This isn’t going to be your typical review. If you’re looking for an in-depth report that digs into every feature of Extra, head over to Google. I’m sure you can find a bunch of them. I’m taking a different tack.

Instead of doing yet another outside-looking-in review, this will be a journal of sorts. In case you didn’t notice, this website is built with Extra. I’ll share my on-going adventures with Elegant Theme’s magazine theme.

Full transparency: This is WP Master Builder, a website about using and tweaking WordPress and its themes and plugins. What you see isn’t 100% within the scope of the Extra theme. I have made some modifications.

1st published June 21, 2018
Last updated June 21, 2018

Overview

Elegant Themes says that Extra is “[t]he perfect theme for bloggers and online-publications. Powered by Divi Builder, Extra gives you the ultimate flexibility to create diverse categories, homepages and story-driven posts.” If you’ve been around WordPress themes for awhile, the bit that should catch your attention is “the ultimate flexibility to create diverse categories”. Interesting, right? How do you build categories?

Elegant Themes has developed a category archive builder similar to its page builder. And it seems to work like a champ. I bet you could make a fair knock-off of CNN, Fox News, or <insert your least hated news website here> in an hour.

The theme also comes with 9 widgets, is WooCommerce ready, and has a slew of built-in functions: related posts function, reviews, article ratings, portfolio. It does not come with breadcrumbs. I added those.

What’s in the box?

Let’s quickly go through the main features and functions.

Category Builder

The category builder lets you use a drag and drop builder to create custom archive pages. It only has 8 modules to use. But they are loaded with options so you”ll have no problem making most magazine layouts. And there’s a Code module in case you need to get really creative.

Divi Builder

Divi Builder is Elegant Theme’s pride and joy. I think Elementor is “better”. I’ll be the 1st to admit that it’s subjective. All but 1 of my clients have loved the builder. It’s pretty user friendly.

Builder is used on pages and posts (and custom post types with a little work). It has 37 modules ranging from text to maps to a shop to galleries.

Builder vs Builder

More than a few people were stuck somewhere between shocked and irritated that the 2 builders aren’t compatible. The builders look the same. They both say “The Divi Builder” at the top. But you can’t mix and match the modules.

Sometimes it makes sense. But some examples will leave you scratching your head.

Example 1: Extra includes a portfolio but no way to show portfolio items in the category builder.

Example 2: Extra includes 9 widgets but there’s no where to put them in the category builder. Divi Builder does.

That all makes sense for a category builder except that it’s also for building your home page. Many people who would use the portfolio would want all or some of it on their home page.

Widgets

Extra includes 9 widgets that you’d expect to see with a magazine theme. Most recent this, most recent that with social media widgets.

Other functions

Related items

At the bottom of posts, Extra adds up to 3 related items. It looks like they’re generated via simple tag and/or category matching. I haven’t dug into the code to figure it out yet. They don’t have to be perfect if they’re close, they’re quick, and they don’t require another plugin.

Reviews

The review system is simple but flexible. You add your score via a fancy set of custom fields. You set the criteria’s name and score. Want 3 criteria? Do 3. Want a dozen criteria on the next review? Then do dozen. Add as many as you want. The final score is a simple average of the score.

The averaged overall score is used at the bottom of the featured image pretty much wherever it shows up and in a Recent Reviews widget.

I think there’s a bug in the system. I had a score that ended in exactly .5. Let’s say it was 88.5. Most of the site rounded down to 88. But the widget rounded up to 89. No big deal except when the numbers were on the screen together.

Article Rating

These are those up-to-5 star article ratings. I never liked them. They’re unclear as to what they are. Are they rating the writing? Are they rating what the article about? It’s doubly unclear on a site with reviews. Going to disable those.

Why am I trying the Extra theme?

I’ve always liked magazine themes. They have their drawbacks and challenges. And I think most get so wrapped up in displaying the mass of posts on a home page or category that they forget about making a strong single page. Maybe I can modify this theme to do something great.

Also, I want to show that content trumps aesthetics. Can a website with a plain-ish design do well? I think it can.

Early concerns

I took a quick peek at the Extra demo’s source code. I think I saw 4 H1 tags. That isn’t right. And all the headings look like they the same size. That isn’t right at all.

Plus I ran the demo through the WAVE accessibility evaluator. Tons of problems.

And this is in the Divi family so I assume it’s overflowing with JavaScript. I could be wrong and I’m certainly biased, but that feels like an accident waiting to happen. I tried the Visual Builder and got the gray screen of death. Yay Javascript.

Questions to answer

  1. Are the reviews output with rich data for Google?
  2. How accessible is the theme?
    1. How hard is it to fix any shortcomings?
  3. Is it fast?
  4. How are related items determined?

Who is Extra right for?

Here are the criteria for you to be a good fit for Extra:

  • You’re already WordPress literate.
  • You’re going to publish a lot of content.
  • You want a plain default design.
  • You’re willing to do the work to make your pages pretty, if you want.

Extra credit for multi-author websites.

Who is Extra wrong for?

  • WordPress newcomers.
  • If you think the functions are almost right. The theme has a lot of flexibility in display but not in changing the function. And it isn’t easy to know where the line between them lays. I’ve seen it frustrate people.
  • People who are only going to post occasionally.

If you lack experience but think

If you’re thinking that you really

Pricing

You have to give Elegant Themes credit for keeping things simple. They offer 1 package at 2 price points.

Option 1: you get all of their themes and plugins to use on as many sites as you’d like for $89/year.

Option2: Same package for $249 once.

The Elegant Themes membership page

Summary

Extra by Elegant Themes is a pretty decent magazine theme. It has 4 qualities I look for:

  • Plain/simple overall design
    A strong design for a site designed to show tons of images/articles would be overwhelming
  • The ability to create highly styled individual posts/pages
    Divi Builder is great for this
  • Mechanisms to push readers to more articles:
    Related items on posts, various posts widgets
  • The ability to organize posts cleanly
    The Category Builder is pretty damn slick

I’ll have more to say once I’ve lived with it for awhile.

Pros

  1. The Category Builder lets non-technical people create highly customized pages.
  2. Divi Builder is a popular, easy-to-use page builder.
  3. Includes the expected magazine-type extras.
  4. Built-in review function

Cons

  1. JavaScript – I still don’t trust Visual Builder even though the rest of it works
  2. Poor accessibility
  3. Parts are infinitely customizable and part are not. Can frustrate WordPress newbies