In this Genesis WordPress theme review, we are looking at one of the most popular frameworks out there. Genesis is great. But why do people love it so much? And can a beginner really master Genesis or are you signing up for hours of frustration?
Here is everything you need to know about Genesis: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Short answer: Yes, it’s a great option for beginners with a large community and tons of tools to help you out.
This Is Trouble recently switched to Genesis after quite a few years on Thrive Themes. I’d still recommend Thrive, and pretty much all of my niche sites run on them—but Trouble is big enough it needed a bit of a speed post, so I’m trying out Genesis for a while to compare.
Read on to find my longer answer.
Why Does Everybody Love Genesis?
The Genesis WP framework is easily the most popular theme out there. Why all the rave reviews? Is there a better framework available? In short:
What makes Genesis so darn special?
Let’s look at the main pros:
Affordable Lifetime Access (+ Developer License)
A one-time fee of $60 for the framework gives you lifetime access. This means Genesis is legally available for you to use on as many sites as you’d like. Without any license keys and automatic updates, Genesis is really a one-time investment with no hidden fees or upsells.
There is no better value when it comes to WP frameworks and themes. Instead of paying a monthly fee for updates and support, you are getting StudioPress’s work for a set and final price. With $60 for the framework and around $20-45 for a child theme, you’re looking at around $80 to $100 investment and you might never have to pay more than that.
And yes, that includes lifetime support and updates.
If you want to take things up a notch, the Developer Pro Pack gives you access to all 60+ current child themes and any child themes they come out with in the future. It sells for $400 – a lifetime fee, once again. This is worth considering if you’re a designer or a company that plans on using Genesis for creating client websites (remember, you can legally do that with the developer license). Not so much so if you’re just starting out with blogging.
Genesis WordPress Theme Review Bottomline: Not only is the framework inexpensive, it’s also the best value you can get for your money. You can get a professional site up and running for under $100 and never have to pay a dime more than that!
Best Practices In Coding
StudioPress developers have created and constantly update the framework to the best coding practices. This means two things for you:
- You get a reliable, well-coded theme
- It will always be compatible with the latest WordPress update
The latter is a major concern when you are buying WP themes. Will updating your site make it crash? With Genesis, nope, it definitely won’t. It gives you some much-needed peace-of-mind. For beginners, this can be crucial. The less knowledge you have on how a system works, the more you rely on the professionals that have created it and run it.
The danger of buying cheaper themes from independent developers is they are unreliable. Who knows if the guy isn’t super busy at his day job right now? Sure, eventually he will update the theme but meanwhile, you are dealing with the consequences.
With Genesis, you have a dedicated team of professionals that make sure everything is well-coded and in optimal condition. The StudioPress team is super responsive and the community is huge enough to fix any problems that come up.
Genesis is more than a theme, it’s the framework that you use to put on the designs. Much like in construction work, the frames should be solid and well-made. Genesis is just that.
Child Themes Protect Your Site
Child themes are the outer look of your website. Genesis provides the framework, while child themes are like skins you put on top. They are an invaluable design tool because:
- They are pretty and you have a huge variety of them
- With a child theme, you can safely update the framework, without losing beautiful design work
Let’s say you put in hours into customizing your website or blog. You will be editing just the child theme, not the framework itself. When an update needs to install, the framework can safely change, without making any changes to the child theme. Your hard work is safe and sound, without compromising the functionality of the site.
Speaking of updates, Genesis handles those perfectly. When an update messes up a site’s design, people tend to avoid it. But, as we already talked about, the Genesis framework is easy to update without losing any outer work. Only the underlying code changes, while the child theme remains the same.
This is a matter of security, too. If you procrastinate updates, your WordPress becomes less safe and much more vulnerable to attacks by hackers. Those are costly and a huge hassle. Besides, if your WordPress site handles personal information, especially sensitive things like bank details, keeping it secure by regularly updating should be a top priority.
Not just that, failing to install WP updates can take a serious toll on your site’s speed. Did you know that when a page takes more than 3s to load it loses 50% of the potential visitors? People are impatient and loading speed will determine your website’s success.
The risk of losing precious design isn’t the only thing that stops people from regularly updating, though. For a lot of beginners, it’s a matter of ‘Why bother? I like the way it is now.’ That’s not how things work.
If you want your site or blog to be safe and successful in the long run, you would have to install updates as soon as they come out. Genesis makes this easy for you and that’s one of the reasons they are so well-loved by the community.
Genesis WordPress Theme Review: Great Customer Support
Customer service isn’t a first thought when it comes to choosing a WP theme. After all, we all like to think nothing will ever go wrong. But more often than not, it does. The less experience you personally have, the more you will have to rely on the customer support team.
