Elementor Review: A WordPress Developer’s Perspective

elementor review

This Elementor review is not paid or commissioned by Elementor or any other company. This is my honest opinion as a professional WordPress developer, who builds and manages WordPress websites for a living.

This review is part of our full WordPress page builder comparison, which gives in-depth reviews and comparisons of WordPress’s largest page builders.

Let’s start with the executive summary.

Is Elementor Good?

Yes, it is! It’s our second-favorite page builder in WordPress.

Elementor Review Summary

Elementor

Best-in-breed for features, Elementor succeeds at things other builders don’t even try. It suffers some hiccups in reliability, but we still recommend it.

To see our favorite builder, and how Elementor stacks up, read our full comparison review:

WordPress Page Builders, Reviewed: Beaver Builder, Divi Builder, WPBakery Page Builder, Elementor

Elementor Review Table

Below is a detailed breakout of Elementor’s strengths and weaknesses from our page builder comparison table:

Elementor
elementor | wordpress page builder review
User-Friendly?4.4-Generally intuitive
-"Side panel" layout feels awkward, as does closing Elementor itself
Feature-Rich?4.9-The most feature-rich page builder in WordPress
-Tons of high-quality modules
-Has options (like dynamic values) that no other builder has even attempted
Well-Built?4.3-Not shortcode-based, which is good
-Suffers awkwardness due to being a "skin" for the back-end editor
Reliable?4.3-Stable for the most part
-Nagging issues with buggy previewing
Overall4.4-The most feature-rich builder in WordPress, but not the most reliable

Full Elementor Review

With the at-a-glance summaries above taken care of, here’s our full Elementor review.

Sections of the Review

Click on a section below to navigate this Elementor review.

  • Pros: Things I especially like about Elementor.
  • Cons: Where Elementor falls short.
  • Summary: Elementor review summary.

What We’re Reviewing

We’re reviewing the pro version of the Elementor plugin, which consists of the main Elementor plugin (Elementor 2.0.8) and the pro add-on (Elementor Pro 2.0.3).

To review Elementor, we put it through the same test (duplicate the landing page of an app named Tile) that we use for the other page builders we’ve reviewed.

About the Reviewer

Hi! I’m Fred Meyer, co-editor-in-chief of WPShout. I’ve been a professional WordPress developer for six years, and I’ve written hundreds of WordPress tutorials for developers here on WPShout since 2013.

Links to Elementor in this article are affiliate links. My opinions of both Elementor’s strengths and weaknesses are my own. In both this review and my related WordPress page builder comparison review, I’m telling you the plain truth as I see it about which WordPress page builder to use, when, and why. Thanks for reading!

Elementor Review: The Good

Robust and Thoughtful

Elementor is, overall, good software.

There’s not a great screen-capture for this, but Elementor is, overall, good software. I found myself mostly able to work in it.

This breaks down into a variety of general strengths—“for the most part” statements such as:

  • Things are where I want or expect them.
  • Layout options are sane and detailed enough for a developer to use.
  • Individual elements (“Header,” “Image,” etc.) come with the right options and work properly.
  • The UI is fast enough and works smoothly enough to not create a major buildup of frustration.

Overall, I felt like my work with Elementor progressed mostly smoothly and at a good pace: the landing page was coming together nicely by the time I stopped. That’s pretty much the bottom line for WordPress page builder plugins, and it puts Elementor, very generally, in the “good” column.

Whoa, That’s Extremely Cool: Dynamic Values

With Elementor, you can insert programmatically determined values into your page builder content.

This blew me away when I first saw and understood it. With Elementor, you can insert dynamic, programmatically determined values—like “current date and time” or “current post title”—into your page builder content:

I can’t say enough about what a cool and broadly useful feature this is—it makes every other WordPress page builder feel feature-poor in a way that’s going to bother me now. This might be especially useful for developers who are less comfortable registering widgets, shortcodes, or the other not-great ways to get dynamic data onto the page.

Rich Layout Customization Options

Elementor gives you a huge amount of very useful flexibility in terms of layout:

Section layout features include:

  • The JavaScript-based “Stretch Section” feature that I admire in WPBakery Page Builder.
  • An option to set the section height to 100% of the screen height.
  • The ability to vertically position elements (top, middle, bottom) within that height.
  • A feature which I’ve never seen before, and which I absolutely love: the ability to dictate which HTML tag (div, article, footer, and so on) wraps the section.

