What Is Elementor?
I remember when I first heard about Elementor.
From the context, I couldn’t really tell what it was.
And if I’m honest, all I could think of was the Dementors from Harry Potter.
After binging on all eight movies that weekend, it wasn’t long before I noticed more and more people talking about it.
Elementor this. Elementor that.
Now I really had to find out what it was. And this time, I wasn’t going to let my imagination get the better of me.
So I blasted opened a new tab, shimmied over to Google and punched in the word “Elementor”.
To my disappointment, I realized it was just ANOTHER WordPress page builder.
It didn’t make sense.
How could everyone be so excited about a WordPress page builder? I mean, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Could it really be worth the hype?
Our Elementor Review
Elementor is the new kid on the block, but don’t let that fool you.
Despite stiff competition, it has quickly become one of the most popular, visual page builders for WordPress, and it continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Since it’s release in mid-2016, Elementor has had over 2 million installs and an impressive 4.8 star rating on WordPress.org.
Even more impressive is that this page builder only had 1 million active installs just seven months ago.
People clearly love it — but is this just the latest fad, or is Elementor truly the ultimate page builder for WordPress?
The Good, Bad, And The Ugly
For this review, I fired up Elementor to see how well this page builder fares in comparison to popular alternatives.
From here on out, I’ll share my experiences using this tool, as well as what I liked and didn’t like along the way.
Let’s do this.
There’s nothing worse (well almost nothing) than wanting to test a new WordPress page builder and running into technical issues when you’re trying to install it.
Adding Elementor to your WordPress install is as easy as adding any other good plugin:
If you’re lucky enough to own the Pro version, installation here is also easy peasy. Just download your installation ZIP file, upload it via the ‘Add Plugins’ screen and away you go.
This is a lot easier than the process certain WordPress page builders follow, including the one I had to upload via FTP.
If you’re not familiar with FTP, it’s what Fred Flintstone used to upload his page builder plugins.
N.B. Elementor Pro is an “add-on” for the free version of Elementor i.e. you need the free version installed for the Pro version to work.
The User Interface
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of the Elementor user interface, we want to give the developers props for their most recent addition – the Elementor Finder.
One of the biggest problems most folks have with page builders is that making a change to a page or section means a lot of clicking around, or having to manually exit to the WordPress dashboard.
This not only eats up a lot of time, but can be really, really frustrating too.
Never fear, Elementor Finder is here.
Press CTRL + E (or CMD + E on Macs) to bring up the ‘Finder’ search window:
You can also access Finder from the main Elementor menu:
Once you have Finder open simply type in what you’re looking for and it will show you a list of available options:
This provides you with an easy way to jump between different settings, pages, posts, pop-ups or sections.
But – and I’m really nitpicking here – it doesn’t allow you to “find” widgets.
Why Elementor? Why!
Anyhoo, apart from that I love this new feature.
If you want a list of other shortcuts you can use within Elementor then use Ctrl + ? on Windows, or CMD + ? on Macs.
The Elementor Side Panel
As with most page builders, the side panel makes up the bulk of the tools interface.
I think this format works well, especially for visual page builders, because it doesn’t take up too much space on the screen – which is obviously important in this case.
A nice touch is that you can also expand or contract the panel by dragging it.
I must admit, this is something I only realized after several hours of using the builder… *blush*
Contracting the panel gives you more space to work with and doesn’t sacrifice usability in any way.
I almost feel like they could have taken this further and have the element icons default to a list, allowing the panel to shrink even more.
Clicking the little arrow on the side panel slots it away completely, allowing you to preview the page.
Of course, you can’t edit the page in preview.
This might seem like such a small thing, but the speed and simplicity of being able to preview like this was huge for me.
You can also press ‘Cmd + P’ on a Mac, or ‘Ctrl + P’ on a PC to quickly slide the side panel in and out of view.
Pretty much everything the tool has to offer is done through this panel, so let me run you through it.
In the top left, you’ll find the page settings.
(Don’t worry, I’m going to pick this apart soon).
At the bottom, you have several more options:
- Revision history (their version of ‘Undo’)
- Responsive mode (preview on desktop, tablet or mobile)
- Preview changes
- Ummm….saves or updates your changes
And finally, clicking the grid icon in the top right corner will take you back to the elements library:
As for adding different elements to your content, it’s just a case of dragging and dropping them from the library straight onto the page.
No complaints there.
Another nice touch is the ‘Section Navigator’ feature. It’s a floating window that allows you to quickly jump between different sections of your layout.
You can also right click on any element from within the ‘Section Navigator’ and start editing it.
When you update your layout, it automatically updates in the Preview window.
Not having to manually refresh a second browser tab to check for changes to your layout is such a simple idea, but a huge time saver for designers and marketers.
I must admit, it did take a little while to get used to where everything is, but that’s only expected when switching from another page builder.
Overall, the initial user interface is clean and super easy to use.
Layout Options & Columns
Being able to create specific layouts is what page builders are all about.
So how does Elementor measure up?
To begin creating a layout, you’ll first want to ‘Add New Section’ from the content area.
(We’ll cover the template stuff later)
Clicking the purple ‘add new section’ button brings up a little layout option.
At first, I didn’t think it made sense to have to go through this every time you add a new section, but simply dropping an element onto the page will default to a single column section anyway.
It’s being aware of these nuances that tend to speed things up with page builders.
So let’s say I want a 2 column section.
Piece of cake.
And adding more columns to a section is also straightforward.
Just right click the column button for any element and you get the option to add an extra column.
And because columns are contained within sections, you can easily stack columns to create more complex layouts.
Another useful feature is being able to create extra columns by dragging and dropping elements into place.
