Divi Builder – from Elegant Themes – is a backend and front end visual page builder geared towards web designers.
With the recent release of Divi Builder 3.0, and an enhanced front end experience that is said to be a complete “reinvention” of previous iterations, there’s a lot of hype surrounding this little plugin.
Today, we’re taking a critical look at the new Divi Builder – not the theme.
The Good, Bad, And The Ugly
For this review, I fired up Divi Builder to see how it fares in comparison to popular alternatives on the market.
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.
User Interface & Experience
In fact, this is clearly one it’s key selling points and Elegant Themes holds nothing back in communicating that fact, using phrases like “intuitive”, “easy to use” and “you’ll think it’s magic”.
Strong statements, but how true are they?
Well, my first impressions were very promising.
The lack of a sidebar was actually quite refreshing, albeit risky. The controls are very subtle, the color scheme was nice and bold, and the flat design just… worked.
Visually, Divi Builder is nothing short of amazing, and I don’t say that lightly.
Did I like this aspect? I’m not sure. I seemed to have a kind of love hate relationship with it.
I did, however, like being able to expand the settings window, move it around and resize it at will.
Divi also takes text editing to a whole other level. Not only can you edit directly, but the lack of borders and the simplistic controls almost makes it feel like you’re editing a live page.
And being able to adjust height and width by simply dragging was impressive – though it was quite buggy for me most of the time.
On a final note, I have to mention the responsive design toggles in the bottom corner of the screen.
Clicking these icons will move you into responsive mode where you can continue editing the design for smaller screens.
I really don’t know how you could make that any easier. It works great.
So what didn’t I like?
Initially, it was honestly quite hard to find anything “bad” about Divi Builder in this regard, but there were a few things I’d like to point out.
Example #1: Buggy at times
The more I played around with Divi Builder, the more I noticed little bugs popping up from time to time. These bugs became more apparent over time, though.
Example #2: When adding certain elements to the page, they don’t always appear right away.
To illustrate my point, dropping a button requires that you put in “button text” before it’ll become visible…
I think having placeholder settings would just make a lot more sense.
Example #3: The hover element controls can sometimes get in the way of what you’re doing.
Going back to that button, testing the hover effect is difficult because the controls also appear from hovering.
And this issue occasionally stopped me from being able to remove certain elements which was VERY frustrating.
My first overall impressions of the interface is that it’s well crafted and actually quite enjoyable to use when you get the hang of it. I did, however, run into quite a few problems in my Trello experiment.
Divi has a strong library of content modules you can use to effectively build your page. 46 of them, in fact.
Unlike other page builders, I found myself using the search bar most of the time, mostly because the window was just a wee bit small.
It worked well in most cases, but I felt it could be a bit more intelligent at times…
Anyways, scrolling through, there were a few that caught my eye.
- Post navigation
- Post slider
- Post title
What do all these modules have in common?
As in, they pull information from elsewhere on your site, allowing you to create adaptable layouts.
For example, the “post title” module will change based on the title of the post or page it’s currently on.
This, in my opinion, is the direction page builders need to be taking as we move forward and the Divi team clearly understands that.
Finally, let’s talk about global modules.
Being able to edit a module, and have those changes reflect on every page where it exists across my site is a big deal.
Fortunately, most page builders today allow the use of global modules, including Divi.
In fact, it’s just a case of checking a box when saving a module to your library…
And while most modern page builders emulate this in some way, Divi does offer something I haven’t seen anywhere else before.
Right before you save a global module to your library, you can choose which particular settings are made global for that particular module.
A typical use-case for this might be to apply all CSS and design settings and leaving the general settings to be freely and independently editable.
In this case, since this is a text module, I could change the look and feel of the text globally without losing the ability to change the text itself.
I could see this being taken a lot further, but it’s a great start and something I’d definitely like to see picked up by other page builders.
Going through the customization settings for each of the modules, I really didn’t expect to see such a high level of control.
I mean, check out all the ‘design settings’ you get on a simple text module…
You can use CSS for each individual module, though I think Divi gives you virtually everything you need to get the look and feel you’re after, without having to resort to custom styling — in most cases.
Did You Know
There’s even a third-party (paid) addon you can use, called Divi Booster. It tacks on over 50 new configurations to the standard Divi Builder, allowing you to have even more flexibility with your designs.