In the case of Genesis, StudioPress developers are very responsive and quick to fix any problems on their side. They have been continuously praised for their professional approach and fast solutions. Here are the main things you get:
Installing and configuring – you get full support for installing the framework and all the assistance you need for configuring it correctly. The same goes for any plugins that StudioPress has created. They provide full support for a lifetime of use, no pay-per-month BS or anything like that.
Professional advice – they only hire WP professionals to work at their Help Desk. This doesn’t mean they can configure a theme for you. It does, however, mean that they can link you to tutorials, provide tips and troubleshooting suggestions, and advise you on the best practices even for plugins that they did not write. Essentially, StudioPress try to make your life as easy as possible, whether you’re a complete beginner or not.
There are still some things StudioPress can’t do for you. They will not get involved with coding PHP or CSS to help personalize your child theme. For obvious reasons, they can’t do much for third-party plugins (in that case, surprise-surprise, you would have to contact the company that made it). Where the Help Desk can’t do anything else, the forums come in:
Huge And Friendly Community
This is one of the most underestimated perks of using the Genesis WP framework:
When you pick a popular theme, you get the collective wisdom of all the people who have used it before you. The Genesis community is one of the largest on the Internet. Just check out their hashtags on Twitter if you need proof!
For most problems that you come across, somebody has already faced them. You will find endless tutorials on using and making the most of Genesis. There are forums and message boards with friendly people to help. You could also hire a freelance developer to help you – since Genesis is so popular, a lot of people can do the job and their prices are more than affordable.
The community of Genesis is a definite pro. And you will need them because here comes the biggest con (for beginners, at least):
Genesis WordPress Theme Review: Is It Hard To Use?
When I was researching for this Genesis WordPress theme review, I was surprised to find some very polar opinions. Sure, the framework is popular and well-loved. So why do all these people complain?
Apparently, Genesis has a reputation for being decidedly beginner-unfriendly. Since the main question of this article is if beginners should go for the Genesis theme… What do you have to know as a newbie?
Well, here goes:
Customizing Genesis Child Themes: Does It Have To Be Hell?
It doesn’t ‘have to’ but it often is.
Here is the thing: more often than not people want to customize their theme. There are great-looking child themes for Genesis. If you don’t like them as they come, you need CSS and PHP.
If you don’t know a thing about either, that’s a problem. A lot of beginners face that and they’re discouraged by how hard it seems.
Just as a quick recap:
It’s a scripting language for web development. To make your website interact with its’ user, you write the code in PHP. Customizing how the website functions involves PHP coding and learning about the Genesis framework hooks (they let you target a specific area of your website and work on its’ functionality).
Usually used with HTML, CSS describes the style of an HTML document. It tells the webpage what goes where. If you want to change how your website looks, you have to write it in .css. Well, you’d have to edit the already existing .css file.
If you needed these explanations, customization will be a problem for you.
Even with simple things like fonts and colours, your options will be limited. The options panel is tiny and if you want to make changes, you would have to deal with coding.
Genesis WordPress Theme Review: Can It All Be Drag-And-Drop?
In a perfect world, coding would just be for the people who get it. The rest of the world would be able to create stunning websites without knowing anything about programming.
We’re actually pretty close to that dream. But coding gives you the control that drag-and-drop can’t. The computer understands code (we don’t exactly write in that code but regardless). If you don’t learn its’ language, you rely on translators. People who can code create ways for you to control stuff without looking at the computer lingo behind it.
Ultimately, the only way to fully control your blog/website is through coding.
The good news is that this is neither neccessary, nor realistic for a beginner. There are ways to adapt a Genesis child theme without dealing with code. Let’s look at some of the more popular tools:
Beaver Builder is a page building software and it’s one of the most popular in the WordPress community. They boast over 100K sites!
It’s a paid plugin, which will cost you around $99 but provides drag-and-drop control over your website’s appearance. They have plenty of their own templates + one of the easiest text and image positioning systems on WP. And the site will be responsive on mobile, too.
As far as codeless customization goes, Beaver Builder is one of the better tools. The downside here is the cost – the plugin sets you back nearly as much as the entire Genesis plugin.
The Genesis Extender is a paid plugin that lets you add custom functionality and change up the appearance of any Genesis child theme. Once again, minimal coding and this one is a bit cheaper at $69.
Dynamik Website Builder
The same guys behind Genesis Extender also created Dynamik. What sets Dynamik apart is it’s not a plugin:
It’s a child theme.
What does that mean for you? You can create and even export your own theme, without having to pay Genesis for one. Sure, it’s $99 but you save up on the child theme so it winds up only raising your total investment by $60:
Instead of $60 for the Genesis framework + $40 for a child theme, you are paying $60 for the framework + $99 for Dynamik.
