ultimate-theme-shootoutThere are a lot of ‘Ultimate’ WordPress themes that give you the tools to create virtually any kind of website. They have lots of tools to create fresh layouts, tons of customizations and features, and they include plugins, extensions, modules, templates, demos, and layouts to show off what they can do. They all seek to be the best of the best. Which one is really the best?

In this review I take a look at seven top contenders: Divi, X, Monstroid, UpFront, Avada, Genesis, and Make. I’ve taken a look at what they can do, what they offer, and how much they cost. I discuss their features, strengths, who they’re a good fit for – providing you with the information you need to determine which is best for you. They’re in no particular order.

1. Divi

Divi

Download | Demo

Divi is the flagship theme from Elegant Themes that uses a builder system that takes the place of your visual editor to place modules within sections to create interesting layouts for pages and posts. You can change the layouts with drag and drop, adjust each section and module independently, and save your layouts to reuse as many times as you want on as many websites as you want. Just about everything is adjustable using the customizer or the custom CSS panels. You have complete control over styling, so you can create a unique website that’s completely yours.

Header features include vertical and top navigation, curtain menu, mega menu, and multiple header options. The site can have a boxed or full-width layout. It includes video and parallax backgrounds that let you use images or color.

Divi Leads is a powerful a/b split testing feature allowing you to test as many modules, rows, or sections as you want and gives you the information you need to choose the one that gets you the best results.

The import/export feature makes it easy to move your layouts to other WordPress installations, saving you lots of development time.

It uses clean HTML5 code for the best SEO. It’s WPML ready so you can use it with almost any translation including right to left languages (RTL). It’s fully responsive and Retina ready so it works perfectly on any screen size or shape.

It has several custom post formats built in, which include:

  • Standard
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Quote
  • Gallery
  • Link

Layouts are created using the Divi Builder. This is a backend drag and drop system where you create sections and rows, and place modules within them. The Divi Builder plugin allows you to keep your layouts even if you move away from Divi. This means you can change themes later, so you’re not stuck with it forever (which would have been a weakness). You can start from scratch or with one of the many pre-made layouts that are included.

Pre-made Layouts

Divi Builder

There are currently 64 premade layouts. These layouts already have sections and modules in place so all you have to do is insert your content. You can modify all of the layouts any way you want and save them as your own layouts to reuse. The premade layouts include:

  • Case studies
  • Creative agencies
  • Product pages
  • Sales pages
  • Maintenance mode
  • Contact us pages
  • About pages
  • Coming soon
  • Landing page
  • Projects
  • Blogs
  • Shops
  • Splash pages
  • Portfolios
  • Multiple sidebars
  • Full-width pages
  • Home pages

Sections and Rows

Layouts are made from sections and rows. Each has their own general settings, advanced design settings, and custom CSS. Each section and row can have their own background as either an image or video. You can disable rows depending on the device. For example you can have a row to only appear on a phone but not a tablet or desktop if you want.

Columns

There are 11 column structures to choose from and you can change them on the fly. They include combinations of a single column, half columns, thirds, and fourths. Each row can have a different column structure.

Modules

There are 37 standard-width modules that include:

  • Counters
  • Images
  • Email
  • Map
  • Gallery
  • Navigation
  • Login
  • Portfolio
  • Divider
  • Slider
  • Button
  • Blurb
  • Testimonial
  • Accordion
  • Call to Action
  • Blog
  • And lots more

There are 9 full-width modules, which include:

  • Code
  • Header
  • Post Slider
  • Map
  • Menu
  • Post Title
  • Image
  • Portfolio
  • Slider

You can expand it even further through code snippets and third-party plugins by placing code or shortcodes within the code modules.

Divi Leads

Divi Leads a/b testing lets you test sections, rows, and modules to see which gets you the best results. It gives you stats that show clicks, reads, bounce rates, etc. You can test as much and as often as you want. For example, you can have four different designs for a layout and choose your CTA as the goal to test by.

Support and Updates

There are several ways to get support, including forums for general support, theme suggestions, and forums for individual themes. You can also create a support ticket to get support directly. You have complete access to all theme updates for as long as you’re an Elegant Themes member.

