Opinions from the Real World:
Don (Product Manager) says: By delivering Genesis as a theme framework, StudioPress can provide the key theme features as infrastructure, and style the different look and feel options with Child Themes. Genesis along with a Child Theme is a great way to go. It provides a solid and secure base to tweak and customize your website or blog. The 35+ child themes available give you the ability to skin the site to look just about any way you want.
Eileen (Consultant) says: Genesis is endorsed by some big names, which is both a pro and a con. A Pro because these people have a solid foundation of WordPress and have used a bunch of themes. A con because you may not come to the table with their knowledge or with the same goals. Consider your level of experience before jumping in with Genesis and always understand your purpose for building each website. I think that the variety of child themes is terrific, and I really appreciate the ease of upgrading and attention to security. Also, with 35+ choices, chances are there is something that will suit your needs.
Genesis is a “theme framework” developed by the folks at StudioPress. Brian Gardner, the founder of StudioPress, was one of the early pioneers in premium WordPress theme development.
I must admit, I was not a huge fan of the Revolution 1.0 theme, which was his first commercial theme. It was very successful, but it wasn’t very easy to customize. The options panel wasn’t very robust, and you had to edit the theme files for many of the changes that you typically wanted to do. Here is a site I built with Revolution a long time ago: http://www.chiropractor2web.com.
Of course that was the early days in Premium WordPress Themes, and things have evolved quite a bit since then. Brian has taken his experience in developing some of the early themes like Revolution and evolved these into a very robust “theme framework” called Genesis.
Theme Frameworks and Child Themes
By delivering Genesis as a theme framework, StudioPress can provide the key theme features as infrastructure, and style the different look and feel options with Child Themes.
Child themes derive their functionality from the parent theme, and then override the styles and functionality they want to change without directly changing the parent theme. This way, when there is an update to the core features in Genesis, you can update the theme without affecting the changes you’ve made in the Child Theme.
Review: Digging Into Genesis
With that bit of background out of the way, let’s take a look at Genesis.
I installed Genesis with no problems. When I installed Genesis alone – remember, Genesis itself is just a theme framework – the options and look and feel were very basic. But when I added the Prose Child Theme, it springs to life – both visually and in the options panel.
When you try out a new WordPress theme, what is the first thing you look for? I go straight to the options panel. I like to see what the theme developers have done to help me customize the theme quickly, and make my life easier.
Genesis, along with a Child Theme such as Prose installed, has several custom options panels that allow you to tweak everything from layouts, custom feeds, navigation, archives, SEO settings and design settings such as font types and colors.
Instead of one options panel, Genesis has an entire drop-down section in the sidebar revealing several options panels you can use to tweak and customize the theme.
The Theme Settings options panel gives you access to the core theme settings like: Layouts, Updates, setting a custom feed URL, Navigation, and header and footer scripts.
The SEO Settings options panel allows you to set the format of your doc title, Document Head settings, Robots meta settings and more. It even allows you to specify which text you want wrapped in H1 – the site title, description, or neither.
The Import/Export options panel allows you to create and import Genesis settings files in case you want to move settings to another website or blog.
The Design Settings options panel allows you to change the font color, type and size for all the different areas of your site. It’s very granular, and gives you access to everything from global styles to headlines, content area, sidebar widgets, footer, navigation and more.
The base theme is plain, without many design options. But this is by design. You’ll see that some designers took Genesis as a base, and then tweaked the CSS to design some very compelling sites.
Others installed a child theme on top of Genesis to achieve the desired result.
I installed the Prose child theme to add a little personality to the website during my review. Prose allows you to easily change the appearance of parts of your site like colors and fonts without having to know how to code HTML.
There are 35 child themes with more being added all the time. Each child theme is essentially a turnkey design.
And when Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress says “Child themes are the only way you should build your WordPress site on top of a framework … ” you know they are on the right track.
Other Cool Stuff
There are a few other nice things thrown in with the Genesis theme:
Widgets out of the box
Genesis has a nice array of widgets that come standard with the theme. It comes with a nice widget that displays your latest tweets, one that allows you to feature pages on your site, display your feedburner stats and a few others. It’s always a nice bonus to get pre-made widgets like this from a theme.
Another thing I really like is the the updates section in the options panel. You can quickly see if there is a new version of the theme available, and upgrade it from here too.
StudioPress takes WordPress security seriously, and the Genesis theme has undergone a security review by core WordPress developer Mark Jaquith. That’s a pretty strong endorsement.
Sites Using Genesis
Probably the most famous story of a high-profile blogger switching to Genesis is when Brian Clark, publisher of the famous CopyBlogger.com dissolved his partnership with Chris Pearson of the popular Thesis Theme, and switched to Genesis for his blog.
There was a huge firestorm when WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and Chris Pearson from DIYThemes had a debate on Mixergy about WordPress licensing. It was shortly after this that Brian parted ways with Thesis, switched his blog to Genesis and merged with StudioPress.
There are a lot of other sites using Genesis, here are some screen shots of what people are doing with the theme.
Pricing, Updates and Support
Genesis is reasonably priced for all the features that come with it. The theme costs only $59.95, plus $24.95 for child theme. You can pay $249.95 to get Genesis with the child themes.
This also comes with unlimited support and you can build an unlimited number of websites with the theme.
Genesis along with a Child Theme is a great way to go. It provides a solid and secure base to tweak and customize your website or blog. The 35+ child themes available give you the ability to skin the site to look just about any way you want.
To give you an idea of the versatility of the theme, the AgentPress child theme for Real Estate agents is one of their most popular child themes.