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Thesis vs Genesis – Comparing Premium WordPress Themes

Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of working on my first website using the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. I say pleasure because it happened to be my husband’s new photography site, and it was the first theme he’s chosen that didn’t lead me to using a string of obscenities that might actually shock people who regularly watch HBO.

JH Photography

His previous choices of themes have included several from ThemeForest, and I must say that while they did have beautiful designs, they also had some of the worst set of installation and setup instructions I have ever seen. These led to the previously mentioned string of obscenities, but I digress.

One thing I found very exciting about working on his site was that I got to know the Genesis Framework a bit better. I have seen a lot of well-known bloggers make the switch from Thesis to Genesis since it was released, so I have been curious what the fuss is about.

Thesis vs Genesis

Over the last few months, I’ve been asked what I thought of both themes, and now that I’ve had a bit of experience with both, I thought I’d share the head-to-head comparison of both frameworks.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of working on my first website using the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. I say pleasure because it happened to be my husband’s new photography site, and it was the first theme he’s chosen that didn’t lead me to using a string of obscenities that might actually shock people who regularly watch HBO.

JH Photography

His previous choices of themes have included several from ThemeForest, and I must say that while they did have beautiful designs, they also had some of the worst set of installation and setup instructions I have ever seen. These led to the previously mentioned string of obscenities, but I digress.

One thing I found very exciting about working on his site was that I got to know the Genesis Framework a bit better. I have seen a lot of well-known bloggers make the switch from Thesis to Genesis since it was released, so I have been curious what the fuss is about.

Thesis vs Genesis

Over the last few months, I’ve been asked what I thought of both themes, and now that I’ve had a bit of experience with both, I thought I’d share the head-to-head comparison of both frameworks.

Since it’s a lengthy post (and yes, links to themes & skins are affiliates because I recommend them all), I added some little jump tags throughout it so you can see the sections you want to know about quickly. Enjoy!

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Pricing

Let’s start with pricing, because that is usually the make or break point when it comes to purchasing a premium WordPress theme.

 Thesis by DIYThemes  Genesis by StudioPress
 Personal  Developers  Framework  Theme + Framework  Pro Plus
 $87  $164  $59.95  $79.97  $349.95

Each of the above options / packages include the following:

Thesis Options

  • Personal Option – This option allows you to use the Thesis framework on one live website and one localized development server.
  • Developer’s Option – This option allows you to use the Thesis framework on an unlimited number of sites that you or your business owns. If you want to use the Thesis framework for client work, you must pay an additional $40 per client site ($36 per client site if you purchase 5 licenses or $32 per client site if you purchase 10 licenses).

Both the Personal and Developer’s Options include lifetime access to the DIYthemes support forums, answers center, and lifetime upgrades.

Genesis Options

  • Genesis Framework – This option allows you to use the basic Genesis Framework on an unlimited number of websites, whether they are for you or for a client.
  • Theme + Genesis Framework – This option allows you to use the Genesis Framework plus a child theme on an unlimited number of websites, whether they are for you or for a client.
  • Pro Plus Package – This package allows you access to the Genesis Framework plus all of the child themes created by StudioPress (currently over 40 plus future theme designs) to use on an unlimited number of websites, whether they are for you or for a client.

All of the above options include lifetime access to the support forums and lifetime upgrades. Since Genesis does doesn’t charge additionally for developers who are creating websites for their clients using their framework, this makes the Pro Plus Package by StudioPress the best option for developers.

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Base Framework Design

The following are examples of the base Thesis vs Genesis Framework designs with some content, sidebar widgets, and other fillers.

Click below images to see theme preview.

Thesis Framework Design Out of the Box Genesis Framework Design Out of the Box

Neither are necessarily pretty at this stage, but are both functional. This is where you have two options. You can dive right into the custom coding, or you can purchase skins for Thesis or child themes for Genesis.

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Thesis Skins

DIYthemes does not offer anything outside of the Thesis framework, so you will need to look toward outside developers for Thesis Skins. Some sites that offer Thesis Skins include the following.

Thesis Awesome

Click below images to see skin preview.

Thesis Awesome Sales Landing Page Thesis Awesome Blog Skin Thesis Awesome Silver Skin

Thesis Awesome offers a variety of Thesis Skins (including one specifically for sales / product pages) ranging in price from $37 to $87 which you can buy individually, or you can purchase a personal membership which includes access to all skins for unlimited use on your own sites at $120 / year or a developers membership which includes access to all skins for unlimited use on your own sites or client sites at $260 / year.

Kolakube

Click below images to see skin preview.

Kolakube Thesis Skin Business Kolakube Thesis Skin Blogussion Kolakube Thesis Skin Marketers Delight

Kolakube offers one free Thesis skin and several others at $37 each which you can buy individually, or you can standard membership which includes six month access to all of their skins for $77 or a full membership which includes one year access to all of their skins for $147. I use the Marketer’s Delight skin on my fledgling Rockin Affiliate site – the opt-in box still gets subscribers daily even though there is no freebie offer.

More Thesis Skins

Thesis Themes offers four free Thesis Skins and several others that range in price from $39.95 to $70, with a few themes packaged together at a total of $120. All themes come with a free lifetime subscription. Themedy offers several skins that work for both Thesis and Genesis Frameworks that are $49.95 each or you can purchase an extended plan for $104.45 which allows you six months access to their current themes or a lifetime plan for $239.45 which allows you lifetime access to current and future themes. I haven’t tried out either of these services, but they might have the right designs for your site.

