Time for an updated review of these two longstanding theme giants. What’s good, what’s bad, and who’s the winner. Let’s get on to it…
The WordPress theme market 5 years ago
The WordPress theme market at the time was evolved to the point where everyone was downloading themes that looked close enough to the look they wanted and then they would customize the rest. This worked well for many theme publishers who would spend time created many different themes to suit the many different design needs out there. Users were happy to buy themes individually, or in packages, or by subscription. And theme publishers were happy to make money on each product.
Managing multiple themes however quickly grew out of control. This resulted in many forum posts for every theme and many conflicting ways of editing a theme. All the edits or design customizations you made on one theme may or may not be ported to another theme. There was also the confusion when certain themes came with their own widgets, plugins, skins, or other customizations or integrations. The line was blurring between what was a theme and what was an entire mini-CMS itself built inside a theme. Beginner users were confused and advanced users were annoyed.
One thing to keep in mind is that back then, most WordPress users were BLOGGERS. WordPress sites back then were hardly more than online journals of weekly writings. Articles, comments, pictures, and not much else.
Thesis Theme Framework (from DIYthemes)
Thesis entered the scene over 5 years ago and quickly established themselves as the industry-standard framework. They were the ultimate hype-beast in 2010. At the time, Thesis offered a fresh take on WordPress themes by providing a standardized framework that could be easily customized and designed a thousand different ways using the widely available documentation provided by the theme publishers as well as 3rd party.
Their theme was coded to be clean, fast-loading, easy to work with, and optimized for SEO. They had many raving fans and their users had plenty of support in the community. Their promise at the time was “Thesis is a great theme for beginners AND developers because it’s coded well and easy to customize.”
Other competitors like Genesis framework and Headway Themes started to come onto the scene but couldn’t quite attract enough market share. Genesis may have had a more intuitive code structure but was not as fast-loading, and not as optimized for SEO. Headway Themes offered a newer take on creating a drag-and-drop interface not unlike the attempted pagebuilders that you see nowadays (i.e. Divi, Beaver, etc.) but was still not easy enough for beginners and considered overkill by coders who were already used to Thesis.
It also helped that Thesis priced themselves with a premium whereas Genesis came at a cheaper price and even included additional themes/skins. Thesis simply looked like the superior option.
As time passed, Thesis Theme support started to lag. Promised updates kept getting pushed back further and further. “Next week” would become “next year” and users felt jerked around by all the undelivered promises. The competition was catching up. And Thesis was showing it’s age.
In a time when WordPress themes and plugins were not as evolved, Thesis descended upon the WordPress eco-system like an alien, a visitor beyond our times. Technologically, we have never imagined before. But with time, WordPress plugins were truly starting to mature. You were no longer looking for a theme that could do everything, but one that would do only it’s purpose and get out of the way for everyone else.
Thesis failed to be the theme that got out of the way. It didn’t play nicely with SEO plugins, wouldn’t age gracefully with WordPress updates, ecommerce, etc. The list goes on. This was because Thesis took it upon itself to decide what was best for the user…and in doing so it often conflicted with user settings.
Users demanded an update and Chris Pearson enthusiastically boasted about how the new Thesis 2.0 would be like anything we’ve never imagined. It released sometime around 2012 (give or take a year), and it wasn’t like he promised. It was indeed a completely NEW framework system but it wasn’t the game-changer he promised.
Many fans were split. Some argued it was too hard to use and required too much work, and actually required knowledge of coding. Others were a bit more forgiving. They figured, “Oh, it’s just an advanced new system that will become the future, so let’s get adjusted.” Either way…the results were clear. Thesis was losing market share fast. Many new users began picking other frameworks and Thesis was not doing a good job. Many of the users on the old Thesis 1.x refused to upgrade to the new Thesis 2.x. Thesis 2.0 was a bust.
Thesis is still a great theme and has many satisfied users, I just feel you should only use it if you understand and like the way it functions. And/or you like their custom skins right out of the box. But honestly, I feel Genesis is the better theme framework for just about any function. If I could put it this way, I wouldn’t use Thesis even if it was free and Genesis costed $500.
Genesis Theme Framework (from StudioPress)
Genesis framework had a cult following. Their users were savvy programmers who saw the value in a cheaper framework that had just enough features and didn’t try to offer everything out of the box. They also didn’t need much help to code things and didn’t have to rely on forums as much.
As WordPress plugins started to evolve, it was important to have a theme that kept it’s hands off all non-theme related matters and Genesis did that just fine. WordPress sites were no longer simple blogs but also more complex integrations of other functions such as shopping sites and membership sites. It was more crucial than ever to have a theme framework that kept itself INSIDE THE BOX instead of being completely different.
I was formerly a Thesis 1.x user all the way up until end of 2015. It was time to upgrade my site since Thesis 1.x had all sorts of compatibility issues with WordPress and other plugins and now really dated and hard to configure. Customizing anything felt like a “hack” that required a backup because you were afraid your site would never work again.
And so I tried the latest Thesis 2.x and was really disappointed. I still finished having my site built on it and appreciated what it COULD do but I knew for sure my next site sure as hell wasn’t going to be built on Thesis.
Enter Genesis. This was suggested by the coder who did a Thesis 2 site for me. He told me Genesis had caught up and was now the standard. After researching online, I saw that many big bloggers switched from Thesis over to Genesis.
Genesis was now the one that was coded better, better optimized for SEO, easier to use, played nicely with other plugins (and they’re so much more nowadays), and worked like a breeze right out of the box. Genesis is also the more popular and better supported plugin.
I had a recent Thesis 1.x site redesigned in Genesis couldn’t be any happier. It was by far the better decision. The code was easier to understand and make changes to. You also felt that Genesis was coded in-line with how WordPress is coded. It makes sense and doesn’t feel like an entirely new eco-system of code in itself.
Genesis now has a stronger community which is also built of more experienced coders. It seems any experienced programmer would much rather work in Genesis than in Thesis. The only demographic of users Genesis lacked was the beginners/non-coders market. They’re out there using the bloated junk such as AVADA/X-Theme-Divi and that sort.
Which was perfect because as a web developer, you do NOT want to use a theme/framework that is catered to newbies. Those products will always be bloated and over-written in order to make every option imaginable only a click away. But what many users don’t realize is that you not only pay for the options you use but also for the options you don’t use. Having a billion features built into your theme makes it bloated, slow, cumbersome, and far more likely to cause conflicts.
No sir, you want your framework built for developers and nothing else. Honestly, that’s the way it should be done. And how do you build upon that if you don’t know how to code? Hire someone else or use a skin and ask for help on the forums.
Genesis is the best WordPress theme framework now. Get it. – Affiliate link