We’ve really come a long way since WordPress ver. 1.5 when themes were first introduced. For a long time themes were just skins – simple packages that took care of displaying what’s in the database. The most basic WordPress theme used to be, I don’t know, 100kB (that including the 50kB screenshot)?
Now, however, things are different. Very different!
Although I wasn’t expecting any particular package size when I first downloaded Divi, I was still quite surprised to see 25MB of WordPress theme on my desktop. For the record: more than twice the size of WordPress itself. This at least deserves a “wow!”
But, more importantly, what do we get in those huge two-digit megabyte-sized themes exactly?
Let’s find out.
Note: The focus of this comparison isn’t as much on showcasing the themes from the end user’s perspective, but more from the perspective of someone building WordPress websites for clients. Think freelancers, designers, developers.
So, which of the three mega themes should you choose? Or, should you even bother with them at all? Are you indeed better off learning one of those themes and then using them for every client, rather than building each site from the ground up via other means?
Let’s start with what people say:
What the community thinks of mega themes
To get some real numbers behind mega themes and their position in the market, we did a really quick survey and shared it to a couple of WordPress- and dev-related Facebook groups.
43 117 responses, and while that is not an awful lot, there are still some gems there regarding each theme’s strong and weak aspects, and the survey does present the overall attitude that people building WordPress sites professionally have towards mega themes.
By the way, if you want to chip in, please feel free to do so. The more data there is, the better … especially since we do intend to keep this comparison updated in the future.
The main thing we wanted to find out was how often developers turn to mega themes vs using other means of building a WordPress site. Here’s the distribution:
Or to say this another way:
(Chart by WordPress Charts and Graphs Lite.)
Just like 32% of our respondents, I should probably admit that my personal belief is that not everyone needs a mega theme. In many cases, you’re better off going with something simple, or a niche theme. And that’s especially true if you’re building a site for yourself, and you know exactly what you need on it, plus, more importantly, what you don’t need.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I still love those “swole” theme heavy-lifters. Divi vs Avada vs X … they are all top-notch, ultra feature rich themes that are pretty much capable of handling any task.
Or are they?
Let’s look into the topic more deeply.
Chapter #1: The all-you-need-to-knows about each theme
Let’s start with the basics … the prices, the licensing, what you get out the box in Divi vs Avada vs X, etc.:
|Working WordPress theme.||Working WordPress theme.||Working WordPress theme.|
|+ Drag-and-drop page builder (Divi Builder) – works on the front-end and in the wp-admin.||+ Drag-and-drop page builder (Fusion Builder) – works only in the wp-admin.||+ Drag-and-drop page builder (Cornerstone) – works only on the front-end.|
|(Extra plugins available on the Dev license.)||+ A couple of premium plugins bundled in.||+ A lot of premium plugins bundled in.|
|Personal license $89 / year:
– Use it on an unlimited number of sites.
– Access to all ElegantThemes’ themes and plugins. – 12 months of support and updates.
|Regular License $60 – one-time fee:
– Use it on just one site. *
– Lifetime updates. – 6 months of support.
|Regular License $59 – one-time fee:
– Use it on just one site. *
– Lifetime updates. – 6 months of support.
|One-time payment $249:
– Use it on an unlimited number of sites.
– Access to all ElegantThemes’ themes and plugins .
– Lifetime support and updates.
|Extended License $2950 – one-time fee:
– Use it on just one site. **
– Lifetime updates.
– 6 months of support.
|Extended License $3200 – one-time fee:
– Use it on just one site. **
– Lifetime updates.
– 6 months of support.
I’m no lawyer, and please don’t treat this as anything other than my own personal opinion, but the way I read the Avada and X licensing is that if you want to build any sort of a website that involves the visitor paying for access (for instance, a membership site), you need the Extended License.
As you can see, the pricing models are a bit different with all three themes, and there’s no clear winner among them when it comes to affordability. It’s all in the details and the number of sites you usually go through every year.
- If you’re building one site a month, after one year, each theme is going to cost you: Divi – $89, Avada – $720, X – $768.
- If you just need a theme for a single site, keeping it updated for 5 years is going to cost you: Divi – $249, Avada – $60, X – $59.
- Getting support in the 7th month after the initial purchase: Divi – $89, Avada – $78, X – $76.63.
No one is the cheapest here. All three are either cheaper or more expensive depending on the number of sites you’re building or the support you need.
If you want to build multiple sites with Divi, your standard license allows you to do it, so you don’t need to ask anyone for permission before embarking on a new project.
When building consecutive sites with Avada or X, you can add more licenses through the themes’ listing pages on ThemeForest (you need to be logged in to see the alternative pricing sidebar).
At the end of the day, though, my personal opinion is that the more sites you build, the more affordable Divi becomes. In fact, we could argue that it becomes the cheapest solution as soon as you want to build your second site with it.
