Intro

In this article we’re going to try to explain how we avoid potential Elementor related problems and, if we do encounter conflicts, the steps we take to isolate and fix the issue but, first, let’s take a look at why problems and conflicts might arise …

Fault finding Elementor

There’s no doubt about it, Elementor is a transformational addition to WordPress.  Yes, there are other plugins which enable the user to build-out pages in a WYSIWYG environment but none are quite as all encompassing and pervasive as Elementor.  Necessarily though, Elementor has many, many moving parts and when you add-in the ability to add custom CSS, additional plugins to bolster the core functionality, updates to the product itself and updates to other plugins, the risk of something going wrong increases exponentially.

One of the cornerstones of WordPress itself is its “Codex” .  That is, a cookbook, a set of coding guidelines which seeks to ensure that plugins and themes always work nicely together and, by and large, they do.  However, we need plugin developers to ‘push the envelope’ in order to keep WordPress moving forward and, in coding terms, that means blurring the edges between the strict Codex and the bleeding edge of development practices.  Now, I’m not suggesting that Elementor breaks the Codex but, it does push it to the limit, and that’s fine, except when it comes head-to-head with another plugin (or theme) which is also at the bleeding edge (or is just plain bad) then all sorts of problems can, and do, arise.

We’ve now installed around 35 instances of Elementor PRO (and probably double that number on development sites) and some of those have been in environments where you think “This ain’t gonna end well” but, each time, we’ve been surprised at just how few issues we’ve encountered and in only one instance, was Elementor PRO to blame and this was fixed by an update inside of 24 hours.

The problem is though, one of perception.  By its nature, it’s very difficult to deactivate Elementor in order to fault find as, frequently, it’s within Elementor that the problem manifests itself so, of course, deactivating it will make the problem go away, along with 100% of the functionality of the website!

Elementor isn't the same for everyone

For some, Elementor and its PRO version are just plugins.  You download them and install them just like any other but we all use it in different ways.  For many, they install Elementor just to add a nice looking gallery or some other piece of functionality on top of their existing page builder, theme and plugin stack but, at the other end of the scale, for some of us, Elementor has become the very core of what we do – so much so that it’s allowed us to significantly change the way we make websites and has all but eliminated the need for a theme and reduced the need for a plethora of different, potentially conflicting, plugins.  In real life, for the average client website, we’ve reduced our plugin count by more than 60% since adopting Elementor and that’s a good thing because the more plugins, the more chance of conflicts and the greater the potential  support burden.  A by-product of this is that we have reduced our costs and been able to cancel a number of pretty expensive paid plugin subscriptions.

Another division between users is those who are using WordPress and Elementor to create a website for themselves and those who use the platform to create websites for clients.  The reason for mentioning this is that the latter should be very familiar with WordPress itself along with the knowledge of how to ‘fine tune’ it to get the best performance and how to do fault finding in a structured way.  Those coming to Elementor to create a website for themselves have probably been advised down that route by some well meaning internet ‘expert’ without also telling them that they will first need to have a working knowledge of server hosting and WordPress in general and at least a passing knowledge of HTML and CSS if they are to avoid a very frustrating and laborious journey. 

That’s not to say you can’t install Elementor and get going right away – Elementor has a very intuitive interface and many people have just jumped in and got great results first time but, it’s a certainty, that sooner or later you’re going to hit a problem – something doesn’t work as it should, your layout has change or something has vanished and that’s when you’re going to be forced up a steep learning curve, most likely against your will and under pressure to get your website working again.  We say, invest some time getting to know WordPress basics like how and where things are stored, get to know what permalinks are, how to change them and why they’re important as an absolute minimum, understand the job of a theme and what it does.  Understand about pages & posts and do all this before even thinking about using Elementor.  Experiment safely – build yourself a little website just using the WordPress default theme (2019 at the time of writing), add pages, posts etc. and see what happens.  If you can do this, your transition to Elementor will be a smoother, less frustrating one.

We’ll mention later the advantages and disadvantages of the vast array of online resources, tutorials and videos available to you.

Problem avoidance

It all starts with your hosting deal

This starts way before you install Elementor on WordPress – selecting the right hosting service.  You may already have a hosting setup but, nonetheless, you need to be confident it meets the published Elementor system requirements.  Ignore these at your peril.  We now run exclusively on our four servers PHP 7.3, MySQL 5.7 and with a WP Memory limit set to 512MB (at the time of writing).  If in any doubt, send the link to the system requirements to your hosting support people and ask them to ratify your plan meets those requirements.

