Most people would have thought that the team at Elegant Themes had their hands full with three back-to-back versions of Divi. Throw in the new Divi Builder and I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out how they ever managed to release their new magazine theme Extra – delayed or not.
Extra is no lightweight. It’s powered by the Divi Builder Plugin which includes the back-end editor that you’re probably familiar with as well as their new front-end visual editor. They’ve also added some really cool category based features that make presenting a unique user experience and highly customized layouts easier than you ever thought possible.
At it’s core, Extra is a magazine based theme. But even if your website is a simple blog that requires the ability to display beautiful, media-rich content, Extra might be just what you’re looking for. And as if the theme alone wasn’t enough, remember that with Elegant Themes, you’ll also get access to everything else they offer, including great plugins like Monarch and Bloom.
I’ll be honest here. Writing reviews for Elegant Themes is tough because they do an awesome job of documenting their products with great written tutorials and videos. What I can do, is try to pick a few holes in the theme, though even that often proves difficult because typically, Nick Roach and his team are super responsive when it comes to new feature requests and fixing bugs.
So, with the preamble out of the way, let’s take a closer look at what Extra has to offer, shall we?
I’m going to start this review with a mild warning. The theme page and demo on Elegant Themes looks amazing – Extra can quite literally sell itself based upon the visual presentation alone.
However, you’re going to need a lot of content including written, images and video in order to make your site look anything like the demo. If you’re installing this theme on a new blog, don’t expect it to look equally amazing on day one. But you already knew that, right?
Packed with all kinds of features, Extra comes with the following:
- Powerful Divi Builder Integration
- The option to use either the standard back-end editor or the front-end visual editor
- Divi Builder for custom category-based pages
- Built-in ratings and reviews
- WooCommerce Integration
- Portfolio, project, and product support
- Multiple Navigation Options including mega menus
- Fully Responsive
- Custom widgets & more
As is standard with Elegant Themes, once installed, most of the functions can be found in a single menu located at the bottom of the WordPress Admin area. Extra also uses an additional menu called Projects. It’s essentially a custom post type called Projects that ties in with the portfolio page template (a little more on this later).
The Extra admin menu
If you’re already familiar with either The Divi Theme or The Divi Builder plugin, the primary Extra menu will feel like home. It contains all the standard features with one extra item called “Category Builder”, which we’ll discuss shortly.
There are too many options to list everything so we going to provide an overview where appropriate and then go into a little more detail with the stand-out features like the Category builder. Beginning at the top of the menu we have the following:
The theme options panel is where you can control all of your main site functions. It’s broken down into 7 sections:
- General Settings – This tab contains important items like your logo, favicon, sidebar settings, social profile settings and URLs, specific page and post setting and finally a section for custom CSS.
- Navigation – Contains settings for Page, categories, and general settings. You’ll be able to control things like sorting order and number of navigation dropdown tiers.
- Layout Settings – Will allow you to adjust the meta setting for single posts, comments on pages, as well as general post info and the archive page layout.
- Ad Management – This page is where you can enable or disable specific ad blocks within your site – there are a total of 5 locations available.
- SEO – Depending upon whether or not you’re using a third-party SEO plugin, this is where you’ll be able to fine-tune your SEO settings.
- Integration – If you have any specific scripts or code that you want to use, like analytics, or VWO, this is where you can place them.
- Support Docs – Finally, support docs links to the outstanding documentation on the Elegant Themes site.
The WordPress theme customizer is where you’ll make the vast majority of your theme customizations–and there is a bucket load available. You’re probably already familiar with how the live customizer works, suffice to say, you can pretty much customize every single element within the Extra Theme. This is one of the areas where Elegant Themes has made it really easy to create a unique look for your theme.
The Module customizer is a convenient way to make global changes to specific modules within your theme. For example, changing the header size or input font size for all of the contact forms on your site can be done with one simple adjustment.
The array of options in the module customizer is just as impressive as the theme customizer. Almost everything you need or want to adjust can be.
If you’ve ever had a client or employee make unintentional changes to a website before, you’ll really appreciate the Role Editor. It’s an easy way to make sure that each user role is assigned the appropriate privileges.