Chapter #2: Support and updates
When it comes to Avada and X, support works quite the same in both … that’s due to them being ThemeForest products. Divi is the wildcard here, operating through their own distribution channel.
Note. It’s hard to compare the quality of the support itself accurately, and point out the best supported theme here. For that, we’d probably need to hit each support team dozens of times with various issues, and then rank the responses/solutions on some scale. But even if we had done this, it wouldn’t have given you any guarantee that your particular issue is going to be solved by any of the support teams. So let’s not get into that, and instead focus on other aspects of the overall support experience. Particularly:
One of the key things when building WordPress sites for clients is how fast they can get help in case any trouble arises later down the road (read: after the site is done and online).
Here are the options with each theme:
- Divi: If you’re the one on the Developer license, and not the client, then you also have to be the person communicating with the support team. In most cases this isn’t a problem at all – the client is always going to contact you first 99% of the time, but for more savvy clients this basically prevents them from getting support from the theme developer directly.
- Avada and X: Since each consecutive site means another license, you get more freedom regarding who actually buys those licenses. You can do it on your client’s behalf, or you can let them buy the theme by themselves, and thus then be able to receive support directly. This has its downsides too, unfortunately. Mainly, the default license gives you only 6 months of support. After that, you need to buy your way into support again.
When it comes to updates, you get the usual with all three themes – that is: every once in a while you will see a prompt in your wp-admin, and you’ll also get emails letting you know that new updates are available.
My experience with X, for example, got me used to seeing new update packages rolled out every other week or so.
Additionally, Avada has something called the Avada Patcher. It sits in the main section of Avada in the wp-admin and delivers small bug-patching updates that don’t require a whole theme update. This is a very good idea, I have to admit, and it keeps your site problem-free round the clock.
Here are the update rules with each theme:
|Updates for as long as you’re subscribed.||Lifetime updates regardless of your license.||Lifetime updates regardless of your license.|
Chapter #3: Ease of setup (for a basic site)
Honestly speaking, all three of our contenders do exceptionally well in this department.
Basically, all you do is get the theme package, put it in the standard
wp-content/themes directory, and you’re done.
Due to Avada’s and X’s licensing, their installation does involve one more step, though. Right after you click the Activate button, you’re going to be asked to validate your copy of the theme. This will allow you to download/unlock all the extensions and bundled-in plugins. You technically can run both themes without the validation, but you’re missing out on the extra features.
Divi, on the other hand, just works right out the box.
Okay, but that’s just the basic, bare-bones install… What comes next is configuring all the options and making the site usable.
Basic site setup with Avada
You can get started in one of three ways when building a site with Avada:
- From scratch – start working on a blank site and get it to the state you like.
- Use one of the available demos as your starting point – Avada comes with a lot of those, and there’s high chance you’ll find something that’s going to be right for you, especially if you’re working on a niche website. You can see them all here. For instance, if you need a particular layout for your client’s site, you can pick the demo that’s the closest to that, and then adjust the rest.
- Import your Fusion Builder content that you’ve prepared before (probably when building a previous Avada site) – this can include custom saved containers, columns, elements or full page templates.
The next step is always going into the Avada / Theme Options panel. This is the sidebar of that panel:
Quite a lot of stuff there, as you can see.
To say it simply, you can tweak pretty much any aspect of the website you’re working on down to the nearest pixel.
Best part, it’s all really clear – customizable either through input boxes, toggles, or value sliders. Example for menu settings:
Also, at the very top, you get a search field that lets you display all the individual settings containing the keyword you’ve input. For example, if you’re struggling to find a particular sidebar-related setting, just input “sidebar”, and you’ll see every setting that involves the sidebar in any way whatsoever.
All those theme options are global – affecting every page or post. However, apart from that, each page and post also get their own option panels that let you overwrite the global settings.
This gives you very good customization possibilities on a page by page basis. This means that you’re much less likely to come across a particular theme characteristic that you won’t be able to change without going into the source code. Plus, it’s also extremely handy when building any sort of a landing pages, or non-standard pages that look and behave nothing like the rest of the site.
What’s also important for all sorts of non-standard builds is that Avada has its own hooks, actions and filters. This means that you don’t need to modify the theme’s code even in extreme cases. Those work just like any other hooks in WordPress, and can be used in your child themes and helper plugins.
Just one potential downside that I need to point out:
Avada pretty much seems to ignore the WordPress Customizer altogether. There are no theme-specific settings in the Customizer. And even more so, when you assign a header image or a background color, it’s shown nowhere.
You can basically build a whole site with Avada and not once enter the Customizer.
Basic site setup with Divi
Getting started with Divi is somewhat similar to how things work with Avada, but there are slight differences:
- You get to start from scratch – if you want to – adjusting the Divi theme either through its own settings or use a child theme.
