Elementor, the most popular website builder plugin for WordPress with more than 5 million active installations, has announced major changes coming to the features included in its Elementor Pro Essential subscription plan.
The plan will still include the Theme Builder along with access to 50+ Pro widgets, basic marketing tools, and the Form widget, but it will shift other more advanced features to the more expensive pricing tiers:
“Going forward, when you purchase the new Elementor Pro Essential, you will have all the features you need to create a complete basic website, and also gain access to new features that will be part of the Essential plan,” Elementor Senior Product Marketing Manager Gabriella Laster said. “For more professional capabilities like the Popup Builder, e-commerce features including PayPal button, Stripe button, and the full WooCommerce Builder or collaboration tools like Notes or the Role Manager, you will need to upgrade to the Advanced plan or higher.”
The changes, which are detailed in a comparison chart in the announcement, will be rolled out on December 4, 2023. It will not affect existing subscribers or other subscription plans:
Existing Essential subscribers get to keep all current features.
If you have a valid Elementor Pro Essential subscription, you can keep your subscription with all the features currently available to you, at no additional cost. You’ll also be able to renew your subscription upon expiration, while keeping all the features currently available in your plan. Some new features, released to the higher plans, will not be available as part of your current Pro subscription.
Scott Kingsley Clark, lead developer of the Pods Framework, commented on the news in Post Status’ Slack in regards to how Pods will support Elementor users in the future.
“Elementor Pro is removing things like ACF/Pods integration from their lowest tier ‘Essential’ plan in December,” Clark said. “Existing subscribers keep the functionality but anyone getting new licenses after Dec 4th won’t have those.
“It’s not super clear since I don’t use the other features whether they’ve removed many other things or if some of those things are actually new features shipping in December to just the other plans.
“The impact of this is that I’ve chosen to replace the Elementor Pro integration for Pods that they provide — with a more complete alternative solution within the Page Builder Toolkit add-on. Previously, only new Pods-centric widgets were added. Soon I’ll add dynamic content support for Pods that will be available as a better alternative to what is in Elementor Pro currently.”
Concerned Elementor customers reacted to the news on X/Twitter as well as in the comments of the announcement, many looking for reassurance that the features they paid for will still be accessible to them after the change.
The anti-Elementor crowd responded to their concerns in a critical and dismissive way, using the news of the modified plans as an opportunity to express and reinforce their disapproval of the page builder. This prompted those who are reluctantly using the tool to ask for viable alternatives in the comments of the tweet.
Elementor has had a somewhat contentious relationship with the open source project, as it has historically marketed itself against WordPress core. The plugin’s reputation has been saddled with bloat and performance concerns for years, calling its long-term future into question. The writing was on the wall for most page builders when WordPress decided to land full-site editing capabilities in core.
Elementor has made a pattern of making major changes to pricing and plans while also guaranteeing legacy pricing for current customers. It’s one strategy for getting customers to lock in their auto-renewals to ensure a more predictable financial future for the company.
Two months ago, Human Made engineer Fränk Klein sparked a conversation on X/Twitter contending that “Elementor will disappear as a standalone plugin, along with all other non-block page builders,” as the WordPress ecosystem moves to become block-first by default.
“Since 2022, all default themes are block themes,” Klein said. “WordPress.com is all in on blocks. WooCommerce is modernizing with blocks.
“For plugin authors the biggest return on investment is to use blocks. So it falls to the page builder developer to ensure that plugins integrate well. And that’s a difficult, tedious, and costly undertaking.”
WordPress co-founder and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg also weighed in on the news, indirectly referencing Elementor’s latest move to slash features in its Essential tier.
“As Gutenberg gets more capable, non-Gutenberg site builders will likely need to continue raising their prices, as one is in the news for today, to maintain revenue churn in the face of higher churn and fewer new users,” Mullenweg said. “I don’t [think] this trend will happen for the Gutenberg-based ones.
“They’ll also need to spend more to keep up, as they have to duplicate all the engineering that’s going into core. This is why we asked them all to plan on Gutenberg since we started development in 2017. Phases 1 and 2 also could have gone a lot faster with their help. The pace of iteration is pretty relentless.”
Elementor’s decision to reallocate features across pricing tiers is a response to the shifting dynamics within the page builder landscape and the increasing cost of supporting so many third-party integrations in the entry level plan. WordPress users and developers are slowly reevaluating their relationship with page builders, as every core release puts a greater emphasis on block-based editing for both content and design. This is a fundamental shift in how WordPress websites are built and page builders will continue to be challenged in striking a balance between innovation, user expectations, and business sustainability.