“A good surprise”. This is how Nicolas, the author of the first version of this article, in 2016, summarized his experience with the Salient theme.
At the time, this theme had positioned itself in a particular niche: the one-page (we will come back to this later).
Since then, water has flowed under the bridge and our theme of the day has changed a lot. On paper, it looks very appealing.
Flexible and optimized for performance, it includes a page builder and offers ready-to-use site demos to make your life easier. Not to mention its many options.
So, is it still a good surprise and is it still the king of the one-page, as Nicolas called it 4 years ago? That's what you will find out in this detailed test.
Originally written in August 2016 by Nicolas, this article was updated in July 2020. The version of Salient used in this test is 12.1.0.
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What is the Salient theme?
Presentation of the theme
Salient qualifies as a theme “multi-purpose” i.e. versatile. Thanks to ready-to-use site demos (templates), it allows the user to create any type of site, whatever its niche (business, sports, catering, fashion, education, photography, etc.).
With more than 107,000 sales at the time of writing, Salient is in 9th position among the best-selling themes on the famous ThemeForest platform. It is notably outpaced by Avada (609,000 sales), the X theme (213,000 sales), Enfold (210,000 sales), BeTheme (200,000 sales) and The7 (196,000 sales).
User feedback is generally positive. With an overall rating of 4.80/5, Salient has won over its audience.
This must necessarily please ThemeNectar, the American agency behind this successful theme, which it launched in March 2013. Its baby is taking up so much of its time that the agency is taking care of nothing else but this theme!
From one-page reference to multi-purpose theme
As Nicolas explained in the first draft of this article, Salient has undergone quite a few changes since its launch.
At the beginning, it didn't stand out from the crowd. It looked like a lot of the premium themes of the moment.
Little by little, it has become more polished, more modern, with brighter colors and ever more beautiful images.
Then, starting with version 7.5 (August 2016), it was mostly positioned on a single niche: the one-page.
Note: A “one-page” site is a website that gathers all its contents on a single page.
But not just any one-page. They were then ultra-modern sites full of animations. Its secret? Full-screen sections that follow each scroll.
And then the elements arrive one after the other with various effects.
However, it also made it possible to make “normal” sites as well. Finally, Salient changed its communication angle again to keep up with what's being done on ThemeForest: it now communicates around its “multi-purpose” side, as mentioned earlier in this article.
Yes, to seduce users and sell licenses (business is business), you have to stick to the latest trends. And the trend on ThemeForest is to offer Swiss Army Knife themes full of animations that will blow your mind..
All the best-selling themes surf this wave and don't hesitate to point it out.
That's why you'll often come across the terms “Multi-Purpose” and “Multi-Use”.
Getting started with Salient
Once you have downloaded the theme archive on ThemeForest, you will be left with several elements, including the theme (salient.zip) and its child theme (salient-child-theme).
A child theme is a sub-theme that inherits all the features and style of the main theme, also called parent theme (in our case, Salient).
Start by activating Salient and then its child theme. This way, you make sure you don't lose the changes you've made (e.g. CSS modifications you're going to make) in the next updates of the main theme.
This is a good practice to adopt in general on WordPress.
In the meantime, Salient immediately sets the tone with an unmistakable notice on a blue background with 9 required and suggested in-house plugins for the theme to work.
The mandatory plugins are Salient Core and Salient WPBakery Page Builder (elements dedicated to the page builder of the same name, we will come back to this).
The rest of the plugins (not required) allow you to add a slider, shortcodes, a portfolio, or to import site demos.
For now, I recommend that you only activate Salient Core and Salient WPBakery Page Builder. No need to overload your site for nothing with plugins that you are not sure to use.
You will then see on a case by case basis which ones you need.
All right, now that you've activated both plugins I recommended, you'll see that Salient has added two new menus to your WordPress administration column.
- Salient: which concentrates all the theme customization options (16 sub-menus, still!).
- WPBakery Page Builder: to make settings on the WPBakery page builder.
We can regret several things at this stage
- The fact that exploring the theme loses some smoothness due to the required and recommended installation of various plugins.
