DIY Thesis Theme vs. Genesis vs. Solostream Review

DIY Thesis Theme Review Sucks

Okay, I’m not going to say that the Thesis theme for WordPress by DIY themes sucks… To be honest, the first WordPress theme that I ever used was Press Row (on a site) by Chris Pearson. Chris Pearson is a well-renowned and talented theme designer who’s also the creator of the Thesis theme framework.

However, I am having a hard time trying to figure out what all of the hype for this theme is based on. Read any review of the theme and you’ll be convinced that the Thesis theme is pretty much the hidden secret to creating a high-traffic WordPress powered blog. Well…Right before you click an affiliate link to buy the theme. At least you won’t be the only one since some websites suggest that DIY themes generates an estimated $2 million per year from selling Thesis for WordPress.

What you might not have noticed is that seemingly unbiased reviews of this theme have links with text like “Click here to find more about Thesis.” If you hover your mouse over the link you’ll probably see something like this:

Demo Link!

Affiliate link? I don’t see no affiliate link when I hover over that text. The reviewer’s just providing me with a helpful, unbiased review along with a useful link to buy thesis, right?

Well, no. The ‘unbiased’ reviewer actually is using a WordPress plugin called Go Codes to hide their affiliate id/link. You can download Go Codes from the WordPress plugin repository for free: Go Codes.

These days you see so many blogs/websites with the text “Powered by WordPress and Thesis” that you would almost think it’s a status symbol to have a blog powered by this theme. What’s funny is that most of these site have actually managed to even hide affiliate links in this theme footer text. Don’t believe me? Visit Michael Gray’s SEO Blog and hover your mouse over that text. What you’ll see is this:

Note: click here to visit Graywolf’s SEO blog to see for yourself

I guess this is part of my problem. Initially, I felt myself get caught up in all of the Thesis hype. I was curious about what was so damn great about this WordPress theme. On the other hand, I felt somewhat conflicted too. The spammy affiliate reviews of the theme annoyed me. Who knows what affiliate id I had hidden in my browser’s cache? Would I want to put 30% of $87 or about $26 in some venal affiliate marketers jeans for writing a biased review?


Thesis Theme Review:

Then I looked at the theme… Granted, I have seen some very good-looking sites that run on Thesis. However, like any professional-looking site, they’re designed by skilled web designers. In that case, it really doesn’t matter so much which framework you’re using if you spend the money to have a site custom designed. Yet the basic Thesis theme really doesn’t offer much except the ability to choose how many columns your want, what image your want in your rotating window, and which fonts you would like to use.

For a premium theme, you would probably expect some gradients, rounded corners, textures, PSD files, and maybe a slider. Perhaps something that looks more like this, but costs $37 less: demo1, demo2. From a design perspective, there’s really no question in my mind that the Thesis theme is the Emperor’s new clothes.

But wait, what about all of the great features included with Thesis like this:

“Insane new SEO controls and detail”

“With 1.7, you’ll be able to control the robots <meta> tags (noindex, nofollow, noarchive) on every post and page of your site…”

Just in case, you can’t sleep at night if you’re not adding noindex or nofollow tags to individual blog posts or pages on your website, you can download a copy of SEO Ultimate that will do this for free… And no, insane new SEO controls alone won’t get you much traffic without social media and traditional SEO optimization such as link building.

“Options Manager”

Well, most premium themes do have theme option pages and I’m not convinced that Thesis has more than most in terms of styling the theme.

“Easy 301 redirects for affiliates!”

You can download free WordPress plugins such as Go Codes to do this too. Most notably, you can use the Thesis easy 301 redirects to hide your affiliate codes to sell Thesis to visitors to your site.

“Pixel-perfect typography”

Pixel-perfect typography is nearly as legendary of nonsense marketing term as Corinthian leather! Who wouldn’t want pixel-perfect typography? What does it actually mean? Is it even true?

Easy to customize?

To customize the theme, you have to learn thesis-hooks in addition to basic php, CSS, and HTML. It’s an added layer of complexity which will probably force you to hire a web-design firm that works with Thesis in order to achieve the desired appearance that you’re looking for. However, you just might be able to find a Thesis skin that you like for another $50 or more…

Free version of Thesis?

Okay, so I haven’t deterred you yet from buying a copy of Thesis? You’re convinced that you want to pay for a theme that looks like it was designed before 2007? Okay, well how about a free copy of Chris Pearson’s Neoclassical theme which looks eerily similar to Thesis? Don’t believe me? Click here for a free Thesis look-alike.

Final thoughts about Thesis?