All you need to do is drag the element using the ‘column’ button, and you can squeeze it in virtually anywhere.
So far so good, but what about adjusting the width?
Again, pretty straightforward.
Just hover over an element to reveal the border, then drag the side to increase/decrease width.
Finally, there’s is a ‘Inner Section’ element in the sidebar (which defaults to 2 columns) if you prefer to do it that way.
Overall, I found the layout options worked well and I can’t see any obvious areas where it falls short.
Editing & Forced Styling
Now, let’s go a bit deeper and talk about the editing / styling experience.
Earlier versions of Elementor had this annoying thing where you could only edit elements from within the side bar.
That’s now in the distant past.
Editing elements is now as easy as you’d expect from a page builder as popular as Elementor.
For example, text editing and styling can be performed either inline, or from the sidebar.
Why offer two ways to achieve the same goal?
Because people are creatures of habit.
You can also access the ‘Style’ and ‘Advanced’ menus without having to leave the same tab.
From my point of view, I much prefer this approach to editing text because I can view my layout and text “live”.
Other elements – like images – can only be manipulated from within the sidebar, but that makes perfect sense because you can preview your changes as you make them.
Elementor also deserves additional praise for its text styling options.
It might seem like a trivial thing but I really appreciate the fact they give you so much control over how text elements work.
You’re not just given options for font size, bold, italic and underline.
Elementor allows you to tweak things like letter spacing, line height, and even set a drop shadow for your text.
Okay, drop shadows are a bit 2002, but I still have a soft spot for them.
And then you need to nod in appreciation of the fact Elementor also includes text styling options in the form of ‘Blend’ modes like luminosity, lighten, darken, etc.
A free page builder that gives you this level of control over your typography is pretty much unheard of.
Gotta love it.
But there were problems, like why were my headings blue?
Going into the ‘Settings’ menu, it became apparent that Elementor has its own styling options, completely ignoring the styling of my theme.
I’m still not sure why Elementor would force a color scheme on you by default.
Same goes for fonts. I like my fonts.
Don’t touch the fonts, okay?
Elementor took user feedback on board, so now you’re warned that your theme settings might be hijacked, and you can also switch off Elementor’s default colour schemes.
So, if you activate a theme that recognizes Elementor (Hestia for example), you’ll get this popup that allows you to stop Elementor overriding your theme’s settings.
And we can double check the ‘Settings’ menu to confirm this.
If you do run into a problem where Elementor has taken control of your default theme styling for fonts and colours,fear not – all is not lost!
Simply go into the ‘’Settings’ menu and choose ‘Discard’ for both colours and fonts.
And you can go one step further.
From within the ‘Settings’ menu choose ‘Dashboard Settings’.
Now you’re just two mouse clicks away from stopping Elementor’s styling hijack dead in its tracks.
Oh the drama!
I don’t want to take anything away from Elementor here — it’s GREAT that you can even set different colors/fonts for individual pages — I’m just not overly keen on having these set as a default.
Elements / Widgets
So let’s talk about the actual elements (or widgets) within Elementor.
These are the little building blocks you use to piece your content together, and Elementor offers a generous library to choose from.
If you have the Pro version of Elementor, then you’ll also have access to these additional widgets:
It’s also nice to see that Elementor supports standard WordPress widgets, as well as any third-party widgets you may have installed.
Overall, it’s definitely not a bad selection but it’s far from complete.
Especially in comparison to some other WordPress page builders.
The Question is, what’s missing?
Well, it can sometimes be hard to know until the moment you need to perform a particular action.
For example, let’s say you’re putting a roundup review post together and you want to finish it off with a nice comparison table.
Elementor doesn’t have a table element.
For the moment, if you want a table you’ll have to install another plugin – like TablePress – and paste the shortcode into Elementor.
This isn’t a huge deal, but hopefully they include a built-in table widget in a future release.
You also have the option of installing the Ultimate Addons For Elementor plugin, which adds a table widget, and a ton of other cool features too. This isn’t a free plugin, but you get a lot of value for money here.
Now, speaking of value for money, Elementor just happens to be an open source page builder.
The first of its kind. The breaker of chains. The mother of Dragon…never mind.
Game of Thrones fan here.
Being open source means third party developers can build widgets, templates and blocks for this Elementor and either upload them for free or charge for them.
This presents any marketer with their own dev team/person with a business opportunity – developing addons for Elementor.
Elementor has been installed 2 million times as of the date of writing this review, so that’s a huge market for you to tap into.
How do you come up with ideas for an addon for Elementor?
Find something you don’t like about it, and have your dev create a solution to resolve that issue :-)
Saving Time With Widgets
When creating a complex layout for a new site, it can be super useful to drop in a group of pre-styled elements.
For example, in Thrive Architect, I can quickly drop in a pre-styled, call-to-action element like this:
Sure, the design itself is pretty basic but it’s more than enough for most people.
And, most importantly, it only took a second to drop onto the page.
Up to quite recently you would have had to build this from scratch to get the same result in Elementor.
This made it less attractive from a time investment point of view.
But you can now select from dozens of pre-made ‘Blocks’ from the Elementor Library:
Is it a perfect solution, and enough to compete with the likes of Thrive Architect?
It’s not quite there yet, but at the speed this plugin is developing it could start eclipsing other “premium” plugins in the not-too-distant future.
The fact that these blocks were missing highlights one of the problems with Elementor.
It struggles to find its focus.
It can feel like it’s trying to cater to everyone.
Marketers have a different set of requirements to the average site builder, and it becomes a frankenstein job when you’re constantly having to cobble together different solutions to achieve a single goal.