Price

Divi is available in Elegant Themes’ Personal plan which costs $69 per year and includes access to all themes, perpetual updates, premium support, and unlimited usage. The Developer Plan is $89 per year and adds PSD files. If you cancel your membership, everything you’ve downloaded is yours to keep and use for as long as you like on as many sites as you like. You just won’t have access to support and updates.

Thoughts

Divi is an excellent theme for building your own layouts, adding website elements, and custom styling everything to your liking. It might seem overwhelming at first but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. Once you’ve created layouts the way you want them you can save them as templates to reuse as many times as you want. Divi 3.0 will include a frontend builder as well as the backend builder.

The built-in modules saves you from buying dozens of plugins. If you need to add anything it will be something that’s specialized like auctions or real estate listings such as IDX. It has everything the majority of users will need.

Divi is especially a good choice for developers and anyone that prefers building layouts from the backend (and soon, the frontend).

2. X

X

Download | Demo

The X theme from Themco is a fluid theme that uses a percentage based framework to create grid layouts. It includes a drag and drop page builder to help you build any type of layout you want from the frontend. 10 templates with various layouts for headers, footers, content, and sidebars are included.

There are lots of customizations and options. The shortcodes plugin lets you add even more features including buttons, table of contents, and more. The Slider Revolution plugin is also thrown in for free. Demo data is there if you need it to help you get started quickly.

You can adjust the positioning and size of the menus and it even includes a mega menu. You can create one-page sites with navigation for just a homepage or across multiple pages. It has a nicely styled search box. Layout options include boxed and full-width layouts.

Upload or create your own custom backgrounds that includes images, patterns, and solid colors. Choose from multiple portfolio pages to display your work. It comes with iLightbox, a content organizer for your lightbox images. You can adjust all of the details using the WordPress Customizer. Special social buttons and icons are included as well as 600 Google fonts with all of their weights and styles so you can create your very own custom typography.

Post formats include:

  • Standard
  • Image
  • Gallery
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Quote
  • Link

It also has WAI-ARIA roles (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) for each template file so your site will conform to the accessibility standards from W3C. It’s WPML ready and has RTL support for use with any language. It was built with the latest semantic HTML5 so search engines can distinguish your main content, improving your SEO.

It’s fully responsive to work perfectly on all devices and screen sizes. The included icon fonts scale perfectly for all screen sizes. It’s Retina ready so it looks great on all screen sizes. It resizes to create thumbnails automatically. Styling for forms is included as well as PSD files.

Stacks

X Stacks 2

Stacks are premade designs. There are currently four of them with multiple demos for each one.

Expanded Demos

There are several expanded demos that are included to show complete site designs that are specific to a niche. Each demo includes pages, menus, sliders images, etc., and you can install them with a single click.

They include:

  • Church
  • Restaurant
  • Agency
  • Spa
  • Education
  • Band
  • Wedding

More demos are on the way.

Extensions

You can add more features through premium extensions. 21 extensions are included with the purchase.

  • Custom sidebars
  • Cornerstone – a frontend page builder
  • Video lock
  • Content dock
  • The Grid
  • Extension Grid
  • Envira Gallery
  • Mailchimp
  • Typekit – requires the Typekit premium font service
  • Convertplug
  • Disqus Comments
  • Custom 404
  • Google Analytics
  • LayerSlider
  • Visual Composer
  • White Label
  • And more

Shortcodes

Features are added through shortcodes. There are currently 40. Some of them include:

  • Accordion
  • Buttons
  • Columns
  • Dropcap
  • Code
  • Images
  • Map
  • Text
  • Slider
  • Pricing table

Validated Development Environments

Each license can run in two simultaneous environments – production and development – and both will be validated.

Support and Updates

The theme includes 6 months of support. Updates include bug fixes and new features. Updates are automatically done for you so you never have to worry about having the latest version.

Price

The regular license is $64 and is for use by a single client for a single product in which users are not charged for. The Extended License is $3200 for use by a single client for a single product which users can be charged for. Each includes 6 months of support.

Thoughts

X has the features you need to create any type of website imaginable. The included demos that are built around specific niches are helpful to get you started and they have more on the way. I can’t imagine not being able to build what you need using X.

X is especially a good choice if you prefer working from the frontend.

