In the previous article, we learned how you can be more productive by using WordPress and it’s premium tools. Now, the next step is choosing a premium WordPress theme or WordPress theme framework that fits your development style and needs. When you make a decision, you will use your top choice as a base for building all your websites.
Does Genesis Framework Fit Your Development Style and Needs?
Your decision which framework or starter theme to use will depend on your skills and design needs as well as the price and functionality of the theme. As a developer, you might want a framework that gives you more flexibility, less visual editors, and easy access when you code. For people who veer more towards graphical design, they will appreciate built-in tools that help them understand WordPress functions and visual editor better. They will prefer to use a tool where less coding is involved.
Things to consider when choosing WordPress frameworks:
- Price – how affordable is it?
- Visuals – how beautiful and cool WordPress theme is right outside of the box?
- Theme functionality
- Is the WP theme SEO friendly?
- Social media integration
- Responsive design
- Check for browser compatibility
- Support level Forums
- Documentation and manuals
- Are there video tutorials?
- Number of themes, how many different designs are there?
- Number of users – how popular is theme?
- Refund policy
- Speed and Size – how fast loading is the theme right outside of the box?
- Translation – how easy theme can be translated to other languages?
- Extendability, third-party plugins
- Coding requirements – how advanced programming skills theme will require?
- Dashboard interface – how intuitive is dashboard for new users?
For Genesis framework review I will especially focus on four main criteria:
- Theme Support – level of support, documentation, tutorials, and user base
- Design, visuals – how beautiful the theme is straight out of the box
- Price – I would say themes and frameworks are generally very affordable, but I know cost is also important to some people.
- Functionality, flexibility – This will be the most in-depth section because it helps you discover what happens under the hood. It will include things, like additional plugins available, SEO friendliness, responsiveness, security, ease to update, site load speed, and ease of customization (page templates, widget areas,easy of adding custom CSS, child themes).
*Note – before picking Genesis framework as the first choice I reviewed ElegantThemes, WooFramework, Thesis, OptimizePress, Themify, WpZoom and top ThemeForest themes. To make it an easy choice for you I went with the most popular and highest quality framework first.
StudioPress (Genesis framework)
StudioPress is the most popular and most widely used framework nowadays. StudioPress was founded by Brian Gardner and in 2010 it merged with Copyblogger Media LLC, led by Brian Clark.
StudioPress is widely used among top marketers. Genesis WordPress themes are used by people like:
- Brian Clark (Copyblogger)
- Neil Patel (QuickSprout)
- Darren Rowse (Problogger)
- Chris Brogan
- Jay Baer
- ..and many more influential and popular blog owners.
StudioPress was founded in August 2007 and is a very established company. They even got a testimonial from Matt, the founder of WordPress himself.
StudioPress Customer Service and Documentation
When picking the right framework, it’s super important that there is a reliable customer service, training, and documentation behind it. Popularity of framework plays an important role because the more experienced developers are using the theme, the better support, help, additional plugins, and codes will be made by developers using and sharing them.
StudioPress is being used by 134,000 website owners and there are even sites like this, TheWPChick, where StudioPress Genesis lovers create videos and books about how to use Genesis more effectively!
As you purchase the Genesis framework and any of its child themes, you immediately get unlimited access to a dedicated support staff which consists of expert, who know the Genesis Framework and WordPress inside and out. Several high level developers who are in the StudioPress support team are contributors on WordPress itself.
You also get access to the forums where all the people who bought any product from StudioPress hang out. You can ask for help and browse forums as well as hire an experienced developer who can help you to add the customization you need.
Their forums are very active with the following categories:
- General discussion – It has 11,000 topics and 50,000 posts.
- Design tips and tricks – This is where you can share code snippets and get help with CSS related questions. This category has 16,000 topics and 70,000 posts
- Showcase and feedback
- Internationalization and translations
- Forum bugs and suggestions
Here is a full breakdown, of what you can expect and cannot expect from StudioPress support team.
What this tells me is:
- You will receive full support about everything surrounding the StudioPress built-in functionality when customizing and configuring a website using the StudioPress built-in features;
- You will get basic advice about how to build a unique design using StudioPress child themes and basic integration advice how to use the most popular WordPress plugins. You cannot expect support to solve issues about the new theme you created or non-StudioPress plugins you installed but you will get their help to point you in the right direction.