Another potential solution for a perceived or actual lack of templates is to use something like the Envato Elements plugin.
You get hundreds of free template “kits” and blocks you can import directly into Elementor for later use.
Bear in mind that Envato Elements is still in Beta. So, as always, backup your site before installing new plugins.
That said, I do think Elementor covers the basics really well and if you don’t mind installing a handful of additional plugins, it does an excellent job at handling everything else.
As you might expect from any page builder these days, Elementor allows you to create custom ‘widgets’ from your content elements.
(These are different from page templates, which we’ll cover soon.)
So let’s say I’m using an ‘icon box’, and I’ve styled it exactly how I like.
If I wanted to use it again the future, I can save this (now custom) element to my library.
All you have to do is right click the element, and then click ‘Save As Template’.
You’ll then be presented with a popup window.
Pop in a name, hit ‘Save’, and your custom element will be added to your library.
The element you saved will also have a yellow border to indicate that it’s a global widget.
At this point, you can use the global widget on any page (or even again, on the same page) by going to the global widget tab.
Okay, so that’s how it works, but let’s get practical.
What if you want to make changes to your global widget?
Well, if you click the widget you’ll notice a few things in the left pane.
First of all, the global widget is locked.
That means you can’t edit it or make styling changes as you would with a regular element.
You can temporarily unlock the element by clicking the ‘Edit’ button, which will apply your changes to this global widget across ALL your pages.
So what if you want to make changes to the widget without applying those changes globally?
That’s where ‘unlinking’ comes in.
Clicking this button will effectively convert your global widget into its normal, ‘elemental’ form.
You’ll notice the yellow border turns back to blue, and you can make changes as you normally would within Elementor.
And what’s great about using global widgets with Elementor, is that they can be used virtually anywhere throughout your site.
If you no longer need a certain widget then they’re equally easy to remove.
Just head over to your WordPress dashboard, click ‘Templates’, ‘Saved Templates’ and then highlight whichever widget you want to send to your digital trash heap.
Elementor shortcodes work on pages, regardless of whether or not they’ve been built with Elementor.
And there’s even a dedicated WordPress widget for them.
Using this, you can easily design “call to actions” within Elementor, and then have them display globally in your sidebar.
Here’s an example from Copyblogger.
Overall, Elementor handles global widgets really well.
In fact, it does it far better than some other “premium” page builders.
This kinda follows on from the ‘Global Widgets’ feature we just covered above, but ‘Sections’ do work a little differently.
So what exactly is a ‘Section Template’?
It’s basically a container, marrying individual elements in a given section to give you control over the group as a whole.
To save myself having to recreate the same sections over and over again, I can simply save them as a ‘Section Template’.
We’re saving the entire section because my call-to-action is made up of several individual elements.
So, I’ll just give it a name and hit ‘Save’.
Now I can essentially add that section to any page with a few clicks.
But here’s where things got a little confusing.
Unlike global widgets, section templates don’t show up under the ‘Global’ tab.
So where does Elementor keep them hidden?
There are two ways you can import sections, and, as I found out, they both behave very differently:
- The templates widget
- The Add Template button
The ‘Add Template’ Button Method
- Click on the ‘Add Template” button from the main workspace.
- Click on the ‘My Templates’ tab
- Choose your template
- Click ‘Insert’
You’ll now be presented with all the templates you’ve ever saved within Elementor, including ‘Section’ templates.
Click on ‘Insert’, and the section will appear on your page. Simple as that.
One quick note here is that if you can accidentally import the document settings of the template.
Or, in layman’s terms, you’ll accidentally import a lot of gunk that could (and probably will) mess up your layout.
But Elementor warns you about this in advance:
The neat thing about adding a section this way, is that you can immediately make changes to it before saving it again.
It’s all pretty straightforward, with everything working as you might expect.
The ‘Template Widget’ Method
That brings me to our second option.
Strangely enough, this doesn’t work the same way as the ‘Add Template’ function.
This time, we’re going to insert the section template using the ‘Template widget’ from the side panel.
As with any other Elementor widget, you first need to drag and drop it onto the page.
After that, it’ll ask you to select your saved template.
In this case, we’re looking for our saved section template.
Now here’s a random quirk – the template widget doesn’t show you a list of section templates until you actually type something into the search field:
You have to “Enter 1 or more characters” for anything to show up here.
That’s a pretty bizarre UX choice from a user’s point of view.
Obviously if you have hundreds of saved sections then this makes sense.
But even then, if you can’t remember what your saved section is called, you’d have to back out of Elementor, go to your Dashboard, and find the name of the saved section there under ‘Templates’.
The section template will load… but here’s where things get a little confusing.
This time, the section templates are treated as a single block, so making changes requires clicking the ‘Edit Template’ button.
And once you do click on ‘Edit Template’, it opens the section in a separate editor in a new browser tab.
This is where you have to make the changes you want, and then save the template section.
Not only that, but any templates imported using the ‘template element’ are automatically regarded as “global”.
But — and this is a big BUT — unlike global widgets, these templates cannot be unlinked.
It took me a while to figure this out because Elementor didn’t give me any indication that these would treated differently.
So here’s the bottom line:
If you want a static, unlinked section, you’ll need to use the ‘Add Template’ button.
Otherwise, use the template widget.
What’s a page builder without some full-page templates, eh?
Again, there are two ways to load a page page template within Elementor.
- From the ‘Add Template’ button in the main workspace
- From the ‘Template’ widget in the sidebar
Page templates suffer from the same issue as section templates – using the template widget leaves you with a single element that then needs to be edited in separate editor window to change anything.
So we’re going to bypass that as an option.
