Why I Chose Genesis Over Thesis: A Framework Discussion

CC License by Allison Gamblin

Image by GetFound Consulting

The Genesis vs Thesis argument, it’s as old as WordPress itself. Or at least it feels that way. When I was having to rebuild my site, I had to choose between some themes I was familiar with and a framework version which brought me to the Genesis vs Thesis argument. It wasn’t one I had delved too deeply into but I started dipping my toe in when one of my customers initially asked me about it. We went with Genesis for his site because it ended up having a skin he really liked and some options that worked for his goals. Even so, I didn’t end up having a terribly deep knowledge of the differences between these frameworks until just a few days ago. So let’s go over the basics to bring any newbies up to speed.

Framework or Theme

If you aren’t terribly familiar with WordPress, you are already floundering with the terminology. So let’s clear that up. Most users of the WordPress Content Management System [CMS] use a theme. This means that they have a file which controls the look, feel, and user interface for a reader. That is basically all a theme does. A child theme means that you have, for all intents and purposes, two copies of the same theme. The first theme version is your “straight from the publisher” copy. The child theme is the hacked version that lets you tweak it to your heart’s content making the theme truly how you want it. The beauty of this is that you can update the main theme and get all the upgrades without losing your tweaks. If, however, you hack the main theme without a child theme, you end up losing all your tweaks as soon as you upgrade. Find out more about  Child Themes by visiting the WordPress Codex site.

A Framework on the other hand brings along a whole new set of code and functionality to the WordPress CMS. According to WordPress frameworks must have a “drop-in code” [commonly referred to as a ‘code library’] that is called into play by the framework reliant theme. The framework also has to have a starter or base theme that allows for child themes. Basically you have to have the framework to get the base theme to operate AND you have to have a child theme to spruce up the base theme. You cannot operate any site on a framework alone. Nor can you just grab a framework’s child theme and try to use it on the basic WordPress CMS. It won’t go, so to speak.

Thesis: The Basics

Now that you understand what it is we are discussing, let’s see what the Thesis gang has to offer. Remember, this is your framework alone and a theme may not necessarily even be in the picture yet. Cost Thesis Framework comes at three levels: Basic [$87], Basic plus [$164], and Professional [$197]. As their pay schedule (shown below) highlights, each level gets a certain amount of support upgrades, and extras.

Thesis Pay levels

Image Courtesy of DIYThemes.com

Basic is a good choice if you are a small blogger with no pretentions of greatness. You just want a solid base and a chance to get your feet wet. The sad part is that after a year, you are SOL. No upgrades at all. And from there on out, you have to pay out again to get a higher version and or anything else. PLUS this doesn’t come with a skin [the Thesis version of a child theme]. So you end up walking around with a skeleton site, no upgrades after a year, and the chance to pay over $80 more when you finally decide to upgrade. Why would you do this to yourself?

As you look at the other choices, you see that the Pro version is the only one that really seems to be a safe bet. You’ll get unlimited upgrades, lots of add-ons, 2 skins, and an email signup and social media attachment. Of course, you are also paying just shy of $190 for the privilege. Oh and then there’s the support.

Ease of Use

A lot of new Thesis users don’t expect to have to drop themselves into a college level class on site creation to use a theme. Unfortunately, Thesis is not a great “click to use” sort of software. You need an intimate working knowledge of hooks, html, css, and the like to get the framework to respond as you’d like. It is time intensive and not for the faint of heart.

And possibly, not even then. There are quite a few blog posts around Al Gore’s amazing internets that talk of  5 year+ users that switched because they couldn’t stand the Thesis generated drama anymore.

Thesis Support

Word ’round the net is that the support for Thesis 2.0 has a lot to wish for. The forums are big and sprawling but not terribly well organized or helpful. The current train of thought is that Thesis 2.0 got released before it was ready and that the developers are taking their sweet time. In fact, from a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading, there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse going on out there.

With that sort of pool to draw from, plus a $200 outlay for what may come standard with a pro theme from someone else, why would you bite the bullet? On there bright side, once you decide what a terrible idea this was, they do have a 30 day, money-back guarantee.

Genesis: The Basics

Genesis is owned and coded by Studiopress, part of the CopyBlogger network. While this may not mean much to the average site user, CopyBlogger is just about the biggest thing in the blogging world since sliced bread. To our nerd friends, CopyBlogger is to bloggers as BoingBoing is to nerds. Got it? Good. So with the power of such a site behind it, there’s a lot riding on the theme. Their professional reputation for a start. This gives them a vested interest in, to steal an Apple phrase, “making it just work”.

The Genesis Framework has three price points: Framework ($55), Framework plus theme (Price varies but include framework and chosen theme), and Pro Bundle ($350 but includes framework and all StudioPress created themes ever released).

The nice part of Genesis is that as soon as you install and activate, you are ready to go. In many ways it’s nothing short of drag-and-drop, point-and-click. This is a HUGE step over Thesis because there is a much smaller learning curve right off the bat. And if you get stuck, they have a well-developed support forum that has a great reputation for getting you un-stuck.

You get unlimited updates for the life of the framework and theme. If you bought a theme, you can get expert assistance in tweaking that as well.

Ease of Use

Genesis is an out of the box sort of framework. Just install and go. Themes hook right in and you can change most options right from your dash. There are also quite a few widget options that can easily change the look, feel, and usability of your site.

Updates are a snap as Genesis will email you when you need/can update the basic framework. At that point it’s as simple as updating a plugin, no FTP access required.

Genesis Support

Genesis runs a very easy to use forum but their set up page is terrific! You can find all the basic questions answered including the one we all wanna see answered: How do I change the credits in the footer? How many other FAQs make that THAT easy to find? None in my experience.

To Wrap Up

Your Reasons For Choosing...ThesisGenesis
Uses your chosen SEO PluginThesis generates its own SEO properties so you can't (or 'don't need to' as kool-aid drinkers say) use your preferred SEO plugin.Genesis does whatever the hell you want. 'Nough said.
Comes with a 'press-and-play' designNope. You are on your own toots. But for the low-low price of whatever the theme you like is costingYes
and this is cool
there are a million and one different child themes out there for those who can't have just one.
Base Price Point$87$56
Unlimited Support at lowest price pointYes but the reviews of this forum read like a horror novel.Yes

If you are still unconvinced, take a look around this site. It’s a Genesis based site and that’s because I had to choose. And Genesis won, hands down.