- You can ask for help regarding general questions including site speed, issues you have, and making your theme more SEO-friendly. The support team will point you in the right direction;
- StudioPress will not build websites for you nor will they customize websites for you – you cannot expect them to write code for you. Think of them as teachers whom you can ask for help, but you will still need to complete homework yourself.
Once you purchase StudioPress in the members area, you’ll get access to the community and documentation sections:
- PDF eBook “A Beginner’s Guide To The Genesis Framework”
- Textual tutorials covering topics like Genesis documentation, column classes, images, navigation menus, sharing and several more misc topics like “load google fonts”
- Top questions section with 12 most popular questions answered.
- 51 tutorials written by StudioPress community members
You get access to following developer resources:
- Code snippets around topics like admin management, author box, HTML5, images, breadcrumbs, comments, post excerpts, post formats, footer, search form, header, and more
- Mobile responsive design testing tool which allows you to test how your website pages will look live on different size screens – 240×320 (small phone), 320×480 (iPhone), 480×640 (small tablet), 768×1024 (iPad – Portrait), 1024×768 (iPad – Landscape).
- 15 StudioPress developed plugins and two third-party plugins. These plugins allow you for example to integrate WooCommerce store with Genesis, build social network with Genesis Connect plugin, add social media icons with Simple Social Icons plugin, and many more;
- Free Web Graphics – several custom icon sets, social media icons, generate box, screenshot displays, call to action banners, patterns, buttons.
How beautiful StudioPress themes are?
In this section we will talk about how beautiful Genesis WP themes are straight out of the box. Genesis is the core, parent theme while the child themes are the different skins which you can use to change visuals. Let’s take a look.
StudioPress has 43 different child themes available:
- 9 business child themes, which are great to use for personal brand portfolio, corporate or eCommerce store type websites
- 5 enterprise company child themes suitable for larger agency
- 4 magazine style child themes great for blogs who create lots of content
- 5 photography child themes great for music, fashion industries, web designers and companies, who have products with beautiful visuals to show off
- 1 real-estate child-theme for realtors to display houses, apartments beautifully and let visitors to filter the houses based on their preferences.
Now this is how Genesis framework looks straight out of the box. It is a clean and responsive WP theme which is great to use as a foundation:
And this is how Genesis child theme looks like. In this example I picked Altitude child-theme which is business theme that could be used to represent small business or personal brand.
Looking at the demos of all the child-themes, I must say all of them are professional, unique, fluid, and with no fancy effects going on. That is exactly what StudioPress represents. You will not find crazy experimental style designs there. All of the Genesis WP themes look clean and modern, but I don’t believe they would win an innovation design award. StudioPress uses proven design practices and don’t stray away from that. For good designers, Genesis child-themes are excellent base themes to build their own design upon.
When you read our other review about X theme (can be used as a framework), you will notice the difference. X theme is sold on ThemeForest and really stands out with beautiful, modern and, sometimes, fancy visuals. This indirect comparison makes me say that Genesis is best if you want very custom design, because of it’s customizability while X theme is a great option for designers who don’t want to customize everything, but still want to make full use of X theme’s built in functionality.
How Much Genesis Framework and Child Themes Cost?
Let’s talk about cost now. Genesis is the most expensive framework compared to all its competitors. Only WooThemes with their expensive plugin extensions comes close. Even though it is the most expensive choice, I would still say that Genesis is the best choice for professional full-time developers and web designers because of the community, value and quality you get.
In addition, StudioPress has a 30-day money back guarantee.
Here is the full StudioPress price breakdown:
Note: if you have purchased anything before from StudioPress, you get 25% returning customer’s discount.
$400 – Pro Plus All-Theme Package
*$300 for returning customers
- All 43 StudioPress child themes
- Genesis Framework
- Lifetime future updates, support and you can use themes on unlimited sites
- Access to detailed tutorials and forums
- You get access to all future child-themes StudioPress makes
- One-Time purchase
$60 – Genesis Framework
*$45 for returning customers
- Genesis Framework
- Unlimited updates, support and sites
- Access to tutorials and forums
- *You do not get any of Genesis child-themes
$100 – Genesis Framework + 1 Child theme
You would choose this option if you don’t build many websites regularly because it is enough for you to have one main design layout. I guess this is the best budget option you could pick.