- The insert is a bit intrusive and requires you to install these plugins. However, you can disable it by closing its window.
Without transition, let's go on to other discoveries: you will now see how the theme customization process works.
Customizing Salient on WordPress
Options provided, but not that complex
If this is your first theme, I think you'll be a little taken aback by the multitude of options.
Sometimes, some settings are a little hard to understand, like this one: Off Canvas Navigation Sub Text.
I'm still wondering what it's good for, especially since no visual aid can help you get an idea. There is no live preview. So you'll have to refresh your page each time in a different tab to see the changes.
Not very practical. Salient doesn't use the WordPress Customization Tool at all (accessible from Appearance > Customize), which allows you to preview the settings in real time. Too bad.
In any case, if you have already set up other themes in the past, you will find your marks and you will be able to take advantage of the completeness of some of the settings.
I'm thinking in particular of those regarding typography which allow you to act on the fonts (family, style, size, spacing of letters etc.) of the texts contained in the navigation, the titles or the logo.
The abundance of goods is interesting, but it also demonstrates a flaw in the theme: beginners will find themselves overwhelmed by so many decisions to make.
Settings per page
Then we come to the available settings page by page. Thanks to them, you can:
- Adjust the transparency of the navigation (Navigation transparency)
- Display your rows in full screen rows so that your page is displayed across the entire width of the screen (Page full screen rows).
- Customize your header by playing with the background, font, colors, or alignment (Page header settings).
These settings are a bit complex at first, but you eventually understand what happens behind each option after multiple previews.
Once you've got the hang of it, it becomes child's play!
For theme customization, Salient also offers what it calls site demos. These are entire sites made up of several ready-to-use pages.
This is very handy to save you from starting from a blank page, and it will save you precious time in the construction of your pages.
To benefit from it, you must activate the Salient Demo Importer plugin. Once this has been done, a Demo Importer sub-menu will offer you 31 ready-to-use demos.
They are adapted to many domains: blogging, creation of landing pages, photography, catering, ecommerce, freelancing, business, wellness.
The import process is very simple: in two clicks, it's done. On the other hand, some additional plugins (the ones Salient advised you to install when you activated the theme, remember?) will be necessary for the demo to display correctly.
Furthermore, Salient specifies that it is better to install a demo on a “fresh” WordPress installation, i.e. one that you have just installed (basically, without any previous content), to avoid any incompatibility.
If you already have a theme and a stable enough site when you activate Salient, remember to back up your files and database beforehand. You can never be too careful.
At home, on a local installation, the demo took about 1 minute to import. Nothing to say about the integration and front-end display (what your visitors see): no bugs or technical problems to report.
Moreover, the graphic finishes are really nice and neat, with the small animations that go well and all the rest.
The Salient Studio
Demos of attractive sites, that's done. But Salient goes even further when it comes to customization, by also offering templates to its users.
These are ready-to-use pieces of page that can be added to your pages with just one click. These templates can be found in the Salient Studio, available on the front-end interface of your site.
You access them by editing your page with WPBakery, by clicking on the Salient Templates button.
A window will then be highlighted, presenting 330 unique templates.
You can use it to add well-defined sections in the area of your choice (e.g. add a Google Map, testimonials, icons, an About section, price tables etc.).
Another handy option: you can save page templates created using templates, so you can then reuse them as you wish on other pages, and especially on other projects.
As you can see, these settings are made possible thanks to the page builder used by Salient: WPBakery. See what it has in store for you in the next section.
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A theme using WPBakery
I might as well tell you right away: the mere sight of the word WPBakery Page Builder (ex Visual Composer) gives me hives. I'm not a big fan of this page builder, and I'm not the only one.
A lot of developers criticize its ergonomics, or its obsolete shortcode system that makes migrations very complex.
Beside that, it has a great success with users: with nearly 400,000 sales, it is the most sold page builder on the Envato platform.
In total, it is installed on more than 2 million sites, partly because it is integrated on many premium themes (Jupiter, Bridge, Uncode etc.). In itself, it is therefore not illogical that Salient also surfs on the WPBakery wave.