There is rarely a need for an author or contributor to edit, delete or move items in the builder interface, right? By using taking just a few minutes to set up the role editor, you’ll never have to worry about having to fix a layout or re-create content that was accidentally altered or deleted.
If you’re creating multiple websites or even multiple pages within the same website, the Divi Library can really speed up your workflow. With just a few clicks you can save, load, import, or export layouts, modules, rows, or sections.
So, let’s imagine you build a lot of landing pages. The Divi Library allows you to create and save a template or section of a landing page template that you can use over and over again on any number of sites – the potential time savings is huge.
This is where Extra separates itself from the competition, and really from the Divi theme or Divi Builder in general. If you have an existing website, you’ve probably already created a few categories. Most of the time, when people create different categories on their website, they end up using the exact same template for each one. Creating a different template for each specific category is time-consuming. That is until Extra came along. Custom category based templates are now easy to create.
Located at the bottom of the Extra menu is the Category Builder and clicking on it will bring up the category layouts page.
If you’ve ever created a page or post in WordPress, things should look pretty familiar here. The process of creating your page layout is as easy as adding the desired sections, rows and modules. There are two important things to note about the category templates:
- There are several custom modules that only apply to the Extra theme (more on these modules below).
- Each template that you build can be assigned to a specific category(s). You can also design a default template which will be applied to any categories that do not have an assigned template.
Custom Extra Divi Builder modules
Included with the Extra theme are 10 custom Divi Builder modules. These modules allow you to create unique index page layouts for the different categories on your site. In order to really understand how much flexibility these modules provide, you need to just dive in and experiment. They can be easily customized and if you feel like delving into custom CSS, no problem, you can do that too.
Now that I’ve mentioned custom CSS, it’s worth noting some of the areas where Elegant themes have put in the effort to make the design process easier. Instead of just throwing in a single custom CSS box and calling it quits, they’ve taken the time to include individual input areas for many of the CSS elements. So, when you open up the custom CSS tab you’ll see options like “before”, “main element”, “post title”, “post meta”, “nav”, and more.
Let’s take a look at the modules that are unique to Extra:
- Ads – The ads module allows you to insert custom ad blocks. If you use advertising on your site, you’ll quickly see the value of the category builder and Ad module. You’ll be able to create ad blocks that are highly targeted and specific to a particular category.
- Blog Feed Masonry – Creates an attractive masonry layout for your posts with plenty of settings and advanced design setting that allow you to customize almost every element.
- Blog Feed Standard – The standard blog feed module will display a typical inline blog feed. Again, the final layout is highly customizable.
- Code – Paste in your custom code – HTML, shortcodes, or JS – and you’re ready to roll.
- Featured Posts Slider – The featured slider module will let you create category based sliders based on posts.
- Image – Just like the standard Divi Builder module, you can place images in your posts and tweak the styling including alignment, animation, margins, borders and more.
- Posts – This post module provides the ability to display groups of posts that can also be organized by category and display up to 5 posts along with a single feature post.
- Post Carousel – Carousels are a popular way of displaying your posts in an image based format. Extra provides two display options.
- Tabbed Posts – Another option for displaying your post in a unique way, the tabbed post module provides two slightly different formats depending upon the allocated width.
- Text – The text module can be used in any size column and provides the ability to display and customize your text using a wide variety of CSS properties.
The Divi Builder
Extra is powered by the Divi Builder, which is Elegant Themes well-established page builder. While we can’t cover every feature that’s included it’s still important to cover some of the standout features—both good and bad.
Divi Builder overview
The original version of the Divi Builder consisted of a simple back-end drag and drop editor which, other than the occasional bug, works very well. It’s reliable and predictable—the only downside being the constant need to save and refresh the page you’re editing. If a margin isn’t quite right or you want to experiment with adjusting some padding changes, it’s easy to wear out your mouse-clicking save and refresh.
To be fair, Divi Builder does offer convenient visual preview but I never quite trust that it’s an accurate representation of what I’ll see on the live page.
With version 2.0 of the Extra Theme, there has been a major change in the Divi Builder in the form of front-end visual editor.
Being accustomed to the back-end version I was initially concerned that the experience would never be the same but Elegant Themes made sure that both options were available.