I’ve never actually tried the Thesis theme, which for most would instantly discount my thoughts on the Thesis Theme Framework.  I wanted Thesis to be the answer to my all of my SEO problems… I wanted Thesis to be the elusive WordPress Theme that would do everything that I ever wanted with ease…  Maybe I’m just venting at the disconnect between the perception I initially had about this theme and the disappointment that I’ve experience from not seeing it live up to its hype.

Have you tried Thesis?  Am I dead wrong about it being the Emperor’s new clothes?

Update:  December 2011:

As an update to the above, I have subsequently tried the Thesis by DIY Themes.  Again, I still think that there’s a disconnect between the theme’s marketing pitch and the product.  While the coding is pretty clean and efficient, Thesis is primarily designed for the DIY’er.  By that I mean someone who’s amply able to customize their site by editing .CSS etc.  Alternately, there’s a now a number of quality Thesis Skins available including those by Hesham Zebeida from Famous Bloggers at Make Thesis Awesome (NOT-affiliate link).  It’s simply not a good choice, however, for those who want an easy to customize theme right out of the box.


This post was written by a guest author and edited by Hive Health Media Staff. If you would like to submit health or fitness news, click here.

48 thoughts on “DIY Thesis Theme vs. Genesis vs. Solostream Review

  • July 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    So far, I’m not impressed with Solostream themes. Bland and confusing admin setup. I’ve been working with and developing WP themes for 5 years now and a lot of this stuff is garbage.

    • July 13, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Ben, when we first launched this site, it was running off a hybrid child theme that I coded myself. We then switched to Solostream. After a year or so, we had Hesham from Famous Bloggers build us a custom theme based on Genesis. Just over the past few months, we refreshed the site with a theme that we purchased from Themeforest. We wanted a more current look with the floating menubar and slider replaced with the image collage.
      That being said, the interface for Solostream was pretty good. Better than the option page for Genesis and very easy to use for the average WordPress user.

  • January 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I recently bought Thesis 2.0, and it was my first puchase of a wordpress theme, my having only used free themes in the past. It is a huge learning experience and a lot of work. I have yet to find a review that wasn’t trying to sell some sort of theme using affiliate links. (including this one) I am still trying to get my site to look the way I want it to, but I haven’t yet been totally UNABLE to do something with my site that I wanted to do, so in that regard I think this theme offers me more flexibility than every free theme I have tried. I am not regretting my purchase.

  • February 10, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Valid points you are sharing here. A blog is a very powerful platform you can use to build long-lasting relationships with your readers and keep them coming back for more. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • October 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Hey, everyone.

    I use Thesis and I will most likely continue to do so. For me, it’s simple.

    1. To each his own – I like Thesis more than any other themes I have used. I have not used an incredible amount of themes but why should I? I’m not going to spend my “cyber life” searching for themes. It’s an area to evaluate periodically… not continuously.

    2. Though I love blogging and playing around online, I do consider myself an internet marketer. Therefore, no matter what products I use, I will promote them because I stand behind them. Just because you don’t believe the Thesis hype doesn’t mean I am doing something wrong by promoting it. That’s like saying that Tide is doing something wrong by making various claims about its laundry detergent. It’s business… that’s how it works.

    3. Thesis doesn’t come out of the box ready to please site visitors. Damn… it’s pretty ugly and boring. THAT was a personal challenge to me and it caused me to learn a LOT more about web development. I appreciate Thesis for that and I would appreciate any theme that did that for me.

    Really, this is all just a matter of perspective. No one is doing anything wrong by promoting Thesis.

    I do, however, appreciate this article. It’s genius. I would assume it’s one of your most popular articles? I wish I had the balls to go “against the blogosphere grain” like this. Smart blogger here.

  • September 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I recently bought the Thesis theme, and I’m NOT very tech oriented. I’m using it, and learning, but it’s *not* super easy and I don’t know why they make the claims about not needing to know code. I was using the free suffusion WordPress theme before and that was MUCH less code intensive. I don’t know anything about the “back end” of these things, but my experience so far is that for what I, a fairly tech illiterate person, can do with Thesis I probably would have been better off sticking with my free theme.
    Oh well, live and learn!

  • September 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm


    I am a Thesis user… hehe – it’s like the opening to a 12 steps program – but that’s the truth and I’ve also tried numerous other GPL (Once you have parted with cash) themes and like Wendy, I am sick and tired of being burned by so-called ‘professional themes that comply with the WordPress standards’. Please excuse me for a moment while I curse the **** **** b*stards – honestly – they are mainly made of 100% sh*t! A total waste of time and money! I have not tried theme Hybrid although I do use Justin’s Members plugin and like it a lot – maybe I will give it a whirl one day but I’ve been burned that many times I am very reluctant to part with any cash to any theme designer ever again! Note: the _only_ theme I do not feel short-changed by is Thesis – worth every penny 100 times over.

