Elegant Themes has been a game changer in the industry for many years. Not only do they offer a very inexpensive entry point to access a wide variety of themes, they also have pushed the envelope in traditional theme options and content customization.
They started with short code integration which allowed users to easily do things like slideshows, tabbed content and columned layouts from inside the content editor of WordPress. This concept has now grown into their flagship theme, Divi. With the recent release of Divi 2.4, Elegant Themes has demonstrated how far they can control every aspect of a site’s design.
Divi 2.4 doesn’t look on the outside much different than the previous versions. The real change was in the back end editors and the control they are offering over every element in Divi. If you are not familiar with Divi, it is a clean, mobile-friendly, responsive design that utilizes a diverse library of content options using their built in content system. It includes default layouts that can be used to quickly populate a site with demo content that is featured in the Demo site.
One of the biggest benefits of Divi is this ability to make it look like the demo in just a matter of minutes using their “load” function for their page builder. For example, you can load a corporate home page that will feature a slider, 3 content blurbs, some quotes about your company, and a contact form at the bottom of the page. That is just one of the many default layout models they offer that can then be customized and modified.
I am obviously a little bit in love with Divi. It’s a fun system to use and really allows for some great content treatment and individualized pages. The question that comes up with a lot of clients is, “Is Divi right for my project?” To answer that, I’ll go through a few Pros and Cons to Divi:
- Just look at the demo. Divi is a beautiful site out of the box. And for the most part, will have a layout option that will be perfect for a large portion of projects.
- Fully responsive to snap to a variety of standard sizes to fit any mobile device.
- Simple customizations to allow for a variety of looks.
- Backed by a progressive company and solid community support, Divi shows signs of being a great solution for many years to come.
- Divi isn’t really a framework. As a developer I am a little disappointed by how few hooks are available to alter Divi through Plugins and Child Themes. To that end, Child Themes have never been a great solution for Divi either. It’s just too massive of a theme to really do much through the child theme. If you are only altering the CSS, then Divi offers better ways to do that then a child theme.What does this mean for clients? It means that Divi, although it can be easily “skinned” to look different, can not be highly customized without some what seperating your code from the community and company supported core code. Chances are, especially where Divi is in the life cycle of software package, that these hooks and options will become available in the future. But for now, if you want your design to function or look completely different from the core Divi, then Divi may just not be the place to start.
- Be ready to be married to Divi for a long time. It’s a little bit of a commitment once you start using the Divi Page Builder. Because what Divi is storing in the post for this editor is a ton of shortcode data in and around your content. If ever you decide to move to another theme after creating 1000 articles, your content will be muddied up with shotcodes. There is a coming fix for this as Divi will soon be releasing a plugin version of their page builder that will work outside of Divi, but compatibility with other themes may not be guaranteed.
- As a designer, it’s always tricky to design inside a box. Divi does that. If you are doing multiple projects and you think Divi may be the ideal solution to many of them, be prepared that your portfolio of work may start to all look the same. As much as I love the layout options there are built into Divi, unless you go to great lengths to customize it, then it’s pretty easy to recognize a Divi site. Being unique is sometimes a big deal to clients, although for clean modern design, uniqueness is becoming less of a factor. Divi takes more of the standpoint that your content should be where attention is given. Not the outer shell of the site. Which, I am inclined to believe also. But the sad truth is a lot of sites suffer from poor content, and historically designers have used that as an opportunity to allow the design of the site to distract from the lack of depth in the content.
I doubt that there will every be “one theme to rule them all”, pardon the Lord Of The Rings reference, but Divi does try to do that and continues to impress me with each release. I look forward to what Divi will do next and how designers, like me, will get the chance to push it’s limits of design and customization.
Adam White is the Creative Director of Main Street Enterprises, a web development and consulting firm that specializes in small businesses and non-profits. He can be reached at awhite@MainStreetOpen.com.