I’m sure the developers have a reason for handling templates this way, but it’s lost on me.
Elementor comes pre-loaded with a bunch of professionally designed templates, which you can use right away.
To check out the available templates click on the ‘Add Template’ button:
From there, click to preview an individual template, and if you like what you see, you can deploy it on your page by clicking ‘Insert’.
N.B. One thing I noticed when inserting a template was that if you have a ton of existing content on the page, it can take a while to load.
Once the template loads, you’ll probably find that it doesn’t look anything like the preview you saw.
This happens because Elementor is restricted to the boundaries of your theme.
Basically, if your theme says “content goes here!”, that’s where content goes.
So what next?
In order to properly utilize a full page template, you first need to have a full-width (or blank) page template for Elementor to work with.
A full-width template retains the header and footer of your theme, while a blank template is exactly that, blank.
There’s no right or wrong one to use, it just depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
Now, I’m gonna be straight with you.
In the first draft of this review, I went on an epic rant about Elementor not having this functionality built-in, along with ways you can get around it.
Shortly after, guess what happened?
That’s right, they went and added it in.
And while it’s always fun deleting an entire section of your article, I was still pleased to see that we’re all on the same page. (No pun intended.)
To get to it click on the ‘Page Settings’ button and then look for the ‘Page Layout’ dropdown menu:
You can now choose between ‘Full-width’, ‘Elementor Canvas’, and any other templates included with your theme.
The ‘Elementor Canvas’ option is just a blank template. For some reason, they decided to get fancy with the name :P
So let’s try it again with the ‘Canvas’ option selected.
That’s more like it, Elementor!
Now, with the technical stuff out the way, what about the actual page templates?
Honestly, I was quite impressed with the designs.
They’re clean, professional and easy to work with.
In an earlier iteration of this review, I waxed lyrical about there being a good mixture of templates, but that they might become prone to overuse.
But that’s only if:
- You do very little to customize the template for your own use
- You never upgrade to Elementor Pro
Elementor does make the “mistake” of trying to be the perfect WordPress page builder for everyone on Earth.
Which means they’ll never be able to keep everyone happy, no matter how hard they try.
If you depend on pre-built landing or sales pages, the Elementor Pro templates should have something to suit you
But If — like me — you’re happy to build landing pages yourself, you can simply save your own page templates to reuse again and again.
On a final note, you can import other people’s templates as well.
This site has a very respectable selection of page templates, popup templates and section blocks, with some tutorials throw in for good measure.
Even better – it won’t cost you a cent, although the site does accept donations :-)
Not unlike most page builders today, Elementor is responsive by default, so your design will automatically adapt to different screen sizes.
One very cool feature in Elementor is the ability to live preview what your page will look like on different devices, right in the editor.
Doing this with other page builders usually means a lot of fiddling around internally and/or having to manually check a staged version of the site on multiple devices before going live.
Or in other words, hours of mind-numbing work.
And what surprised me even more was that you can make independent changes for each device.
To illustrate what I mean, I’ve got two headings here:
If I switch over to the preview for ‘Mobile’, my headings look more or less the same.
But for arguments sake, let’s say I’m not happy with the spacing between them on mobile devices
This is really easy to fix in Elementor.
- Select the element you want to adjust
- Click on ‘Advanced’
- Add a margin for the element
- All done!
And here’s the real magic.
When I go back to my desktop preview, Elementor hasn’t applied the same changes to my desktop layout.
Seriously, how can you not love that?
If you’ve ever battled with responsive design, and struggled to make your content look good on any device, this is a real game changer.
You can also press ‘Cmd + Shift + M’ on a Mac, or ‘Ctrl + Shift + M’ on a PC to cycle through the device previews.
But guys… it gets even better.
Not only can you control styling for different devices, but you can also hide the element completely.
AND this isn’t limited to single elements, it also works with sections.
I’ve yet to a see a page builder that gives you this much control when it comes to responsive design.
If this was eBay, I’d be all like “A++++++”.
You know when you find a theme you really like, but you still need to tweak certain aspects of it to get it looking just right?
Especially the header or footer, because they never look quite how you want them to.
What if…there was some kind of tool that would allow you to build a custom headers, footers, and other layout elements?
And what if you could then deploy them across your entire site with a few clicks of a mouse?
Yes, yes, I’m building up to talking about Elementor Theme Builder.
So, how does it work?
As usual, Elementor keeps this nice and simple – you launch it from your WordPress dashboard:
Then you simply click on ‘Add New’ and choose a template type and click on ‘Create Template’.
For the purpose of this review we’re going to create a new header.
You can then choose to either create your own header from the ground up, or use one of the handy default header templates that you can then restyle to your liking.
And with a few mouse clicks you can create a logo that looks and feels more like you.
Then all you need to do is click ‘Publish’ and use the ‘Add Condition’ function to tell Elementor where you want your new header deployed:
Hey presto – your new header is published to every page of your site.
You can follow the exact same process to create a snazzy new footer for your entire site.
And if you make a mistake you can always back up and change the ‘Display Conditions’ for the header.
So, now you can make any theme bend to your design will.
That’s pretty cool, Elementor. Nicely done.
Well we timed the update for this review quite nicely, because Elementor recently rolled out their popup builder.
Note: This is only available in the Pro version.
This is a great move on their part for a number of reasons:
1. It shows they listen to customer feature requests
2. You now won’t need a separate plugin to create popups
So how do you use it?
You’d assume this feature would be available as a widget, but you have to go back out to the WordPress dashboard to find it…under templates.
Now, the weird thing is that you start the popup creation process from the WordPress dashboard instead of from within Elementor…but you edit the popup from within the regular Elementor workspace.