- Alternatively, you can make use of some of the predefined layouts that come with the theme, or import other layouts (either your own, or from the web – ElegantThemes themselves make something available every once in a while too).
Either way, no matter the path you choose, you’ll very soon find your way into one of Divi’s theme options panels. There are three of those:
- Theme Options – this is where you get to set all the main parameters of the theme (color scheme, various API keys, logo, favicon, etc.), navigation, basic layout settings, SEO, and code integrations (GA, etc.).
- Theme Customizer – this basically fires up the WordPress Customizer and lets you tweak the looks of various elements, such as the header, footer, typography, button styles, and loads of other things. This part is better than Avada’s, purely because you get to see the results of what you’re doing in real time.
- Module Customizer – this fires up the Customizer again, but this time the settings you see relate to the individual elements of the Divi theme. For instance, you can tweak what the images look like, galleries, portfolio elements, accordions, counters, and more.
Leaving all those tuneup features aside, most of your work with Divi is actually going to be done in individual pages and posts.
The impression that Divi continues to make on me is that the general theme settings are meant to give your website a consistent feel, while the individual pages is where all the fun actually is.
For instance, when working on a given page, you can begin by selecting a predefined layout for it. Each individual page can utilize a different layout, which lets you create pages for all sorts of different purposes within the same website.
Also, when experimenting with different layouts / demos, it seems that Divi’s are less clunky and don’t need as much tuneup afterwards – vs Avada’s or X’s. This also makes it the easier-to-use solution overall, especially if you want to start with a ready-made layout.
Basic site setup with X
Finally, we have the X theme. It prides itself on being 100% front-end, and this does show in the way it encourages you to start working on your website.
First, you can choose from a handful of demo content packages. X has a big set of what’s called “standard demos” plus a couple of “extended demos.” The former focus on just basic filler content put into one of X’s design stacks (more on them in a minute). The latter are more niche – demos for an agency, restaurant, etc.
Those extended demos are clearly much more impressive. Here’s the restaurant one:
Then, there are the design stacks, which serve as a sort of packages of settings and styles to make your website look more uniform. Each is rather different, both in terms of layouts and the overall vibe:
So the way to get started with X would be this (note; just my personal approach):
- Look into the available demos and see if there’s anything there that you particularly like. If so, go with that demo content and adjust the specifics as needed.
- If not, go into the Customizer and pick the design stack that’s the closest to the visual style that you’re after. Go through the sections in the Customizer and adjust everything as needed. Essentially, build your pages individually.
It’s worth pointing out that the Customizer is X’s only themes options panel, so to speak. There aren’t other significant options anywhere else in the dashboard.
When it comes to the overall number of customization options available, it’s much less than what Avada offers. Somewhat closer to Divi’s approach.
When you’re done with the Customizer, proceed to the individual pages. This is where you’re going to spend most of your time with X. Similarly to Divi, the pages can look very different from one another, and you can build them on top of a handful of pre-defined templates.
X has more of a developer-friendly structure with those templates, but it also means that not everything is as clear when you’re just getting started with the theme.
For instance, with X, you can’t just select a block to span across the whole screen (full-width background, for example). You need to first select the correct page template (“Blank – No Container”) to make it work. Fairly straightforward when you already get a grip on how it works, but has its learning curve.
In the end, when it comes to the ease of basic site setup with Divi vs Avada vs X, my ranking is this:
Avada is only last on this list due to the lack of any front-end editing interface. Customization-wise, though, it offers the most. And I know I’m biased. For you, the sheer number of options might be the most important factor (so Avada would be #1 for you), and that’s perfectly understandable.
Chapter #4: Plugins and extensions
In terms of plugin compatibility, basically, if you have a favorite plugin that does something specific, you’re most likely going to be able to use it with either of the mega themes on this list.
One notable mention … all three have built-in tweaks to work with WooCommerce.
- Divi has a whole shop module, which you can include in any page.
- Avada comes with a couple of content demos for WooCommerce and offers an overall great design integration with WooCommerce and its elements.
- X has specific content demos featuring WooCommerce for all four design stacks.
When it comes to custom add-ons and extensions, all of our three mega themes have something to offer.
If you buy the Developer License with Divi, you can use any of the Elegant Themes’ plugins, and they all integrate well with the theme.
Avada gives you the Fusion Core and Fusion Builder (both required to even make Avada work), and also two additional premium solutions: LayerSlider and Slider Revolution.
With all that being said, though, the unquestionable king in this department is X. As part of the regular license, you get more than $1000 worth of premium plugins. Some worthy mentions: ACF Pro, ConvertPlug, Envira Gallery, LayerSlider, Slider Revolution, Typekit, Visual Composer, and a handful of others.