So that’s that. But what about layouts?
Well, Divi offers a row and column system you’re no doubt familiar with by now…
Again, it works. Adding in new rows with different column layouts is a piece of cake. For the most part.
The only kink I found — albeit a pretty big kink — was that you can’t readjust columns widths to your liking.
In other page builders, you can drag the column border to the exact width you need, but with Divi, you’re locked-in.
One workaround I found was to use column-specific padding to push modules inwards…
For me, this just doesn’t live up the standards set by the rest of the builder, and it’s an area they really need to look into.
And one more thing I’d like to mention, is the shortcode issue.
This is something a LOT of people seem to complain about with Divi, and I can see why. The moment you disable the plugin, this happens:
Every page you’ve built with Divi suddenly turns into a cocktail of shortcodes. Keeping your pages in tact essentially means you’re locked in for life.
(That is, unless you don’t mind going back and cleaning up the tsunami of shortcodes left in it’s wake)
Overall, this one was a mixed bag because on one hand, Divi excels with their customization options, but on the other hand, they completely fall down when it comes to basic layout flexibility and, of course, the plugin dependency.
Did You Know
I ran a test below to see how well Divi Builder performed when recreating Trello’s homepage. This will give you an idea how flexible the page builder is in a real life scenario.
Content & Page Templates
If you’re a template junkie, you’ll probably feel a little frustrated with the pre-designed templates you get out of the box.
Here’s what it looks like when choosing a template:
This isn’t your traditional template library. Far from it.
In fact, Divi doesn’t even call these templates, it calls them “Layouts”. Because that’s really what they are.
They’re predefined layouts that come with a very basic design. Regardless of what you choose, you’ll still need to put in some work to get it looking half decent.
If what you’re looking for is a varied library of professionally designed page templates, you won’t find it here.
Instead, you’ll have to rely on others to export their own designs so you can download and import into your own installation.
They’re not too hard to find, and there are plenty of curated lists (like this one, by Elegant Themes themselves) out there to get you started.
Of course, you can always create your own page layouts and save them for later use. (Or even export them for other people to use).
Ok. I think you get the picture with page templates. Let’s talk about content templates.
Divi didn’t let me down here. You can save specific rows to my library with just a few clicks.
(Not only that, but you can also save rows as ‘global items’)
And everything was easily accessible when adding in new rows or modules. Just a flick of a tab was needed.
Overall, Divi is seriously lacking in the pre-built template department. If you’re more of a DIY’er, though, you’ll have a field day.
There’s no other way to say it. Divi is lightning fast.
Every click. Every transition. Every edit.
It all happens almost seamlessly, and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get the page builder to stall.
Even as far as previewing and restoring past revisions are near instantaneous.
Even as far as previewing and restoring past revisions are near instantaneous.
- When I first launched the builder
- And when I loading a new layout
(Even then, it was barely a couple seconds.)
I can’t stress how important it is for a page builder to tick this box, and Divi gets a big fat tick from me.
As I was checking out Divi’s pricing, I noticed a little chat icon in the bottom corner.
I was bit surprised to see it, but they actually had live chat agents on standby for pre-sales questions. (And I even got response within a few minutes)
It was a good start. But pre-sales support is pre-sales support.
The real question is, what happens after they’ve schmoozed you over and taken your hard-earned pennies?
Well, the live chat option isn’t carried forward, unfortunately.
(Ughh… I knew it was too good to be true.)
Despite that, the forum approach still works well in my opinion. Especially since you can look back at other questions and answers in the archive.
Of course, like other popular page builders, you also have the community-driven option.
Divi is backed by multiple Facebook groups of active users (most of them developers and designers building sites for their clients), with many willing to chime in if they can offer any assistance.
Overall, the support options are abundant and you’re never more than a few clicks away from help if you ever need it.
If you don’t renew after 12 months, you will be able to continue using the themes and all plugins, but you won’t receive any updates or support until you renew again.
Fortunately, the annual membership cost is very reasonable, and even works out cheaper than some standalone builders… *cough* Beaver Builder.
Looking at how it’s competitors are priced, you can get a better idea of where this plugin sits in the market.
|Page Builder||Free Version||Premium Version|
|Thrive Architect||No||$67 lifetime|
|Elementor||Yes (some limitations)||$49/yr - $199/yr|
|Beaver Builder||Yes (heavy limitations)||$99/yr - $399/yr|
|Divi Builder||No||$89/yr or $249 lifetime|
It’s also nice to see a lifetime option there for anyone who’s happy to stick with Divi (and maybe even the themes, too).