    Why do I like Thesis?

    If I have a design, I can make it rock in Thesis in a few hours. I’ve completely rebuilt sites in an afternoon with Thesis. Yes the learning curve is slightly inclined, but the rewards come in waves. Thesis is powerful! It regularly saves me HOURS of time. Over and over again! My clients love me for it because their bills are less and their sites look and function as they should.

    I can open the content editing interface to my clients, close off the bits they don’t need to see and have them editing content/metadata to their hearts content in a couple of hours. Nothing much more than it would take them to learn how to use WordPress itself, Thesis integration is seamless.

    I know a Thesis site will work in every modern browser including mobile devices without a big todo – unless I step out of the ring – granted it takes a bit to know where that line is. But again, hours saved testing, I know I don’t need to because I’ve started on the right foot and every single element is already tested and safe. I _know_ it will be right, and every time I do check, it is _always_ spot on!

    SEO can be done with other plugins yes, that’s absolutely fine, take your pick, either way, the Thesis SEO works and is easy to use. A little bonus – but certainly not what I paid for.

    Most of all, I paid for the Typography. When was the last time anyone came to you and said wow – your website’s typography is beautiful? I get that every time I launch a site because Thesis does make beautiful typography easy. The content is easy to read and it looks amazing! I guess this will be completely lost on a lot of folks, but such is life. I don’t doubt that subconsciously they will enjoy reading well laid out typography more, even if they never acknowledge that ;-)

    As for the affiliate marketing, hmmm, I don’t like it either, but DIYThemes are hardly alone here. There’s more of it? There’s lots more sites powered by it? Erm, maybe it does actually work and it’s not all hype then hey!?

    I don’t often make comments on blog posts, but I found the notion that someone would make a challenging post, with a high probability of a negative reaction about something they clearly know nothing about, a little too much to bear in silence. For what t’s worth, I think you are dead wrong and Thesis is not the Emporers new clothes (Perhaps a highly functional, flexible utility suit in beige but all to willing to adorn itself in whatever style you see fit? hmm perhaps that’s a bit Howard Moon!)

    Obviously you, and everyone else here, are entitled to your opinions, but honestly, the childish lashings out at affiliate marketers hyperboles one tiny aspect of the culture behind this amazing theme. Yes they are idiots, but there are idiots everywhere you look! Ignore them like we all ignore any and all advertising – to do anything else just encourages them (Damn, why am I writing this post?)

    I could go on, but I’ve probably said enough and despite appearances I’m not looking for a fight… here’s one last suggestion; buy Thesis, give yourself the 30 days within which you can have a no-quibble refund and rebuild one of your sites in it. When I think of using another theme, my heart sinks, and I wouldn’t mind betting you end up feeling the same ;-)

    By the way, I’m not upset, just feeling rather sorry for you in that you’re missing out.

    I *heart* Thesis :)

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Mungo, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Since writing this post, I’ve subsequently tried both Thesis and Genesis.

      With Genesis which I’m currently playing with, the built-in-Seo features really are not nearly as good as the current iteration of SEO ultimate. The same could be said for thesis. Overall, I’m not really a fan of built in seo and think it’s only bundled in so both companies can make marketing claims about SEO optimization for their themes, etc.

      As for your opinions on Thesis, I can appreciate that the user experience for Thesis, Genesis, or Hybrid is vastly different for people with the technical acumen to customize themes themselves. In that case, I don’t personally see an appreciable difference between the three aforementioned frameworks for those who’re going to design and code their own sites other than the reality that it’s easier to stick to one than switch back and forth.

      Most bloggers I know who’re “non-techies” for example, don’t have a clue how to even modify a .css file with Firebug. In that case, this type of user is probably going to have a miserable experience with any of these frameworks unless they have their site setup and built by someone.

      In contrast, there are plenty of themes available–including Solostream, that a basic WordPress user can setup and customize themselves with zero technical experience. In the end, it’s a matter of the consumer being aware of what they’re looking for and whether or not they’re a DIY’er.

  • August 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you, people who review thesis are selling the theme at the same time. Thus it’s hard to call their review is unbiased. And the SEO parts Thesis offers can be achieved with plugins or modifying our theme code.

