Thrive Architect Vs Elementor: A Hands-On Comparison From A Long-Time Architect User

Last Updated on September 4, 2020  

OK, time for a real, hands-on look at two major WordPress page builders: Thrive Architect and Elementor.

To be honest, I put this off for awhile. I have been using Thrive Architect for quite a long time now. I really love the software. In fact, I'm writing this very post with Thrive Architect.

But, I've known about Elementor. It looked pretty nice, too. In fact, it had a lot of similarities (at least visually) with Architect. So much so that when I first saw Elementor, I thought it was a rip-off of Architect. (Note: It definitely isn't, but there are interface similarities).

Since I am such a massive fan of Architect, I thought it was only fair that I permit a challenger. If I'm going to continue to promote Architect to my readers, I cannot do it in a vacuum. Is Architect truly the best?

And so, with that in mind, I decided to install Elementor. And to make it a fair fight, I picked up Elementor Pro to bring on all the commercial add-ons so that it will be a fair comparison to Thrive Architect.

I wanted to see what the differences were.

So, let's dive in...

Installing Elementor Pro & First Impressions

Right away, there's a difference in terms of pricing...

Thrive Architect is, of course, available with the full Thrive Membership at $228/year. As I've talked about before, their membership is really the best deal since you get everything. However...

Even if you buy Thrive Architect separately, it's a pretty awesome deal. You can pick it up for as little as $67 for 1 site. It includes all features and unlimited updates forever. Unlike a lot of plugins, there is no renewal fee for updates. Renewals are optional and only for support, but updates are included. And, they update Architect pretty frequently.

On the other hand, Elementor has the core plugin available for free. Then, if you want the PRO add-on (and you will if you want anything even remotely close to what Architect provides), then a single site license is $49/year. It DOES auto-renew, unlike Thrive Architect.

So, right off the bat, I think Thrive Architect is a better value for your money. That one was easy. 🙂 But, let's dive into the actual software...

I picked up the cheapest $49/year plan for Elementor Pro. I'm non-committal at this point so I didn't want to fork out more money than necessary. I then activated Elementor Pro (which is a separate plug-in) and I was good to go.

One thing I noticed is that Elementor seems to have a more native visual integration with WordPress. For that reason, the backend interface does seem faster than Thrive Themes.

When you use Thrive, you control settings via the Thrive Dashboard.

Thrive's interface is nice, but it isn't native to WordPress. For instance, when you click on one of the options screens, you get this little green spinner icon onscreen while it loads up. That is all custom by Thrive Themes. So, the interface is nice and perfectly functional, but not native.

The various settings screens for Elementor look like they are a native part of WordPress, using WordPress's own admin styling.

In the settings for Elementor, you have several global settings that you can change all from one spot. For instance, under "Style", you can control your default font, content width, mobile responsive width breakpoints, etc. Some of the settings available here are much more nerdy than you ever see with Thrive. My inner nerd appreciates it, however I could easily see how some of this will fly right over the head of the average WordPress user.

One thing I did notice is that Elementor has the ability to output custom CSS to external files. This is actually better for performance. Thrive Architect, on the other hand, embeds all the CSS inline in the source code of the page - and that does result in a larger code footprint for the page.

Let's dive into the actual editor.

Heading Into The Elementor Editor

So, I create a page and I open it up in Elementor to have a look around:

One little thing I noticed is that Elementor opens up in the same window. In other words, the main WordPress admin panel goes away to show Elementor. With Architect, it opens up in a new tab, therefore allowing me to simultaneously access the rest of WordPress. I personally prefer the way Architect does it, however I admit it might be because it's what I am used to.

As expected, it is using the default page template as defined by my theme (which, ironically, was a Thrive Theme). I see the box there telling me where I can drag any page element.

Right off the bat, it is clear that there are visual similarities between Thrive Architect and Elementor. The way Elementor lists the different page elements is very similar. One key difference is how Elementor packs everything onto one side of the screen while Architect has both a right and left panel. You use tabs and menus to access different sections in Elementor.

The Elementor editor has way more available page elements that can be dragged in than does Architect. However, it can also be deceiving because some things are duplicated in ways that seem unnecessary. For instance:

  • There are 5 different components dedicated just to Facebook elements (like a share button, embedding a post, etc.)
  • A separate element for a shortcode. In Architect, just drop it into a text field or custom HTML field and it works.