Elementor lets you control layouts in ways that I haven’t seen another WordPress page builder match.

Together, this feature set lets you control layouts in useful-to-a-developer ways that I haven’t seen another WordPress page builder plugin match. Seeing the thoughtfulness and power of these layout features was one of those moments where I really started to feel like I “get” Elementor and its appeal.

I do have some implementation issues here. I don’t like that “Columns Gap” is a bunch of words (“Narrow,” “Wide,” “Wider,” and so on) rather than actual numerical values: why take power from developers when most other things are fairly rigorous?

Similarly, it might be nice to let the “Content Position” be a percentage rather than a dropdown, for edge cases where you want things to be 25% from the top of their container.

And I’d love to see the “HTML Tag” option either have an “Other” option and a text field, or just be a text field in the first place—that would let you specify your own HTML elements, and not rely on Elementor’s prepopulated list. If you’re using this option, you’re a developer, and developers can type div properly into a text field or suffer the consquences.

But these are side-notes to the overall point, and that is that Elementor gives you a ton of layout control. I believe it does this the best of the builders I’ve reviewed.

Lots of High-Quality Elements

Elementor has an enormous profusion of layout elements.

If there’s one place that my favorite builder, Beaver Builder, feels week, it’s in the variety of default layout elements it makes available. They tend to feel both bland and blandly named, and I’m always wondering-slash-doubting if Beaver Builder will have a module that’ll do the next thing I need. Of course, there are Beaver Builder extension packs, but I haven’t gotten into using those yet and I’m concerned about brittleness and an overall drop in quality once you’re making heavy use of third-party extension packs.

Elementor does not have this problem. It has an enormous profusion of default layout elements:

In my limited testing, these layout elements were uniformly high-quality: simple, well-named, robust, easy to customize. You can use these to do everything from restaurant menus to product sale countdowns—all handled by your page builder.

Far more than the other builders on this list, Elementor is really trying to create its own unified, in-house visual and technical language for common layout elements of all kinds. If you know where I think WordPress needs to go, you know how dear a project that is to my heart—even if I’m skeptical that a third-party builder’s proprietary solutions will be able to complete with the official WordPress “Blocks” concept once Gutenberg finally arrives solidly enough to start bending the market toward itself.

Ambitious

Of all the builders I’ve tried, Elementor clearly seems to set its sights the highest.

Using Elementor, I consistently felt, “Wow, this project is really trying to give me as much power as possible.” Of all the WordPress builders I’ve tried, Elementor clearly seems to set its sights the highest.

Everything we’ve said so far points to that, but let’s give another example, in the color palette system:After reading Elementor’s notes on its approach to colors, I realized it’s aiming squarely for an integrated, Squarespace-like “You change it once, and every element reflects that change” experience. This sort of change-it-once integration is what WordPress should be—and what, for example, Gutenberg will hopefully be in five years. I’m not saying Elementor gets to Squarespace-land now, or will get there ever, but that’s certainly its ambition.

As another example, the way that many layout options (such as padding) are available in px, em, or % units is the kind of above-and-beyond feature that made me realize: “Oh wow, the goal of this project is to empower me totally.”

Elementor’s ambition could honestly be the headline for everything I like about it. My favorite Elementor features—its rich layout options, its dynamically calculated values, its huge array of layout elements—are all a result of the Elementor team thinking more ambitiously than any other WordPress page builder plugin I’ve reviewed about how to put more power in the user’s hands, and then going out and doing it.

Writes Clean Post Content

Like Beaver Builder, the other I’d-actually-use-it page builder in this review, Elementor falls back to clean HTML when you turn it off:

This tells us not only that we can turn Elementor off if we need to, but also that Elementor’s developers have made smart fundamental architecture choices. That freedom from contorted fundamentals shows in an overall faster, more robust, and less error-prone experience than either of the shortcode-based builders in this review.

Elementor Review: The Bad

Error-Prone Previewing

Elementor’s previewing is good, but it isn’t perfect, and less-than-perfect previewing is a significant problem.