It remains to be seen whether the user experience is there. First, it is important to know that Salient has chosen to make WPBakery its own by taking over the elements, for example, without adding those present by default on WPBakery.
This avoids running into a Rube Goldberg machine and, frankly, it's not a bad thing. It still gives a large number of elements (53), with the assurance that they are designed to work optimally with the theme.
Nicolas had encountered a few bugs during the initial test of Salient, in 2016. He also regretted some performance problems. This was not the case on my side. Everything loaded quickly.
In use, I would say that the experience was satisfactory. One quickly understands how to get started with the page builder. In summary, you can act on 3 different levels from the front-end interface of your site (what your visitors see):
- The rows
- The columns
- The elements
The customization of each of them is done via a contextual menu which is specific to it, proposing each time customized settings, as here with a column.
On the other hand, we can regret several major things:
- It is impossible to edit your content visually online (e.g. modify a title directly). In this case, you will have to use a text editor.
- The number of clicks is quite high to customize a content item, as Eleonor had already pointed out in her test dedicated to WPBakery.
- You cannot manually resize your rows and columns.
In summary, WPBakery has been well adapted to suit the possibilities of Salient. A WYSIWYG interface (What you see is what you get) will allow you to instantly visualize the changes made.
You can also edit the content of your pages in the back-end, i.e. on your WordPress administration. However, you won't have access to real-time changes. Here, it's all about tastes and habits. It's up to you to see what suits you best.
It won't be easy for beginners to get started, but with experience, it won't be too complex to make beautiful designs.
In fact, WPBakery mostly suffers from the comparison with other page builders that are easier to start with, like Elementor for example. If you are used to another horse, you might tear out a few hairs by switching to WPBakery!
Build your website with Elementor
Compatibility with plugins
As you now know, Salient first requires two plugins to work properly: Salient WPBakery Page Builder and Salient Core.
In addition, 7 other plugins are optional. Activate them only if you need them, so as not to unnecessarily overload the weight of your pages:
- Salient Demo Importer to activate in a few clicks the Salient demos.
- Salient Social to add share buttons on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest). The plugin does the job but is limited in terms of customization. If you want more options at this level, turn to Social Warfare.
- Salient Widgets will give you 2 new widgets: Nectar Popular Posts (display of the most popular posts by number of views or comments) and Nectar Recent Posts Extra (display of your most recent posts with the possibility to filter them by categories).
- Salient Portfolio: adds a new type of content to create and customize a portfolio.
- Salient Nectar Slider: is a sober slide show plugin that adds a parallax effect and can be directly set up with WPBakery. Don't expect to make ultra-evolved slideshows with it, but it will already be quite good to get a foot on the ladder. On the other hand, use sliders sparingly as they are not always good for your site's performance and can affect the user experience.
- Salient Shortcodes: the shortcode system originally proposed by Salient has become obsolete with the integration of WPBakery in the theme. In the vast majority of cases, you will be able to add content elements with the page builder without using any short code.
- Salient Home Slider: The first slider created by Salient. It has fewer options than the Nectar Slider.
Recommended third party plugins
Beyond its in-house plugins, Salient recommends the installation of third party plugins, in particular WooCommerce.
The Nectar theme integrates very well with the most popular ecommerce plugin in the official directory (over 5 million active installations).
You will be able to use it to design an online store and customize it thanks to several features such as:
- The possible addition of an AJAX basket in your navigation header.
- The choice among different styles for your products.
- The addition of a Quick View button to quickly display information about a product without your visitor going to its dedicated page.
- The addition of dedicated templates and site demos, like the two below:
Finally, Salient recommends the use of Force Regenerate Thumbnails to automatically regenerate all the sizes of your images, so that they are displayed correctly when using a portfolio, for example. This plugin works but has not been updated for more than 4 years.
As a general rule, prefer plugins that are updated more regularly. If you find bugs in use, use Regenerate Thumbnails.
We talked a lot about visuals and appearance in the previous sections. It's important to know that an airy, well-groomed design contributes to the user experience a visitor has on your WordPress site.
Other elements such as page loading speed, navigation, and responsive design also play a role in the quality of the visitor's experience on your site. We'll go into a little more detail on these right now.