Overall, no big deal. It is clear that you have a lot of power and flexibility with Elementor. There are some nice page elements that do not exist in Architect, such as:

  • Price List. Looks kind of like a restaurant menu. It could definitely be built with Architect, but much more manually.
  • Spacer. Just to put vertical spacing between elements. Again, can be done with Architect, but just differently.
  • Login. For inserting a login form.
  • Slider
  • Flip Box. Basically, a formatted content box that flips over when you hover over it. Interesting.
  • Media Carousel

One thing that (for now) separates Elementor out from Architect is the deeper integration with actual theme elements. For instance, there are draggable elements for things like the post title, author box, feature image, etc. There are also draggable elements for WordPress widgets and various WordPress taxonomies.

Another nice touch in Elementor is that right-clicking on any element brings in a contextual menu allowing quicker access to settings for that page element.

The more direct integration with WordPress itself is also handy for allowing fast access to certain settings not usually accessible via Thrive Architect. Here's an example...

Let's say I'm editing a blog post with Architect. I want to change the feature image for the post or the title of the post. Architect is only for editing the content, so I have to go back to WordPress to edit that information. This isn't a problem, however, since Architect opens in a new browser tab while Elementor takes over the interface.

In Elementor, I can click the settings icon down at the bottom and access the direct settings of the page or post I'm working on. And editing it changes it in real-time on screen. It's a little thing, but handy.

Overall, Elementor has everything you'd want in a solid editor. There are some differences from Architect. Some are things I think are better than Architect. Some I think Architect is better.

Things I Think Are Better About Elementor:

  • More direct integration with WordPress itself, allowing to pull dynamic data from WordPress (like widgets) into the page
  • The color of the overall editor is responsive to your operating system. Since I was running in "dark mode", my interface was in dark mode as well.

Things I Think Are Better About Architect:

  • Some editor functions are just faster and more intuitive. For instance, margins and padding in Architect use a visual interface that you can easily and intuitively drag to expand and contract. In Elementor, it is all numerical.
  • Architect is faster in that it takes less clicks to get to various settings. The contextual menu to edit settings on any element is just one layer deep, providing quick glance and access to all options. In Elementor, it is divided up into Content, Style and Advance. Settings are split between them and it therefore takes more clicks to find what you want to edit.

Settings are spread out across 3 different sub-panes in Elementor

Architect gives faster access to all options. Also note the visual interface for editing padding and  margins.

  • Editing straight text and accessing formatting is faster in Architect. You just edit in the main interface. Simple. With Elementor, text strangely appears over in the toolbar. To format anything in the main editor requires extra clicks to pull up the toolbar.
  • The Navigator for quickly skipping around the document is MUCH easier with Architect. It is a simple hierarchal list of links at the top of the editor - and clicking on any one of  them quickly selects that element in the editor. In Elementor, you have to open this up in a popup menu. And it gets in the way.

Here's how it works in Architect.

Here's how it works in Elementor. It's in the way. You can drag it around, but it is always over top of something.

As with anything, then, there are pros and cons. There are things I really like about Elementor. There are things I definitely prefer about Architect.

Building Landing Pages: Architect Vs Elementor

We've covered the main editor interface. But, so far, I was looking at using it as an editor for content within the confines of the main theme.

What about when we go to make a full landing page? Something that looks much fancier?

Well, Elementor gives a lot of great options here. You have access to a LOT of pre-designed templates that you can use in the Elementor Library:

At first glance, it seems as if Elementor has more templates to choose from. However, I realize that is deceiving because it is only listing out single page templates, one by one.

In Architect, you have various template sets. And each set is grouped together with different purpose pages that all fit the same theme. Things like webinar pages, homepages, product pages, etc.

The template sets in Architect are also more marketer focused. They have built templates to act as shortcuts for the various types of pages most common for online marketers, like leadgen pages, webinar registrations, confirmation pages, etc.

Architect also has the Smart Landing Page templates which employ a number of global elements, allowing you to quickly change things across your site at the same time.

While Architect is more tuned to the needs of online marketers, Elementor has templates built for various kinds of companies. Elementor has some really great looking templates built in. To import and use one, you click the Insert button. But, then I was surprised by something...

When I import a full page template in Architect, is overrides the theme. Its just takes over. However, with Elementor, it tries to insert all that stuff into my default page template. That stuck me as incredibly stupid... until I realized that Elementor comes with custom page templates to fix this problem. When I went and chose Elementor Canvas as my page layout, the problem was solved.

