Updated September 9, 2016: Even though some time has passed since I first wrote this post, the Genesis Framework is still very popular. StudioPress is used by 189,000 users. Yoast not only continues to recommend it but also has built several themes on top of it. And the new Smart Passive Income Pro theme is very attractive (more on that below). But is a Genesis theme right for you? Read on and decide.
If you have been in the WordPress world for a length of time, you undoubtedly have heard of Genesis. Genesis is a WordPress framework on which many themes have been built. Fans praise the ease of use and even claim that it is the “best for SEO”. I was curious about it for a while, and my interest level went up when Sugar Rae transitioned her blog to it a. Joost de Valk (author of the Yoast SEO plugin) is another one that recommends it highly.
There’s definitely no debate that beautiful, functional themes can be created from the framework. The library of premium themes has really grown over the years and newcomer Smart Passive Income is a compelling addition. Designed for affiliate marketers, it was inspired by Pat Flynn’s widely popular Smart Passive Income website. Use my affiliate link below to find out the details and take it for a test drive.
I love the bold colors and typography of Smart Passive Income Pro. On the home page it marries a strong Call to Action while keeping the balance in featuring your content with a unique navigational bar as well as having a space for your most recent blog posts.
You may not care about the inner plumbing of your theme, but you should. The code of your theme is important for your site speed and for the ease of customization. To really get a handle on Genesis I attended a workshop created by Anca Mosoiu, founder of a technology salon: Techliminal located here in Oakland and it became clear to me why it is so popular, especially among developers.
Here’s my take on the strengths (and a few weaknesses) of Genesis. At the bottom of the post, I’ve included a bulleted list if you want to skip the details and read a summary.
A framework is a WordPress theme that is designed to be a parent theme for child themes that are built on top of it. Think of it as a starter theme that gives you a lot of functionality out of the box so you are not starting from scratch. It is for this reason that WordPress developers love frameworks, using a framework saves them time for each custom theme they build.
Additionally, for a developer (and those of us who hack and know just enough to be dangerous), the Genesis code is very modular and easy to work with. When I asked Anca why she builds all her sites in Genesis, she commented on the modularity and how it hides complexity until you are ready for it. This includes the admin area, Genesis doesn’t clutter your dashboard with a lot of options you have to master. She also mentioned that your work can be transportable, if you build a custom template you can reuse it for another site.
However, like with any new system, there is a learning curve with the Genesis Framework, even for end users. Genesis tends to cater to developers, and for that reason some have been disappointed with the selection of child themes that are available for purchase from the marketplace. If you buy the framework (currently a one time purchase for $59.95) and even additionally a pre-made child theme, you should expect to do modifications to get the theme you want that looks unique and different.
That may seem scarier than it is, the power of the Genesis framework is that you can do a lot without coding. Genesis provides a lot of built in functionality with widgets that you can just drag and drop onto your sidebar or footer. And if you are comfortable with modifying CSS and with the concept of hooks, you can get really far with Genesis without diving head long into php code.
Many plugins have been purpose built for the Genesis framework. Two worth checking out are Simple Hooks and the Genesis Visual Hooks Guide.The Genesis Visual Hooks Guide shows you all the places on the page layout where you can add extra HTML or functionality, such as after the header or before the container div that has the post content in it. The Simple Hooks plugin adds fields to the Admin where you add your customizations. It’s almost like paint by numbers.
Many Genesis fans will cite the widgets as their favorite thing about Genesis. Many Genesis themes come with a widgetized footer, and there are a number of cool widgets that come with most of the themes that you can customize and use, for example: header, featured posts and user profile widgets. Additionally with the Simple Sidebar plugin it’s easy to create custom sidebars which adds to the customization options at your fingertips.
Genesis does have few built in benefits that is helpful for SEO. You can set up your meta description, h1 and title for the homepage (if you have not chosen a static page). You also have the ability to noindex archive pages. You have various pagination options, including a WP-PageNavi like style that if chosen will make sure your older posts don’t get deprived of valuable link juice by being too many clicks away from the home page. Also helpful for SEO is Genesis’s native support for breadcrumbs and the ability to use excerpts on archive pages. Most likely you still want to install a SEO plugin and Genesis does play nice with them – something to really appreciate as recently I had an entire site break because the theme did not play nicely with the Yoast plugin.
As I was writing this post, I solicited comments from the WordPress Google+ community asking whether they would recommend Genesis, unfortunately I can’t embed the post here because it is a private community, but I curated some of the comments below:
A good way to get started is to browse the selection of themes available. I’ve included some of the popular themes and those I really like. Keep in mind that if you buy a theme, it comes with the framework.
Disclosure: The below links are affiliate links. If you buy a theme using the links below I get a commission which helps pay for the costs of running this blog.
Prices updated and Smart Passive Income theme added: September 9, 2016
And if choosing a theme seems daunting, check out StudioPress’s theme selection tool.
So will WebEnso switch to Genesis? In the end I decided not too. I wasn’t up for a learning curve and redoing my blog.And this might sound a little strange, but I do worry about losing touch with some of my audience because they are not using Genesis. However if I was starting this blog from scratch, what I have seen of Genesis so far makes it a compelling candidate.
Disclosure: The above links are affiliate links. See the material connection disclosure on the sidebar to the right for more info.
Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.