  • July 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I am in the process of redoing my site. I have used Thesis in the past and like some who have commented here, feel that there are so many more themes these days that look great and have lots of nice options built in. But alas, those that I have tried always had some unwelcome surprise. And sometimes you do not realize what that will be until you have fully loaded it with content or enough posts or performed searches after it goes live. For example, I have a recently used the Dandelion theme and noticed that blog posts when viewed on subsequent pages (page 2, page 3) will show up on Google SERPs as blog/page-2 or blog/page-3-YUK! I probably don’t have the best process and am not a php guru, so I don’t know how to fix this. I simply accept that it is part of the theme. I would like to try a different theme for my new site but in the end, I think I will be using Thesis once again. For me it is a matter of trust. When I validate my code and find errors or perform a search and get weird results, I KNOW that it is either something I did or a plugin that I added. I like clean code. It’s just the way I roll and I trust that Thesis is clean and semantically sound and produces good SEO results if properly utilized. Are there other themes out there that would compare? Probably, but I have yet to find it. Tired of getting burned.

    @Armen – I had similar issues with regard to post thumbs and at least on one site, I accidentally got it working the way intended ( Tiny thumbs are automatically generated for the teasers on the home page. I’m not sure why it works. I use the Thesis Post Image field but leave the Thumbnail Image field blank. I think thumbs are one of the most confusing of all things in WP (and Thesis). WP has a specific set of instructions for thumbs too. I think you need to add a function to make them work. Just Google it.

  • July 5, 2011 at 4:32 am

    I bought thesis just over a month ago. I haven’t had chance to really get to know it yet but it looks like there is a lot to learn to be able to customise it to do what I want.

  • April 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Great blog, I’m going to spend more time learning about this subject

  • February 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Great post and I’m totally convinced the point highlighted by you.
    Thesis may be the best theme in past but now there are hundreds of theme offering same kind of functionality some are also free but they don’t have design options :| this is what beginner wants I will never buy thesis

  • February 23, 2011 at 12:42 am

    I’m no savvy developer, but I’ve been using Thesis for my wife’s site (see link above) for two and a half years now.

    There’s much I like about it. But, there are also things I hate about it, like how you can’t get plugins with thumbnails to work because Thesis handles thumbnails differently to WordPress.

    Some other things are inherently confusing because the approach is so different to the norm (like creating templates).

    At the start I was deeply frustrated by the whole experience. Once I got it working and didn’t have to touch it, I relaxed. But, every so often I have to do something and Thesis just makes it harder for me to achieve, when it should be making things simpler.

  • December 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Well, after reading the article and all of the comments above. This is something where my hope ends “I’ve never actually tried the Thesis theme” for saying anything about Thesis.
    I have seen newbies playing well with Thesis. It’s just their sense of understanding the Theme Options, their choice of font and color scheme which have helped them do that.
    It’s simply a matter of choice, some people like Thesis because they know its capabilities while some people don’t because they would prefer buying a good looking theme which costs less and is easier to use as they don’t need to tweak it their way. The designer of theme has prepared soup ready to be served. Now, it’s the buyer’s choice to go for “ready to cook” or buy “cooked” soup. :)

    • January 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      Puneet, newbies can play with Thesis for one reason, tons of tutorials allover the internet! if not.. I doubt they would even can manage it or like it as it’s a framework that needs some experience!

      • January 5, 2011 at 5:25 am

        Hey Hesham, I love your Thesis skins over at Thesis Awesome! The most recent iteration with the new theme options panel should be a big hit!

  • November 19, 2010 at 5:20 am

    If you’re someone who can’t code, Genesis is leaps and bounds behind Thesis as it really doesn’t offer you any design options at all.

  • September 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm


    “you need a “framework” to change the width of a container? Really?”

    I agree that this shouldn’t be a problem.

  • September 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    @Gee, I myself have never used the Headway theme, so I can’t really comment as to why it might be inefficient. Some people have argued that any theme that runs on a theme framework is less efficient than individual themes since it adds complexity and coding bulk.

    Also, themes that have extensive option panels can be less efficient which may slow down their page load times somewhat. It’s the price you pay for ease of use and convenience.

  • September 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    From Dave:

    “1. Thesis is a framework – this means it can be used to develop ‘child themes’ without hacking the core (like you would have to do with Kubrick or 2010).”

    What’s a child theme? Just kidding… Yes, I am well-aware of WordPress theme frameworks and child themes.

    “2. Thesis is wildly customizable if you know what you’re doing, and simple enough to make a good looking site with even if you don’t.”

    That Thesis is customizable is a valid point though I’m not sure I am convinced of the latter point.

    “3. Thesis eliminates the need for quite a few plugins. Plugins slow websites down, add a bunch of clutter and need to be updated regularly.”

    That’s true to an extent, though some would argue that Thesis does’t play very well with WordPress including Chris Pearson’s former partner, Brian Clarke.