This is actually quite nice. Elementor's better integration into the WordPress framework means that it comes with page templates to suite the 3 scenarios you might have for any page:

  • You want to use a regular page template, perhaps with a sidebar and everything.
  • The Elementor Full Width layout which has the header and footer, but everything else in the middle is controlled by Elementor
  • The Elementor Canvas template which allows Elementor to control everything, without any header and footer.

This is a small thing, but kudos to Elementor for thinking of this. I had to create my own solution to this using Architect.

As I proceeded to play around with editing landing pages, more little annoyances with Elementor creeped up for me. For instance:

  • Architect has an easy drag icon so you can move any element anywhere you want VERY quickly. In Elementor, there were multiple occasions where I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to MOVE an object. There seemed to be no way to select it in a way to drag it around.
  • In Architect, it is VERY intuitive to drag and drop a new page element anywhere you want. Above a set of columns? No problem. Above a section? No problem. Yet in Elementor, it isn't nearly as intuitive to me. If I try to randomly drag a new object right above a set of columns, for instance, it simply will not work. It seems as if I am forced to create a new section for it. This is not very intuitive.
  • In Architect, I can select a Background Section merely by clicking on it. With Elementor, I have to hit the little tiny button that appears at the top of the Section in order to access any of the properties. Just takes way more clicks to do anything.

Now, I realize that I'm used to the way of Architect does things. And it is possible that this shaped my expectations. I'm pretty sure that I would get used to Elementor over time and it would become second nature. But...

I've tested a lot of software over the years. To me... the editing experience in Architect is more intuitive and faster than Elementor. It is just faster to edit things. Faster to access things. It takes less clicks. It works more the way I would expect it to.

But, that's landing pages. What about content blocks?

Pre-Designed Content Blocks: Architect And Elementor

Content blocks are pre-designed page components that act as big shortcuts. It could be something as simple as a formatted box with text in it - all the way up to full page layouts.

And, as of this writing, there is no doubt... Elementor blows Architect away in this department.

Elementor has a colossal library of page blocks. Containing all kinds of useful page elements. Some of them are full page layouts, in fact. Some big time savers in here.

In Architect, this feature is young. The Content Blocks is sort of stuffed into the top of the toolbar where it does't feel like it belongs.

And when you go to add a Content Block, the library is not nearly as feature rich. There are a few basic page layouts, some podcast subscription boxes, some quote boxes, some calls to actions. Without directly counting, I would guess that Architect has maybe 10% of the blocks that Elementor does.

Now, I know that Thrive Themes is working on this. I fully expect this library to develop over time. But for now, Elementor definitely has the edge here. By a long ways.

Theme Building: Architect And Elementor

OK, so a quick spoiler alert right here at the beginning:

Elementor wins. And that's because Architect does not currently have any ability to build or control your theme. As of Elementor 2.0, you can use it to build out your entire website.

Thrive Themes is working on this. It is in development. I fully expect that Thrive Themes will be releasing Theme Builder which you will then be able to assemble and edit using the power of Architect. When that day arrives, it will be more on par with Elementor in terms of theme control. But, for now, there's no comparison.

So, let's look at how Elementor handles themes...

Essentially, Elementor sets up a custom post type for theme components. And it is broken down by type: Header, Footer, Single and Archive.

The process of creating it looks kinda like this:

  1. Go to Add New, then select the template type. In addition to page and section templates, you can choose header, footer, single or archive.
  2. It opens up the Block library to that section. For instance, if you chose to create a header, you'll get the block library where you can insert any of the pre-designed headers. Choose one then insert it.
  3. The header (in this case) opens up in the Elementor editor for you to change it as you see fit.
  4. When you're done editing, you "Publish" it. You will then be asked to decide where you want it to appear. You use Conditions to determine where it shows up. You can choose to use it across the whole site, or you can get granular and select certain pages, categories, posts, etc.
  5. Save and Close.

Now, how does this work?

It appears to work through the use of WordPress hooks. So, for instance, if I built a header and the display conditions for it are correct, it will hook that header in and bypass the header provided by my theme.

Now, Thrive Architect does have the ability to edit header and footers globally. The only thing Architect does not do is provide the ability to hook those elements right into the main theme. The theme is either on or off with Architect.

Overall, Elementor is way more integrated into the guts of a WordPress theme... making it more suitable for building an entire blog than Architect is currently.

Between the ability to edit/bypass actual theme elements, content blocks that provide full page layout and blog post layouts, custom sidebars and the ability to control sidebars with Elementor... you have what you need to build your whole blog.