Divi Builder back-end editor
We touched on some of the unique Divi Builder modules that are packaged with Extra, but what about the overall experience?
What you should know is that with a relatively short learning curve, the Divi Builder will enable you to create an infinite number of layout possibilities. I know infinite is a tall order, but with over 40 content modules, it’s safe to say you won’t run out of layout ideas.
At times, at least initially, creating page layouts can be a frustrating process. But once you learn how to adjust the layouts and where each setting is located, it quickly becomes second nature.
That said, there are times when the idea of a front-end editor seems very appealing—especially when it comes to quickly editing text or fiddling with small margin changes.
Divi Builder front-end visual editor
Overall the visual editor is great but it’s certainly not a perfect experience. That’s not to say that it’s buggy or difficult to learn, I just prefer the experience of the back-end editor. Your experience might be different.
Like I mentioned a few minutes ago, there are some situations and adjustments that make the visual editor a preferable choice — adjusting text, margins, padding and anything else where there might be a lot of back and forth. Each aspect of the visual builder can be easily activated by hovering over the desired element. The one thing that can take some getting accustomed to is knowing which icon to click on and in what area. You can see from the picture below how there might be some initial confusion.
But the visual editor can be finicky as well. Yes, it’s lightning fast but it’s still really easy to accidentally add an extra element or an extra row. It’s also a little more difficult to see how your layout is structured beyond what’s on the screen—you can only work “above the fold”. A vertically mounted widescreen monitor would solve this challenge.
Projects & products
Extra makes it easy to display a portfolio of your recent projects. Or, if you’ve got something to sell, you can choose to feature any number of categorized products using the built-in WooCommerce integration.
There is also a built-in review feature that allows visitors to comments and rate products, portfolio items, and posts using a 5-star rating system. Users can also sort based upon ratings, enabling them to see the most popular items first.
Pricing & support
Elegant Themes offers two price points:
On its own, and comparatively speaking, Extra is fairly priced at this level. But where the value really steps up a few notches is the fact that those prices include much more than just the theme itself. At the developer price level of $89, you have access to all of the themes plus all of the plugins offered by Elegant Themes. Even if you only use one or two themes and a few of the plugins, it’s an awesome deal.
Support is always a tricky area for any theme company. I must admit that I have only had to rely on Elegant Themes support for a few technical issues, all of which were resolved in a timely fashion. I have also spent considerable time looking through the forums in search of solutions or shortcuts. If you do the same, you’ll notice that the forums are filled with customers who have had their questions or problems resolved.
I don’t think I ever purchased a bug-free theme, and Extra is no different. What matters though is the overall responsiveness, and willingness to fix any issues that arise. I wouldn’t suggest that Elegant Themes is perfect in this regard, but you’d be hard-pressed to find fault in their effort to keep customers happy.
Extra pro’s and con’s
- Ease of use and reasonably short learning curve
- Impressive front and back end editors
- Tons of layout options
- Huge value at a good price because you get access to all Elegant Themes products
- Awesome documentation & support
- Requires a lot of content to fill it out
- You won’t want to switch themes for a while
- You can get lost in the ocean of possibilities
Extra is a solid choice for a WordPress news theme
If you’re one of those people who skip to the end of the review first, here’s the deal:
Extra is an impressive theme. Combined with the Divi Builder, you’ll have enough layout and customization options to keep you busy for an eternity. And now with version 2.0, you’ll also have the option of using a front-end visual editor or a more traditional back-end page builder. It’s the best of both worlds really.
All these features could also be Extra’s biggest downfall. There are so many options that it can be tough to know where to start. You need to have a plan right from the beginning, lest, you’ll fall into the trap of experimenting with the features, and never get your site published.
The other potential downfall is what’s called lock-in. It’ll be tough to switch themes (if you ever want to), once this is built out. That said, you’re going to experience this with most themes to one degree or another, so it’s certainly not specific to Extra.
If you’ve been looking for a magazine style theme (or a blogging theme that gives you amazing control over category layouts), Extra provides everything you could possibly need, and it comes packed with value in the form of your Elegant Themes subscription.
If you haven’t already, head over to Elegant Themes and check out the demo.