3. Monstroid

Monstroid

Download | Demo

Monstroid was built on Cherry Framework 4, which includes Bootstrap options, lots of shortcodes, widgets, and customization options. It’s a multi-purpose theme with tools that make it easy to build any kind of website you want.

It has the standard features that you would expect from an ultimate theme including parallax scroll, the ability to display full screen background video, over 500 Google fonts, font icons, and it has icons with links to the most popular social networks.

You have multiple sliders to choose from including the Cherry Simple Slider and the premium version of the MotoPress Slider. You can build sliders with text, images, and videos and you can splice them with various transition effects. It has a drag and drop static area builder that allows you to place header and footer elements anywhere you want. Quickly change the look of your website using a skin switcher.

You can dynamically change your CSS and it has a custom-built compiler that will minify your CSS and speed up your website loading time.

One particularly interesting feature is a charts plugin that lets you show data visually. You can manage and embed interactive charts within posts and pages. It will display pie charts, columns, lines, and areas. Another interesting feature is the advanced backup options that allow you to easily backup and restore your theme settings.

It’s fully responsive so it will look great on all screen sizes and devices, optimized for SEO, and it’s WPML ready so you can use it with any language. Google Analytics is included so you can get quick information about your website’s traffic statistics.

Over 100 layered PSD files are included and all of the pages can be edited in Photoshop. This is especially helpful for designers, giving them a higher level of customization options. It also comes with 15 hi-res photos and images that you can use free for life.

Child Themes

Monstroid Child Themes

Over 45 child themes are included and you have access to all the child themes that will be created in the future. These are ready-made themes for specific niches such as restaurants, corporate, etc.

Extensions and Shortcodes

Lots of premium extensions are included for free. They include plugins such as MotoPress Editor, MotoPress Slider, and White Label Plugin. It also has a Google map API that lets you place maps with markers.

You can create unlimited shortcodes with the shortcode editor. It comes with lots of them, which include Post grid, Testimonials, and Charts. It has full social integration with links and icons.

Layouts

It has 6 layouts built-in for creating your pages and posts:

  • Boxed 1170px
  • Boxed 960px
  • Full width 1170px
  • Full width 960px
  • Left sidebar
  • Right sidebar

Page Templates

There are 7 different home pages so you can choose what works best for you. Pages include:

  • Personal
  • Blog
  • Business
  • Landing page
  • One page
  • Parallax
  • Video

Other pages include:

  • eCommerce – prebuilt eCommerce pages were designed specifically to work with WooCommerce.
  • Portfolio – a Portfolio page allows you to tag and categorize your projects without them overlapping with your other posts. There are several designs to choose from.
  • Gallery – the Monstroid Gallery makes it easy to manage your photos. It has 7 different pages, giving you the choice of how to display your photos and projects. You can display in masonry, grid, or justified. It includes 50 high quality stock photos that you’re free to use.
  • Contact Us – the built-in Contact Us page includes a form so your visitors can contact you easily.
  • Services – the Services page lets you showcase your services or products.
  • FAQ – It has a FAQ page with accordion Q/A.
  • Testimonials – It has a predesigned Testimonials page with various layouts and ratings.
  • Team – Show off your team members using the Team page. You can display their profiles using widgets and shortcodes.
  • About Us – It has a custom designed About Us page
  • Blog – a standard blog for your articles and content, it includes comments and a Like feature.

Support and Updates

The theme includes lifetime support and updates. Support is 24/7 and includes live chat that’s integrated directly into your WordPress admin panel.

Price

It’s $79 for a Single Site License, meaning you can use it on one website. The Developers License is $149 and allows you to use the theme on 5 client’s websites. If you want to build more websites then you’ll have to buy another license.

Thoughts

Being built on the Cherry Framework, Monstroid has lots of Bootstrap options, shortcodes, widgets, and a good parent/child theme relationship that makes it easy to update without losing your customizations. I like the backup feature. It has several layouts and pages built in.

Perhaps the greatest advantage is the more than 45 child themes, and all future child themes, that you automatically have access to when you buy Monstroid. These child themes can get you started quickly and easily.

Monstroid a good choice for anyone that wants to choose a child theme and get their website started quickly.

4. UpFront

UpFront

Download | Demo

UpFront is a theme framework from WPMUDEV with limitless possibilities. Designing in UpFront is like designing in Photoshop and then clicking publish when you’re done and your website is running. Everything is done from the frontend.

