If you’ve used WordPress for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of people use and recommend the Genesis framework from StudioPress. (If you haven’t noticed, just search for the #genesiswp hashtag on Twitter and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) I use Genesis for every single one of my own sites, as well as my clients’ sites, and so do all the other developers I know.
Every now and then a potential client will ask why I use Genesis instead of [insert theme or framework here]. They’ve seen all the rave reviews, but they want to know why Genesis is such a big deal. And while I’d like to respond, “Because it just is!” like a second grader, I know that isn’t necessarily helpful, especially to someone who is new to blogging and WordPress in general.
Here are just a few reasons I love the Genesis framework, as well as why I recommend it even for non-designers.
Why the Genesis Framework is Awesome
1. It’s well-coded and well-supported.
What that means: Genesis is maintained by a group of developers from StudioPress. The framework is consistently updated to reflect best practices for coding and is always compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Because of this, I never have to worry about whether updating to the latest version will break my site – I already know everything will be fine.
If I need help or run into problems with Genesis, I have a number of options. I can open a support ticket with StudioPress, start a thread in the support forums, or ask one of my designer friends. I can also do a Google search; since the Genesis community is full of awesome people, there are TONS of tutorials available for free.
What that means for you: If you use Genesis, you aren’t buying a theme from some random guy in Timbuktu who won’t answer your emails. You aren’t depending on updates from someone who says “I’ll get around to that in the next few months but I’m really busy with my day job right now.” The team at StudioPress is committed to keeping Genesis working exactly as it should and they aren’t going anywhere.
2. You can update without losing your customizations.
What that means: The Genesis framework uses child themes, which are like skins that sit on top of the framework to make your site look different. Instead of making changes to the framework itself, all customizations are made to the child theme.
What that means for you: Let’s say you install Genesis and a child theme, then make major changes to the child theme’s files. A week later, your WordPress dashboard tells you the Genesis framework is ready to be updated. Do you have to panic about whether the update will break your beautiful site? NOPE! You can always update the framework safely because your customizations are stored in the child theme’s files. Since Genesis child themes are more of a paint job, any functionality changes in the update won’t affect the way your site looks.
3. It’s inexpensive.
What that means: Some themes require users to pay a yearly (or monthly) fee for updates and support. With Genesis, I paid a one-time fee of $60 for the framework, guaranteeing access to it forever. Child themes are priced in the $20-$50 range, or the Developer Pro Pack (access to all 60+ current child themes as well as future child themes) is available for $400. Also, every Genesis purchase, whether it’s the framework or a child theme, includes a developer license.
What that means for you: It’s difficult to justify spending money on a website, especially if it’s new and/or isn’t making any money. For around $80, you can purchase the Genesis framework and a child theme, and you never have to spend another dime unless you want to. You’ll always be able to get support and access to the latest version of the framework without anyone asking you for more money. And the developer license means you can use the framework and any child themes you’ve purchased over and over again, on as many sites as you want.
4. The possibilities are endless.
What that means: Genesis can do anything. Want to add a widget to the bottom of each blog post? No problem! Want to put a slider on your homepage? You can do that, too. Absolutely anything you can see can be moved, changed, deleted, or reconfigured so that your site does exactly what you want. You can choose a different sidebar layout for different pages and posts, create new sidebars for different parts of your site, or even make a homepage full of nothing but widget areas where you can drag and drop content.
What that means for you: I won’t lie to you – Genesis isn’t exactly drag and drop. You won’t always have a handy page of checkboxes to change your font sizes or background colors (though that IS possible with a plugin like Genesis Design Palette Pro). However, with all the resources available online, whether directly from StudioPress or from various designers and developers, it’s never difficult to find a step-by-step tutorial for anything you want to do. But if you don’t want to do any customizing at all, Genesis offers over 60 child themes, making it easy to find one that looks good with no tweaking.
5. Genesis has a ton of features and dedicated plugins.
What that means: From built-in SEO settings to mobile responsive child themes, Genesis has all kinds of features right out of the box. (See this page on the StudioPress site for more details.) And if a feature isn’t included already, you can almost bet someone has created a plugin to integrate it. BobWP just posted an enormous list of Genesis-specific plugins that you should bookmark if you use Genesis – it’s a great resource!
What that means for you: You don’t have to use only Genesis plugins to use the Genesis framework – other WordPress plugins will still work like they always do. But you can also eliminate the need for a lot of plugins. For example, when I switched to Genesis, I used the free SEO Data Transporter plugin to take all my SEO information from the All in One SEO plugin and import it into Genesis. (That’s isn’t a requirement – I could have kept using All in One SEO if I’d wanted to.) Likewise, I no longer needed a plugin like WP Touch to make my site viewable on phones and tablets because my child theme is mobile responsive.
Basically, a lot of features that require outside plugins on other themes are already included as part of Genesis. And having access to dedicated plugins means you know they will work with your theme when you install it, so you can avoid installing 20 plugins before you find one that works correctly.
6. Once you know the framework, you know it.
What that means: Even though some child themes have different features than others, Genesis always works the same way. You don’t have to start learning all over again every time you buy a new child theme – once you get used to the way things are configured, you’re good to go.
What that means for you: Imagine that you set up a site with Genesis and you want to add a widget area to the bottom of your blog posts. You do a quick search and find a tutorial like this one from Dave and Erin. Then imagine that you start a new site with a different child theme and you want to do something similar. You can use that exact tutorial even though you’re using a different child theme because the site’s skeleton still uses the Genesis framework – no need to learn something else or reinvent the wheel.
Are you convinced yet?
As you can see, there are a multitude of reasons to use the Genesis framework, and you don’t have to be a designer or developer to benefit from them. While I still believe there is no substitute for a professional website, Genesis is a good starting point for designers, devs, and DIYers alike.