Elegant Themes has been known for offering high-quality themes for a while now. One of their latest themes is Divi, which they present as “the smartest and most flexible theme in our collection“, as well as “the most powerful theme we have ever built, and quite possibly the only theme you will ever need.”
That’s quite a statement. But I admit that from the start, everything about it comes across as very professional. If the theme is as impressive as the commercial promises, there will be a lot in store:
Out of the box, after installation (which works like most other themes so there’s nothing specific about this), Divi looks extremely clean and minimalistic. Without any customization or configuration, all you get is a very bare, black-and-white web site. By default, the home page shows your latest blog posts, and the top menu lists your pages and categories. Aside from what’s in the sidebar, no space is wasted on post dates, authors, or other metadata for your content anywhere.
This is by design: I assume Divi keeps everything as clean as possible in the beginning and will leave it up to the user to add anything they want to add (as opposed to have too much at first and leave it up to the user to remove things). It’s easy to change these settings in the standard Theme Options page and this is also where you set most other options that concern your overall site; your logo, social icons, sidebar placement, the number of posts on various page, and so on. Additionally, you can set your options for Ad management, SEO and add some custom code to the header, body or footer.
So far, these options are handy for both developer and end-user, but nothing too earth-shattering. Yet.
Divi ships with a handful of pre-made layouts, that you can apply to any page with just a few clicks. Within the Page Editing screen, you can load one of the 16 available layouts and publish the page directly. You’ll have to try some of these layouts to see which one you prefer, as there is no instant preview screenshot or something, but most of the layouts speak for themselves.
Different layouts will not only change the look of your page, they will also change the contents or the structure — whereas the Blog Standard layout will give you a list of recent blog posts on your page, the Page Right Sidebar layout will show your page content with a (you guessed it) sidebar on the right. Whereas with most themese, you may be used to selecting a template for any page by selecting a value from a dropdown in the page editor, in Divi it’s selecting an existing layout.
The Divi builder
The pre-made layouts may still look a little bare to you. This is where Divi’s strongest selling point comes in: their drag and drop page builder. Every layout is made of blocks that you can drag, drop, remove, add, configure, switch around and so on. Although you can start with a pre-made layout and edit everything from there, you can, of course, also easily create your own layout from scratch.
The builder mainly works with four levels of building blocks;
- Each page contains one or more Sections
- Every section contains on or more Rows
- Every row contains one or more Columns
- Every column contains one or more Modules
(Please note that Divi does not define columns as actual building blocks. However, since you need to add them to a row before you can add any modules, I also included that as a building block.)
Within the Page Builder, you can add any of these building blocks and place them wherever you want. This turns out to be a very intuitive process; add some sections, add a number of rows to it, divide these rows into columns, and add some modules. For the sections on your page, the configuration options include setting the background (color, image, video) and a few cosmetic details (inner shadow, parallax effect).
Sections, rows and modules can be dragged and dropped all over within your builder, which makes it extremely easy to define how your page will be structured (columns can not be dragged or dropped).
Once you’ve set some sections, rows and columns, you are ready to pick the modules you need on your page. You have the option from 17 different modules, varying from those who can display a simple image or plain text, to more advanced items like animated counters or a contact form.
The selection of modules is limited, but this is a strong point. Divi did not make the mistake of offering too many options or including obscure modules that most people don’t need but are included for extreme cases. Instead, the 17 available modules are all useful for most websites. You can imagine how images, text, sliders, sidebars and contact forms are so common that they sort of have to be included here. You might not think it’s that logical to include animated counters, a product list, a pricing table or a toggle box, but once you give them a try and see what they’re about, you’ll instantly recognize their value.
For every module, plenty of configuration options are available – and here too, only the very necessary options are included. For example, it would have been easy to add options for text layout (color, size, background, type, etc.) but that would make everything look cluttered, with all the color pickers and dropdowns. Instead, Divi keeps things simple and you can only set whether the text should be dark or light. In 99% of all cases, this is all you need to configure, and it will still look good.
Basically every configuration option you need is easy to find and even easier to change. If you need to change more than the default configuration options, this can be done in the underlying theme code — though I can’t imagine that most users will feel the need to change the default look of each module. Credit to Divi for coming up with a very clean design for the modules!
Once you’re done with your layout, and you’ve placed all your building blocks where you want them, you can save your layout so that it can be used for other pages as well. From there, it’s easy to load this saved layout on another page and make some changes to it. This is in line with the “layout as template” concept, so you can consider every layout you save as a template, and use it as a starting point for other pages.
Most impressive, this Page Builder. Definitely the heart and soul of Divi (if you can call it that)!
For only $39/year, you have access to all themes that are available at Elegant Themes, including Divi. For $89/year, you’ll also get the source PSDs for themes. If you ever want to mess with the theme’s design elements, these layered Photoshop files can come in very handy. Let’s say you want to create a site and use this theme, but not the default design. The designer of the project can then use the PSDs as the blueprint or design framework, and work with that to create a custom design. You get about 55 PSD files, that range from full page designs to deeper-level modules that appear in the theme. If you wouldn’t know better, you would think these are the actual designs that were used when this theme was developed. And who knows, maybe they are!
If you don’t want to pay a fee every year, you can pay a one-time amount of $249 that will give you lieftime access to all themes.
Overall I am very impressed with this theme. The Page Builder is excellent, for both WordPress developers and end-users. If you ever build sites for clients who have little to no WordPress experience, Divi would be a great theme to build on since the Page Builder is so easy to use, and will give the client full control over the pages in their site. Maybe I’m getting a little too carried away by the Page Builder, but it truly looks like Elegant did a near-perfect job of making Divi as easy as it can be, without making any concessions on the customization possibilities. The balance between “clean” and “customizable” is where Divi excels over a lot of other themes.
Regarding the documentation, Elegant provides clear instructions, tutorials, and videos. You won’t really need it very often though. One run through the how-to videos and you should be all set.
Literally, the only thing that I was not happy with (but only just a little), is the lack of auto-updates. If an update to the theme is available, you will be notified but in order to actually install it, you’ll have to re-download the theme. A small and acceptable downside to an otherwise very worthy theme.
So, to get back to their statement that Divi is “the only theme you will ever need“? Quite possibly! I’d say it’s not far off, actually. For the low price, it’s absolutely worth checking out. You won’t be disappointed.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to subscribe to WP Mayor’s RSS feed.