It just seems like it would make more sense to integrate it into the interface itself, no?
Of course, the reasoning behind the location of the popup builder is probably based on how often the average web developer creates a popup?
Once a week maybe?
And you can always use the new ‘Finder’ feature to jump back out to the dashboard when you need to.
But I digress.
There are dozens of different popup templates to choose from, with something to suit pretty much anyone, including us marketer types.
A nice touch is that you can choose which category of popup you’d like from a dropdown menu:
- Bottom Bar
- Full Screen
- Hello Bar
- Slide in
Simply click on your template of choice and then click the green ‘Insert’ button as illustrated here:
Another option is to close down the Library window and you’re then brought straight to the Elementor editor.
From here you can design your own popup from scratch, if you really want to:
Note: There’s one immediate nuisance here and it’s that you can only edit the text in your popup from within the editor window and not from within the popup element.
This is hopefully something the Elementorists will remedy in a future update.
Is it a deal breaker?
It is annoying and counterintuitive?
For the sake of brevity (and your sanity) we’re going to use a readymade popup template.
You get a dizzying number of design options that allow you to tweak not just the content of the popup, but its dimensions, shape, colour scheme, etc, etc.
Some very interesting features in the ‘Advanced’ tab include being able to prevent visitors closing the popup with the escape key, and disabling page scrolling until you interact with the popup.
This appeals to the tiny bit of Sith in me, but hopefully these features aren’t abused.
After all, some people are more full of Sith than others though. *cough*
You also get dozens of entrance animations to play around with under the main popup settings tab – “Lightspeed” is my current favourite.
Once you’re satisfied with the layout of your popup you can then click ‘Publish.
This is where you’re introduced to the various settings to control the behaviour of your new creation:
Conditions – you choose where you want the popup to appear e.g. one one page vs. your entire site. You can also set multiple conditions for the same popup.
Triggers – this is what causes the popup to trigger in the first place. All the usual suspects are covered including “on scroll”, “on click” and “on page exit intent”, among others.
Advanced rules – has settings to cover things like only display the popup after your visitor reads x number of pages, or has visited your site x number of times, for example.
So you can create amazing looking popups, and set them to trigger in dozens of different ways.
How well does the popup builder integrate with MailChimp, GetResponse or Aweber?
Ideally this would be a point-and-click affair.
But it’s not.
Yes, you can integrate any of the above autoresponders with the popup…you just have to get an API key and then figure out what form elements in your popup you need to tweak for it to work.
Or alternatively you can use a plugin like Mailoptin, although I haven’t tested that personally. It just comes recommended by the nice folks at Elementor, and I trust them :-)
It would just be nice to have autoresponder functionality directly within Elementor because more plugins = more potential for things to go wrong.
Okay, we know that this is pure nerd territory but we need to cover it.
Because Elementor makes managing this stuff super easy.
And if you’re even remotely interested in e-commerce, then you need to learn a little more about how dynamic data and custom fields work.
It also makes perfect sense if you build affiliate sites, and you’ll see why as we walk through how you actually use custom fields and dynamic data within this page builder.
Before we go any further, we should mention there are three requirements for the examples we use here:
Once you have the above two plugins installed it’s time to actually create your custom post types.
But wait…what are custom post types?
These are basically types of posts that don’t fit in with your standard post layout.
Typical examples of this would are product pages for an e-commerce store, or maybe an artist’s portfolio that needs to include pricing and other information.
They’re the types of posts where you need to add extra information to them in a way that a standard install of WordPress doesn’t support.
So, let’s go ahead and set up some custom post types for Dave’s Bike Emporium.
We do this from the WordPress dashboard, using the Customer Post Type UI plugin.
Once you add a new post type, you’ll see you have a new menu option in your WordPress dashboard.
In this example it’s ‘Bikes; because…well….Dave sells bikes.
Next up we need to add a taxonomy for our custom posts.
A taxonomy is basically a way of grouping similar pieces of data together in one place.
For this we’re calling our taxonomy “biketype”.
We also need to attach it to our custom post type of “Bikes”.
We now need to add different sub-categories (New bike types) within our custom post structure:
Okay cool, that’s the custom post type stuff taken care of, but how do we add in the product details?
This is where Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) comes into play.
When do we get to how to using this stuff in Elementor?
Here are the custom fields we created by adding new ‘Field Groups’ in ACF:
The red asterisk beside each ‘Label’ means it’s a required field, just in case you were wondering.
Now when you click on ‘Add New’ under your ‘Bikes’ custom post type you get this screen:
Once you’ve added in some sample data here, it’s time to actually get to getting, and create a single post template in Elementor.
Note: You do this from ‘Templates’ on your dashboard, and then ‘Add New’.
You can choose to use one of Elementor’s snazzy templates, or go it alone with a hands-on layout.
We chose the manual approach because we’d already designed a basic header for Dave’s Bike Emporium earlier.
The first piece of dynamic content we add to our template page is a background image.
We do this by clicking the section we want to work on, and going to the ‘Style’ tab.
From there we click on ‘Background’ type and then the ‘Dynamic’ data button.
We also add in a dynamic ‘Post title’ widget from the ‘Single’ widget category – these were called ‘Theme Elements’ until a recent update changed that.
In fact, if you haven’t used Elementor for a few months, you could find yourself feeling a bit lost.
Minor gripe, but there you go.
Adding the ‘Post Title’ widget this automatically inserts the name of the first bike of our custom post types – the “Hustle 2000.”
That end of things all works pretty well.
But what about styling other parts of your layout with dynamic data?
Let’s add an icon box and then use custom fields to drag some data into it.
