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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.


About a year ago, we began doing some long overdue cleanup on UNC Chapel Hill’s open WordPress multisite network, 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.

// Auto plugin activation
// Reset activated plugins because if pre-installed plugins are already activated in standalone mode, theme will bug out.
if(get_option('avada_int_plugins', '0') == '0') {
    global $wpdb;
    $wpdb->query("UPDATE ". $wpdb->options ." SET option_value = 'a:0:{}' WHERE option_name = 'active_plugins';");
    if($wpdb->sitemeta) {
        $wpdb->query("UPDATE ". $wpdb->sitemeta ." SET meta_value = 'a:0:{}' WHERE meta_key = 'active_plugins';");
    update_option('avada_int_plugins', '1');

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.

    // Multi-site
    if(is_multisite()) {

        // Get WPDB Object
        global $wpdb;

        // Get current site
        $old_site = $wpdb->blogid;

        // Get all sites
        $sites = $wpdb->get_col("SELECT blog_id FROM $wpdb->blogs");

        // Iterate over the sites
        foreach($sites as $site) {

        // Switch back the old site

    // Single-site
    } else {

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 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.


  1. Tiredov Updates Tiredov Updates

    “I doubt anyone will bother to read his 10,000 word essay in a comment any way. I wouldn’t worry about it ”

    You did, and obviously quite a few other people will do too. As one of the avada fans on facebook chose to promote this page by posting a link to it, asking people to come here and rubbish it, I gues others will come too, just out of curiosity. That’s how I found it.

    They’ll get trolled by the avada acolytes, of course. All good fun.

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      I’d be pretty certain William did not read the essay as he said. Most likely skimmed as we did.

      And people who may read it, will know the content mentioned is not true as we already pointed out, or at best would think you misunderstand the portions spoken of.

      Anyone who would post and ask to come rubbish it clearly has an unwarranted vendetta, and it would be removed from the group as that would break the community rules.

      The community is run and controlled by the community, not by ThemeFusion.

  2. I just have to laugh, its some comfort knowing I’m not the only one, William seems like you should be fishing a whole lot more 🙂

    • Ain’t that the truth!

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion

      Hey Mammaroodles 🙂

      We certainly agree about fishing, we try to get out on the water as much as we can also!

      We are however confused on if your comment agrees or disagrees 😀

      Nevertheless, best to you 🙂

  3. @Theme Fusion, I’ll leave that to you to ponder about 🙂 Nothing better than being out on the water, it beats WordPress hand down. Good Luck on your next trip!

    • ThemeFusion ThemeFusion


      No need to ponder, I only asked since we saw a beta request from your username in our forums 😉


    • Observant Observant

      Being an advocate for workflow efficiency and technological education, I grabbed a cup of coffee and decided to read this post and the subsequent replies. I had to sit down after a while. The Blog post itself is objective and technically astute, however to keep it rolling with no follow up after 2 years + is not the most scientific way of going about a debate/debunk. None the less, it stands and has inherently become a platform for those that love or hate.

      My experience with WordPress, Themeforest, agencies, themes and plugins over the last 8 years is overall positive because I can see continual evolution and progress being made on all fronts. Progress in CMS modularity and theme extensibility can not be achieved with out the growing pains that make up this collective march toward singularity.

      It is easier to hate on and moan about what could of been, than it is to actually get stuck in and provide constructive and quantified critique, let alone a technical smokestack. Many of us feed our families and pay our bills off of the back of products we use and/or did not invent/create in the first instance. Thereby, what value are you bringing to the community as a whole by disseminating falsities and unqualified ranting?

      Likewise, WordPress and plugin developers I applaud your efforts to push the limits on what can be done, providing it is not at the behest of own personal desire to be the next best thing without a 5/10/20 year plan of execution and curation. Your 15 minutes of fame will not manifest.

      I commend Themefusion for caring enough to fight their corner and try as they might, to educate and inform those who sorely need it.

      I commend those who entrust their livelihoods to open debate and to the wider WordPress community, impossible client demands and seat inducing deadlines.

      I reserve contempt, however, for those that deliberately try and enforce their unfettered and incoherent babble on the rest of us.

      • Nice comment. Thanks for posting

  4. Potter Potter

    I wish you would take down this article. My firm has built approx. 80 sites with Avada. While yes, there were some issue early on, but now things work great have for some time.

    We have had a several clients who have decided to research this theme and of course, they come across this OUTDATED review, which most don’t even understand what you are saying. They just see that title “Why You Should Avoid Avada”, and it scares them.

    Just take it down already.

    • I won’t be taking it down, as it’s core message is as valid today as it was 2.5 years ago.

      I suppose as Observant noted in his comment, I could write a follow up in the name of a scientific study of Avada. However, I have no interest, nor time, in going down the Avada road again. The disclaimer at the very beginning of the post is sufficient in my opinion.

      Interestingly enough, I actually wrote about half of a second Avada post a month or so after this one that outlined other issues and very troubling anecdotes that occurred in the few weeks after publishing this post. It reflected significantly worse on ThemeFusion for a couple of reasons, but I ultimately didn’t finish it and decided not to publish.

      • Hey Guys,

        Thanks for the repeat business Potter, we greatly appreciate it.

        We left our original comments to this post back on page 1 of the comments and specifically outlined each item mentioned, that would be a good place to show any client who has questions.. Parts were valid others were not and we are always honest about it. There are always two sides to a story and William and I have come to understand that I believe.

        However, this post is now almost 3 years old. What would be interesting is doing a report of the actual live version of Avada.


      • Chris Chris


        How about doing an update at the top of this post noting what the current status is and if any resolution was set forth. Obviously, Themefusion is aware of the issue…

        I personally can’t fathom why the Avada theme is so popular. There is a ton of bloat and junk code – lots of inline CSS. That being said, it’s quick. But NOT the quickest by far. They may have gained popularity because of the builder.

        Good luck.

    • Thank you Potter for the repeat business. Please feel free to contact our team for anything you need.


  5. I think the first time I read this was on an iPhone 4. Funny coming back to it today now that Avada is top of the heap. Awesome that it still ranks (or that I am no longer at an agency so I don’t have to field questions from clients that find it) and kudos for having no desire to update it. The post is like an AOL mail server – outdated, and has no support today yet people still use it.

    • Hey Joe,

      You’d be surprised how much this post has built our own brand, pretty sure it goes out way more than the other because it is outdated, and because it’s clear what Avada is.

      But best of luck to you 🙂

  6. Well that was very serious information i tripped out as i am just started getting used to Avada i think it is fairly good theme. Especially them ost thing i love about it to be able to save colums and rows thats genius idea 🙂

  7. CGM CGM

    I got an Avada themed website and I agree with you. It’s only been up nine months and now it doesn’t seem to be compatible with the latest wp updates. The site was very slow, then when wordpress updated last December, the edit function stopped working. Now comments are breaking. I found a developer I like and he doesn’t want to work with Avada. He says I should put my money into a lighter more simple theme rather than in to having to fix my site every time wordpress updates.

    I took out a ticket with Avada and they are too swamped to get back. . Their “support” system isn’t really support if they can’t take a look at your site’s problems.

    If anyone knows of a developer who really knows how to fix Avada problems, let me know. Alternatively, if anyone knows of a good easy wp theme that can also handle 3.6 page views a year, with a busy forum and a robust discussion board, let me know.


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