A good, robust hosting plan is the key to a stable Elementor installation and never has it been more true to say “You only get what you pay for”.  We think that the Elementor team could do more to help users avoid problems with server configuration such as flag warnings of potential server deficiencies and PHP settings at the time of install – maybe a traffic light scheme of green for good, amber for proceed with caution and red for don’t do it!  It’s not hard to do and would save them a large number of support tickets and save the rest of us those pleas for help on the forums which invariably go something like “Help! I can’t edit my Elementor pages”.

Here are some general rules for finding the right host for you

  • Define your requirements and write it down.  For example “I want a website for my own business which tells the viewer what I do, where I do it and how to contact me.  I expect, at most, 100 people a day to view my website and I never expect to sell online”.
  • Buy the best hosting you can possibly afford
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch
  • Ask online “What is the best host?” and you’ll get a hundred different answers and end-up more confused.  Ask the same question 6 months down the line and you’ll probably get a hundred more!
  • Be objective, don’t impulse buy no matter how good the deal seems.
  • Try before you buy.  Most reputable hosts have a free trial or money back offer*. Take advantage of these.
  • Shared hosting, Cloud hosting or dedicated server – which is best for you?
  •  If you search online “Best host” ignore any article older than three months – things change dramatically.
  • Ask questions of your potential hosts – give them the system requirements for Elementor and ask them to confirm the best package for your needs.  This not only gets you useful answers but also, vitally, tests how long it takes them to respond and how helpful they are.
  • Make sure, even if just creating one website for yourself, your hosting plan allows you to create clones/copies of your website easily and without upgrading.  More on this later.
  • Make certain your hosting plan includes reliable, robust automatic backups and restore.  Don’t rely on WordPress plugins to do the job.
  •  Ask if your hosting package is easily scalable, that is, can it grow with you in terms of processing power, RAM, disk space, bandwidth etc.
  • Ask if you’re able to change common PHP settings yourself. 

Over a period of 20 years or more, we’ve used dozens of different hosting firms, some good and some downright poor.  We even backed one new startup that seemed to offer the world for not a lot of money – they vanished after 3 weeks, just vanished off the face of the planet!  That was our first hard-learned lesson – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  The second thing we learned was always go with a reputable hosting company and the third lesson, make sure you know how to migrate the content of your server if you ever need to.

In all of our hosting adventures one thing has remained constant and that is change.  Things change and firms that start out great falter in some way – perhaps they start getting greedy and raising their prices, perhaps they start loading more and more websites on an already struggling infrastructure and so your website start crawling along like a narcoleptic snail.  The message is, be prepared to change.

Anyway, the good news is that about 2 years ago we stumbled upon Cloudways, I think they were a very new startup but their plans looked exciting and we especially liked that they are not like other hosting firms – effectively they are brokers and can supply cloud servers from well known providers such as Digital Ocean right up to Google and Amazon AWS depending upon your requirements and your budget.  What’s more, within the Cloudways control panel, you can scale your servers, add new ones and remove others on a pay as you go basis.  This has been a big advantage to us and has helped us control our costs better as we grow our own infrastructure.

Other things we really like:-

  • The Cloudways migrate plugin.  Install it on any WordPress site, enter a few details and boom, it’ll migrate your site to your new server.  It’ll even change the WordPress setting en-route to that once migrated in a few minutes, it’ll all work.
  • FREE SSL Certificates.  We hate paying for what should really be free for everyone.
  • No CPanel – we know it’s popular but it’s a pain to use and can make the simplest of tasks rather difficult.
  • One-click backup & restore of individual websites.
  • One-click installation of WordPress and other platforms, including WooCommerce.
  • One-click site cloning/staging
  • Easy to reboot the server if you ever need to
  • Good performance monitoring tools
  • Cloudbot – keeps you informed of what’s going on with your server(s)
  • Support is better than average
  • The ability to separate-out DNS management, Domain management and Email provision.  We like to have separate, autonomous control over these things and dislike hosts that try to take over your lives.  For information, we use our domain registrar, 123-REG, to manage DNS and Rackspace to manage our email.