Custom Builder

UpFront Custom Builder

What sets UpFront apart is its custom builder. Everything is created and customized from the frontend using customized tools that work similarly to the WordPress Customizer but with lots more features.

Layouts are created with elements and regions. Each element has fine-grain adjustments. Drag and drop elements let you build your layout and place widgets, including shortcodes and widgets from plugins, anywhere you want. You can have as many sections as you want.

Elements you can place include large sliders, maps, text, image, gallery, menu, widget, YouTube, Like box, contact, code, tabs, accordion, button, login, and posts. It also has parallax backgrounds. You can display a jumbo (wall to wall) video that’s completely responsive. The colors and typography are easily adjusted using the custom builder.

It includes six themes to help you get started quickly. You can choose one of the themes and then modify it and make something of your own. You can also build with custom code. Theme settings include typography and colors.

The CSS tool is a panel where you can add code, insert fonts, add media, and more. You can also add your own CSS rules, and create global backgrounds and global regions.

It’s responsive so it looks great on any screen size.

Support and Updates

Support is 24/7 and includes forums, live support, and community support.

Price

UpFront is part of WPMUDEV’s membership is $49 per month and includes all plugins (over 100) and UpFront themes.

If you cancel your membership you get to keep the plugins and themes to use for as long as you want. You just won’t have support or updates. Themes and plugins are 100% GPL and you can white-label and rebrand themes and plugins if you want. You can even use their videos as your own.

Thoughts

UpFront includes a frontend drag and drop builder and 100+ plugins, but it’s also the most expensive choice. It can easily create any layout you want and since you’re building from the frontend there’s no guessing at what your website will look like. It almost doesn’t feel like WordPress. It currently doesn’t allow you to create your own templates (this feature will be available in the future). It can be used on as many sites as you want.

UpFront is a good choice for anyone that prefers to work from the frontend and don’t mind having limited templates.

5. Avada

Avada

Download  | Demo

Avada from Theme Fusion makes the claim of being the #1 best-selling theme of all time. With close to 222,000 sales on ThemeForest, it has over twice as many sales as the next best-selling theme: X. Avada gives you virtually every option you can imagine in order to build your perfect website.

Build your layouts using the Fusion Builder – a drag and drop tool to help you build unique pages. It also has a powerful and intuitive options panel where you can make your adjustments and customizations. Customize you typography with the included 500 Google fonts.

The minimalist header layout includes a flyout menu and has 5 designs to choose from. Multiple menu styles include a mega menu with widget areas. 4 premium sliders are included with lots of custom options.

The page title bar can display a background image, color, custom titles, subtitles, etc. You have full control over sizes, typography, borders, etc. Elements you can add include a search bar, breadcrumbs, and more.

Page content areas can display from 1 to 12 columns and can display custom background images or colors per page or as global. There are 12 templates to get you started. Pages can have single, dual, or no sidebars and set them up per page or globally. You can choose from a wide or boxed layout for each page or post. All pages have advanced options.

Page Templates

Page templates include:

  • Contact
  • FAQ
  • Portfolio
  • Blank (for coming soon or maintenance mode)
  • Blog
  • 404
  • Side navigation
  • Sidebar

It also includes advanced search options with a dedicated search results page.

Widgets

10 custom widgets that can be placed within the layout, in menus, sidebars, footers, and a sliding bar.

Widgets include:

  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • Recent Works (uses Portfolio Items)
  • Contact Details
  • Ad
  • Social Links
  • Layer Slider and Revolution Slider
  • Horizontal Menu
  • Text (this can use short codes)

Plugins

There are also several premium plugins which include:

  • Layer Slider
  • Revolution Slider
  • Parallax Fusion Slider
  • Super Sleek Elastic Slider
  • Font Awesome Icons

On top of all of this, over 40 shortcodes are included with over 100 options to add lots of features, styles, and designs. It also comes with custom styles for Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms plugins.

Layouts

Avada layouts

Avada has plenty of prebuilt layouts to help you get started. There are over 20 homepages to choose from and it comes with 18 demos with more always being added. Several of them are WooCommerce demos to help you build an online store quickly and easily.

