Genesis Theme Review for WordPress – with Detailed Videos

Genesis-Framework-AnnouncementHunting around the web for the perfect theme is a love/hate activity.  I get e-mails from readers who tell me they’ve spent weeks looking for the “perfect” theme for their site.  I’ve been there.  It’s both exhilarating and frustrating.

You get a shortlist together and then nit-pick every detail of the theme; both the design and feature set.  You want your site to be perfect.

=> Go straight to StudioPress

Admittedly, I still do this, but my search time is much shorter because I’m familiar with and a member of a few theme developer memberships.  StudioPress (developer of the Genesis Framework) is probably my most coveted membership.  When I start a new website, either for me or a client, I start my search among the StudioPress themes.  I love several of their designs, but most importantly, I really like working with the Genesis framework.

This WordPress Genesis theme review covers this framework in detail and includes several videos to help illustrate how this framework operates.

Table of Contents for this Genesis Theme Review
  1. My Genesis Theme Background
  2. Features (illustrated with videos)
  3. Three Powerful 3rd Party Add Ons
  4. Benefits
  5. My Dislikes
  6. Genesis Pricing

1.  My Genesis Theme Background

In late 2009 I needed a website for my business.  I had tried a few non-WordPress solutions and wasn’t impressed.  At the time I didn’t realize WordPress could be used to build traditional business websites.

However, when I explored WordPress more carefully, I discovered StudioPress themes and in their portfolio were a few themes ideal for business websites.  I was fairly excited about this.  I purchased a StudioPress theme and set out to build my first WordPress website.

Within 2 weeks I wanted access to all of StudioPress themes so I upgraded to the Pro Plus All-Theme package.  I tested a few websites.

Introducing the Genesis Theme Framework

Early in 2010 StudioPress launched the Genesis Theme Framework.  At that time I was fairly proficient with WordPress and was a little leery about having to learn the new-fangled parent and child theme set up.

In fact, I hesitated trying Genesis for a few weeks because I didn’t want to have to learn more.  However, I took the plunge and started playing with the Genesis Framework.  It turned out that installing a parent and child theme was as easy as installing a single theme.

Watch my brief video on installing the Genesis parent and child theme framework on wordPress.

Installing Parent and Child Theme

As you can see, it’s simple.

Following Genesis, StudioPress rolled out many child themes.  I was like a kid in a candy store trying out several of them for my business website.  When the Enterprise Theme was released, I knew it would be the design for several of my business websites.  I migrated several sites to Enterprise which resulted in a decent increase in conversion rates for my business websites.

Since Then I’ve Built Nearly 200 Websites with StudioPress

Once my business sites were up and running, I went on a website building spree – more for my business (using a microsite strategy which has worked wonders), a few clients and other sites for the fun of it (including this site).

2.  Features

Genesis is Simple, Yet Feature Rich

In fact, Genesis has ironically become more simple since 2010 while offering more features.  This is done through the use of widgets – with extensive widget zones in the theme design and widgets/plugins created by StudioPress for website functionality.

My Genesis v. 1.8.1 video overview going over the main features

a.  Many Theme Designs

Because design is dictated by child themes, StudioPress is able to create new designs quickly.  They roll out new themes almost every month (some months rolling out several new designs).

They have dozens of child themes to choose from.  You can also check out their marketplace where non-StudioPress designers submit child themes for sale (these are not included in the Pro Plus All Theme package).

I don’t like every theme design by StudioPress.  Some of them are too plain for me.  However, they have some amazing designs, especially for business websites.  My all-time favorite Genesis child themes are:

I use the above themes on a lot of my business client websites.

b.  Multiple Layouts

Genesis child themes come in 3 or 6 layouts.  The 3 layout themes provide the following options:

  • Sidebar / Content
  • Content / Sidebar
  • Full Width

The 6 layouts are the 3 above, plus:

  • Sidebar / Content / Sidebar
  • Sidebar / Sidebar / Content
  • Content / Sidebar / Sidebar

Watch how easy it is to choose a different layout:

 

c.  Complete Menu and Navigation Control

Actually, this is more a feature of WordPress than Genesis.  Nevertheless, Genesis is fully integrated with WordPress custom menus.

Child themes offer two horizontal navigation menu bars to which you can assign custom menus.

