Code-free WordPress website building might have been a crazy dream a few years back, but not anymore. Now, WordPress has pretty decent page building functionality, not to mention that there also are many third-party page builders available for the platform. I use Thrive architect for my own website, but I use Elementor across a lot of client’s sites + my topic based websites. So it is worth talking about.
Elementor is a page building plugin for WordPress that has made quite the fuss lately. Below, we’ll have a good look at the features of this plugin and will try to help you understand whether it’s worth the buck for your needs.
Hi, I'm Khalid...
I travel the world and try to live a digital nomad life. Want premium goodies from me? For free?
What Is Elementor: AKA The Mother of All Page Builders?
Elementor is a WordPress page builder whose purpose is to extend upon the base features of the default WordPress builder.
The early WordPress hasn’t been very intuitive if you remember. Its page builder had limited functionality, and you had to resort to ready-made WordPress themes to get a base design for your site. But for many people, the base functionality of WordPress themes wasn’t enough, forcing users to install plugins or manually edit theme code.
In late 2018, WordPress released WordPress 5.0, with its biggest change being the block editor. This block editor has brought major improvements compared to its predecessor – namely, it had preset page-building blocks that made website-building much easier.
Needless to say, this modular structure was a huge improvement for the WordPress builder. Now, you don’t have to fiddle with code as much as earlier. However, the block builder is still fairly limited, and many people resort to writing HTML or CSS code every once in a while anyway, though not as much as in the old days.
Elementor is also block-based, but it’s much more advanced than the WordPress builder – it is more intuitive, responsive, and functional. And perhaps more importantly, you can build a great website without ever having to code anything!
Of course, behind the scenes, Elementor is also code. However, the code has been written by hundreds of contributing web developers so that you do not have to do it yourself. Furthermore, Elementor improves rapidly, so be on the lookout for new features if you do decide to use this WordPress builder.
Core Features Of Elementor
So we know that Elementor is a WordPress page builder, but what can it do exactly? And is page-building all that it can do? Let’s find that out below.
Drag & Drop Editor
The Drag & Drop Editor of Elementor is the core of Elementor. It’s one of the oldest features of the builder, and it’s probably also the most-used Elementor tool as well.
As you might have already guessed, the Drag & Drop Editor allows you to design the layout of your pages. With advanced tools at your disposal, you could completely alter the looks and functionality of your website.
With that said, here are the key features of the Drag & Drop Editor:
- Real-time editing, meaning that you see changes immediately without having to reload the page. This is a huge advantage over many other page builders.
- Pretty much limitless layout possibilities thanks to the drag & drop functionality. Once you select a block from the editor’s side panel, you may place it anywhere on the page. For a neater appearance, the editor allows you to align the elements with each other, as well as track their absolute position on the canvas.
- Hundreds of integrated fonts with custom font size & spacing, as well as support for custom fonts.
- Mobile & tablet view to help you develop a more intuitive mobile experience.
- Font Awesome icons.
- Widgets like icon lists, toggles, videos, buttons, images, headings, star ratings, testimonials, and more. For a full list, check Elementor’s website.
- Marketing & ecommerce widgets like forms, reviews, testimonial carousels, price tables, product prices, ratings, and many more.
- CSS image filters.
- Over 300 prebuilt templates.
Some of these features are only available in the Elementor Pro plans. We’ll have a look at the available plans and their differences a little later.
As mentioned above, no code is required on your part – everything has already been done for you. You just need to arrange the necessary blocks on the webpage according to your vision.
One important thing to understand with the Drag & Drop Editor is that it’s limited to the content that resides between the header and footer of your website. These and some other limitations are addressed in the Theme Builder. However, its functionality should be more than enough for most users.
Also, don’t forget to check my Aweber review here.
Although the Theme Builder hasn’t been among Elementor’s base features when it was released, it’s arguably its biggest feature.
The Theme Builder was added to Elementor with the release of Elementor Pro 2.0 back in April 2018. It allows for much deeper customization than the Drag & Drop Editor. In fact, the Theme Builder allows you to redesign your entire website.
When you build layouts in the Theme Builder, you are actually making changes in the WordPress theme that you are currently using. You could do the same by editing your theme’s code, but the Theme Editor does that for you by providing you with ready building blocks.
At the core of the Theme Builder are templates that you design for your website. You could design reusable templates for posts, archive pages, your 404 page, and any other area of your website. You may even set conditions on where the template should be used!
Aside from site-wide editing, the Theme Builder brought the support of dynamic content. Basically, the purpose of dynamic content is to make creating webpages easier. Once you select the template that the page should follow, page elements like post titles, post excerpts, comments, or whatnot will be automatically placed where they should be.
Notably, the Theme Builder is built to work with any WordPress theme. This is because WordPress themes comply with universal coding standards, so it’s not impossible to make a layout that works with all themes.