$33.71 – One StudioPress Child Theme
Lastly, you can buy StudioPress child themes one by one but still you cannot buy a child theme without buying the Genesis framework beforehand because all the child themes are based on the Genesis parent theme.
The best choice I would recommend is that you buy the Genesis framework for $60 to get you started with. You need to test it out, however, before you decide to commit to it. Once you are, you can upgrade to the Pro-Plus package in order to get access to all child themes. After buying the Genesis framework, you officially become a returning customer where you can get a 25% customer discount; thus, the Pro package costs only $300 now. This is a small cool trick you can use to give Genesis a try for $60 and when upgrading still be able to save $40 with members discount!
Note: If budget is an issue, read our review about the best premium theme in 2015, which can be used as framework, you get 33 designs and it costs only $63. Great option for different website delivering solutions!
Genesis Functionality and flexibility
This will be the most in-depth section where we will cover more technical side about what’s happening under the Genesis hood. It will include things, like additional plugins are available, SEO friendliness, responsiveness, security, ease to update, site speed, and it’s customizability.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
How optimized is Genesis?
Genesis is doing very well. StudioPress even hired SEO expert, Joost De Valk, from Yoast (Yoast SEO plugin creator) to make sure their themes are more SEO friendly. Genesis now supports Schema.org code, Google Authorship identification making the basics of SEO already handled for you. There are basic SEO settings built in Genesis, but I would still use Yoast SEO plugin to extend the optimization options.
One big thing you can rely on Genesis is that all codes are lightweight and clean, ensuring you that the site loads quickly.
Responsive Designs built on HTML5
Built using HTML5, all of StudioPress themes are fully responsive. HTML5 is a new coding standard for websites. HTML5 usage ensures your site is responsive and looks great on all screen sizes, like phones and tablets. You can use HTML5 audio and video for increased load-time. For testing, you can test themes using Genesis’ own mobile testing tool.
Updates and Security
Most site vulnerability issues arise when WordPress, plugins and themes aren’t updated on time. With Genesis, you can be confident that updates won’t break your website. Also, it won’t take much time to update. The only challenges you might have would be with third party plugins not supported by Genesis. However, Genesis is the most popular framework, so if you use popular plugins, you will quickly find solutions online even when you run into trouble. That’s a big benefit of using a theme framework used by many developers.
I couldn’t find much using WordPress security scan tools or Sucuri, but Genesis has a good reputation within the developer community regarding it’s security:
“It’s clear that the StudioPress team made security a priority when developing the Genesis Framework. From a security standpoint, it’s at the top of its class following WordPress security best practices.” – Mark Jaquith, WordPress developer.
Built-In Customization Options
Let’s talk about how many things you can customize within the main dashboard.
Genesis has very powerful layout customization options. For example, you can create a custom front page with just a few clicks. The good news – 1stWebDesigner is using one too.
There are 6 main layouts to choose from and you don’t need to stick with one layout for the entire site. If you want to have 3 columns for your blog, 2 columns for your resource pages and 1 column for the front page, you can easily do that with a few clicks.
Within the theme settings you can:
- enable automatic updates or receive email notifications when updates are ready
- add custom RSS feeds
- select one of six layout settings – like 1-column, 2-column, 3-column options.
- customize header
- Enable/disable breadcrumbs for front page, posts page, posts..etc.
- Customize how your content will appear – set featured image, image size, alignment, post navigation
- Add header and footer scripts without touching code editor
- Customize blog page template, what content will show up there
- Do basic visual changes, add site title & tagline (important for SEO)
With widgets you can quickly and easily add powerful functionality to your site without touching any code. You can add the following widgets easily in header, sidebar, footer:
- social media sharing buttons
- tag cloud
- most popular posts on your site
- opt in-forms
- advertising by simply inserting advertising code into text widget
- Search, RSS, pages, links, calendar, custom menus, categories
- *Note – this list includes only Genesis built-in widgets, without installing any plugins.
