Let me start this review of the Elegant Themes with a little background and perspective. For me, the whole purpose of having a blog is to provide content. I like to keep things simple and try not to get too involved with the coding behind a blog. In other words, I just want to fill in the blanks with content and be on my merry way. But I also want the blog or website to look decent and perform well. That’s what led me to Elegant Themes and that’s how I approach this review.
What Does Elegant Themes Promise?
The advertising portrays the Elegant Themes collection as having stellar design, advanced features and unparalleled support. In fact, here’s what their website says:
Design is our art and our passion. Our goal is to create the best WordPress Themes with a pixel-perfect eye for detail and a high standard for aesthetic excellence. Let us help you make your website simple, beautiful and professional
Our plethora of Shortcodes, Page Templates and Theme Options give you full control over your website. Manage your site like never before by using the countless powerful features that come packaged with all of our themes.
We put a ton of effort into providing top-notch WordPress tech support to all of our customers. With our dedicated support staff, you can be sure that you will have your blog up and running without a hitch regardless of your experience level.
Does Elegant Themes Deliver On It’s Promise?
Its a lofty promise for sure but it looked perfect for what I wanted. So out came my credit card and despite encountering a problem setting up my user account, I couldn’t wait to get started. I especially looked forward to moving around the page elements like building blocks as was show in the advertising videos.
It all sounded good on paper. But actually using the themes has been unexpectedly frustrating and has soaked up huge amounts of time just trying to get the themes to work the way I want. I don’t doubt that the themes are powerful and loaded with features that may interest experienced WordPress webmasters and bloggers, but the themes aren’t particularly simple and easy to use. Here’s what I soon discovered after using a few of the themes…
Most of the themes come with an ePanel that purports to give you full control over your blog in addition to the routine customizations typically available in the Theme Customizer section. But due to the limited amount of actual controls contained within the ePanel and Theme Cusomizer, the themes fall short in actually providing you with much building block customization and in some respects even ends up being more restrictive than the basic freebie WordPress themes.
In fact, Elegant Themes struggles to handle some very basic things like header images and logos. And it even forces you to modify the footer.php file just to put a copyright date and site name on the site footer along with or in place of the “Designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by WordPress” plug. You can add another footer below the site footer, of course but you shouldn’t have to unless you want it to include links to posts, pages, etc.
You Better Learn HTML 5 and CSS Real Quick
If you want the theme to do what you want it to do, you will likely have to enter CSS code into the Custom CSS field or be prepared to modify the theme’s php files. Which means you darn well better be up to speed on your HTML5 and CSS. Elegant Themes provides a nice little box at the bottom of their ePanel to enter CSS code but don’t even provide one example of how to use it. Inasmuch as they portray their themes as building block simple without having to touch a lick of code, this is unfortunate. How hard would it be to have an ET staffer compile a support document listing the Top Twenty most pressing issues that come up in the support forum along with the CSS solutions? Such documentation could be attached or linked to the custom CSS box on the ePanel to not only provide solutions to common problems, but to also provide examples of how users can accomplish things using CSS.
Elegant Theme Documentation Light On The Details
The documentation Elegant Themes provides for each theme looks impressive at first glance; there are contextual pop-up question marks next to the various functions, how-to documentation that appears thorough and even how-to videos. The problem is the documentation is extremely light on the actual how-to details that matter most and customers must now set aside several hours to search for answers on the Elegant Themes support forum or internet.
This further clogs up the support forums with how-to-do-it requests for simple things that other themes handle with ease by letting the users click into a checkbox to enable or disable a particular function. ET Support staff usually respond within a day or two with CSS code work-arounds that may or may not work depending on how well they understood the problem. All this can easily be avoided by simply including full customization of the basic blog components within the Theme Customizer and ePanel and completely overhauling their documentation. The easier they make it for customers to find solutions to problems, the less those customers will be in the support forum pressing for answers.
Elegant Themes Page Builder Simple To Use
Now don’t get me wrong. The Elegant Themes do pack some firepower, especially the Divi theme. The much touted Page Builder feature is definitely pretty cool. It uses sections and modules that you can move around this way and that to create pages including your home page. The pre-defined templates are also helpful for learning how the Page Builder works or to use to set up the structure of your pages. Toward that end, you can easily modify the layout of any given template and save it as a new layout. And though the Page Builder function is missing from the Posts pages, you can download the Builder plugin zip from Elegant Themes and then upload it to your actual theme after which the Page Builder function will now be available for use with posts.
Now, it should be noted that as of the date of this writing, I still haven’t given up on the Elegant Themes. I WANT this to work. I want Elegant Themes to continue to add features, functionality and documentation. So I will press on.
Consider this review a work in progress as I continue to use various Elegant Themes. I will also post separate supplemental reviews covering the specific Elegant Themes I have used and the flaws I’ve encountered. Now I realize that Elegant Themes and many loyal customers might object to my use of the word flaws to showcase the problems and issues I’ve encountered with Elegant Themes, but bear in mind that I’m approaching this from the perspective of someone who purchased the product on the advertised promise of building pages “without a lick of code” and simplicity of use. If you are already up to speed with CSS, these things I call flaws may not be such a big deal to you.
In any case, when I become aware of solutions, hacks or work-arounds that address specific Elegant Theme flaws, I will update the posts accordingly. For additional related information, check out the articles and reviews listed below.
- Divi Theme Review
- Divi Theme Flaw: Custom Header Function Missing
- Harmony Theme Flaw: Header Does Not Display Properly