You can also place custom menus in any widget zone, the most common being sidebars and footer widget zone.

d.  Customized Headers

You can customize the header/logo from within the dashboard.  There’s a default header size.  If you wish to change the header size, you must modify the header size in the CSS style sheet.

e.   Easy to customize the footer

Many themes make it difficult to customize the footer.  With Genesis it’s easy if you install the Genesis Simple Hooks plugin.  With this plugin, you can place any content you wish in the footer.

Many child themes come with a widgetized footer as well.

f.  SEO Configuration

When Genesis rolled out its SEO configuration panel, it was a big deal because few themes offered it.  However, now it’s standard fare.  That said, the Genesis SEO configuration options are excellent.

g.  Widgetized Home Pages

Many child themes have customized home pages comprised of many widget zones.  This way you have a great deal of control over the content and layout of your home page.

h.  Custom sidebars is super simple

With the StudioPress Simple Sidebars plugin, you can create custom sidebars easily and apply any custom sidebar to a particular page or post.  This means you can have different sidebar content on different pages and posts.  This is a great feature and one I use extensively.

My Simple/Custom Sidebars Video

 

i.  Easy Genesis Updating

To update the Genesis Framework, you need only click two buttons inside your dashboard.  It couldn’t be easier.  Moreover, because the design of your website is dictated via the child theme, when you update Genesis, your design won’t change.  This is why it’s important to make site changes in the child theme files and not the Genesis Framework files.

j.  Responsive Design (for different screen sizes)

Many child themes are responsive design which means they’ll display in an optimal way depending on the screen size.  This is a fantastic feature given the huge increase in web browsing via mobile devices and iPads.

k.  Tabber Sections

You can insert a tabbed section in any widget zone by installing the Genesis Tabs plugin (free plugin).  A tabbed section is a great way to offer a great deal of content in a focused area of your site.

l.  Columns within Content

You can easily display text in columns (1 to 6 columns) within a page or post.  The following screenshot depicts this:

Genesis Columns within a Page or Post

l.  Even more designs available

StudioPress also has a marketplace where child theme developers can submit their child themes for sale.  StudioPress carefully assesses each submission.  Moreover, each child theme available in the marketplace also comes with forum support.  You can check out the StudioPress marketplace here.

3.  Three Powerful Third Party Add Ons

In 2012, three powerful third party add Ons that integrate beautifully with the Genesis Framework were released.  Because Genesis is so popular aming DIY’rs and veteran designers and works so well, third party theme developers are rolling out add ons that improve design, function and features with the Genesis theme.

a.  Dynamik Child Theme for Genesis – Get Full Design Control of Your Genesis Framework

Dynamik child theme is a full drag and drag theme designed for Genesis.  It’s created by Catalyst.  It gives you full control over the style and design.  It also opens up 49 home page configurations.  You can read my full Dynamik child theme write-up here to learn more.  Watch the video below as well:

Dynamik Child Theme Video

b.  Shortcodes by ElegantThemes

One of the reasons I like ElegantThemes so much is their extensive use of shortcodes.  You can add slideshows, tabber sections, pricing charts, colored boxes, buttons and much more more with simple shortcodes.

Check out the StudioPress pricing table at the bottom of this post as one example of what you can do with the ET shortcodes plugin.  You must buy a separate membership to ElegantThemes ($39) to get this plugin.  Read my full ET shortcode write-up here and watch the video below:

ElegantThemes Shortcodes Plugin Video

c.  WooCommerce Plugin to create an Online Store

Traditionally, Genesis didn’t work too well for e-commerce websites.  Now they do by installing the free WooCommerce plugin.  With the WooCommerce plugin you can create a full online store, which shopping cart, catalogue pages and much more.

4.  Benefits of Using the Genesis Framework

  • Why should you use Genesis over other themes? 
  • Why do I build more websites with Genesis than any other theme framework?

It comes back to its simplicity and feature set.

However, I should qualify my preference for StudioPress in general with the fact I like the designs.  I usually find a design that works for a new project.  That said, sometimes I use other theme frameworks if they offer a design or feature set that’s better.

For example, Builder theme, which I also use, is easier to create a design from scratch than Genesis.  Just be sure you know something about web design when deciding to create your own design.

Another example is ElegantThemes.  ET offers designs for specific purposes and so sometimes I opt for an ElegantThemes design.

Overall, Genesis is my first choice theme framework and I’ll veer from it only when an alternative is the better solution.