Additional Functionality with Extensions
Let’s talk about integrated Genesis plugins and third party plugins you can use to easily extend site functionality and help you in the development process.
Genesis has developed 15 WordPress plugins, let’s take a look at the most powerful ones:
- Genesis Connect for WooCommerce – this plugin allows you to add Woocommerce eCommerce and online store functionality
- Genesis Connect for BuddyPress – this plugin allows you to add BuddyPress social network functionality to your theme
- Genesis Responsive Slider – this plugin allows you to add the responsive slider which displays the featured posts of your choice with image, title, excerpt, and button
- SEO Data Transporter – this plugin lets you transfer your SEO data from one theme or plugin to another
- Simple URLs – powerful URL management system allowing you to create, manage and track outbound links from your site by using custom post types and 301 redirects.
- and lots of other handy little plugins, allowing you to modify footer area, add custom favicon, social buttons.
I included two helpful plugins here, that will be useful for new Genesis users. One will help you modify visuals in real-time, while the other will help you gain a deep understanding of WordPress and Genesis functions.
This is a premium plugin that costs $49 with basic single site license. This plugin will be attractive for non-coders allowing you to modify CSS of header, navigation, content area, sidebar, and footers in live editing mode. You can edit nearly everything – colors, fonts, images, backgrounds, margins and padding. There is also a handy feature which allows you to switch between desktop, tablet, and mobile live previews to see exactly what your visitors will see.
What you cannot do is create custom home page, create a custom layout or add custom PHP with this plugin. You can do everything else that requires CSS.
Design Palette Pro will be a great help to beginners, who don’t feel too effective when coding in CSS. Check out their demo, if you are interested.
This is another premium plugin costing $39 for a single site license. If Design Palette Pro plugin sells the idea of modifying theme design without needing the developer, then Genesis Extender is a tool that helps junior developers, who know basic code, but aren’t too comfortable diving into functions yet. It’s a helpful tool to gain deeper understanding of the Genesis Framework.
This plugin basically provides you with the tools to do whatever modifications you want with your child theme without opening code editor, FTP program or messing with server.
With Genesis Extender you can:
- Take control over your homepage with over 30 predefined layouts
- Use built-in image uploader, allowing you to upload images without usingFTP
- Custom hook boxes – custom content area that allow you to hook content into any place of Genesis website using hooks
- Add custom widget areas
- Add custom conditional tags provided by WordPress
- Add custom JS, CSS, Functions within WordPress dashboard
- Access CSS builder to write CSS code with visual help making it a great learning tool. You can also use editor only view to write CSS and see changes happening live on your website. Very handy feature.
- Easily add custom labels to your pages and posts so you could target and easily customize functions and styling to any page you want.
- Custom template builder with PHP builder built-in allowing you to learn and edit the code for page templates and adding custom code to your functions. Very powerful for learning purposes and writing custom code as PHP builder actually writes custom function code for you. You just need to select different action and function boxes.
- Import/export option, that allows you to import or export all your GE settings (custom functions, css, custom JS, custom hook boxes, uploaded images) either for backup or transfer purposes
- GE Google font feature makes it super simple to choose from over 600 Google fonts to really customize site typography.
It is a very powerful and helpful tool for every developer who is still learning WordPress function or how Genesis works. Watch this demo video to find out more:
How easy is it to translate Genesis to another languages?
Genesis’ support for different languages is pretty impressive, best one I have seen than any other theme.
There is the Genesis Translations plugin which translates the Genesis framework into one of the available languages. No need to mess around with functions.php and .mo and .po file uploading. Check available translations on Translate.StudioPress.com. There are nearly 30 different languages supported by Genesis.
Also, every Genesis theme is compatible with the WordPress Multilingual plugin (WPML), that assists in translating WordPress websites to other languages.
How Fast And Optimized For Speed StudioPress Themes Are?
To analyze how fast-loading Genesis WordPress themes are I used several speed test tools Pingdom, GTmetrix and Google Pagespeed to test the live demo of Genesis framework and its child-themes.