In order to satisfy your visitors and the search engines, Google in particular, the loading of the pages of your site must be fast.
On the presentation page of its theme, Salient highlights excellent results in terms of performance. For example, the developers of the theme have tested their “Freelance Portfolio” demo on the GTMetrix tool, and the results are indeed good.
Salient is a relatively performance-optimized theme, as long as you don't overload it unnecessarily with its in-house plugins if you don't use them.
By the way, note that the theme is able to automatically detect the size of the user's screen, in order to serve perfectly adapted images.
To improve the speed of your site, use a cache plugin such as WP Rocket and think about reducing the weight of your images, either with an online tool such as TinyPNG or Compressoir.io, or with a dedicated plugin such as Imagify. And to go even further, check out this article on the WPMarmite blog: How to speed up a WordPress website without breaking the bank.
Speed up your website with WP Rocket
Offering an optimal user experience also requires a simple and clear navigation on your site. First of all, it is your responsibility to create a readable and not overloaded menu, so that your visitors can easily navigate through all your content.
Salient gives you a little help for the rest, by providing you with several layouts for your header.
The third element we will focus on is responsive design. A website is said to be responsive when it is displayed legibly on any type of screen (computer, smartphone or tablet).
On the front-end interface of its page builder, Salient offers several small icons to enable you to see in 1 click the display on the following devices:
- Desktop computer
- Tablet in landscape mode
- Tablet in portrait mode
- Smartphone in landscape mode
- Smartphone in portrait mode
Don't hesitate to use it to give you a first glimpse of the readability of your content.
In addition, the row, column and element settings include many responsive settings, such as the ability to choose the type of display of the columns in your row (inline or vertical) on computer, smartphone and tablet.
In use, Salient seems perfectly responsive and Google comes to the same conclusions as mine. The famous search engine offers a free Mobile Optimization Test, to find out if your web page is mobile-friendly.
I tried it with two Salient demos (NonProfit and Freelance Portfolio) and, each time, I came to the same conclusion: the tested web page was mobile friendly.
Documentation and support
When the first draft of this article was written, in 2016, Nicolas pointed out that Salient's documentation was “the lightest he had ever been given to check out”.
It consisted of a 16-page PDF that had not been updated for several years.
In the meantime, the designers of the theme have taken the bull by the horns and now offer a much more complete online documentation divided into several categories, including one specially dedicated to WPBakery.
We appreciate the search bar to facilitate our navigation.
If you are more into visual learning, you can also go to ThemeNectar's YouTube channel. However, don't expect an orgy of videos: there are 15 of them and the channel doesn't seem to get a lot of feeds. The last video was over a year ago.
As for the support, I didn't have to ask for it directly. But the presence of all the tickets in “public” mode is already a great help.
If you take a look at the different topics covered, you can see that the support is generally very responsive and reacts within a few hours to most requests.
There is also an “Articles” section, which is actually tutorials for getting started or advanced questions about Salient.
Through the first version of this article, Nicolas wondered why they hadn't turned it into a real documentation site? Well today we wonder why this section has not been integrated into the documentation, precisely?
How much does Salient cost?
Salient is a premium theme only, sold for $60 on the ThemeForest platform.
The price is included in the average of what is practiced on ThemeForest, so no bad surprises there.
Note that support (user assistance) is only included for 6 months, but you can extend it for another 6 months for $18.
Moreover, the theme can only be used on 1 site only. On the other hand, you will benefit from all its updates for life
Do you need to use Salient?
Among ThemeForest's best-selling themes, Salient is one of the ones that appealed to me the most.
Even though it has many options and settings, it's still a long way from the Avada Rube Goldberg machine type, which makes it easy to get used to.
However, in order to start mastering it and taking advantage of it, you will have to spend a fair amount of time on it. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to beginners, who might get lost when they discover it.
I think it's more appropriate for intermediate and advanced users who already have some knowledge of WordPress (you don't need to know how to code to use it, though).
Personally, although I think Salient is a good theme, I am not a fan of multi-purpose themes like this.
What's your opinion on Salient? Answer me by posting a comment below.
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