What are the benefits of the Genesis theme Framework?

a.  The parent/child set up is so convenient

Although I had trepidation about using the parent/child set up initially, now I prefer it over single theme installation.  My primary reason is that upgrading a theme is so simple and requires no work other than clicking 2 buttons inside the WordPress dashboard.

With a single theme installation, if you make changes to the CSS style sheet, you must make those changes again when you upate the theme.

Also, if you make any php modifications and change to a different theme, you have to make those changes again.

Moreover, switching from one Genesis child theme to another Genesis child theme is super simple.  Yes, you might have to adjust widget content; however, that’s usually about it.

b.  I like many of the child theme designs (some I really like)

This is clearly a subjective benefit, but it’s one that probably endeared me to StudioPress years ago and continues to endear me to StudioPress.

The fact is, if you don’t like their designs, and not everybody does, including me.  What’s key is finding 3 to 6 designs you really like, get proficient at using those themes and the sky is the limit with creating a new website or new websites.

c.  Fantastic license and pricing

Some theme merchants require you to pay every year for updates.  Some also stipulate that you can only use a theme on a certain number of domains.  StudioPress makes it easy.  The license you get enables you to use your theme or themes on as many domains as you like (i.e. build unlimited websites).  Moreover, you get lifetime updates.  You don’t have to pay again in the future.

See StudioPress pricing below.

d.  Support Forum is a a wealth of information

I learned much of what I know about building WordPress websites by reading the StudioPress support forums and asking questions.

Note that not all questions are answered.  The forum moderators will generally only answer technical questions and not design tips questions.

e.  Simple yet flexible and highly customizable

It’s funny because over the few years Genesis has been on the market, it’s become simpler to use.  The theme settings panel is simpler for sure.  Yet, there are more features.  This was achieved with StudioPress developing free plugins you install for significantly more features.  My favorite StudioPress plugins include:

  • Simple Sidebars:  Create unlimited custom sidebars.  This is a fantastic feature for large websites or any site where you want different sidebar content in different parts of your website.
  • Simple Hooks: Super powerful feature that enables you to customize and/or add content to pretty much any part of your website.  I say it’s a more advanced tool to use, but worth learning.
  • Genesis Slider:  With the Genesis Slider plugin you can add a slide show to any widget zone.  The slider set up is super simple and highly customizable.
  • Genesis Tabber:  You can insert a tabber section in any widget zone.  This is great for stuffing tons of content in a focused area of your website.

f.  There’s a child theme for almost any type of website

Whether you need a business site, personal blog, magazine theme, video theme, Tumblr theme or e-commerce website – StudioPress has it.  In fact, for most categories they have several options and more almost every month.

g.  Dynamik for Genesis – Turn Genesis into aWebsite Builder

Update June 28/12:  Dynamik for Genesis turns Genesis into a drag and drop website builder.  Read about and watch my Dynamik video here.

5.  My StudioPress / Genesis Dislikes

Genesis is great, but not perfect.  The following are my dislikes/suggestions for improvement.

a.  Plugin for creating widget zones anywhere

I’d love it if StudioPress came up with a plugin that made it easy to create widget zones anywhere – the home page, inner pages and inner posts.

b.  6 Layouts for EVERY child theme

For a while every new child theme had 6 layout options.  Then all of a sudden new child themes only offered 3 layouts.  I love the 6 layout option and wish EVERY child theme had 6 layouts.

c.  Every layout option is available for the home page

I realize the widgetized home pages are dedicated page layouts; however, it would be great if they were coded so that any of the 3 or 6 layouts available could be applied to the home page.

d.  Create more specialized child themes

Most of the child themes are generic in purpose such as “business”, “magazine”, “blog”, etc.  I’d love to see StudioPress design some child themes for a more narrow purpose like they did with the *AgentPress theme.

e.  Take the Prose “design-your-own-site” tools and apply them to every child theme

Prose theme is great because you can design your site with drag and drap menus.  It would be great if every child theme had this capability.

f.  Header customization is not as flexible as I’d like

There’s a default size for installing a header image.  If you wish to modify the header size, you must jump into the CSS style sheet.

6.  StudioPress Pricing & Packages

=>CLICK HERE to buy the Genesis Framework.

=>CLICK HERE to buy the Genesis Framework.

 

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