Create advanced portfolios with grids, 1-6 columns, unlimited portfolio pages, rollover effects, featured images, full or half-width detail page, skills, filters, and more. The footer area can display up to 6 columns and can display background images, color, and parallax. You can full control over padding, borders, visibility, etc.

CSS animations let you set the type, speed, and direction. It also has a CSS custom code option built into the theme options panel.

It’s responsive to work perfectly on any screen size, and since it’s translation ready with RTL support you can use it with any language. The code was built using SEO best practices using semantical valid HTML and CSS, and it’s optimized for speed, getting a score of 94%. 60 PSD files are included as well as a child theme and demo content to help you get started.

Support and Updates

It includes 6 months support from the advanced support center. Support also includes detailed documentation and lots of videos. All future updates are free. Most updates are additions per user request. An automatic patch tool makes it easy to apply fixes with a single click.

Price

The regular license is $59 and is for use by a single client for a single product in which users are not charged for. The Extended License is $2950 for use by a single client for a single product which users can be charged for. Each includes 6 months of support.

Thoughts

Avada can create any type of website you could want. Templates include generic and specialty websites including magazines, blogs, stores, etc., and they’re easy to customize. It has lots of templates, plugins, and widgets. There’s a good reason it’s the #1 selling theme on ThemeForest.

Avada is a great choice for developers or anyone that prefers lots of demos to get started quickly and customizations.

6. Genesis

Genesis framework

Download | Demo

Genesis is a different type of WordPress theme. It itself isn’t a builder. It’s a framework in which you can buy child themes and plugins, making Genesis a framework with its own marketplace. It has lots of theme options allowing you to easily change your layout, colors, and more by making selections from drop-down boxes. These features carry over into the themes and some of the themes have even more features.

You can customize your layouts and choose alternate color schemes from a drop-down box. Custom widgets allow you to place user profiles, featured posts, and a featured page. Featured images auto resize. It has integrated ad management. Simply place your ad code within a text widget and place it where you want.

Themes

Genesis themes

Many of the themes let you choose your layout options in the theme settings. You can choose layouts for the entire website, and for specific pages and posts. The default layout options include:

  • Full-width
  • Left sidebar
  • Right sidebar
  • 2 sidebars on left
  • 2 sidebars on right
  • Sidebar on each side

The themes are responsive and are SEO optimized using clean code. StudioPress continues to make the framework lighter and faster.

To modify the layouts even further requires some code unless you buy a third party plugin.

Genesis Design Pallet Pro

Genesis Design Pallet Pro

Genesis Design Pallet Pro is a premium third party plugin that adds even more customization features. You can adjust the header, footer, content area, sidebars, and, navigation. You can edit backgrounds, colors, fonts, margins, and padding. The import/export feature makes it easy to move your customizations from one site to another.

It cost $49 for use on a single site, $89 for 5 sites, and $199 for 50 sites.

Support and Updates

Support and updates are unlimited. Updates are instant and they don’t make changes to any of your code.

Price

The buy the Genesis framework by itself (for creating your own child themes) the price is $59. The framework comes with the child themes, which range in prices depending on what you buy. Prices vary, but most are $99.95. Themes include those from StudioPress as well as third party developers. Access to all StudioPress themes is $499.95 plus $99.95 annually. Themes can be used on as many sites as you want.

Thoughts

Genesis has a lot to offer as a framework. Its popularity can’t be denied. There are lots of child themes to choose from, costing from $99-129 each. They do have layout options but not to the level of flexibility as the builder themes. Genesis is an expensive option without a lot of features. It is fast though and there is a speed and security advantage in not having features you don’t want.

Genesis is a good choice for anyone wanting some decent layout features but don’t mind working from a single template or spending extra money for more templates.

7. Make

Make

Download | Demo

Make is a builder theme from The Theme Foundry with a unique building system that takes the place of your visual editor. It has both a drag and drop builder that lets you place elements to create your layout, and a format builder that allows you to make selections from dropdown boxes. Features depend on the version you want.

Make Layout Engine

Make Layout Engine

The Make Layout Engine is integrated to look and feel like part of the page editor. You can use it to create any type of layout you need including columns, full-width banners, blog posts, panels, accordions, galleries, post lists, etc. right into the posts themselves. You can create as many as you want and move them around by drag and drop. The layout engine has a mobile-first grid-based architecture so it will always work perfectly on mobile screens.