A feature I really liked is the ability to preview your final design with different data before hitting the publish button.
That way you can test that your template works for each of your custom posts/products/portfolio pieces, etc.
Finally click on ‘Publish’ when you’re all set, and then choose where you want the template applied to i.e. your entire site vs. certain types of posts or pages.
So, how well does Elementor handle custom post types, custom fields and dynamic data?
Honestly, once you get your head around their structure, designing these templated pages is a snap.
Even complete newbies could have dynamic pages up and running in an afternoon.
But it’s not perfect.
Well, for some weird reasons Elementor forgets certain data fields when I exited a page.
This happened even after updating the page, and checking the previews.
To be fair, this could be something I’m missing, but if that’s the case we’ll update this review again in the future.
Any other gripes?
The dynamic data menu layout is messy and not really all that intuitive.
What we mean by that is when you choose your ACF field to drop data into the page, you have to click on it again to choose your key from ‘Settings’
…and then another sub-sub-menu to add text before or after the dynamic data.
It just felt clunky, even though it does actually get the job done.
Undo & Revision History
Okay, this is one area I was eager to cover.
We all make mistakes when designing layouts. Things get moved. Other things get deleted.
Or you mentally tune out for a few seconds and do something catastrophically dumb…but you can’t remember what.
But what if you want to simply undo an action?
That shouldn’t be too difficult, right?
In previous versions of Elementor the lack of an ‘Undo’ function was a major gripe for me.
I’m starting to suspect that the Elementor team crawl through product reviews and find the most glaring flaws in their product…and then promptly correct them.
Are they stalking me….?
Elementor has gone from having no real “Undo” function to having 2.5
The .5 is that you can use CTRL + Z to manually undo your most recent changes, but beyond that you have to rely on the ‘History’ function and ‘Revisions’ tab.
The other two options for undoing your “handiwork” are both available through the ‘History’ button.
Clicking on ‘History’ brings you to a screen with two separate tab: ‘Actions’ and ‘Revisions’.
Actions are the changes you made during your current design session.. To undo whatever change you just made, roll your mouse over it and you’ll see a “rollback” option.
I like this because it’s pretty similar to what I’m used to seeing in other design programs like Photoshop.
If you click on the ‘Revisions’ tab you’ll see a list of changes dating back up to 30 days.
Once you’ve found the revision you’re after, just click the green ‘Apply’ button.
It works great, fair enough.
Firstly, it’s not as simple as clicking a button.
It requires navigating through the menus and previewing different revisions before you even find the right one.
Some kind of logical naming system would help stop this being a nuisance.
Secondly — and this is the real kicker — this feature is built on the WordPress revisions system, which means revisions only appear for each time you’ve hit the save/update button.
Basically, if you haven’t saved your changes in a while and you really mess something up, it’s game over.
Which usually results in tearing of hair, gnashing of teeth and questioning your place in the universe.
Having month’s worth of revisions might seem like a good idea, but they can really hog resources and slow down your site.
Because each saved revision adds more clutter and bloat to your WordPress install, increasing the size of the database that runs the show.
I haven’t tested the plugin myself, so I’d advise making a backup before running it.
But I’m told it does a solid job at cleaning up the revision history stuff (as well as other database fluff).
Though it’s not exactly a deal-breaker — and I do really like the revisions history feature — it still boggles my mind that such a well thought out page builder lacks a more visual approach to handling page/site revisions.
Copy Style and Copy Paste
If you’ve been around the world of websites and page builders for any length of time, you’ll understand how tedious it can be at times.
Not the design and layout process – that’s pretty much always the fun bit.
The tedium kicks in when you have to update the styling of multiple elements or sections of your site.
Usually because of a tiny change you made that you now have to cascade to the rest of your site.
Enter hours of not-very-fun work.
Sure you could write a pile of custom CSS for this…or you could hope for a point-and-click solution instead.
Elementor obviously heard the cries of developers suffering from RSI when they introduced the Copy Style and Copy Paste features in mid-2018.
So, how do these features work?
Well, let’s say you’ve just created a new element that you’re quite happy with the look of:
But you want to recreate that style elsewhere in your design.
Urrghhh….great, now I have to manually go in and update the style of all the other elements!
Or I could just use Elementor’s “Copy Style” function instead.
All you need to do is right-click within the source element – the one you want to copy the styling of – and choose “Copy”.
And then right-click within the destination element, and choose “Paste Style”.
If you don’t like the changes you’ve made, then simply right-click again and “Reset Style”.
How easy is that?
Again, this might seem like a trivial feature to some, but it’s worth its weight in gold if and when you need to change the styling of a bunch of different elements.
So, what about the “Copy Paste” feature I mentioned earlier?
Elementor offers a full drag-and-drop interface, which works really, really well.
But what if you want to just copy an entire column or section to a different part of the page?
You could recreate the elements in a new section, and then shortcut things by applying the “Copy Style” function.
Or you could just copy and paste the entire section onto a new part of your page.
Which is exactly what we’re going to do.
Highlight the section or element you want to copy, in this case we’re copying an entire section, and select “Copy”.
Then scroll to the part of your page you want to place it, and select “Paste”
Nice time-saving feature, right?
What’s that – you want to be able to copy and paste entire sections to another page?
Just copy your element or section as we did in the earlier example,
Then exit to your WordPress dashboard. Open the new page in Elementor, and right-click where you want to place the copied content.
This tiny feature means being able to add entire sections to other pages in seconds instead of (potentially) hours.
We’re not going to get hyperbolic here and describe either of these features as “game changers.”
But once you get used to using them you’ll find it difficult to work any other way.
