In this Divi theme review, we focus on Divi 4 from a WordPress theme perspective! I highly recommend you also read the complementary, in-depth Divi Builder review which covers the Divi page builder plugin.
Features of the Divi Theme
When I wrote my initial Divi theme review, back in 2015-2016, I criticized Divi for being a very page-centric theme, in the sense that it wasn’t truly template-driven.
You couldn’t design a true template, and have it automatically applied to all other, current and future, pages and posts.
Yes, you could design a page or post, and save it as a “template” in your Divi Library (for reusable assets – a useful and time-saving feature, nonetheless) from which you could then apply it (manually) to other pages or posts.
The beauty of templates, real templates, is that should you want to change the look of all your pages, or posts: you do those changes on the template, and voila – it’s instantly reflected everywhere that template is used.
That’s the beauty of real templates.
However, with its new theme builder – Divi 4 now has real templates. And it does them elegantly.
The closest thing to a “theme builder” is Dynamik Website Builder, which lets you build real Genesis child themes. Child themes that work, even after you’ve disabled Dynamik Website Builder (for ultra-lean performance).
Simplicity of the Divi Theme
Simplicity is where the Divi theme somewhat disappoints. Especially in Divi 4. Not because its design options are particularly complex. They’re rather rudimentary. But because they’re split between two interfaces: the standard WordPress theme Customizer – and Divi’s customization panel.
Odd – and not quite as elegant as we’d suspect from Elegant Themes. Conversely, the Divi Builder plugin is very elegant.
It feels like they transferred half of the old panel to WordPress’ standard Customizer panel – and forgot to transfer the rest, leaving an inconsistent user experience. Why not consolidate it into one?
There’s no rhyme or reason as to which options are found in the standard WordPress theme Customizer vs in Divi’s homespun options panel.
It will confuse and befuddle Divi newcomers, and it will needlessly tax the brains of Divi regulars, on a daily basis.
Do you change design option X here… or there? Like a ping-pong ball, your mind will bounce back and forth for the answer. And until the Divi theme options have become habitual and thus hardwired into your neuronal pathways, you’ll occasionally look for stuff in the wrong place.
The Divi theme’s “multiple panel disorder” can feel similar to keeping your appointments randomly in two calendars. One on your phone – and one on paper. Which one has the details you need for that appointment tomorrow?
To make matters worse, let’s not forget Divi 4’s new, well-executed theme builder, discussed in detail in the Divi Builder 4 review. The theme builder also has its own interface. Now there are three distinct interfaces for designing your website. It can be kinda confusing!
The Divi shortcode controversy
What’s been so controversial, is the way the dear Divi theme creates its impressive page layouts. Technically, under-the-hood, Divi does its job; using shortcodes. As long as Divi is your active theme, these shortcodes will be replaced with your intended layout.
But – and this is a big but (not butt… you don’t want a big butt, do you?) – should you ever decide to leave Hotel California aka Hotel Divi: you’ll be in for a nasty surprise!
“You can checkout any time you’d like… But you can never leave!”
The Eagles – Hotel California (lyrics)
As long as you’re using Divi, there’s no problem. Beware: should you ever decide to switch theme at some point in the future, your dear content will be soaked in a sea of shortcodes.
We’re not talking “a few shortcodes here and there” – we’re talking massive shortcode pollution to an extent that will make your web site look like, well… a giant “waste disposal” site. Not nice.
Being tied to Divi might still be good for you though!
That said, it can actually be a blessing in disguise. How’s that? Well, too many WordPress users switch themes as often as they buy new outfits. But a website isn’t a Barbie doll. It’s the vehicle that lets you deliver what you are offering to the world. It’s a reflection of you (or your company) – and as such, it shouldn’t change much, fundamentally. Just like YOU. Your outfit may change, yet you’re still the same you, broadly speaking.
Yes, your website design should be updated every now and then, but in more of an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, fashion. Being tied to a theme like Divi, might be good for you, then! Your brand will be more consistent, you’ll be investing more time refining your website, than wasting time, redoing and redesigning, year after year. And, you’ll have more time to focus on creating high-quality content!
Still, sacrificing your content in trust of the Gods at Elegant Themes, really is a choice you should be very conscious about!
To alleviate this widespread critique, Elegant Themes (makers of Divi) announced a Divi Builder Plugin, that can be used with any WordPress theme.
Problem solved? Partially. What if you’d like to stop using the Divi Page Builder plugin, for whatever reason?
Verdict: is the Divi Theme worth it?
It’s easy to think that the Divi theme would let you hit two birds with one stone: one neat package, combining theme and page builder.
Potentially, it could yield faster performance, a more efficient user experience, and less feature-overlap between the theme and page builder… Right?
That’s not the case.
Oftentimes, I advocate such integrated solutions, as they ensure a unified user experience and avoid compatibility issues.
However, while the Divi Builder plugin is a refreshing and dazzling page builder – the Divi WordPress theme isn’t as impressive.
It doesn’t outperform competing theme alternatives, the control panel experience is cluttered, and the theme and page builder features overlap slightly – especially after the theme builder was introduced in Divi 4. Elegant Themes should consolidate those overlapping features, to simplify the user experience. My guess is they haven’t, to ensure backward compatibility, which is respectable and understandable.
Astra Pro and GeneratePress are simply better, leaner, more robust choices than the Divi WordPress theme. Including use with Divi Builder (review). The Beaver Builder theme comes bundled with Beaver Builder Pro – so using that with Divi, would be odd, wouldn’t it? Better to use Beaver Builder then:)
For the ultimate web design combo, pair your page builder of choice, with the best possible theme. Mix and match what will best meet your needs.
Divi as a theme? Not necessarily. There are better options (see above).
Divi as a page builder? Possibly! Read the insightful Divi Builder review. As a page builder, Divi 4 isn’t too shabby! It’s capable and fresh!
I hope you enjoyed this Divi theme review? If you haven’t already, be sure to also read the Divi Builder review – reviewing the Divi page builder plugin.
How about you: are you using Divi, Elementor, Thrive Architect or Beaver Builder? Share your thoughts below! Your questions are welcome too – speak up and join the fun:)