It will probably feel like a manual, tedious process. But, you can do it.

Expandability: Architect Vs Elementor

These two tools are very different when it comes to the ability to expand the editor past it's built in functionality.

Architect is expandable only within the Thrive Themes universe. Thrive Themes offers several additional plugins that are very capable. I cover many of them in this Thrive Themes review. And one of the beauties of Thrive Themes as a suite is how all their tools integrate together so well.

However, you are still "stuck" within Thrive Themes. It is a very capable suite of software, but it is not open to third-party development.

Elementor, on the other hand, provides the means for 3rd-party developers to expand on the capabilities with additional add-ons. A simple search within WordPress of the plugin library with "Elementor" as the keyword brings up 853 results.

There are just TONS of options out there to expand the capabilities of Elementor beyond what comes baked in. It really is pretty amazing.

Some add-ons bolt on more available page elements. Some actually make changes and add capability to the actual editor. Some provide some really great capability, like integration with other plugins.

Honestly, as a Thrive Architect user, it makes me a little jealous. 🙂

This expandability has led to a rather large ecosystem centered around Elementor. And it makes for an insanely flexible development and design environment.

Thrive Themes is just operating by a different set of rules. It is a bit of a walled garden. Their tools work together beautifully. Their tools play well with others. But, there's no 3rd-party developer ecosystem around Thrive Themes. And if I had to guess, I doubt that will ever change.

Who Architect Is Right For... And Who Elementor Is Right For

If you've been following along on this long comparison, then it is pretty clear that these are both solid editors.

Architect excels in some ways. Elementor excels in others.

If one was expecting me to declare a solid "winner" here, you will be disappointed. So, I think what it comes down to most is: Who are you?

Thrive Themes as a company is primarily focused on online marketers. Their tools are optimized toward that purpose. The page elements available in Architect are intended for online marketers. If your primary goal is to build a site that has the primary goal of generating leads and making sales, then Thrive Themes is tailored to you.

Elementor is clearly no slouch. You can use Elementor to do the same things. But, it seems pretty clear to me that Elementor is a little more geared toward building more general purpose pages. If the goal is to build a high-quality online presence for a small business, or a portfolio site, or some other corporate site, Elementor seems to have more to offer. Especially when you look at all the available options as 3rd party add-ons.

If you were running an agency that builds websites for people who primarily run small businesses that don't focus on online marketing, then I think Elementor is a better fit. Certainly the pricing is better, since their $199/year plan means you can use Pro on up to 1,000 sites.

If I had to sum it up as simply as possible, it is this...

Thrive Themes is meant more for conversion-focused digital marketers. Elementor is meant more for people building more general purpose websites.

Can You Run Thrive Themes And Elementor Side By Side?

Yes. But, let me explain...

I personally see no reason to run Thrive Architect and Elementor at the same time. There is just too much feature overlap there and it seems redundant. It will work if you want to do so, but there's no need.

A more likely option is that you may want to use some of the other Thrive Themes plugins along with Elementor. For instance, Thrive Leads for list building, Thrive Quiz Builder, etc. And...

Yes, it works just fine. It is not nearly as seemless, however. Keep in mind, most of those Thrive plugins can output using a shortcode. So, once you get the shortcode, you can just plop it into your page using Elementor and it will work. Certainly, however, it is going to FEEL a lot nicer doing it all within the Thrive Themes environment.

The Final Comparison

Let's look at each tool and where it is better and worse than the other. A good old-fashioned duke out. 😉

Thrive Architect

Better Than Elementor

  • More intuitive editor interface - overall easier to use.
  • Faster, easier and less clicks needed to make changes to the page
  • Element hierarchy is much more useful
  • Page elements more conversion focused for marketers
  • Strong integration with other Thrive tools.

Worse Than Elementor

  • No ability to take control of theme elements
  • Much fewer content blocks currently available
  • No 3rd party expandability via add-ons

Conclusion:

Even after trying Elementor and being impressed by several things with it, I am going to stick with Thrive Architect. I simply think it is a better page editor. Elementor is more clunky to me.

And lastly, let's look at where Elementor shines...

Elementor

Better Than Architect

  • Clearly has a lot of 3rd party development support, meaning a great library of add-ons for the platform.
  • Ability to build the entire theme
  • A large, developed library of content blocks, for all purposes
  • Tighter integration with the WordPress admin panel
  • Additional page widgets suitable for small business/corporate sites.