The first specific issue I noticed is that Elementor will, on occasion, put phantom margins into full-width elements:

As small and “get-overable” as this seems, it makes me worry about using Elementor on client projects. “My homepage banner has weird white space next to it and it looks incredibly unprofessional,” emails the client at 11:30 PM. What happened? I can’t trust Elementor to tell me the truth about how everything looks, and so now I’m using browser inspectors in two different tabs to compare the front-end itself with the Elementor view to see how the margin snuck in. In other words, I’m debugging my page builder plugin: bad times.

This issue can occasionally become more serious. The Gravity Forms preview was way, way off from the (fine-looking) final product:
I didn’t attempt to debug the problem, but I believe that Gravity Forms’s stylesheet is having trouble making it into the Elementor preview—which is a troubling sign, since there are plenty of plugins other than Gravity Forms that need to register their own CSS styles.

Page builders create layouts. When your page builder misleads you about layout, it’s a big problem. Elementor’s performance on this topic wasn’t very encouraging.

Weirdly Divorced from the Front End

This is probably the single reason why I’ve never felt like using Elementor extensively on my own projects. Elementor always feels next to, and even weirdly in the way of, the front end. I feel like I’m always fighting Elementor to get to “okay, how does my webpage look now?”—which is about the last experience I’d expect, or want, from a front-end builder.

Once you’re editing a page in Elementor, you cannot view that page without Elementor in the way somehow, except by manually navigating to it in a new tab.

I’ll start with what I find to be the most frustrating manifestation of this design problem: Elementor has no interface for “stop editing and view this page.” Once you’re editing a page in Elementor, you cannot view that page without Elementor in the way somehow, except by manually navigating to it in a new browser tab.

Instead, what you get is an “Exit to Dashboard” button that takes you back to the back-end editor that you bought Elementor to escape:

And a little “close” tab that hides Elementor off to the left, but does not remove it:

And a “Preview Changes” button that does take you to the page itself, but opens in a new tab and still leaves a /?preview_nonce=0d7ae825e0&preview=true-type query string on the page, which is just enough to leave me not knowing if what I’m looking at is actually final or not:

If you remove the query string, you’re finally on the page, but you’re in a new tab with the old one still open, and you had to trim your URL manually to get rid of the idea that the page is somehow a preview.

So the issue is that there’s no direct, in-the-same-tab escape hatch to the front end. Writing about this design choice by an otherwise mostly powerful and thoughtful plugin is one of those “Am I crazy?” moments. How could you build a front-end builder that won’t let the user quickly see the front end? I can’t tell you how many times I scoured the interface for a “Publish and Close” button. If you like screengrabs of frustration, here’s what those searches looked like:

I suspect this design choice may result partly from a technical difference between Beaver Builder and Elementor. When you’re editing a page in Elementor, your browser’s URL bar shows you’re at the “edit post” URL for that page in wp-admin, just like you would be if you used the back-end editor, with the addition of an &action=elementor query string. When you edit a page in Beaver Builder, you’re at the URL for the page itself, plus a ?fl_builder query string. So I’m guessing that Elementor (like some other builders) extensively modifies the post editor, while Beaver Builder actually works on the front end itself via JavaScript and REST API or admin-ajax calls. And I’m guessing that this is why Elementor makes it so frustratingly hard to get from “front-end editor” to “actual front end.”

Contributing to this overall issue is Elementor’s general layout as a Customizer-style strip along the left side of the page. I have mixed feelings about this choice, but overall I prefer pop-up windows. Beaver Builder’s large text boxes can sometimes get in the way of the content they help you edit, but at least you feel like you’re interacting with the front end itself, not an off-to-the-side sidebar-y representation of it.

I will say that Elementor always handles its fundamentally confined space gracefully. I never feel so crowded that I have trouble doing what I’m trying to do—and Elementor has handled the most space-intensive task, text editing, with a nice fully inline JavaScript text editor that is one step better than Beaver Builder’s popups in terms of making you feel like you’re writing words directly onto the page:

The issue is more, simply, that I’m not on the front end: I’m next to it. This Customizer-like strip is crowding my content over onto the right part of the screen, and I’m mainly interacting with the strip rather than with my content directly. It’s not the end of the world as a design choice, but it is a layer of the type of abstraction that front-end builders—to me—exist to remove.

Overreaches in Places

In places, Elementor’s ambition overreaches to an extent.

Above, I praised Elementor’s ambition. But in places, that ambition overreaches to an extent.

