing with any HTML/CSS in the page builder, but probably not if they get in too deep for their own good.

    I would also add that Divi should always be used as the parent to a child them even if you don’t make more than a few CSS changes. Divi’s CSS is far from ideal and quite a pain to override, particularly in its menus. The backend interface for its settings is not great either, but overall it performs as advertised.

  • Flash Drive

    Well, I made a big site in Divi, and I managed to make it simple to change theme, if I’ll ever need it: I didn’t use the page builder (except for 2 pages).

    Simple as that.

    Divi is a good looking theme even without the page builder.
    Most likely, you’ll have 3-to-5 pages deserving it.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect for anyone -that would be stupid- but I don’t feel this limit, sincerely. About customization, I agree with the other commenters who recommend using child themes.

    I didn’t find it THAT hard to customize, but child themes never hurt, while not using them, well… it CAN hurt and most likely WILL, sooner or later. :P

    In a few words: Divi sucks at large sites, but ONLY if you insist using the builder for every page… Which is kinda useless.
    An overkill, in the best scenario. :D

  • New Recruit

    As an ET customer (madrynweb), i would love to say a couple of things.

    1. i agree with chris lema, but still love divi :)
    2. divi should be i10n ready! please, there are other live languages out of there :). It is a MUST
    3. a plugin with a configuration file to match the style of the theme would be ideal, because that what you get in divi, everything just fits, and that is GREAT
    4 the builder interface is great too, big blocks, bigs buttoms, but is not very consistent, the button’s location, is not unusual to try to insert a module when you need to insert a section… easily “fixable”
    5 the Loop, the query… this is where Divi does not shine at all, not a little shine here, you cant even create a blog module that skips the first blog :(
    6 you should use a child theme -as always-, and if you don try to go wild and try to insert a codrops example is not hard, you can use chisd theme configurator (free) from lilaeamedia or even csshero (noy free)
    7 If you use, or plan to use DIVI you MUST try a clever plugin (limited, but really clever) made specially for divi, take a look at http://divi4u.com/ it has a “theme engine”, lets you do a lot of usefull things in the theme configurator.

    “Divi Children Engine is kept in a separate folder inside your child theme, not interfering with your own custom child theme files. It contains several functional modules, such as:
    Custom functions (footer credits generator, post meta data generator, etc).
    Custom Codes generator, for Divi Children specific custom CSS selectors.
    Magic Codes manager, for generating and managing special codes that modify the behavior of Divi modules.
    WordPress Customizer management.”

    you please take a look. it is free.

    8. still I am agree with mr lema, but if the plugin is comming, that is a relief
    9. more Justin Tadlock style, less themeforest style, that is what we, as customer, must spread our word :)
    10 Divi is a theme, is not a framework, not Genesis -not DWB-, not ultimatum… is a theme, a flexible and beautifull theme. Use the builder with discretion

    not 100% related but hope this would be usefull

    PS. The fact that the layouts, or premade pages that you save, and can export, are filled with content is cool, because is a way to inform things like the form factor of a image, the amount of text for certain block, etc. (the more complex is a page the more you should take care of things like these…)

    ET home home.. :)

  • New Recruit

    Melissa,

    Would love to see an updated version of the “battle of the theme builders” with the new version of Avada, Visual Composer (or, say, X Theme), Make, etc held-up alongside Divi and each other.

    I realize they aren’t apples-to-apples as to purpose, but for us newbies looking for drag-n-drop options, it’s hard to compare even the top-selling contenders.

    Thanks so much for diving into Divi!

  • New Recruit

    Nice review. I’m surprised that more people haven’t written comprehensive reviews on Divi, so it’s good that you did this.

    I think Divi is a great way for an inexperienced person to create a nice-looking web site.

    But one problem is that the beginning designer won’t be learning much about WordPress while creating the site – because the easy-to-use interface isolates the designer from much of the WordPress interface. If the person ever decides to build a site not using Divi, it could be a rude awakening.

    Also, thanks for mentioning the tutorials. I bought Divi awhile back – haven’t used it yet – but I was very impressed by the video tutorials put out by Elegant Themes. Miles ahead of the tutorials most theme developers furnish – if they even furnish any at all.

    If more theme developers furnished tutorials like these, there would be a lot fewer people giving up after not being able to figure out the themes they’ve bought.

  • New Recruit

    Excellent review and I’m glad to see the crucial point made that once you’ve chosen Divi you will have to stay with it as the Divi shortcodes will cause chaos within another theme. A LOT of editing is required to weed them out!

    So, if Divi suits for today AND tomorrow then it’s another great solution for the non-techy creator of smaller sites.

  • New Recruit

    I’ve been using Divi for a couple of builds this last week. The theme is great but the styling limitations are very frustrating as stated in the article. One solution which I have found a very cool combination so far is to run CSS Hero with Divi. It gives you a huge amount of styling control and it’s point and click rather than having to write lots of CSS in your child theme.

    I still prefer Headway for more complex sites but if you need to churn something out quickly Divi works very well.

Comments are closed.