I said this before in our Beaver Builder review, but even though this may look like the more expensive option compared to Elementor or Visual Composer, you have to consider the license limitations.
The membership gives you unlimited use on as many sites as you like, whereas Elementor PRO, for example, will set you back $199 for the privilege of installing on multiple sites.
Overall, I think it’s a great deal. Especially if you’re interested in their other plugins or themes as well.
Rebuilding Trello’s Homepage
I performed the exact same experiment with all the page builders in this review series, and Divi was the only one that was cut short due to sheer frustration. Despite everything good I’ve had to say about Divi, it just didn’t work for me in a real-world scenario.
Where It Performed Well
- Width Control – It was super easy to adjust the width of individual rows and even certain elements within those rows.
- Image Spacing – Divi had a nice toggle to remove bottom image spacing. Not something I’ve seen before and it felt almost too convenient.
- Row & Section Spacing – The draggable spacing for rows and sections really sped things up. Not sure if this counts as padding or margin, or if it’s technically a good move, but it worked.
Where It Fell Flat
- Color Swatch – It was super easy to adjust the width of individual rows and even certain elements within those rows.
- Page Level Fonts – Divi had a nice toggle to remove bottom image spacing. Not something I’ve seen before and it felt almost too convenient.
- Fixed Font Sizes – The draggable spacing for rows and sections really sped things up. Not sure if this counts as padding or margin, or if it’s technically a good move, but it worked.
- Too Many Bugs – I had several issues with everything from aligning images, changing font colors, column settings, and even some interface glitches.
Is Divi Builder Right For You?
Now that I’ve covered all the different features and functions of Divi Builder, weighing up the pros and cons and giving my experience along the way — let’s talk about YOU.
As with any tool, Divi Builder isn’t going to be the right choice for everyone, so I’d like to get to the bottom of who exactly this page builder is suitable for.
If you’re building your empire on a shoestring, you might find the $89 per year cost of Divi a little off-putting.
Keep in mind, though, you get access to all themes and plugins from Elegant Themes. You also don’t have to renew after the first year – and you can continue to use their products.
That said, I’d still recommend the free version of Elementor if budget is really a concern. That way, you get what is, in my opinion, a superior page builder without spending a penny.
If you currently don’t have access to a solid theme or certain essential marketing plugins, it could work out cheaper to opt for the Elegant Themes membership.
In terms of overall simplicity, Divi Builder is no doubt a reliable option for anyone starting out.
Unlike Beaver Builder, it does manage to keep a minimal approach without having to sacrifice customizability. Basically, it’s great for beginners, but it also has some more advanced options tucked away if you ever need them.
Now, is it the best page builder for beginners?
That’s a tough one, and even though I know most beginners will fall in love with the simplicity and intuitiveness of Divi, I can’t help but give the prize to Elementor once again.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, Divi Builder comes loaded with a respectable number of modules, customization options and design settings to give you serious control over the look and feel of your page.
For me, few page builders come close in this respect, and it’s no surprise so many web designers choose Divi to build bespoke website designs for their clients.
Admittedly, you may find yourself delving into custom CSS for some slightly more complex scenarios, but if you fit into this category, that probably doesn’t scare you as much as it does some people.
Overall, Divi isn’t perfect, and it certainly has some limitations, but it’s still far more advanced than most alternatives out there.
Divi has come a long way since its days as a backend-only editor. Today, it holds it’s ground against the competition, and is, in my opinion, still one of the better page builders you can buy.
The biggest issue for me, personally, is just how buggy Divi can get when you’re building slightly more complex layouts – something that became more apparent during the Trello experiment, above.
And I also can’t overlook the fact that all Divi-built pages are dependant on the plugin being installed and activated. It just feels wrong. (But hey, I’ve always had commitment issues.)
That aside, the intuitive interface, raw speed, and extensive customization is enough for me to at least recommend giving Divi a try. It won’t be for everyone, but it deserves it’s place in the fight, that’s for sure.
As for me? There’s still some improvement to be made before I could even consider making the switch. Elementor still takes the cake on that one.