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Why You Should Avoid Avada

BEFORE YOU READ: Please note the publish date for this post. I have not used Avada since fall of 2014, so I cannot attest to what development has been done since then and what has been fixed. This post merely outlines my experience with Avada and serves as a good cautionary tale to theme development and selection. If you need support for your site running Avada, please go to the Theme Fusion website. My comment section is not an ideal Avada Support location.

Avada is the highest selling theme on Theme Forest, and with good reason. It’s attractive, responsive, supports retina displays and is jam packed with features. But underneath that beautiful exterior lies a dark truth. Avada is a nightmare for multisite. After a year of use, I’m trying to get as far away from Avada as possible, and if you run WordPress multisite, you should too.

Backstory

About a year ago, we began doing some long overdue cleanup on UNC Chapel Hill’s open WordPress multisite network, web.unc.edu. The network was started back in 2009, and for several years there was no real oversight or enterprise level planning to the project. As such, the previous administrators would install themes and plugins anytime they came across a new one they felt like they wanted. That led to there being almost 200 themes installed, only a handful of which were responsive and/or still in active development. I decided we needed to remove support for those old, crummy themes and look at modernizing our offerings.

We began looking around at the most popular themes to see what might be a good addition. We found Avada and on the surface it looked like a great option. Immensely popular, responsive, actively maintained, retina support, lots of customization options, etc. While I was somewhat nervous on the prospect of a theme with that much functionality in it (especially the bundling of plugins), we believed it would help our users have an extensive ability to customize their sites without feeling the need to ask us to install custom themes.

Well, I should have done more research. Avada, while extremely powerful, is led by developers who seem to have no regard for the effects their decisions have on their users. That is something that is difficult to grasp from just looking at a theme, but in hindsight, the signs were there and it is my fault for not thoroughly testing and reviewing all of the code. It’s a lesson I’ve learned and I will not make that mistake again.

Here is a list of a few of the issues with Avada that I’ve encountered.

Plugin Deactivation

After deploying the theme, things were going well. The users who had begun using it were happy to have so many options. But we began getting strange reports from some users that their plugins had all been deactivated. There didn’t seem to be any particular consistency to the reports, various active themes, various active plugins. Finally one day I noticed when switching my test site over to Avada to check something else out, the few plugins I had activated had somehow become deactivated.

Knowing that Avada had bundled plugins, I suspected it had a bug that was accidentally wiping the active_plugins field in the options table. I opened up the theme and did a search for ‘active_plugins’ to see if it was being touched by anything. What I found was shocking.

This is horrible for a number of reasons:

  1. In an effort to prevent conflicts with the plugins they had packaged into the theme, they were intentionally deactivating all plugins. Why you would ever think this was a good idea, I have no clue. Why not just target the plugins you are bundling?
  2. They wrote their own SQL to manipulate the active_plugins value in the options table instead of using the available core functions such as update_option(). This shows a lack of understanding of proper WordPress development techniques. It’s even more shocking since they use get_option() 2 lines before. Who knows what other best practices they are ignoring throughout the theme.
  3. This code was just loose inside functions.php, which means it fires on every single request to the Avada theme. This meant that even just previewing the theme caused it to deactivate all of your plugins (which explains why it occurred to people who were not even using the theme).

After discovering this, I simply commented out this section in my installed version and asked them to fix it for the next release. Their response was comical:

We need to access your website to diagnose the problem. Can you please set up an accessible server for us and reproduce this issue on it? So that we can have a look.

What? They wanted access to my server in order to replicate the fact that it deactivates all your plugins? It is abundantly clear from the code I pasted above that it did it, and even worse, it was by design!

Once they discontinued the bundling of plugins within the theme, they removed this code and resolved this issue, as they no longer needed this code to avoid fatal errors if the bundled plugin was already active. But this was just the first major indicator of problems with Avada.