    “Thesis has had a lot of bad press lately, partly due to Chris Pearson opening his mouth before thinking, but mostly because Matt Mullenweg seems to have a personal vendetta against him. Most likely this is because Chris has made more money from Thesis than Matt has from WordPress, and he doesn’t like to play by the ‘rules’.”

    This is probably the one point that I would disagree with you on quite vehemently about. I’m not sure who’s made more money, but you do presume that’s Matt’s motivation.

    I don’t know the specifics of Matt’s ownership of or Automatic, but I don’t think Chris can sell enough Thesis themes in his life to come close to some of the recent offers for either.

    “Perhaps a bit more research before you post in future?”

    This post was intended to stimulate discussion and debate and it did just that. Aside from that, it was to raise the issue of ‘unbiased’ Thesis theme reviews by Thesis affiliates and hidden affiliate links.

    If this post pretended to be a thesis theme review itself, then you might have a point.

    • September 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      Thesis doesn’t play well with WordPress? Really? How so?

      I’ve yet to see someone expound on this point. Conversely, I’ve seen a lot of folks blindly repeating what MM and Brian Clark have said. Neither of them have taken the time to explain what they mean. I’m very curious since I don’t really see the conflict other than Thesis doesn’t use child themes (and that’s really a moot point since Thesis provides an alternative that works just as well).

      Also, doing research is a pre-requisite for responsible web publishing regardless of your intentions. Otherwise you’re spreading just as much information as the apparently ill-to-do affiliates you’re railing on.

      • September 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

        Adam, thanks for your feedback.

        If you can find any inaccurate information in the article itself or provided by anyone comment section, feel free to identify the inaccurate information and provide information to the contrary. We’ll be happy to make any corrections you can support and deem necessary.

        We seem to get a fair amount of feedback on this article and I’m not quite sure many of the people have actually read the article very carefully. Dave himself provided some fine edification about thesis being a framework as his first comment which was something referred to several times in the article already.

        I’ve openly acknowledged in the content and comment section of this article that I’ve seen some great looking Thesis skins or customizations. If you want me to expound on this point, I would include the Blogussion skin, skins done Shout Me Loud, as well as the skins done by Famous Bloggers among others.

        I still think that the base Thesis theme has a dated appearance and isn’t particularly very easy to customize. Is that a opinion? Sure.

        If I missed the memo that was sent out last week banning bloggers from offering their non-defamatory opinion about something, let me know. ;)

        In my previous comment, I did offer the counter point that “some would argue that thesis doesn’t play well with WordPress.” If you want support for that statement, you can read more in the Brian Clarke Interview which it sounds like you’ve already read.

        Again, it’s a question of semantics, but if I had made that statement myself, I would be more inclined to take the time to elaborate.

        • September 7, 2010 at 6:27 am

          You aren’t so much inaccurate as you are uninformed. I saw this only because you haven’t used the theme and you’re presenting most of this as opinion. Yet, you haven’t purchased Thesis or ever used it as far as I can tell, and you’re making statements about what it does and does not do??? That’s got me confused.

          A few points of completely obvious misinformation:

          1. Theme options

          Thesis has more design options than any other framework. Its possible to create something that looks completely different from the standard Thesis layout without touching code (yes it really is). You can control font, font size, and font color of almost every piece of text on your site.

          This is a comment so I won’t go further than that, but sufficive to say that Thesis has the most detailed design options of any Theme I’ve used…save for maybe Headway, but Headway is completely inefficient so its irrelevant.

          2. Typography

          Pixel-perfect typography may be a marketing term, but there is such a thing as perfect typography. People will tell you its a matter of opinion…that’s absolutely terrible information.

          There are absolute scientific facts about the way the human eye digests information. Things like contrast, space, and textual hierarchy make a huge difference in how likely someone is to actually read your entire post. Thesis does all of these things extremely well. Most wordpress themes I’ve seen fail miserably here.

          3. Free version of Thesis

          Seriously? C’mon dude. That’s just plain silly.

          That theme is nothing like Thesis other than in appearance. People don’t buy Thesis because of its appearance. They buy it for its capabilities. You won’t find one single piece of marketing directed towards Thesis on DIY Themes or from any affiliate marketing the out of the box appearance of Thesis. Its about the capability. That’s obvious even from your own review.

          4. Plugins

          I will agree that most of Thesis’ SEO capability along with a handful of other less significant features (like 301’s) can be handled by third party plugins. However, like Dave said, plugins are a drag on your sites performance. This is true regardless of which plugin you’re talking about. Some are better than others, but EVERY plugin slows down your site just by the simple nature of the way that WordPress loads plugin functionality versus functionality that’s built into your theme. There are a million other reasons not to use plugins, but that should suffice.

