In case you are wondering why I’m talking about Genesis – a WordPress framework – firstly it’s because I’ve recommend it on our resource page.
In addition, I’ve talked pretty extensively about blogging as a musician, having your own website, and even generating traffic for a music blog, so I didn’t feel that this review would be completely out of place. Genesis is a really great tool for building a great-looking, full-featured blog.
Of course, if you feel otherwise, please let me know in the comments section below. I don’t want to stray too far away from our core message. In any case, read on!
At this point, I have been using the Genesis Framework and the StudioPress themes for most if not all of my web properties for a little over a year. I have been a long-time listener of Internet Business Mastery, and that’s where I first heard about the Genesis and Thesis themes. Last year, I finally bought the Genesis theme for my birthday.
I certainly don’t have any frame of reference for how good the Thesis theme is (it’s supposed to be quite good as well), but I can compare the Genesis Framework against anything else I’ve ever used, including pre-built HTML templates, Movable Type and various free WordPress themes.
Oddly enough, when I first purchased the Genesis Framework, I was not terribly impressed with it; mostly because I was still undereducated on what it actually did. Then, after working with a few fresh WordPress installations with free themes, I would find myself going, “Where is this feature? How come this doesn’t work like it’s supposed to? Where did that setting go?” Then I went, “Oh, Genesis.”
I had become accustomed to using Genesis-specific functions without even realizing it. That’s when I was really sold on it.
In this review, I’m going to take a look at what the Genesis Framework and the StudioPress Themes have to offer. If you are currently using a free WordPress theme, or even some other (free) blogging platform that offers little or no customizability, you’ll definitely want to learn more about this.
What is the Genesis Framework?
Essentially, the Genesis Framework is a premium theme for the WordPress platform. Sure, there are plenty of free themes available for WordPress, but each one tends to have a different set of features, settings, and configurable options. Some don’t really have any features worth mentioning at all!
What you get when you use the Genesis Framework is predictability (even when you are using one of its many child themes; more on that later). Any time you put together a fresh installation of WordPress with the Genesis Framework, you know exactly what you’re getting; especially once you start feeling comfortable with the platform.
With free themes, little things – like the wrong image size – would break the site, and I would get fed up with it. It was becoming pretty clear to me that the Genesis theme was a professionally put together platform that was worth its asking price.
What does the Genesis Framework do?
It would be pretty challenging for me to cover everything that the Genesis Framework does. In essence, it’s a search engine optimized, lightweight platform that is also mobile ready. For me, that last item was huge.
Until I started getting serious about WordPress, I was mostly using the Movable Type blogging/CMS (content management system) platform. However, Movable Type 4 was not mobile ready, and Movable Type 5 could not be installed on the web host I was dealing with at the time (it can’t be installed on my current host’s server either).
At that point, I had a decision to make. I could:
- Stick with what I was using and hope it would turn out okay.
- Custom build a mobile template for my sites, or spend hours implementing complicated responsive design code and scripts.
- Move to another platform.
Thankfully, I recognized how important mobile was becoming, and knew that if I was serious about building my business online that I needed a better solution. I chose option 3. Looking back, I can see that mobile readiness was a significant part of my buying decision.
The Genesis Framework was, and still is, a great solution for mobile.
What are Child Themes?
The Genesis Framework isn’t really a WordPress theme unto itself, at least not in terms of design or user experience (it’s pretty sparse). It certainly could be used as a standalone theme, but if you really want to unlock the full potential of the framework and customize your theme, you’ll want to use child themes (much the same way the full potential of WordPress can’t be unleashed until you start using plugins).
A good way to look at things here is to see the framework as the structure supporting the site (i.e. the backend functionality), and the child theme as the public-facing part of your site (i.e. the design). Just so you know, the Genesis Framework does cost money, and so do the child themes built by StudioPress. However, you can get free Genesis child themes too.
If you’re wondering what a Genesis child theme looks like, you’re actually looking at one right now. This site currently runs on a customized version of the Modern Portfolio Pro theme.
If you want to customize a child theme, the best advice I can give you is to start with a theme you already like. Don’t purchase a theme that isn’t even close to the end result you’re looking for and then attempt to crowbar it into your dream design. Start with something close, and you’ll have a much easier time configuring it to your liking.
I do not currently have all of the child themes StudioPress has to offer (they occasionally do promotional sales at a discount cost), but I make do with the Metro Pro, Minimum Pro, Modern Portfolio Pro and Parallax Pro themes at present.
What Major Benefits does the Genesis Framework Offer?
While what follows is not a comprehensive list, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I like about the platform.