Features

There are over 100 Customizer settings so you can choose fonts, change colors, sizes, and spacing, add background images for each section, and adjust the layout for your header, footer, posts, and pages.

Display your images with the gallery slider and place your content anywhere you want using the dynamic widget areas. You can set up custom displays for your blog, archives, search, posts, and pages. You can also duplicate sections and full pages. Layouts include boxed and full-width.

It includes social links with icons, Google fonts, and even has custom styling for Gravity Forms and Postmatic. You can add as many social icons to your homepage as you want. Simply type in the URL into the social links field and the icon is added automatically.

It has clean code with in-line documentation to help you build child themes and custom HTML. It includes a child theme which you can customize to your hearts’ content. Custom branding allows you to brand themes with your own branding.

The Plus edition includes special eCommerce pages for Products and Downloads. Slack Chanel, a hangout for the expert community, is available to those with the professional package.

Support and Updates

The help center is open 5 days a week and there are over 20 short videos for documentation. Users with the professional package get a VIP badge for speedy support. Notifications for updates appear in your dashboard and you can easily update with one click.

Price

The starting edition is free. It includes the core theme, Make Layout Engine, flexible (but limited) style controls, and help guide. Make Plus is $99 and adds builder sections, eCommerce support, complete style controls, expert support, video guides, and advanced layout options. Plus Professional is $299 and is for those that do client work. It can be used on unlimited sites, includes slack access, partner discounts, a help badge, and beta access.

Thoughts

Creating pages is simple and the drag and drop system is fairly intuitive. Once you create a layout you like simply duplicate the page to use as a template so you don’t have to create the same layout multiple times.

It doesn’t seem to have as many elements as some of the other builders. The free version is too limited and doesn’t include the page builder.

Make is a good choice for those that prefer a simpler drag and drop builder that works from the backend.

Which Ultimate WordPress Theme Should You Choose?

The best option will depend on your needs. For example, a developer will need to use the theme on multiple sites where a blogger might only need to use it on one. Do you prefer to modify child themes or create your own layouts? Do you prefer working from the frontend or backend?

The best way to choose is to determine what your needs are and then ask yourself questions such as these, and then take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each theme to see which one meets your needs the best.

Here are my parting thoughts on each one.

Divi – backend drag and drop builder, easy to use, highly customizable, virtually unlimited, includes layouts and modules, page templates, can be used on unlimited websites, support included with subscription, requires yearly subscription for updates. $69 per year, yours to keep if you cancel your subscription.

X – frontend drag and drop builder, simple to use, virtually unlimited, includes lots of demos and extensions, page templates, 6 months support, must buy a new license for each website. $64.

Monstroid – good basic features but fewer layout-building tools than other themes, includes some good plugins and shortcodes, page templates, lots of completed child themes to modify, lifetime support and updates, requires developer license per 5 websites. $79 standard, $149 developer.

UpFront – frontend drag and drop builder, can create anything, white label on everything including videos, lots of shortcodes and elements, 100+ plugins, 4 demos, use on unlimited websites, 24/7 support included with subscription, requires subscription for updates. $49 per month, yours to keep if you cancel your subscription.

Avada – Fusion Builder drag and drop tool, easy to use, highly customizable, 18 demos, around 5 premium plugins, 40 shortcodes, 10 widgets, most popular theme on ThemeForest, unlimited updates, 6 months support, requires separate license for each website you use it on. $59.

Genesis – a framework with lots of child themes that are purchased separately, standard customizations and layouts, not as flexible as builder themes, extra features available in third party plugin, can be used on unlimited sites. $59 for framework, $99 per theme (includes framework), All StudioPress Themes is $499.95 plus $99.95 annually.

Make – simple but intuitive backend drag and drop system, not as many elements as other builder themes but enough to create nice layouts, easy to duplicate pages to create templates, support is available 5 days per week, costs extra to use for clients. Free for limited version, $99 for Plus version (includes builder), $299 for Professional (for client work).

Which is your favorite?

Posted by Randy Brown

Randy Brown is a freelance writer from east TN that specializes in WordPress and business of all kinds.

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