Timeout Issues

We also had reports of some users not being able to access their dashboards. In some instances, these were on sites with zero active plugins, but the common denominator was always Avada. I began searching through our error logs for any type of indicator. There were a number of timeout errors that were the obvious culprit of the white screens, but nothing specific about where the timeouts were occurring. Then I happened to come across a few instances of this: Call to undefined function layerslider_activation_scripts() in /wp-content/themes/Avada/functions.php on line 133

I thought that was strange, and I still haven’t really figured out why it showed up because it definitely was available (Layer Slider is packaged in the theme) and being included a couple of lines before the call on line 133. But it gave me a place to start looking.

I opened up the code for Layer Slider to begin investigating and immediately found the culprit in activations.php.

On activation, Layer Slider was going through every single site on the network and attempting to create its required tables. This is probably fine on a small network with maybe a hundred sites. But we have over 8,000. It was obviously timing out. It also means that I then had hundreds of erroneous tables in my database. They should have checked to see if the plugin was network activated, not just if it was multisite. Anyway, I commented out the multisite portion and that solved the problem.

The bigger issue for me here is that these are a theme and plugin that both advertise multisite compatibility. I guess they are, as long as it isn’t a big network. This problem still exists in the latest available version of Layer Slider as of this post (5.3.2).

PHP Errors

I had a coworker do the local testing of this theme prior to installing on our dev server and eventually production server. I assume he did not have debug on when testing because a few months after we added this theme, I was asked to build some additional layouts into a child theme of Avada (pro tip: don’t bother). When I first activated the theme it blew up my screen with dozens of PHP warnings and errors.

They were mostly minor undefined index warnings, but they are triggered repeatedly on every page request front-end and back-end until you go the Theme Options screen and click save. It speaks back to the issues with plugin deactivation. It’s lazy programming. Why are you not checking to see if the index exists? Why don’t you set some default values when the theme is activated? These warnings are still happening in the latest version of Avada (3.6.2).

The Final Straw

We’ve been sitting on an older version for a while trying to figure out how to handle the decoupling of plugins.

On web.unc.edu there are a couple of hundred sites with Avada active, many of which are using at least one of the four bundled sliders. We already had Revolution Slider available to all users on the network, so that was our promoted slider of choice. I didn’t want to install 3 other sliders for everyone, because sliders are terrible and it’s dumb to offer four plugins that do the same thing.

Most people were using Revolution Slider and Layer Slider, so my solution was to support Layer Slider for those who were currently using it, and drop Flex and Elastic from the network at the same time as we updated Avada. I wrote a script to handle the Layer Slider activation on sites that required it, so that they wouldn’t break when it was no longer bundled in Avada.

On Wednesday, I attempted the update…and all hell broke loose.

Apparently the update to version 3.6 is not your usual WordPress theme update. You know, where you just update it and everything is cool. It requires extensive work if you want to maintain the current look and presentation of your site, outlined on their documentation site*. There are 7 major outlined changes that you will have to deal with when updating. That’s bad enough for one site, nevermind hundreds.

* Edited Note: This documentation has now been updated for version 3.7 which includes even more action items that you must do in order to prevent your site from looking different.

But that alone isn’t the only issue. There isn’t really any way to know those things need to happen unless you go actively searching for it. It wasn’t posted on their blog (assuming that anyone reads it). A link to the aforementioned update instructions is not present anywhere on the Theme Forest site. There are no notes about it in the changelog. Heck, it’s not even prominently featured on their documentation site. You have to go under Installation > Important Update Info.

Why would I re-consult the documentation to run a simple WordPress theme update? Something I do over and over again every single week. Why do they not default to the previous settings, with the option to enable the new ones?

One of the tenets of WordPress core development is it’s insistence on maintaining backward compatibility. Apparently the developers of Avada are not aware of this, or are not interested. Each release seems to include changes that require action by the user to simply maintain the appearance of their site.