With that said, some themes may work better with the Theme Builder than others. Elementor has a few WordPress theme recommendations, so you may check them out to get started. But even if you are using a theme that’s not listed here, you shouldn’t have any issues with the Theme Builder.
Although marketing probably isn’t the main reason why people are choosing Elementor, it’s a pretty major feature that you should know about.
The marketing tools offered by Elementor are mainly in the form of widgets. And perhaps the most important widget is the Popup feature. This is like the popups that you see on many websites nowadays.
The Popup Builder is pretty functional – it allows you to choose where the popups should show up exactly, set triggers that launch popups, choose who you want to show popups to, and create the appearance of your popups.
But if you don’t want to build popups yourself, then you may make use of the available templates.
Aside from the Popup Builder, you can make very flexible forms that support such thing as ReCAPTCHA, anti-spam with Honeypot, notifications, redirect pages, and whatnot.
And finally, Elementor has integrations with marketing automation platforms like MailChimp, Drip, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, Zapier, HubSpot, MailerLite, and a few others. This is the most important marketing feature of Elementor since it allows you to seamlessly integrate your marketing plan with the created Elementor layout.
Elementor is also natively integrated with the WooCommerce builder. With WooCommerce, you can easily build price tables, product archives, product page templates, and make use of dozens of WooCommerce widgets such as add to cart, product price, product rating, upsells, and more.
However, keep in mind that WooCommerce is only available to Pro users.
Earlier, we’ve mentioned that Elementor is integrated with marketing automation platforms. These platforms actually aren’t the only thing that Elementor is integrated with. Among other things that you can seamlessly work with are:
- WordPress plugins like Yoast, ACF, Toolset, or PODS.
- Social networks like Slack, Facebook, Discord, YouTube, and others.
- Other things like Font Awesome, ReCAPTCHA, and Adobe Fonts.
Like it is with some other features, integrations are only available for Pro users.
Third-party add-ons offer functionality not covered by Elementor’s native integrations. The base functionality of Elementor is very solid, but if you feel that you want more, then you could make use of add-ons like the Ultimate Add-Ons widget add-on, HT Mega with over a hundred new elements and blocks, or advanced carousels and sliders with Smart Slider 3.
Tools for development
Finally, Elementor allows you to customize the backend of your WordPress theme. The vast majority of people probably will never use the development tools, but it’s great that they are there nonetheless.
With the Elementor API reference, you may make your own widgets, blocks, templates, and anything else to build a website that’s tailored for your needs. You’ll need some coding skills and patience to create your own stuff, but with the API guide and tutorials, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
Elementor also seems to have a pretty lively community. People are particularly active on Facebook and Reddit. Elementor also has a presence for developers on GitHub, but the activity here appears to be pretty low.
Most users probably will not have issues with finding answers to their questions. Elementor tools are simple enough to use, but if you can’t seem to figure out anything, pay a visit to Elementor’s Facebook or Reddit communities.
But for people who are willing to customize their Elementor experience and write code, things might be a little more difficult. You may ask questions on GitHub, Stack Overflow, and other coding communities, but don’t expect to have an easy time solving your coding tasks.
Elementor also often hosts meetups in countries around the world or online. At these meetups, you might be introduced to the future plans of Elementor, handy usage tips, or just hang out with other Elementor users.
Elementor has 2 main plans – Free and Pro. Pro, in its turn, has 3 sub plans – Personal ($49 per year), Plus ($99 per year), and Expert ($199 per year). We are writing this early 2020 so pricing might vary. Visit here to see today’s price of Elementor.
The Pro plans have the exact same features, and their only difference lies in the number of websites that you can connect your membership to. Personal, Plus, and Expert connect up to 1, 3, and 1,000 websites respectively.
To be fair, the jump from 3 to 1,000 websites is pretty weird in the Plus and Expert plans, given the small price difference relative to the difference in the number of websites. Hardly anybody will have 1,000 websites to work on, but many people will have more than 3. So it seems that Elementor really wants you to go for the Expert plan.
This isn’t necessarily a problem though – we think that the Expert plan offers the best value of the money, especially if you have a lot of websites. Per website, the Personal and Plus plans are much less cost-effective.
We’d also like to see monthly subscription options for added flexibility for buyers. You can’t tell how your online business will change throughout a year, and forcing people to pay for 1-year subscriptions seems a bit limiting to us.
Elementor Free vs Pro
Elementor has no trials, so you could say that the Free plan is the trial for the page builder’s base features. It should give you a good idea of how the page builder is maintained, how it works with your WordPress theme, how the support is, and whatnot.
Then, if the features of the Free plan seem limited for your needs, you may upgrade to the Pro plan.
So, here is what you are getting with the Elementor Free plan:
- The Drag & Drop Editor.
- Mobile page editor.
- Landing page creator.
- 30 basic widgets.
- Hundreds of Google Fonts.
- A huge number of blocks and effects to choose from.