Sure, it’s pricier than just coding your own customizations. It’s still the most cost-effective code-free option for you. Of course, you could also:
Hire A Developer
For bigger changes or if you’re a complete beginner, consider hiring a professional. Except local specialists are not the ones to turn to. Look at cheap freelancing sites instead. Maybe not Fiverr (I wouldn’t trust a person I’m paying 5$ with my site) but UpWork or a similar platform.
A huge perk of the Genesis framework is its’ sheer popularity. You can find thousands of well-qualified developers to help you with customization. Shop around for the best deal. In some cases, it can turn out to be less expensive than paying for a plugin or a customizable child theme!
Or, of course, if you have some knowledge but zero experience, check out the tutorials or the advice you can find in forums. There are hundreds of high-quality tutorials for dealing with Genesis and DIY customization is not a bad way to learn to code. Bear in mind this is a riskier option but it’s educational and the cheapest.
Custom Homepage Templates
Many Genesis child themes come with a home.php template (or, sometimes, a front-page.php) template for making a landing page. You can still display your posts (like blog entries and such) on the front page. The catch is:
Sometimes, when you think you’re changing up the blog post pages, you’re really just changing the front page.
For instance, if you want to install a widget in the bottom area and put it in Home Bottom, it will only show up on the home page. It’s a common reason why beginners become frustrated with Genesis. Fortunately, it’s a very simple problem.
This is a matter of having a separate home page file. If the home page file is the problem what do we do? We take away the problem!
Not so fast!
Don’t actually delete the file. Just find it (it’s either called home.php or front-page.php) and rename it. Genesis will be looking for a home.php. If it’s now called home-alone.php, the framework will not be able to find it. Instead, it uses the default blog template and the missing widget problem is solved once and for all!
Where do I find this magical file? Try whatever file manager your hosting provider has. Hosting is literally about storing your files. You have access to them and can change/rename them at any time.
Genesis WordPress Theme Review: Should I Invest In A Child Theme?
Yes, you absolutely must use a child theme. Those child themes exist for a reason – they protect your design work from updates. So it’s not a matter of saving up cash. Genesis simply doesn’t work without a child theme. When you install it, a sample theme will automatically appear.
What is the best Genesis child theme?
There are tons of them! If there was just one “best” would that be the case?
No, but seriously:
The best Genesis theme is the one that best suits your site. If you are going to create multiple websites, consider getting the full-access package ($400 for all the child themes they have and any future themes that come out).
Otherwise, I’d say a great universal Genesis child theme is Parallax. It features a long vertical scrolling homepage and a 3D storm. The layout is clean and free of distractions. You can use it for a company website, an event, even a blog and it will look equally cool and professional.
For a more blogger-friendly child theme, consider the Magazine Pro Theme. There’s a reason why it’s one of their all-time most popular themes. The Magazine Pro is one of those themes where you have a home.php file though. The homepage is perfect for displaying content concisely and interactively for your visitors. Just remember that it’s there in case of any widget-related frustrations.
Finally, I dig Essence Pro and that’s what this very website runs on. It’s equally suitable for a business and a blog. Essence is clean and engaging plus the customization options are almost endless. You’ll find that the more neutral and simple a child theme is, the easier to suit to your exact needs. Essence is the definition of neutral and simple (but it’s not boring) and that is why I really enjoy using it.
Genesis WordPress Theme Review: The Verdict
The StudioPress flagship product is one of the most popular WP frameworks. There is a good reason for that….and no, that reason is not ‘because it just is, stop asking dumb questions’.
My final verdict on Genesis is:
It’s solid, and it can work for beginners (with the right plugins or the help of a developer!)
Here are my top reasons why recapped:
- Clean code up to the industry’s best standards
- You can update WordPress without losing your design, thanks to child themes.
- Not procrastinating updates means that now your site is safer and faster.
- Edit a child theme as much as you want – provided you use the right plugin/know CSS and PHP/hire a developer
- Great community
- Professional customer support, available at all times (and all the people at the Help Desk actually know their stuff and provide reliable advice)
- Inexpensive lifetime access, as opposed to paying a monthly or yearly fee
As a beginner, you should be aware of your limitations. You can still learn PHP and CSS (eventually). Meanwhile, you would have to find a way around that.
Since the whole coding aspect can get confusing, a lot of beginners avoid Genesis altogether. Don’t be one of them. If anything, as a beginner you want to start using what the professionals are using ASAP. This way you will learn (and yes, that involves stepping out of your comfort zone).
Genesis is great, try it out!
And, of course, don’t forget to share your own thoughts and experiences with the Genesis framework in the comments below…