What’s also worth pointing out is that one of the strengths of X is that it gives you a couple of alternative extensions for each feature/functionality. For example, if you want to put the site’s content in a grid, you can choose from The Grid and Essential Grid. If you need a slider, you get Soliloquy, Slider Revolution, and LayerSlider.
Also, there’s white labeling. X is the only theme here that gives you an official white label extension. With it, you can adjust most of the dashboard’s appearance before handing the site over to a client.
In the end, in the extensions department, the ranking between Divi vs Avada vs X is:
Chapter #5: Designs and layouts
In my opinion, there’s no clear winner when looking into what’s possible with each theme design-wise.
All three do exceptionally well when it comes to the designs and layouts that are either delivered with the theme itself, or can be built through their drag-and-drop builders.
Basically, what it all comes down to is your individual taste, both in terms of the interface and the amount of stuff you can change/adjust:
- If you want to see the results of your work in real time, you’re going to choose Divi or X.
- If the sheer number of options is what’s important then go with Avada.
(Avada is particularly good for taking control of what your website looks like on mobile – you can adjust the mobile breakpoints, plus exclude certain elements from appearing on mobile altogether.)
If you’re looking for the main components to adjust the design of each theme:
- In Avada, everything is in the theme’s own options panel (wp-admin / Avada / Theme Options).
- In Divi, you will find things in both a custom options panel (wp-admin / Divi) and in the Customizer.
- In X, everything is in the Customizer.
Next, the drag-and-drop content builders.
In terms of the elements and content blocks available in each builder (things like buttons, lists, galleries, ribbons, etc.), all three themes seem to offer roughly the same stuff. In other words, you probably won’t stumble upon anything that’s missing.
Example from Avada:
Again, I wouldn’t say that either of the themes is the leader here when it comes to the quality of the designs that are possible. They all have slightly different ways of getting you from A to B, but you can reach pretty much the same destination with either one.
That being said, if I were to rank the drag-and-drop builders individually, I would have to give it to:
Chapter #6: Learning curve
So the question is: After getting your hands on either of these mega themes for the first time, how fast can you end up with a quality business website?
Also, how soon can you call yourself expert?
Here’s the deal:
The trick with mega themes is that the initial learning curve is very gentle … but then it gets steep.
The thing is, if you want to launch a standard, simple website (with some cool layouts, landing pages, and even nice integrated features through add-ons and plugins), then you can basically do it right away with no problem.
You just install the theme of your choice, go through the intro guides, and you can pretty much begin your work without worrying that you’re going to mess anything up.
However, as soon as you want to do something that the theme doesn’t allow you to do in an obvious way, this is when the steep learning curve begins.
I’m not saying that either of these themes is confusing or built in a weird way, but just the sheer number of features and possibilities means that those themes are basically serious software products of their own. And truly mastering either one will take you just about the same amount of time as mastering WordPress itself.
Just look at the size of the things – something I mentioned at the beginning of this article. WordPress by itself is now around 8-9MB. Divi? 25MB. Avada? 22MB. X? 10MB.
Mega themes are software. Serious software. They’re not “simple skins” anymore that you just put on top of WordPress.
So in short, if you want to build something complex with either of them, it’s going to take time. That being said, all of Avada, Divi and X do a lot in terms of educating their users. You get knowledge bases, videos, tutorials, etc.
In my opinion, the theme that does this best is Avada. They have a really extensive knowledge base, in-depth documentation, and professionally made video tutorials. Those will all help you understand the platform and teach you how to use it for any kind of project.
Apart from that, you also get a huge list of actions and filters. None of the other mega themes featured here even come close to the scope available in Avada. This makes it a potentially better choice for custom development projects and more complicated content sites.
Moving onto X, they too have some actions and filters for you, but just not as many. X also offers an extensive knowledge base with everything you’d expect. Another cool point is that the docs don’t only cover the platform itself, but also the plugins that come integrated with the theme. Plus, there’s also the support center forum.
When it comes to Divi, their documentation seems to be the most reader-friendly and geared to help casual users, perhaps more than developers. It’s organized neatly, and each entry (didn’t check all of them) features a hands-on tutorial video.
I wasn’t able to find any documentation on Divi-specific actions and filters.
Anyway, if I were to rank just the docs:
In all honesty, though, the learning curve is somewhat similar across all three themes, so I can’t declare a clear winner in this department. Each platform does things differently, and each one is easy to use in their own way.
Final conclusion: which mega theme to choose – Divi vs Avada vs X
I really hate it when people end their comparisons without providing any conclusion whatsoever. So let me risk a recommendation, even though it might not sit well with everybody. But that’s cool. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.
My recommendation is this:Where do you see yourself on the following scale?
What do you think? Do you favor any of the themes featured here over the others? Or maybe there’s another player in this game that should be added to the mix … Divi vs Avada vs X vs ____?
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