          • September 7, 2010 at 9:12 am


            To be fair here, the tongue-in-cheek tone of this article or playful sarcasm can be lost or might not come across in the written word. Secondly, I openly acknowledged that I hadn’t tried the framework and solicited reader feedback with the question of whether or not the Thesis is ‘overhyped.’

            I guess that I’m forgetting that Chris Pearson is one of the top 3 people in WordPress, right? ;) Where are my manners?

            I also realize that this post polarizes people and seems to generally annoy Thesis lovers which is why it’s still generating comments even though I wrote it in June.

            Re: Free version:

            “Seriously? C’mon dude. That’s just plain silly.”

            Reading between the lines, I pointed out the appearance similarity with Chris’ Neoclassical theme to make a point. The base version of Thesis looks dated and plain compared to say the base version of Genesis or many other themes.

            Without buying a Thesis skin, do you think the average user who can’t code would be satisfied with their Thesis modification? Or to put it better, do you think the base version of Thesis sans a premium skin as modified by a non-coder, would have the features or look comparable to a Genesis Child theme, RocketTheme, Woo Theme, Solostream theme, or other premium theme?

            I can write .CSS, .HTML, and some PhP, though I generally lack much in the way of design flair. That aside, I personally know plenty of average WordPress users that do buy Thesis and currently use it.

            Average users typically end up with the off the shelf appearance of the theme (NeoClassical look) unless they pay a designer or buy a Thesis skin.

            Also, several people I know who’ve purchased the theme don’t really know much about SEO (off-page vs. on-page for example) and assume that Thesis will do something magical (by misinterpreting the SEO Hype) for their blog’s traffic. It won’t.

            Off page SEO factors are generally regarded as of greater importance by SEO Moz than On-page.

            Even with on-page SEO’s importance, Thesis SEO options or an SEO plugin can’t yet do the thinking for you. If a person doesn’t know about how to write a title tag or look for keyword phrases that suit their blog, write meta descriptions or optimize internal linking or keyword density, it’s not going to have the impact that some expect.

            As I noted in a comment above, I think some built-in plugins are more valuable than others. Many premium themes do include built-in SEO options which I think is a bad idea. For people that end up changing themes or in this case frameworks, they will lose all of their customizations when they switch.

            I do agree that adding plugins can obviously add bulk and slow down the performance of websites. I would argue that having built-in SEO options for any theme could have the opposite effect for those that prefer to use a plugin instead (adds bulk that doesn’t get used).

            If you negate the value of having built-in SEO options, acknowledge that thesis may have some built-in features that reduce plugin usage, you can still consider that many people like having a slider. I’ve see plenty of Thesis powered sites that use a plugin for the slider, while many other themes have this feature included already.

            Keep in mind, this blog is a health and fitness site, not PSD Tuts or Noupe, so I’ve written to our target audience accordingly.

            I’ve never criticized Thesis as a framework. I think I’ve made the same points consistently. For the average WordPress user, if they’re looking to buy Thesis and hire a designer or buy a premium Thesis skin, sure they can get a blog that will run well and look great. I’ve never argued against that fact. Though if they are going to hire a designer, they could probably achieve the same desired effect with the Genesis or Hybrid Frameworks too.

            Even still, I’ve tried to address the marketing hype and potentially biased affiliate reviews, and encourage feedback from both perspectives.

          • September 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

            I’m planning to get a Headway theme. Could elaborate why you said that it’s inefficient? I’m a non-coder so the virtual editor option seems to be winning me over. Thanks!

      • September 6, 2010 at 9:45 pm

        Hey Adam, I took a look at some of your work. Your Art of Blog design does have a nice clean look. I’d be curious to know what you think would be different if you tried to create a similar site using the Genesis or Hybrid Theme frameworks?

        • September 7, 2010 at 5:59 am

          I’ve used Genesis a fair amount, and I do enjoy it. As a developer, it doesn’t offer the same amount of extensibility as Thesis, but its pretty close.

          If you’re someone who can’t code, Genesis is leaps and bounds behind Thesis as it really doesn’t offer you any design options at all.

          As for the AoB design specifically, it would be a pain to do the fullwidth header and footer in Genesis as they don’t offer an HTML framework with fullwidth properties (which is completely inexplicable).

          If you want to know if I think its possible to create a clean design with Genesis…yes, absolutely. It takes a bit more work, but its an extensible framework with an extremely efficient core. I’ve actually written a detailed comparison of Thesis 1.8 and Genesis 1.3 on Art of Blog that’s being published later today.

          I can’t really speak for Hybrid as I’ve used it sparingly.

          • September 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

            Come on Adam. Full width with Genesis is a pain because of no framework?

            you need a “framework” to change the width of a container? Really?