Let’s lift the mood again. :)
Easily one of the biggest differences between Elementor and other page builders is that it’s open source.
That means… uhm… Google, what it does mean?
Open source: denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.
Since the code is freely available, it allows users to fix bugs, improve existing features and even introduce completely new features to the software.
In fact, you can see all the “action” on GitHub, right here.
As a result, development generally moves faster than with “in house” page builders. And most people agree that open source is the way forward.
It also opens the doors to useful third-party plugins.
The effects of this are already evident when searching for ‘Elementor’ in the WordPress plugin repository:
Those are all third-party plugins designed to enhance Elementor, and many of them are free.
While some of them offer minor improvements, others virtually give Elementor super powers.
A good example of this is Essential Addons For Elementor.
This plugin adds a stack of new widgets to the Elementor library, and more than 100 ‘Blocks’ ready for you to drop into your layouts.
There are lots of other Elementor plugins I’d love to include here, but it would take up an entire post.
Hmmm….stay tuned on that one…maybe.
Although it’s a bit of a hassle having to install plugins on top of plugins, I’ve always been a fan of this approach because it keeps the core product lean for those who don’t need all the additional bells and whistles.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much praise for support as I’ve seen with Elementor.
Where this would normally be due to some top-notch, live chat support, that’s actually not the case here.
In fact, Elementor doesn’t offer live chat support.
Instead, it has something even better.
An active, raving community of “Elementorists” at your beck and call.
I referred to this community multiple times throughout the writing of this review, and no doubt I’ll continue do so for as long as I use Elementor.
It’s amazing to see how quickly this community has grown! The last time I checked it had fewer than 5,000 members.
As of right now there’s over 30,000 Elementorists who have probably already answered any questions you might have about the plugin.
If a search comes up short, just ask in the group.
It’s a collaborative community and you’ll generally get responses flooding in within an hour or so of posting.
Aside from that, I found their YouTube channel super helpful.
Elementor has a lot of moving parts and it can be overwhelming when you first start using it – particularly if you’ve never used a page builder before.
In my opinion, their videos are the perfect starting point since they cover all the core features of the tool.
They also have detailed documentation, if you’re more of a reader.
IF for some reason you still need help, there is a VIP option, but that’s only available to Pro members.
To be honest, I think that’s fair given the quality of free support options available to you.
The premium support is basically a ticketing system.
Of course, I made a request to test how reliable it was for this review.
As expected, it was stellar.
Overall, you really can’t complain.
And if you did, I’m sure they’d take care of you ;)
Are You PRO, Or No?
Throughout this review, I’ve only briefly touched on the paid version of Elementor – also known as Pro.
And while Elementor is, for the most part, a free plugin, upgrading does give you a little more firepower.
So what are the benefits of going Pro?
I won’t write a novel on this, because you can get it straight from the horse’s mouth, right here.
What I will do, however, is comment on the most notable differences between the free version, and the Pro version.
So for starters, you get access to a bunch of extra widgets.
While I’d class a few of these as slightly gimmicky, there are some very useful additions.
Other important features of the Pro version of Elementor include:
- A visual form builder
- WooCommerce integration
- Pop-up builder and templates
- The theme builder
You’ll also be able to use global widgets that can be used throughout your content, as well as other areas of your site.
I covered global widgets earlier in the review, so you probably won’t be surprised that I’d recommend Pro for this reason alone.
As for page templates, you’ll be pleased to hear that upgrading will unlock a slew of premium page templates for you to dabble with.
And the last one I’ll mention gives you an extra layer of design control with ‘live custom CSS’.
So if you’re a stylesheet-ninja, you’ll appreciate this one.
Personally, I feel like the idea of a page builder is to eliminate the need for CSS entirely. I almost see it as a safety net for when the tool can’t deliver.
For that reason, I don’t think this should be a Pro feature.
Rebuilding Trello’s Homepag
For each page builder we review as part of this series, we decided it’d be a great idea to recreate an existing page using each tool.
That way, it would give us (and you) a much clearer comparison of what each tool is capable of in practical terms.
As for the page, we settled on Trello’s homepage because it’s an excellent example of a modern layout that makes good use of different elements.
Check out the video to see how I got on with Elementor:
Where It Performed Well
Laying the foundation of the build was really straightforward.
In this case, since I was trying to create a replica of Trello’s homepage, the global color and font options were actually useful.
And I really appreciated being able to set up my color palette before getting started. I used this chrome extension to get the hex codes from Trello’s page and drop them into Elementor.
Initially, I thought I’d have trouble with background images and being able to align them properly within the section.
Turns out, Elementor is kitted out with everything you need in that department.
Initially, I thought I’d have trouble with background images and being able to align them properly within the section.
Turns out, Elementor is kitted out with everything you need in that department.
Even the small details like rounded corners and box shadows were easy enough to implement.
Where It Fell Flat
Now onto the bad stuff and I’m really going to pick Elementor apart here because I think it’s important to understand the limitations.
In an earlier version of this review, Elementor had issues with how and where you could position buttons on a page i.e. they wouldn’t always line up properly.
But they’re just about to roll out Elementor 2.5 (it’s still in beta as of right now), which has inline positioning as a new feature.
Now, if this means nothing to you in technical terms, then don’t worry.
It simply means you can drag an image or button to wherever you want it on a page, but without having to align it with an existing element.
So, if you found earlier version of Elementor a bit restrictive in creating exciting designs and layouts, you might want to consider giving this page builder another look in version 2.5.
One thing I forgot to mention in the video (oops), was Trello’s sticky header.
This is another of those features that we found lacking in previous versions of Elementor.