Upon the realization that all of my users sites now looked drastically different, and in many cases were very broken, I had to revert back to the previous version of Avada. Then I made the mistake of reverting to an unpatched version that still had the plugin deactivation problem, so I spent the next couple of hours cleaning up sites and trying to determine what plugins they had previously had active, while at the same time trying to calm down angry users who were as surprised as I was that their sites had suddenly broken.

This was it for me. After a year of use, numerous issues, and no clear update path, I decided to drop Avada as an option for our users. I’ll apply any security patches as needed, but I will not try to do any further updates.

161 Comments

  1. Lasitha Fernando Lasitha Fernando

    Need to buy this Avada theme, so far it seems to be the best out there. My question is are we able to use this theme on multiple sites? or are there any bulk order deal for this type of?

    Thanks

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hello 🙂

      You can use it on multiple sites or a multi-site, but currently the Envato license rules requires one single license per unique site. So if you have 10 sites each with different content/url, then it would require 10 license purchases.

      Thanks!

  2. Dawn Dawn

    With regards multiple licences, remember the concept of GPL licences. If you want to pay for one licence in order to get yourself some support, do it. Support, if it is of good quality, is worth paying for.

    However, there is absolutely no reason for you to buy multiple licences, or even to pay for single themes like Enfold, Avada and so on.

    I’m not going to promote them but there are countless membership sites out there where you can pay a reasonable annual fee and then download the most popular themes and plugins for free.

    Where plugin or theme authors offer crap support or flakey coding, I’d never consider paying top money for it.

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hi Dawn!

      Sorry for the late reply. In some ways I agree with you. However it all depends on the product you are talking about.

      Sure a membership site may offer 50 themes for one annual fee (which usually pay every year btw) and allow you to use any of their themes. But are those themes as powerful and flexible as a theme like Avada or Enfold? In our opinions no, they are not. And they are certainly not the most popular ones

      This is the main reason behind customers who buy 20, 30 or even 100 licenses of one theme.

      I do agree with you about bad support, that is not worth dealing with at all. Any product you buy that requires technical support must be top notch, or it’s a waste of money.

      Best to you!

  3. Aveda Continues to be the biggest pile of bloatware I have ever seen. Options, sure, performance and streamlining… ha!

    I inherited yet another aveda site this week… and I’d really like someone to tell me why on earth could aveda need to use 3 different sliders? And what’s with the fusion builder- compared to Visual Bakery, it is ARCANE..

    I’m going to try my darndest to get them to switch to the Genesis framework..

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hey Matt!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      While you are entitled to your opinion, I’m afraid you have the definition of bloatware confused with useful features. That word is thrown around carelessly and often neglects it’s actual meaning.

      The definition of “bloatware” is … “software whose usefulness is reduced because of the excessive disk space and memory it requires.”

      This is in fact the opposite of what Avada does. It includes extra features for it’s extended usefulness 🙂 These are features requested and often demanded by our 250K+ strong user base. Yet even if you have a different option on that and still want to stick to your guns … you don’t need to use any of the slider if you do not want to, simply disable them, along with any other feature that is offered.

      Boom, they are gone and so are the resources they use … so that blows that excuse out of the water. And our upcoming Avada 5.0 is the lightest MP theme on the market, by far, and fastest. It can be anything you want it to be. Sure you can use every feature it includes and put a different slider on every page if you so desire, or you can slim it down by only choosing what you need.

      Those “features” that customers want and the reason why they buy Avada can be disabled, you just simply need to know how to use it and disable what you do not want. And more importantly, they allow you to build virtually any design you need to with one theme, without custom coding.

      It’s a multi-purpose theme, and therefor requires extra features to be the definition of a MP theme.

      The ironic thing that always comes to mind when this type of topic comes up is the fact that Avada is actually one of the lest packed MP themes out there, it just happens to be #1 for 4 years in a row so it gets most of the heat. But check around other MP themes, some of them include 3 builders! Now that is senseless and I’d fully agree with you.