When I activated Elementor—without setting any typography or color schemes, just activating the plugin—it immedately overrode (broke) the theme’s existing typography, replacing UnderStrap’s tall/thin/gray/default-font headers with its own squat/bold/blue/Roboto default choice:

This basically steals the theme’s thunder. In my opinion, it’s fine to offer color and typography features in a WordPress page builder plugin, but not to erase the theme’s own choices even if I ignore those builder features. I later found out that Elementor has options to “Disable Default Fonts” and “Disable Default Colors”; but these are in a back-end (wp-admin) settings interface that many people likely won’t find. I think it should be an opt-in, not an opt-out, with the opt-in happening automatically if the user starts actively making typography choices in the builder.

Similarly, Elementor has a “Maintenance Mode” feature that lets you hide your site behind a “coming soon” or “maintenance mode” notice:

Say it with me: “Why do I want my page builder putting my site in maintenance mode?”

It’s cool that you can throw up an Elementor template as the maintenance mode page, but overall this seems like plugin feature creep to me—at least bundled as a core plugin feature and not an extension. There are good maintenance mode plugins already. I don’t like a page builder plugin I can’t turn off without accidentally publishing my entire site to the web.

A Few Unfortunate Choices

Some Elementor choices and features don’t gel as I’d expect, in a way that feels like it reflects puzzling or incomplete design decisions.

For example, I strongly dislike that Elementor elements are called “Widgets”:

Really? You’ve decided to reuse WordPress’s hardest-to-visualize piece of techno-jargon, so now it’s no longer clear whether “widget” refers to “actual WordPress widget” or “Elementor element?” You named your plugin Elementor, for crying out loud—call them elements!

Similarly, the color palette system is great, but I really don’t like how I can only customize the top, nameless color palette, but not actually save my own named palettes. I’d much rather have a “Save Custom Palette” feature than the handful of stock named palettes they give me—which, in my mind, are more or less useless except for demoing the feature itself. I’m a WordPress developer, setting a color scheme for a site that I intend to design carefully and thoughtfully. What are the chances I’m going to look at the eight color options you show me and go “Sure! That one!”

Elementor’s powerful and thorough feature set also comes with some nagging irritations.

As one more example, I don’t like how the “Color Palette” and “Color Picker” features are completely separate: you have to manually add the same colors to both interfaces if you want in-palette default colors to show up in your color pickers. Wouldn’t you want the color picker to at least default to being filled by the active palette? What are the chances I’m going to go to the trouble of specifying the color palette I want on the site, and still want your random forest green showing up as a default option in my color pickers?

These specific examples aside, the broader point is that Elementor’s powerful and thorough feature set also comes with some nagging irritations.

Review Wrap-Up: Elementor is a Good Choice

Elementor is by far the most ambitious builder plugin I’ve ever seen, while also maintaining a mostly high level of quality.

Given what Elementor makes available, I can’t not recommend it. It’s a great page builder plugin, and by far the most ambitious one I’ve ever seen, while also maintaining a mostly high level of quality.

But to me, it’s not the best WordPress page builder available, and I’ll be sticking to Beaver Builder for my own projects. Part of this is a level of personal preference in terms of UI: I personally find that using Elementor feels, at times, confined and separate in a way that I use page builders partly to escape.

Elementor is buggier than Beaver Builder.

The far more important issue is also not nearly as subjective: Elementor is buggier than Beaver Builder, inaccurate previewing being the main problem.

To me, WordPress page builders are a bit like parachutes: reliability is everything. The only reason I started using WordPress builders at all is because Beaver Builder relentlessly failed to disappoint me—for so long, and so consistently, that I started to realize I could actually trust the software in real projects. For all its amazing strengths, Elementor remains just slightly more in cross-your-fingers-and-bite-your-nails territory than Beaver Builder, and that’s somewhere I simply don’t want to be.

So Beaver Builder is significantly plainer than Elementor, but it’s also noticeably sturdier. I also personally prefer Beaver Builder’s UI. But they’re both outstanding plugins, and they’re leaps and bounds ahead of both Divi Builder and WPBakery Page Builder. I can happily recommend both.

Elementor Review Summary

Elementor

Best-in-breed for features, Elementor succeeds at things other builders don’t even try. It suffers some hiccups in reliability, but we still recommend it.

Thanks for reading! Do let me know your thoughts in the comments.


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