The current version makes sticky headers a snap:
- Click on your header section to edit it.
- Choose the ‘Advanced’ tab
- Open the ‘Scrolling Effect’ sub-menu
- Choose from either ‘Top’ or ‘Bottom’ sticky header options
I also had some issues with colors.
I noticed my link colors were inherited by the theme.
But I finally tracked down the option in the WordPress dashboard to disable/enable Elementor’s default colour schemes:
Strangely, I noticed some background colors had shifted after revisiting the page a day later.
Another flaw in this otherwise great page builder is something we touched on earlier – it tries to appeal to everyone who wants to build a website.
This means that certain types of marketing functionality you might expect are missing.
We don’t want to include that as “failing” in this section of the review, so we’ll address this a little bit later in the review.
Animation & Content Cycling
You may have noticed that Trello’s homepage has some slightly more advanced stuff going on.
Not only do some of the text and image elements fade in/out, but the content also cycles.
I didn’t include this in the main test because it’s more of a “bells and whistles” type thing.
That said, I thought it would still be a good idea to explore it.
Let’s start with animation.
Elementor does have some animation settings that can be applied to pretty much any element.
In this case, the “fade down” animation would be perfect, and you can even dictate the speed.
As for content cycling, I couldn’t find a way to do it with text. At least not with the options available within Elementor.
Surprisingly though, I was able to do it with images using the Elementor ‘slides’ widget.
It did require a few tweaks, but it worked perfectly.
Overall, I was really impressed with what I could achieve here.
What Themes Did We Use?
Even the very best page builder can only become really useful if you can find themes that are easy enough to slot into it.
Now, we know that that whole idea of a page builder is they should give you the freedom to create the exact look and feel for your new site.
But you still need to have a theme to work from.
And that’s what costs so many marketers hours of frustration – searching for themes that actually work with their page builder of choice.
Well, being the nice people we are here at Authority Hacker, we wanted to share the themes we’ve used with Elementor:
- Ocean WP
- Generate Press
Each of these themes is fully compatible with Elementor, has a free version, and is available from the WordPress theme repository.
And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, then the Elementor team put an even longer list of compatible themes together for you here.
What you probably don’t know is that Elementor has its own theme, simply called “Hello”. I personally love this theme because:
- It’s a blank canvas
- There’s no “code bloat”
- It’s free
- It works really, really well.
The “Hello” theme isn’t available from the WordPress repository, so you’ll need to download it directly from this GitHub link.
It will take longer to create a site using “Hello”, but you won’t have to work around any restrictions within the theme – because there aren’t any.
Are there are potential downsides to the “Hello” theme?
Yup, you’ll need to update it manually because it’s not in the WordPress repository.
Is Elementor Right For You?
Now that I’ve covered all the different features and functions of Elementor, weighing up the pros and cons and giving my experience along the way — let’s talk about YOU.
As with any tool, Elementor isn’t going to be the right choice for everyone, so I want to get to the bottom of who exactly this page builder is suitable for.
I’m just gonna come right out and say it.
Elementor is a budget-bloggers wet dream. I mean, come on… it’s 100% free!
Yes, there’s a Pro version.
And yes, as I mentioned before, it does offer some useful additions.
But this isn’t your usual “freemium” product.
In most cases, freemium means getting access to a small slice of the pie. A slice that’s riddled with heavy, and often annoying restrictions and/or intrusive advertising.
Elementor gives you access to MOST of the pie without taking anything significant away from the product. In my opinion, it’s 100% usable without going Pro.
Does that mean you shouldn’t upgrade?
Well, not quite.
Like I said earlier, there are some definite advantages of the paid version, but these are things you can absolutely live without if… well…
Is Elementor suitable for beginners?
Despite the slight learning curve I experienced, most likely due to being too familiar with how Thrive Architect works, I still think it’s a GREAT page builder for beginners.
Of course, if you’ve never used a page builder before, it will take some getting used to, but I think the same can be said for any page builder with the same capabilities.
There were some instances where things just didn’t make sense — the global vs non-global templates being a good example .
But in most cases, a simple post in the Facebook group quickly cleared up my confusion.
Overall, if you’re a beginner and you’re looking for a page builder that’ll give you the least amount of friction with the most amount of flexibility, Elementor is an excellent choice.
High Level Marketers
I touched on this earlier in the review, but wanted to elaborate on it here.
Elementor isn’t geared towards marketers, which means it’s missing a few features.
Things that we – as marketers – might rely on from a page builder.
With that said, Elementor has come on in leaps and bounds.
A perfect example of this is the integration of the most popular autoresponders via API:
So, if you’re a GetResponse, Drip, Mailchimp, ConvertKit (and others) user, then you won’t have to rely on hacking Elementor to get it to play ball.
One area it still falls down on is that there’s no way to run A/B tests on popups or opt-ins.
This is a real shame considering that you can integrate Elementor with most email marketing/autoresponder platforms, but your ability to make the most of their features is limited.
But what I’d like to focus on here is the positive stuff.
Yes, Elementor has flaws, but it’s still a great page builder for marketers at almost any level.
There’s no doubt that Elementor is one of the best, if not the best, free page builder on the market.
This feature-packed WordPress plugin even stands its ground against many premium, more established page builders, with development showing no signs of slowing.
(You can see our comparison review of Elementor against other popular page builders (including Beaver Builder) right here.)
Perhaps most interestingly, it’s the first open source page builder.
And though it’s a little hard to gauge its true potential is at this stage, I can’t help but be excited about the possibilities.
As for Elementor Pro, it’s already an attractive upgrade despite being in its infancy, and I imagine most new features from this point forward will be exclusive to members.
Only time will tell though!