I think I’m ready to crown GeneratePress as the best theme framework for WordPress (ESPECIALLY for non-coders).
And I do think even the diehard coders would like it as well!
- lightweight (with essential features built-in!)
- easy to use and customize for non-coders (no pagebuilder needed, friendly community)
- easy to work with for developers (logical structure, comprehensive hooks and filters)
- also compares favorably to my favorite theme, Genesis
Let’s break it down…
GeneratePress is a GREAT WordPress theme.
The “lightweight” hype around GeneratePress
If you haven’t already heard, most of the hype around GeneratePress is that it’s free, fast, and easy-to-use. It’s often compared along the likes of other lightweight themes like Astra and OceanWP. But oh, let me tell you this…it’s so much more than that!
Lightweight themes are a dime a dozen. It’s the trend now more than anything. Every WordPress theme is promising to be the fastest WordPress theme ever made. Every other one toting how small their CSS and JS is. Proprietary caching and performance options, blah blah blah. As a speed optimization consultant, I can tell you right now…the secret to being lightweight is not about not having any features at all. It’s about having comprehensive BUT MODULAR features. As in, you have a wide variety of options but the ones you don’t use are not loaded in the background.
Sounds simple but you’d be surprised just how almost nobody out there has gotten it right. Just about every other theme is either:
- Lightweight, but no features – so it’s only fast until you inevitably install all the 3rd-party plugins to finish your site (design/function).
- Full-featured – but slow as heck.
- Full-featured AND modular AND has performance options – but still slow as heck. Lol, I know. Bloated themes with “performance options” are like junk food with “natural flavors”. It doesn’t help because the darn thing was bloated junk in the first place!
- Lightweight and reasonably featured – but only customizable by developers. Fine for me…but no dice for the newbies or folks that can’t afford programmers!
Let’s start with the most important quality…USER INTERFACE. At the end of the day, what makes a tech tool useful is how well it strikes the fine balance between features and simplicity. Quite often, tools fall off-balance to one side or another. I think GeneratePress is absolutely the perfect medium. Just the right amount of features, and yet still very simple. Their UI is perfect.
Are you a self-proclaimed “idiot” who doesn’t know what he/she is doing? The interface is simple and foolproof enough for you to touch only what you need. Are you a curious tech-savvy explorer? The interface allows different settings to click deeper into and muck around with options.
Admittedly, there’s still a slight learning curve. But never will you pull your hair out clicking through a dozen settings screens to change your font color. Never will you break your site and scramble to figure out which JS-optimization option to undo.
Overcoming reliance on pagebuilders and programmers (“SECTIONS” and “ELEMENTS”)
Out of the box…GeneratePress allows very intuitive things that many other themes (including my favorite, Genesis) don’t have. For example…the “SECTIONS” feature allows you to have content sections (card format layout) but doesn’t require a bloated pagebuilder (noob style) or hard coding (programmers only). Yes, it’s like their very own mini-pagebuilder and actually structured in a way that I think makes even more sense than pagebuilders.
The fact that GeneratePress makes their “SECTIONS” modular is clever as heck. Think about the usual pagebuilder scenario. What’s the point of a pagebuilder? To allow non-coders to alter their content layout and design? To alter their content in the first place? It sounds like a great idea until beginners start to realize how much work it is to even build a simple page. So many boxes, fonts, colors, spacing, layouts…and SETTINGS TO MANAGE! And then what? What if you only wanted to edit one part? What if you wanted to make one of these sections available for some time and then make it hidden and then bring it back later?
In many cases, those adjustments can’t be done. In other cases, it’s possible but messy as heck. I think GP’s “SECTIONS” feature gets it done in a much more organized way. You don’t have to get lost going through 5 different versions of your homepage and comparing their maze of settings to remember which one was the right one.
And then there’s the “ELEMENTS” feature which allows you to easily customize layouts and page templates. It’s like a really simple (graphical) interface for hooks and filters. For those who don’t know…”hooks” refers to page location (above header, below title, footer, etc) and “filters” refers to pages (posts, pages, contact page, home page, etc).