We have no way of knowing if Cloudways is the right solution for you but, what we do know is that they offer a FREE, no obligation, no credit card needed 3 day free trial – that’s ample time to install WordPress, Elementor etc. and give it a whirl.  Hopefully you’ll be impressed and, if you click on the banner below and eventually sign up for a paid package, you’ll get $20 credit on your account and so will we – it all helps.

Load WordPress Sites in as fast as 37ms!Fault finding Elementor 1

Theme choices

Elementor has changed how we work we WordPress.  Not so long ago we’d have installed WordPress and then scoured the libraries for a theme that resembled in some way the look & feel we were looking for in a website and then we’d have to work within the confines of what the theme designers felt we needed.  More often than not, we’d find ourselves limited and having to make tweaks to the CSS and PHP code to make it do what we really wanted.  We also found ourselves adding plugin after plugin trying to add the functionality we needed until finally, we’d built something that looked right and worked right.  That was a time consuming and often frustrating journey.  Elementor has changed that.

You see, in theory, Elementor doesn’t need a theme – well, it does but it needs the bare minimum that WordPress requires in order to function.  That’s why the Elementor folk introduced their own “Hello” theme recently – it’s so bare bones it may as well not be there – which is the way we like it!  As we speak an Elementor add-on called Toolkit for Elementor has been released which does away with the need for a theme altogether but, for most, Hello is a good starting point.

This has a lot to do with problem avoidance because the most common WordPress issues all stem from bad/broken themes not playing well with some plugins, especially after updates.  By using Elementor with the Hello theme we not only reduce potential conflicts but also avoid having to stack more and more plugins in order to make things work – Elementor PRO has pretty much all the functionality you’ll need to build most websites out of the box.

Key message – Don’t use a theme other than Hello unless you’ve a very good reason to.  Get out of the mindset (if you’re in it) of finding a theme you like the look of and start your design from scratch using Elementor canvas.  Not wishing to boast but we reckon we can emulate any theme out there using Elementor in less than an hour.  In fact, we did that just recently when a client asked us to build a website using their preferred theme – something called Voux.  It’s not a theme we know and, at first glance, looked like it would be a devil to work with, especially with Elementor so, we looked at the overall design and created an almost identical look & feel using Elementor – we sent a link to our dev site to the client in under an hour and he came back and said “Yes, that’s the theme we want” to which we replied “That’s not your theme!”.

If you truly must use a theme then go with one of the “Elementor friendly” ones such as Astra or OceanWP but, even then, you will run into some roadblocks that you’re going to need to create a detour for. We strongly advise against using a theme that doesn’t actively mention or support Elementor.  You can use Elementor with pretty much any theme but you are far more likely to run into conflict issues that will be hard to resolve.

Key message – Learn how to make the most of templates and global elements inside Elementor and in that way you’ll be building-out web pages in no time and wondering why you ever used a theme!  

Key message – If you miss the ‘inspiration’ a theme might give you as a starting point, use with one of the many pre-made Elementor templates to get you going.

Key message – Using a lean, mean theme like Hello will make your site less prone to conflict issues and, therefore, more reliable and easier to maintain in the long term.

 

Choose your plugins wisely

ok so, at some point you will install additional plugins but save yourself some grief and choose them carefully.  There are literally thousands of plugins in the WordPress repository just waiting for you to download and install them but, wait.  Before you go ahead and install, always check out the stats.  If you visit the WordPress Plugin Repository at https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/ and search for your plugin, you’ll have a lot of information on which to base your decision to install or avoid.  Here are our tips to avoid a bad plugin.

  • Only consider using if it’s been updated in the last 6 months – nothing older.
  • Look at the number of active installations.  Elementor itself has over 2 million at this time and while you may not see many with these impressive stats, it’s worth thinking twice if there’s only a handful.
  • Finally, look at the ratings.  You’ll rarely find 100% five-star ratings but be cautious if the number of low ratings is more than about 10% of the total.
  • Take care following advice from random strangers online.  The forums and Facebook groups are full of people who will try to help by saying “Install this or that plugin” but, in reality, they may have no experience whatsoever of the plugin concerned, they’ve most likely just heard of it. On the other hand, if 90% of the people with an opinion suggest the same plugin they might just be right. 
  • Paid or free?  As a general rule (there are notable exceptions) plugins which have a “pro” paid option will be better supported than those that don’t.
 
Key message – only install a plugin if really necessary and then check it out and proceed with caution.  In that way, you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration and wasted time.

 

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