At Avoca Web Design, we have a new name for the popular Elementor page builder for WordPress, “El Tormentor”.
We normally hate being “negative nelly’s” and generally try and look at the positives in each situation. However, sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.
Disclaimer upfront, we know some sites have issues some of the time. That’s just part and parcel of running a website and by extension, a website hosting business. There’s lots of moving parts and occasionally you will see issues from time to time.
The last three years have seen a steady decline in the quality of Elementor releases that are starting to cause our business some serious pain.
We’ve also seen an uptick in the frequency of releases. Since many of these have been security releases we are forced to keep updating sites and go through the same pain multiple times.
Lastly we’ve also seen the real world page load performance of Elementor sites decrease overtime and require more and more optimisation efforts.
What kind of problems are we regularly seeing on running Elementor updates?
Across all our Elementor sites we’re seeing some combination of these issues regularly:
- Losing CSS styling
- Image Galleries not working
- Images missing
- Pagination broken
- Pages not looking like they should
- Broken companion plugins that are also struggling to keep up with the pace of Elementor releases and changes
- Slow website page loading times
What’s the bandaid fix?
It varies from site to site and can involve:
- A carefully orchestrated dance of cache clearing (both Elementor and site caching)
- Editing a page, making a change and then reverting it and saving the page
- Deactivation and reactivation of plugins
- Completely replacing the broken functionality with something else involving minor site redesigns with some releases.
- HEAVY and time consuming website optimisation steps
What’s the long term fix?
Simply put there isn’t one, short of completely replacing Elementor. Given that it is like the framing in a house (fundamental to the structure and design of the site) it’s not a small or quick job.
For clients who are ready for a website redesign, we’ve been rebuilding sites in other systems that don’t have the same issues. For clients who are not ready for an update the cost of replacing elementor is prohibitive and we’ve been trying our best to manage the issue.
Is it a hosting issue?
Maybe it’s something to do with our hosting, I hear you thinking.
Different hosting environments do interact with WordPress differently. Caching in particular (saving a copy of your site for faster loading) does have a large impact on how the site looks to the public and varies a lot from host to host in the way it works.
We host over 120 WordPress websites, using various page builders and themes. Some we built, some were built by others. We don’t have any comparable issues with the sites using other systems including; Bricks Builder, Divi, Beaver Builder, Genesis Framework, Visual Composer, WP Bakery, Gutenberg, or Oxygen Builder on our hosting.
Therefore, we know it’s an Elementor specific issue. Granted it could be the way Elementor interacts with our hosting but from a practical stand point, compared to their competitors, they are the system with the issue.
Shouldn’t Elementor be doing something to address this?
100% they should, but they’re not. We’ve tried contacting their support team multiple times but they’ve shown zero interest on engaging with us about any general or hosting specific issues and route us back to un-helpful, generic troubleshooting documentation which guides us through processes we’ve already tried. They’ve basically offloaded the problem back to us
At no point have we had helpful support or heard a desire from their team to fix the issues or improve the performance of their product. We’ve now given up trying to connect with them.
What about those performance challenges you mentioned?
Basically as Elementor has grown over time, they’ve added more and more features. This has lead to a very large increase in the base page load size. More features means more assets that need to be loaded to power that functionality.
Here’s a chart (Credit to https://oxygen4fun.supadezign.com/) comparing some popular page builders and the total size of their assets loaded overtime.
You can see a massive increase in the base file size over time.
That’s entirely consistent with our experience. When we benchmarked Elementor in 2018 and decided to use it we were getting good page load speeds but over time we noticed it getting slower and slower and previous websites were no longer loading as fast as they had been.
Try benchmarking an Elementor site in Google’s page speed tools and then compare a similar site built with Bricks builder. The performance results contrasts are stark.
Here’s the math about what it’s costing us each month
We currently host 25 sites powered by Elementor.
Each update for Elementor now requires the following steps if we don’t want sites to break:
- Run a backup on GridPane – 5mins
- Update the plugins on the website – 5mins
- Go through each page while logged in and check for errors.
- On a 5 page site this isn’t a big deal – 5 mins
- On a 40 page site this is huge – 30mins
- Any page errors found while logged in can usually be fixed by editing and saving the page
- 5mins per error
- Clear the Elementor cache
- Clear the website cache manually (even though our caching is configured to clear after plugin updates, this manual step is required if we don’t want issues)
- Load the site in an incognito window to check the cached version
- Check the whole site again 5-30mins
For a small 5 page site that’s ~20mins per update
For a large 40 page site that’s 40-60mins per update
We have 15 smallish sites X 20mins = ~5 hours per Elementor update
We have 10 large sites X 45mins = ~8 hours per Elementor update
~13 hours of work per released update
At the time of writing there have been eight releases this year so far so ~110 hours work
We currently charge $120 NZD per hour so that’s $11,400 of our time or $2640/mth
If we don’t follow those steps then clients or their site visitors are finding random issues with their sites and complaining to us (and rightfully so).
Why has this go so bad?
We think there’s one very clear reason. Venture capital. Elementor raised 15M USD in venture capital at the start of 2020. Here’s their CEO talking about it.
The money was supposed to grow the team and allow them to power the “next chapter” of Elementor’s evolution. The disappointing reality is that venture capitalists want a return on their investment and so the company is incentivised to grow it’s user base rather than focus on building a quality product.
In Elementor’s case this as meant more frequent releases with new features that only matter to one small portion of their user base if they feel that they can eek out some growth in that segment of their user base. The next release is another inconsequential feature that targets a different segment. The releases are not heavily focused on quality control or improving the core product. I’m sure Elementor would disagree with my characterisation of their recently releases but to me it’s like throwing spagetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. The real issue is that agencies like ours are left cleaning up the mess.
We abandoned Elementor as a platform to build new websites after the venture capital announcement as the writing was on the wall then.
Honestly though, I didn’t expect it to get this bad this fast.
It’s not just Avoca having issues
We’re not alone in our criticism. Many of our collegues that we talk to are having similar issues.
For another opinion, here’s a great video from WP Tuts that covers many of our broader issues with the change in Elementor from an agency or website builder perspective.
Where to from here?
The amount of time that Elementor is costing us is clearly unsustainable in the long term.
It’s quite likely that Avoca will drop support for Elementor from our website care plans sometime in the next 12-18 months. This will mean that clients will either need to pay for our time to correct Elementor specific issues, find a new web host or get us to upgrade their site to something more reliable and more performant.
That’s not a great outcome for clients but it might be the only prudent business choice we have.
What to use instead?
In a word, Bricksbuilder.
It’s fast for visitors and website owners alike. It’s developing rapidly. It’s already superior to Elementor in feature set and the pace of development is very quick. We’re delighted with the sites we’ve been building in the last little while.
Talk to us if you’re interested in exploring how much faster your Elementor site would load if rebuilt in Bricksbuilder.