          • September 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm

            Sure I can…its just a pain that I don’t have to deal with using Thesis.

  • September 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Here are a few truths about Thesis you wouldn’t have a clue about having never used it:

    1. Thesis is a framework – this means it can be used to develop ‘child themes’ without hacking the core (like you would have to do with Kubrick or 2010).

    2. Thesis is wildly customizable if you know what you’re doing, and simple enough to make a good looking site with even if you don’t.

    3. Thesis eliminates the need for quite a few plugins. Plugins slow websites down, add a bunch of clutter and need to be updated regularly.

    4. Thesis has an amazing support community. When I started working with it I knew nothing. In a little over a year I’ve learned, with the help of the Thesis forums, to earn a living coding custom Thesis themes. In contrast, leave a newbie question on the WordPress forums and you’ll be shot down in flames.

    Thesis has had a lot of bad press lately, partly due to Chris Pearson opening his mouth before thinking, but mostly because Matt Mullenweg seems to have a personal vendetta against him. Most likely this is because Chris has made more money from Thesis than Matt has from WordPress, and he doesn’t like to play by the ‘rules’.

    Perhaps a bit more research before you post in future?

    • September 6, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      One problem with Thesis and other frameworks that include SEO options for posts including the Genesis Framework as well as others, is that most people eventually change their Theme or Theme Framework. If you switch from Thesis to StudioPress, for example, you would end up losing all of your Tittle tag and Meta data customizations etc. For this reason, I personally would prefer to use an SEO plugin to manage this information.

      • September 7, 2010 at 6:05 am

        This isn’t accurate.

        You can transport your data from Thesis, Genesis, etc. to any compatible theme or to most of the popular plugins for on page SEO. Check it.

        • September 12, 2010 at 7:03 pm

          Adam, thanks for the head’s up! I wasn’t previously aware of that plugin from StudioPress. Have you tried it before–does it work well?

          I would still probably prefer to use a plugin for managing SEO which makes switching themes easier, but it would be very useful for most people.

          • September 26, 2010 at 9:24 pm

            I have used the plugin by the guys at StudioPress, Nathan Rice I think is mainly responsible for it, and it works like a charm. I like having my SEO incorporated within my theme to lower the number of plugins for my sites.

          • September 26, 2010 at 10:04 pm

            Jason, I wasn’t aware of this plugin before, but it sounds great. You’re right, it’s nice to be able to reduce plugin usage. Hearing that it works well changes my opinion on blog themes with integrated SEO features–provided they’re compatible.

    • December 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      I usually don’t comment but your post compelled me to do so! (P.S currently I am using thesis too! and not satisfied with it – and I am a professional coder)

      Few words for your points:

      1. If we have to know programming enough to create “child theme” then why not create the main theme ourselves? why bother about a framework for a general blog! ?

      2. If you know what you’re doing, wp themes are simple enough to be created from scratch too . . .

      3. dude! please forgive me if i’m wrong, but are you a programmer? what’s the difference in plugins as seperate entity installed in your wp and the same code running inside theme’s files? they slow the site equally

      4. on the contrary, I have been active on wp forums myself too, and have found answers to alot of my questions too there . .

      other than that, the issue that once you remove the theme, you lose your custom data / plugin stuff, which can be moved to only “compatible” theme is not a good idea imho!

      I decided to write a review about thesis while writing this comment! :D it’s not “anti thesis” but not in favor too, with NO affiliate link :D here:

  • September 4, 2010 at 6:24 am

    The main reason to avoid Thesis is because Chris Pearson is such a ginormous tool.

  • August 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Emperor’s new clothes indeed and I was almost caught with my pants down!

    Thank you for your unbiased review and thought provoking insights. I was about to hit the paypal button but had a nagging suspicion about the credibility of all the “rave” reviews. I am now certain that the financial gains through the affiliate program are driving the hype. Shame on all those bloggers who have sold their integrity for a buck.

    I’ll be following your blog from now on.

    • August 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Hi Sari, thanks for your thoughts and feedback. The Thesis Theme is not a bad framework, but many of the reviews by affiliates seem to hype up the product to make a buck.

      A lot of consumers aren’t aware of affiliate links or how to spot them. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has new regulations for disclosure regarding any type of affiliate program promoted on the Internet. Some people comply with these regulations better than others.

  • August 7, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I bought it because I liked the simple looking layout but after working with it I totally agree that it’s more hype than anything else. There has been more time spent coding the form filler than anything else.

    That’s why I switched over to themes by Justin Tadlock … where more of his time is spent producing a great framework and functional add ons … all for free.