      Including extra sliders is not because each offers VERY different features depending on the type of slider you want (simple, fully animated, multiple layers, etc) … i addition the # of sliders in Avada is going down because we are combining some of them via feature cross checking.

      About Fusion Builder, there is a brand new Fusion Builder coming out in 5.0 and in our opinions and our 300+ beta customers, it is very amazing and we feel will easily compete with VC. Entirely new UI loaded with useful, time saving features. https://theme-fusion.com/avada-5-0-building-the-future/

      I do implore you to check it out, you can signup for beta testing on our support forum here: https://theme-fusion.com/forums/topic/avada-beta-testing/

      It’s interesting that you choose to post about VC, yet complain about “bloatware” in Avada. But as I said, we are all entitled to our own opinions 🙂

      Cheers
      ThemeFusion!

      • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

        Please excuse my typos, it was typed on an ipad, see below.

        ———————————

        “The ironic thing that always comes to mind when this type of topic comes up is the fact that Avada is actually one of the LEAST packed MP themes out there, it just happens to be #1 for 4 years in a row so it gets most of the heat.

        ———————————

        “Including extra sliders is because each offers VERY different features depending on the type of slider you want (simple, fully animated, multiple layers, etc) … in addition the # of sliders in Avada is going down because we are combining some of them via feature cross checking.

        ———————————

        Cheers!

      • Adam Adam

        BOOM! Mic drop…..ThemeFusion walks off stage….

  4. MRC MRC

    i have been using Avada for a few years and have built over a dozen sites using it. all for small to medium sized businesses. i am familiar enough with the theme and modifying css that i can pretty much produce any design format provided by the customer. i have found the support from Avada to be fantastic and they are indeed constantly updating their product. this is essential given how often WordPress and other plugins also update. i have never come across a plugin that has conflicted with the theme – and i use a heap of plugins. too often in the past i have experienced themes that are abandoned and i have to rebuild them using a current, supported theme.
    to the author of this article – if you know so much about backend then i do question why on earth you went for an off-the-shelf product, especially one that does contain so many features that go unused in many sites. if i knew enough about PHP i would certainly do it myself, but i am predominantly a front-end user. i think it is wrong for you to publish an article specifically saying ‘avoid’ when in fact so many thousands of others have had nothing but great experiences. you should have known yourself with a bit of research that this product was not right for your requirements, especially given how many of your sites relied on it – sounds like poor planning to me – so don’t blame Avada. i highly recommend it and will continue to use them on all of my sites.
    thanks.

    • …to the author of this article – if you know so much about backend then i do question why on earth you went for an off-the-shelf product

      Literally the entire opening section explains this and I admitted it was a mistake. It came recommended by a new employee who had experience using it as a freelancer. Turns out he didn’t really know what he was doing and didn’t understand the complexity and risk involved with running a multisite network with 10,000+ sites on it. I made some incorrect assumptions about him and the theme and allowed it to be deployed without doing enough research.

      Also note that I wrote this blog post over 2 years ago. I have no clue what changes they have made since then. Maybe it’s better now. That’s why I added that warning at the beginning of the post. I had conflicts with at least 2 popular plugins and had to write some code to prevent activation of them at the same time, but maybe those are resolved now.

      FWIW, the ThemeFusion team has been VERY responsive about replying to issues people have posted here and I do think that speaks very highly of the lengths they will go to provide support for their product. It’s not for everyone, but it obviously works great for many people.

      • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

        Thank you William, appreciate the comment.

        Also, nice site change, looks good!

        Cheers
        ThemeFusion

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hi MRC,

      Thanks for being a repeat customer! We’re happy to have you 🙂

  5. Not sure how I found this post but I did and I wanted to jump in here. I personally have used the Avada theme about a half-dozen times. It’s enough for me to know I have no need for any other theme and will continue to use it on future projects! Seriously is the most stable theme out there with the most flexibility. The ThemeFusion support team are amazing, quick to respond, and very generous with their assistance. I do not know how Avada is with multisite, but I believe I read somewhere it is multisite compatible. Maybe someone else can jump in here and comment.