As you can see, although the Free plan has great functionality and includes all the basics that you need, it lacks many of the features we’ve talked about above.
All Pro plans have the following add-ons on top of what the Free plan has:
- Pro 24/7 support.
- Over 300 page-building templates and blocks.
- Custom fonts & CSS.
- More effects.
- Marketing widgets, including call-to-action widget, form widget, and others.
- E-commerce widgets.
- The Theme Builder with header & footer editor, 404 pages, sticky headers, single post templates, and other things.
- The Popup Builder.
- Integrations with digital marketing platforms, social networks, and a few other pieces of software.
For a full comparison, pay a visit to Elementor’s website.
But even with the listed features in mind, the benefits of the Pro plans are clearly evident. You don’t necessarily need all the additional bells & whistles though.
Should you go for Elementor Pro?
Elementor Free and Pro are so different that you could tell that they are two separate pieces of software. With this in mind, should you think about buying Pro, or will the Free plan be enough for you?
Well, this depends on your needs and also, to some extent, experience.
We feel that most people will not need the advanced features of the Pro plan. Inexperienced users probably will not benefit from the marketing tools, additional design features, and integrations of Elementor. So newbies probably shouldn’t rush and should instead try the Free plan first.
Apart from that, before making a final decision, we suggest that you have a look at what your current WordPress theme is capable of. The layout and design capabilities of WordPress themes differ vastly, and your theme may already support everything you need.
If your theme has a paid version, then check its features and pricing as well – it might so happen that it has what you need for a lower price than what Elementor asks for.
Also, think whether you really need all the bells and whistles of Elementor Pro. It comes with a lot of stuff, and buying Pro just because you need, for example, the Theme Builder perhaps isn’t very reasonable. Although you might only be using the Theme Builder, you will also be paying for a bunch of other features that will just uselessly hang in your dashboard.
Finally, if you aren’t sure, just give the Free version a try and see how it works for you. If it seems alright, then there may be no need for you to upgrade to the Pro version.
Pros & Cons Of Elementor
Now, it’s time to summarize the pros and cons that we’ve talked about earlier. We’ll recap the things that we’ve already mentioned, as well as add a couple of new points that you should know about.
Very functional free version
Perhaps the biggest pro of Elementor is its very functional free version. In fact, it’s so good that it could work as a standalone product, though there are some limitations compared with the Pro version.
Elementor Free comes with all the core features of the plugin – the Drag & Drop Editor, templates, blocks, design tools, fonts, colors, widgets, templates, and many other things to build a perfect webpage with.
Makes designing a website very easy
Elementor not only provides you with a lot of tools for page building, but it also allows you to design a website with no code. As long as you don’t want functionality beyond what the prebuilt blocks and widgets offer, you will have to touch no code.
Has a lot of stuff other than page builders
Although the core products of Elementor are the Theme Builder and the Drag & Drop Editor, it has many other goodies to offer. We’ve had a good look at them above – those were the integrations, third-party add-ons, marketing tools, additional templates, widgets, and building blocks, and a few other things.
Great integration with WordPress themes
Elementor is designed to work with any WordPress theme, and since WordPress themes are very similar in their backend, your theme is very unlikely to have issues with Elementor. But to stay on the safer side, you could stick to the themes recommended by Elementor.
The community of Elementor seems to be pretty active, especially on Facebook and Reddit. The meetups might also be pretty interesting for you, especially if you are thinking about contributing to the project as a developer.
API reference for developers
If you are willing to code to achieve custom functionality, then Elementor’s API guide should be able to help you. We wouldn’t say that it’s the best API guide we’ve seen out there, but it’s informative enough unless you want very specific things. Fortunately, with tutorials and open source code, even deeply customized features shouldn’t be a big problem with Elementor.
Low cost-effectiveness of the Personal and Plus plans
This is probably the biggest issue we have with Elementor.
We’ve mentioned in the pricing section that the Personal and Plus plans aren’t too cost-effective. Given the huge jump from 3 to 1,000 websites that you get with the Expert plan and the little price difference between Expert and Plus, Expert seems to be a much better buy and value for the money.
Besides, the cost-effectiveness of the cheaper plans will be a big issue for people who just have 1-3 websites.
No monthly plans
We also don’t like that Elementor doesn’t allow you to purchase Pro plans monthly. Not only are you paying more money with yearly plans, but you also don’t have the flexibility to back out from Elementor if something changes throughout the year.
Not the quickest support
The support is pretty decent with Elementor, but it’s not the promptest one, even with the Pro plan. This may be a problem for urgent requests. With that said, this doesn’t seem to be the case all the time, and things might change in the future as well.
Elementor is a great page builder, both with the Free and Pro plans. Its Free plan is especially noteworthy because it’s very functional and has all the basic features that you’d expect from a WordPress page builder. If you are managing clients, creating content websites or working as a web dev, elementor is definitely worth checking out.