Keep in mind that your site speed will heavily depend on the hosting and CDN you use. Also note that Genesis Framework and Altitude Genesis child theme has very little functionality right out of the box. Once you add shopping cart, slider, longer sales letter page, number of requests will increase and the site will take more time to load.
Genesis Framework results:
- Google PageSpeed – 68/100 for desktop, 58/100 for speed, 99/100 for user experience.
- Pingdom – performance grade 96/100, load time – 1.11 seconds, page size 491.5kb, 10 requests
- GTMetrix – page speed grade 56%, YSlow Grade – 96%, page load time 0.92 seconds
Altitude Genesis Child Theme results:
- Google PageSpeed – 74/100 for desktop, 63/100 for speed, 90/100 for user experience
- Pingdom – performance grade 77/100, load time – 766 milliseconds, page size 3.3 mb, 20 requests
- GTMetrix – page speed grade 92%, YSlow Grade – 82%, page load time 4.0 seconds
Genesis is really fast. Google PageSpeed indicated that images could be optimized better and CSS should be shortened. Good thing about StudioPress WordPress themes is that they are simple, clean, and the number of requests are low. The Genesis framework itself without any child-themes would be an excellent choice for SEO experts who are looking for a fast WordPress theme. Don’t underestimate Genesis’ simplicity though, there is a reason why many professional web developers use it.
Review Conclusion: Genesis Framework by StudioPress
Genesis from StudioPress is a really professional and high-quality WP framework to use. It is very powerful in terms of customization. It looks professional and it doesn’t go too fancy with visuals. This is the most expensive framework out there, but you really do get what you pay for. If you are very serious about your web design/developer career and you do spend your time building WordPress websites daily, Genesis is truly the most versatile framework out there, with huge community of professional developers backing it up.
There is a reason why I went so in depth analyzing StudioPress Genesis framework, because there is just so much good about it.
I could compare Genesis with a supercomputer – if you need the functionality and you are ready to pay for it, it’s all there!
What others are saying about Genesis theme?
- Thesis 2.0 vs. Genesis and Why I Made the Switch – Thesis is the second most popular WordPress framework, no wonder people compare them both
- Why a Genesis and Thesis Comparison is Still No Comparison – Chris Lema compares Thesis and Genesis and explains, why Genesis is his top choice
- ThemeGrade StudioPress review – read more about what others think about Genesis.
1stWebDesigner Rating for Genesis Framework:
Who Should Use Genesis?
At the beginning of the article, I promised to help you pick the right tools and I hope this review helped you understand if Genesis framework is the right one for you. In a nutshell, Genesis is meant for professionals, who are ready to invest a bit for a quality tool that will save their time. Beginners will find Genesis too expensive, too complicated to get started with, and they simply will have a hard time how to utilize it’s built-in functionality.
Who should use Genesis:
- Full-time professional web developers and freelancers, who want to speed up their website development process 10x. If you are hard-core coder, who lives in code editor, you will appreciate Genesis’ built-in power and flexibility.
- Amateur freelance web designers who are fluent with PHP and WordPress and are ready to invest some time to learn how to use Genesis efficiently. There is a learning curve involved.
- Freelancers, who work with clients who know what they want. With Genesis, you can customize a lot which is handy for serious clients. When you work with clients who don’t really know what they want, you should use pre-made solutions to start with.
- Designers who want to use the most popular framework backed by a huge community of like minded designers. You do get access to great community as you join. If you care about community, this might be a reason to go for Genesis.
For whom Genesis might not be a good choice:
- If you are a beginner starting out, Genesis will simply be too expensive an option. You should go with cheaper option and more beginner friendly framework. Read our X theme review next, which is much more beginner friendly and a lot cheaper alternative.
- If you are a graphic web designer, who doesn’t code much, Genesis might be too complicated for you. You could use GE and Design Palette Pro third-party plugins to help you, but there are easier options out in the market for you.
This is the first WordPress premium tool article with more to come. Recognize the pros and cons of this framework, give it a try (use their 30 day money back guarantee) and become a more productive web designer! The faster you work, the higher you can charge per hour, per project!
Have you used Genesis framework from StudioPress? Have you used any other frameworks? Would love to hear your experience in comments section!