So let’s say you wanted to stick a countdown timer BELOW PRODUCT TITLE but only on SALE PRODUCT PAGES, or how about RANDOM X WIDGET placed ABOVE TOP MENU…how easy would that be? I’d bet you most themes wouldn’t be able to entertain all your random content-placement combinations. And you’d end up having to ask your programmer to do it (also wasting lots of time explaining how you want it). Well with GeneratePress, you can do that yourself. Tons of hooks and filters to choose from so you can control exactly what content goes where and on which pages. How cool is that?!
So just step back and think about it. That’s 90% of what we ever really needed pagebuilders and programmers for! Pagebuilders were mostly there to make carded sections and manipulating content layout. Programmers were for hooking content and widgets to our desired locations. And now with GeneratePress, the average person can get that much more done without bloated pagebuilders or expensive programmers.
Community and marketing
As a small-time business owner, I absolutely hate marketing hype and products making outlandish claims. And especially for WordPress themes, I hate themes trying to accomplish every and whichever feature/design function out there. GeneratePress (and its community) maturely steers clear of that junk. The GeneratePress Facebook Community is really helpful and friendly should you ever have a question.
It’s also used by not only newbies but also seasoned developers. The main developer (Tom/CANADA) is a one-man show who does everything and anything for his theme. You can tell he’s really passionate about it and has done well to make this one of the most complete WordPress theme/frameworks out there. Stable and reliable. No bugs. Seriously works better than the themes built by big development agencies charging an arm and leg for their “premium WordPress theme”.
Just try GeneratePress, ok?
Seriously, I urge you all to download GeneratePress and play with it. So clean and intuitive. Choose where you want to hook things, apply the filters you want. Build different page layouts, etc…all without bothering a programmer. Even if you ARE a programmer, GP makes life easier by allowing you to control many things with a logical (and SENSIBLE) UI. Less work for you in building the site, and less work for you supporting your client in the long run.
If you ever want a theme that you can grow with forever, and has a knowledgeable community to draw advice from, you can stop looking at everything else and get GeneratePress. The free version works great and the premium version is so reasonably-priced (something like $40 for unlimited websites).
Coming from Genesis
If you didn’t already know, I’m a diehard Genesis user. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Genesis theme/framework. [Almost] all my critical sites are using it. For me, it’s the most comprehensive WordPress theme out there…tons of beautifully written-code with every hook and filter you could ever possibly want. Also backed by the most respected theme-community ever created…thousands of A-level coders using it to churn out beautiful super professional sites.
Yes, BUTTT…it just isn’t that user-friendly. I hate to say this but times have evolved and Genesis has not in some ways. Genesis came from an era where [mostly] only developers and “code-explorers” could edit themes. Want to make your header an extra 100px taller? Gotta muck around in CSS and throw in a PHP snippet. Want to add a widget to the footer? Same thing. Want to change the colors? Same thing. Quite often, the changes didn’t work and/or you broke your site design/function in the process.
But the funny things was…if you were from that era, you never complained about how hard it was to do the task; you were simply overjoyed that it was even possible and that you didn’t have to run out and buy a new theme. In other words, you were grateful for the opportunity to get lost in the code. (Crazy, I know.)
So what’s the problem with Genesis now?
Websites are [expected to] be even more user-friendly now. It’s not enough to have editable themes. They need to be EASILY editable, and WITHOUT mucking in code. And for a short time, it seemed Genesis could do that. Edit some text and widgets here and there. Maybe change the layout, colors, font. But that’s about it. And it’s not enough. Today’s websites are so full of gadgets and widgets that Genesis feels like it’s not user-friendly at all. Every little change you want to make requires coding to some degree. It’s fantastic for developers who build sites straight from scratch. But a nightmare for those without any coding ability. What’s even tougher is that you can’t even test things! No simple settings to play and preview with. OUCH!
The market was still wide open for user-friendly AND easily-customizable themes and that’s where GeneratePress enters the story.