Genesis Theme Framework 2.0 Review

Genesis Framework for WordPress

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed that the look and feel of this blog has changed a bit. That’s because after many years of sticking with Thesis Theme, I have finally switched this site over to the Genesis Theme Framework 2.0. If you read my best wordpress themes post, you may be surprised about why I decided to go with Genesis 2.0. Didn’t I rank the Catalyst Theme framework #1 on my list?

Yes, yes I did.

Unfortunately, much to my disappointment, Catalyst Theme as a standalone product is ceasing to exist. Yet, Catalyst is not disappearing completely. Instead, the focus of the Catalyst team is on the Dynamik Website Builder for Genesis. This is essentially Catalyst Theme running as a child theme on top of the Genesis Theme Framework.

While I could have kept using my copy of Catalyst Theme, there are no future planned updates to it. So I decided it would be a good time to make a switch, especially in light of the recent Genesis 2.0 launch.

I had thought about updating to the new Thesis Theme for the blog, but the most recent Thesis 2.0 and 2.1 updates were quite disappointing from my perspective. It was just hard to wrap my head around how to use it, so I figured this would be a good time to give the Genesis Theme Framework a try to see how it well it worked.

What is the Genesis?

Genesis has been a popular theme framework for a long time now. It’s run by the StudioPress team and it’s the theme of choice for many popular bloggers like Darren Rowse of Problogger, Kristi Hines, Rae Hoffman, and even Matt Cutts recently switched to it.

WhoIsUsingGenesis

At its core, is the Genesis Theme framework itself. This is basically the foundation that provides the structure, security and SEO for the child themes that sit on top of it.

The child themes are what really makes Genesis stand out from other similar products. Child themes are what provide the actuall design (the look and feel) of your site. For example, if you take a look at Kikolani.com, you can see that Kristi is using the Focus Theme child theme for her site. Currently there are over 44 child themes from Studiopress to choose from. And that doesn’t include child themes made by 3rd parties, including the Dynamik Website Builder which I’m using on this site.

What’s new in Genesis 2.0?

The new Genesis 2.0 is all about making your blog compatible with the latest web technologies.

Some of the main highlights include:

How this site looks on an iPhone

How this site looks on an iPhone

  • Mobile Responsive themes – You’ll notice right away that the default Genesis design is mobile responsive. This means that the theme will adapt to whatever device you’re viewing your site on. So your blog will keep looking good, whether you’re looking at it from your regular desktop monitor, your iPad or your mobile device.
  • HTML5 support – All new themes with Genesis 2.0 will be HTML5 ready out of the box. This ensures that your website is compatible with the latest web technologies, improves browser compatibility issues, and you should see some noticable performance improvements as well.
  • Schema.org Microdata Support – Schema microdata is becoming more and more important these days. You’ll notice that Google is increasingly showing rich snippet data in the SERPs and schema.org microdata enables this. You’ll get support for this when moving to Genesis 2.0.

My experience with Genesis 2.0 so far

I’m really liking what I’ve seen from Genesis 2.0 so far. Out of the box, even the default theme is quite nice to look at. Customizing the layout of your site is quite simple. From the Genesis > Theme Settings, you can pick between 6 different layouts which are variations on the standard 1 column, 2 column, 3 column layouts.

Joshkotsay-ThemeSettings

Customizations can be done via the myriad of custom hooks available. For example, I wanted to change how the Read More link was styled on the front page. For non-coders, hooks might be a little intimidating, but they are essential for providing you with the flexibility to customize your theme exactly how you like it. The StudioPress support area actually had a code snippet that I was able to copy and paste to get that working.

I also like the fact that Genesis exposes a widget to the Header Right area. So you can put a menu, banner or anything else you want here. Lots of sites use this area, but it’s not always as straightforward to implement with other theme frameworks.

The rest of the design for the site comes from the Dynamic Website Builder child theme, but I’ll talk about that more in a future post. But suffice to say, it’s pretty cool and you can do a lot of customizations with it.

Overall, Genesis 2.0 has been a pleasure to use, and I haven’t come across anything I haven’t been able to do yet in terms of designing this site how I want it to look.

Final Thoughts

While I wasn’t planning on using Genesis 2.0, I’m glad I choose the opportunity to take a look. It’s a fast, modern wordpress theme framework that ensure that your blog will support all the latest web technologies. If you’re not a designer, but want to have a nice looking turnkey design for your site, make sure to first check out the Theme gallery to see if there’s something there that will work for you.

If you design websites for a living, I think Genesis will also work well for you. If you purchase the Pro Plus package, you’ll get access to every theme they make, forever. Which is awesome because the StudioPress is coming up with beautiful new themes all the time.

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Comments

  1. says

    Congrats and welcome to the club. If you’re active on Twitter, make sure to check out #genesiswp hashtag. There are lots of great folks there.

  2. Curt says

    I’m reading your blog on my iPhone right now. Really nice. I wish more blogs would pay attention to how their site looks on mobile devices. That’s how I consume all my content these days.

  3. Kinley McFadden says

    I think I’m in the same boat as you were Josh. I have a couple of sites, and they are both using Thesis 1.8. I don’t really want to upgrade to the latest Thesis 2.1 since they are so different so I’m kind of stuck at the moment.

    I am really tempted to try Genesis based on your review though. I have browsed around their theme gallery and I see a couple of child themes that look like they would really work well.

    Is it worth paying for Yet another premium wordpress theme though?

    • says

      I’d vote for YES. The great thing about Genesis is there are lots of child themes available from StudioPress or other independent devs.

  4. Allen Thomas says

    I’m with you Josh. I used to use Thesis on all my sites, but now I’ve moved them all over to Genesis. It’s just so much more straightforward to use, and much better documented too I might add.

    I also like the fact that I can update to the latest Genesis 2.0 and it doesn’t affect my current theme. This makes upgrading a much lower risk.

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