- Proprietary plugins: there are several plugins that are unique to the Genesis platform and cannot be used on a standard install of WordPress. These include Genesis eNews Extended, Genesis Simple Hooks, Genesis Sandbox Featured Content Widget, and many others.
- Archive pages: building a nice-looking, functional archive/sitemap page is as simple as adding a new page, selecting “Archive” from the Template dropdown menu and hitting “Publish”.
- Header and footer scripts: whether you want to track your site using Google Analytics or call an external script, there comes a time when you need to add a bit of extra code to the header or footer of your site. Instead of having to dig up the header or footer file in the editor and mess with confusing code, you can simply go into the theme settings and copy and paste the code into the appropriate form boxes.
- Color style presets: many themes these days have something called an “action color”. This is basically the color on your site that your logo, links, buttons and other prominent features would be styled with (you can see that I use a nice-looking green color on my site). In Genesis, you can pick from a few preset colors (four on the Modern Portfolio Pro Theme) by default without having to mess around with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
- SEO and mobile ready: I already mentioned this earlier, but I definitely see optimization and mobile-readiness as a huge benefit of using the Genesis Framework. There’s no messing around with code you don’t even understand.
This is just a small sampling of what the Genesis Framework can do, as there are plenty of other configurable options in the theme settings, as well as many proprietary plugins (some of which I already mentioned earlier) that add more functionality. Moreover, you can still use all of the WordPress plugins you already know well and are familiar with.
Are there any Downsides to the Genesis Framework?
Of course, even some of the best products tend to have some downsides.
If you like a particular child theme, chances are someone else likes it too, and is already using it on their site. If you want your theme to look unique, it’s going to require some customization, and yes, that will likely mean editing the CSS. Not that CSS is hard to understand, but I find that it’s getting more and more technical with time.
Even though there have been many experiments showing how much you can configure the design of a site without touching the HTML, it’s still not the easiest thing to do.
However, this is not a problem unique to Genesis; rather it’s a problem with WordPress in general. Building a theme from scratch is far more challenging than building a website from nil. I should know; I’ve tried.
Even if you use a free theme, someone else might be using that theme. Differentiating yourself will really come down to graphics, copy, content, and so forth.
A good long-term strategy is to enlist the help of a Genesis developer and have them create a custom child theme for you. I would suggest either saving up for this or waiting until your business is profitable enough that there’s a reason to overhaul your site (i.e. audience feedback or user experience). The child themes are great on their own, especially if you have some knowledge of CSS.
Additionally, there is a bit of a learning curve with the Genesis platform. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really even see any immediate benefits from using the Genesis Framework at first. You have to invest time and effort into understanding what the platform does for you, how to use it, and what its advantages are.
Those are the major downsides to the Genesis Framework as I see it (although they are kind of minor). Obviously, when things break, it’s frustrating. When custom code doesn’t do what you want it to do, it’s irritating. When technical problems arise, you end up having to search the web for answers.
Notwithstanding, I don’t see this as being something unique to Genesis. No matter what platform you use, you will encounter some issues. This is merely the nature of website development.
How Much does the Genesis Framework Cost?
The advertised price of the Genesis Framework is $59.95. If you buy the framework with a child theme, it will run you about $99.95.
However, like I said earlier, I often see promotions (that usually include the entire theme selection) come through my inbox. In addition, after you create an account with StudioPress and make some purchases, you’ll see additional discounts on child themes. StudioPress also offers detailed guides on how to set up your theme like in the demo versions, giving you a great start with your site.
If you’re serious about your website and online business, then making a great first impression should be a high priority on your list, whether someone accesses your site on a desktop machine or mobile device.
Where Can I Buy the Genesis Framework and/or StudioPress Themes?
Naturally, you can go directly to the StudioPress site, set up an account and purchase the framework as well as the themes there.
However, if you enjoyed this article, I would hugely appreciate it if you would purchase the framework and themes through my affiliate link. I will see commissions on applicable sales, which will go towards helping us make more improvements to this site, and writing more reviews like this one.
The choice is yours, and there is absolutely no obligation to support me.
I hope you found this resource helpful. If you have any questions about the Genesis Framework, feel free to send me an email. I may not be able to help you with everything, but in most instances I should at least be able to point you in the right direction.
Personally, I hope to see more design customizability with the Genesis Framework and its child themes. I like its functionality, but the part that would really bring this thing over the top would be the ability to quickly modify margin and padding properties, action colors, a fully widgetized design structure… among other things.
Genesis is really great as-is, but one can always dream, right?
Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, make sure to leave a note in the comments section below!
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.