    • August 7, 2010 at 7:17 pm

      Lisa, one of the things with Thesis themes that I have to admit is that I’ve seen some really great looking Thesis customizations. However, that’s more a reflection of the talent of the designers making the Thesis skins that anything else. It’s almost entirely just from adapting a great-looking Photoshop PSD template to Thesis.

      Justin Tadlock has to be a genius. Not only does he code a great Theme Framework–Hybrid, but he has made some very useful plugins that some may not have heard of yet. I’m a Hybrid Theme Club member, and twice now, I’ve gone looking for a specific plugin, then found it’s already been made by Justin like his Members plugin or the query post plugin.

      Justin Tadlock, Tung Do (small potato), and others are collaborating on DevPress which is pretty exciting. I haven’t heard any recent updates since their announcement, but I’m looking forward to it.

  • July 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    If you actually learn how to code, you can make Thesis look/do about anything you want. And to try to re-circulate this poorly written article AFTER the WordPress vs. Thesis feud is as ridiculous as this review.

    • July 17, 2010 at 7:43 pm


      “If you actually learn how to code, you can make Thesis look/do about anything you want.”

      Couldn’t the same be argued about pretty much any theme including the old Kubrick theme ?” What’s your point?

      Well, at least you don’t hide the affiliate link in the “Powered by Thesis” link on your site. Or maybe you haven’t figured out how to use the easy 301 redirects yet. I can’t imagine a more objective review that one coming from a Thesis affiliate like yourself.

      “And to try to re-circulate this poorly written article AFTER the WordPress vs. Thesis feud is as ridiculous as this review.”

      I might be wrong, but to my understanding the Thesis vs. WordPress issue has been an issue for much longer than the recent publicity. How long has Thesis been violating the spirit of WordPress’ GPL license? Other than that, everyone is entitled to their opinion. That being said, if you have something else to say, make it more constructive or I probably won’t bother accepting it here.

  • July 17, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Kimberly, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I did briefly try the Atahulupa theme at one point and it does offer a dizzying array of Theme Options which is pretty impressive for a free theme. For most users, they like the convenience of having a theme options panel to make their customizations.

    There are also a number of great theme frameworks which in some cases are a choice for more advanced WordPress users. Some don’t have the convenient theme options panel, but require CSS edits to customize the themes like Theme Hybrid or Thematic. Here’s a recent article that covers some recent WordPress theme frameworks at Six Revisions:

    This site runs on the Hybrid Theme Framework which is a great choice among theme frameworks.

    One of the first themes that I tried was the Arras theme which has a good support forum and is a pretty good magazine-style theme that’s free. I also use a Rocket Theme on one of my Joomla powered sites.

    As far as I know, Solostream complies with GPL and I think that they have some great looking theme designs.

    The DIY Themes issue with WordPress/Matt Mullenweg has been going on for a while, but has intensified with the recent online discussion between Matt and Chris Pearson. I’m sure the #thesiswp hashtag is close to trending popular on twitter by now. :)

    I personally can’t see how Chris’ position with the GPL issue or the recent publicity from his lack of compliance with it could be good for business. Matt even offered to switch his own personal site over to Thesis ( if Chris complied with the GPL. The other holdout on the GPL license issue was Headway Themes.

    Headway Themes recently went GPL from Matt’s twitter:

    “”Contrats to @GrantGriffiths and @ClayGriffiths on making the Headway WordPress Theme GPL compliant. cc: @photomatt”

    Well, it will be interesting to see what happens with the Thesis / WordPress issue.

  • July 17, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Terrific approach and on target.

    Thesis theme has been a farce with strong backing from respected easier to believe, and therefore has made a lot of money and secured following. Uncalled for hype? yup.

    News flash: Thesis theme’s Chris Pearson may be facing charges by the WordPress leaders for violation of the GPL licensing which clearly states that anyone utilizing WordPress is obligated to distribute their work under the GPL license, which Chris blatantly is in violation of. Chris Pearson shared an interview with Matt Mullenweg of WordPress, giving Chris an oppotunity to put his arrogance on display for the world to see and drag all of his followers/supporters down in the mud with him. Andy Beard posted the interview and it’s a must see.

    Thanks for not being a follower in this post. Thinking for yourself is goood & the suggestions you made for alternatives are definitely worth considering. Atahualupa is my personal fav, free, customizable, SEO friendly theme..also in accord with GPL. ;-)

    • July 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

      I have come accross many Thesis reviews which can be misleading. Yes it is easy to customise Thesis and really do anything with but there is a learning curve and patience is required.

      It is difficult to say whether all that learning is worth it when you can go for other Themes that make it really easy to create beautiful looking websites. From my experience I find Thesis run websites more engaging, there is that something extra in Typography and perhaps a bit of an edge in SEO


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