Worse Than Architect

  • The editor is not as intuitive. Harder to one-click edit things. Moving elements around more difficult.
  • Takes more clicks to find the things I want to edit.
  • The editor feels a little overwhelming, like it is packing too much in.

Conclusion:

Elementor is pretty impressive. I don't think the page editing experience is as nice as Architect, to be clear. But, I remain impressed with the degree of flexibility Elementor offers. If I were building sites for clients, I think it is a no-brainer.

After finally getting my hands dirty with Elementor and seeing how it all works, my conclusion is...

I am sticking with Thrive Architect. And I remain convinced that Thrive Themes tools are the better fit for my audience.

Thrive Themes is best suited for the digital marketer and anybody running a conversion-focused business primarily online. These are the kind of people who might look at things like ClickFunnels or LeadPages, but don't want to get tied into a higher monthly fee. Thrive Themes fits the needs of digital marketing... right on top of WordPress.

Since this is my audience, in a nutshell, Thrive Themes is the better tool. Architect is the better editor.

But, there's no doubt Elementor is quite powerful. If the site you're looking to build is for a small business, a photographer, a designer, as restaurant... or something where you need a well-designed online presence but leads and conversion on-site is not the primary focus, then Elementor is likely the better fit for you. If you run an agency where you build lots of client sites with WordPress, then Elementor is the better fit.

So, that's our head-to-head battle between these two popular page editors: Thrive Architect and Elementor.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask below.


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  • Claus Dittrich says:

    Hi
    Fine comparison.
    Have u looked at the speed of the site – using those 2 builders ?
    (ie. how many requests, page load time, page size)
    And have u looked at what happens when u disable the builder – which theme builder will leave a mess of shortcodes and which will leave a functional site..
    Regards, Claus

    • David Risley says:

      I have no looked specifically at the number of requests, no. But, I also don’t look at that as a very important metric when it comes to evaluating a page builder. That said, the issue of disabling and shortcodes is definitley important. The page builder that REALLY sucks in that regard is Divi – and I have another review on that. But Architect doesn’t operate that way so you can disable it without an issue. CSS would be the only issue, but you could get around that is needed.

  • Mark Mobley says:

    What’s cool about your reviews is that you have enough experience to quickly go to the key differences and then let your reader decide what they need. Always informative to read.

  • Hi David – I’m using both TA and Beaver Builder. For Sales Pages or for lead generation, I will deploy TA and BB for internal pages. I came to know about BB before Elementor, so got used to that. Have you tried BB?

    • David Risley says:

      Dabbled with it awhile back, but nothing serious. So, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with it at this point. I should test it. 🙂

  • Mark Bustamonte says:

    Great info David. I have not used Thrive but just recently started using Elementor and coincidently the client fits into the Elementor category as you described. My only issue now is, for my own personal use I fit the Thrive category…aw…Oh well.

    • David Risley says:

      If you already have Elementor and get used to using it, you might as well just use it for your own site, too. 🙂

  • Bhavesh Patel says:

    Thanks for this review David! I’m a fan of Thrive as well, but I’ve been extremely frustrated by the fact that I can’t easily edit the overall theme of my website easily withThrive, so I feel like I can’t get my whole site looking like it is polished and professional with common elements through all the pages (unless I were to go edit CSS and other things I’m not good at).

    So I have been using elementor or a staging version of my website. With Elementor, it’s easier to get a cohesive looking theme going for all the pages and posts and it allows for a better look. But I agree, I like using Architect a bit more, and I plan on using Thrive Apprentice.

    So basically, I’m kinda stuck without a good answer on which way to move forward. I have never been able to get all my posts and pages looking consistent and nice with Thrive, but I want the power of Thrive…

    Maybe I can run both at the same time… use Elementor for the overall theme, and build pages in Thrive Architect as a plug-in.

    Have you tried the beta version of the Thrive Theme Editor? Is it ready enough?

    Bhavesh

    • David Risley says:

      I have not tried Thrive’s theme editor. Don’t even know if there is a beta version available to test at this point (At least publicly).

      But, yes, right not, Elementor is definitely better at this.

  • Cody Wheeler says:

    Interesting comparison. I haven’t gotten a chance to play with Thrive too much yet, but when I have I found it better than Elementor. I’ve inherited a couple of sites built with Elementor and they were GARBAGE. Could just be the way it was used, but I didn’t have good experiences.

    Have you tried Atomic Blocks yet David? It’s a pretty slick and lightweight add-on.

    • David Risley says:

      I haven’t. Maybe I need to put that on my list to check out. 🙂

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