    All that said, based on what I read, it sounds like the network was a cluster%*@! from the beginning when it had over 200 themes installed and that may have been a contributing factor. Just saying that maybe a clean install might have been different. Even if not, I know ThemeFusion continues to make improvements on their theme and the DO listen to the feedback of their users. I’m an Avada groupie for life!

    • This network has over 13,000 sites on it and sits on self hosted enterprise level hardware (multiple web servers spread across 2 data centers, load balanced behind an F5). I can assure you it is not a clusterfuck.

      The other themes installed on the network had absolutely no bearing on how Avada functioned. Most of them were not in use by this point. WordPress.com has more than that on their install and it causes no problems. The way WordPress works, only one theme can be active on a site at any one time, so different installed themes cannot affect each other.

      As noted in the header at the beginning, this post was from several years ago and they may have fixed many of these issues since then. They have also been very responsive to people’s concerns here and have shown good customer service going above and beyond by responding to posts here.

      In my opinion, it merely serves as a good example of the importance of proper code review and analysis in theme and plugin selection, so I have left it up.

      • Adam S. Adam S.

        I have used Avada in Multisite. Not a lot of sites, but a few. It seems to work well. The key is to update plugins , etc in phases to cut back on the risk of something going wrong.

        The author started this blog stating there were a couple hundred sites, scroll further down in his replies ti has grown to 10,000, then to 13,000. LoL

        Sounds to me at the time Avada (as any other theme would be) was the bystander/victim of poor planning, and not using common sense. I would never “throw the switch” and change the theme for 100+ sites all at once.

      • A) This post was from 2 years ago. The network has grown continuously since then. We are now over 13,000 sites. Two years ago there were fewer but still thousands.

        B) Not all sites used this theme. The overwhelming majority use themes we built and manage ourselves. But we offer a few others as options. Avada was used by 100-200 of those sites.

        My point regarding updating was how can you trust an update across 100+ sites in a multisite install if they have breaking changes in every release? You easily can’t isolate the change and only update for one site at a time. WordPress core prioritized maintaining backward compatibility and most themes and plugins follow that philosophy. Avada did not. Perhaps they do now, I don’t know.

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hey Toni, Adam, William,

      We appreciate the support 🙂

      As William stated, this post was written over 2+ years ago, and a lot has changed on both sides I’m sure.

      In regards to the issue William experienced, we posted our statement / answers / feedback back when the post was written. You can view our reply back when the comments first start.

      We take care of our customers and product. We have new customers who just need a site for their new business, and Universities and Govt agencies who use it on thousands of sites via multi-site.

      I think the bottom line here is nobody or no product is perfect, but what matters is taking care of things when they arise, educating and supporting customers and having goals to always improve in any way you can. This industry changes rapidly, and therefor those who are in it must also.

      Cheers

  6. John John

    It’s interesting that ThemeFusion have managed to turn this post into one of their own promotional outlets.

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hi John!

      That is not something we’ve intended to do at all, we replied here as we felt the need since William was one of our customers.

      That is just how we operate, we do whatever we can to help customers and to reply to them when they post, regardless of the situation.

      Cheers!

      • I really think it does speak to the lengths they will go to for customer service.

        While not a good fit for our environment, I can see why the theme is popular for many situations.

  7. I don’t know about this. I’m not affiliated with Avada in any way. But the day I discovered Avada was a very good day in my life.

    First of all, you have complete demo sites you can import VERY EASILY. You can then edit the info to suite your needs. I have been able to make beautiful sites with Avada without any programming. It is a very good theme for a do it yourself person as well for an advanced web devoloper.

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Thanks Rapid Express, we appreciate the feedback. 🙂

      Happy New Year everyone!

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