There are even more Thesis skin sites out there, but their skins were either outdated or I couldn’t find a price on them and wasn’t willing to register just to see the pricetag. Another thing to keep in mind with Thesis is since DIYthemes did not design the skins, you will be dependent on the skin developers’ support if there are any issues with the next Thesis or WordPress updates.

Overall, Thesis Skins are generally designed for businesses, marketers, and serious bloggers.

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Genesis Child Themes

When you purchase the Genesis Framework, you have the option to buy what are known as Child Themes along with the framework or separately. One thing that I really appreciate about the Genesis Child Themes is that they are also created by StudioPress. This means that when the Genesis Framework is updated, the child themes are supported by the same developers of the framework. Once you’ve purchased them from StudioPress, you have lifetime support for both the framework and the designs. They have a variety of designs including:

Business

StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Agency StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Associate StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Freelance

Photography

StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Manhattan StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Landscape StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Crystal

Creative

StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Bee Crafty StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Blissful StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Pixel Happy

Miscellaneous

StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Outreach StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Going Green StudioPress Genesis Child Themes - Serenity

If you don’t find what you are looking for by StudioPress, they also offer a marketplace where approved outside developers also have their own child themes for an additional $24.95 each. These are not included in the Pro Plus Package from StudioPress.

Overall, Genesis Child Themes are designed for everyone – businesses, marketers, serious bloggers, photographers, creative types, health bloggers, and more.

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Installation

Which theme is the easiest to install? Here are the basic instructions for both themes.

Installing the Thesis Framework

Installing Thesis requires an FTP program and some permissions changes. You cannot do it through the WordPress dashboard. The following are the latest directions from the DIYthemes website.

  • Upload the new Thesis 1.8.2 folder to your /wp-content/themes folder.
  • Locate the /custom-sample folder and change its name to /custom.
  • Locate the layout.css file inside your newly-renamed /custom folder, and change its permissions to 666.
  • [optional but highly recommended] If you’d like to give Thesis the ability to auto-crop thumbnail images for you, then you’ll want to change the permissions of your /custom/cache folder to 775.
  • Inside your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes, and then activate Thesis 1.8.2.

If you don’t follow these directions exactly, your theme will not work correctly. Also, for those that can’t change the numbers for the permission settings, 666 is RW-RW-RW and 775 is RWX – RWX – RX

Installing the Genesis Framework

Genesis, on the other hand, is the winner when it comes to installation. To install the base Genesis Framework, you can simply go to your WordPress dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Install Themes > Upload and select the Genesis zip file that you downloaded when you purchased the theme. Then you hit the Install Now button and activate the Genesis theme. If you purchased a child theme, you will want to do the same process with the theme’s zip file. Theme installed!

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Admin Options

I could explain all of your options to you, but I thought a simple screenshot would do.

Genesis Framework Theme Settings

Click below image to see expanded version.

Genesis Framework Theme Settings Admin Options

Thesis Framework Site & Design Options

Click below image to see expanded version.

Thesis Framework SEO Settings Site Options Thesis Framework Design Options Admin Panel

The design options is one area where Thesis has Genesis beat – you can do a LOT of customization of the design without having to enter the world of custom coding or CSS editing.

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

SEO Options

Again, I could explain all of your options to you, but I thought simple screenshots instead.

Genesis Framework SEO Site & Post Settings

Click below images to see expanded version.

Genesis Framework SEO Settings Admin Options Genesis Framework SEO Settings for Posts

Thesis Framework SEO Site & Post Options

Click below images to see expanded version.

Thesis Framework SEO Settings Site Options Thesis Framework SEO Settings for Posts

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Theme Customization

Both Thesis and Genesis Frameworks use a hooks system where, instead of going directly into a PHP template to make changes to the theme, you add hooks instead. For example, to add my social sharing buttons without a plugin, I have the following code in my custom_functions.php:

add_action('thesis_hook_byline_item','custom_byline');

function custom_byline() {
if (is_single()) { ?>
· <span class="url fn"><?php the_category(', '); ?></span><br /><div
class="social-single"><div
id="social-twitter"><script src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" type="text/javascript"></script><div> <a href="http://twitter.com/share" class="twitter-share-button" data-url="<?php the_permalink() ?>" data-counturl="<?php the_permalink() ?>" data-text="<?php the_title(); ?>" data-via="kikolani" data-related="kikolani">Tweet</a></div></div><div
id="social-fb" style="padding-top:-2px;"><a name="fb_share" type="button_count" href="http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php">Share</a><script src="https://static.ak.fbcdn.net/connect.php/js/FB.Share" type="text/javascript"></script></div><div
id="social-su"><script src="https://www.stumbleupon.com/hostedbadge.php?s=1"></script></div><div id="social-su"><script type="text/javascript" src="https://platform.linkedin.com/in.js"></script><script type="in/share" data-counter="right"></script></div></div><br />
<?php }
}

(Read more about adding social sharing buttons in single post template pages here.)

Thesis gives users custom_functions.php and custom.css files to add their customized coding in. This way, when you upgrade the theme, you can backup these two files, update the new theme files, and still have your custom coding safe. Genesis, on the other hand, allows you to directly edit the theme’s main functions.php and style.css. You can see how the hooks apply to both themes in the Thesis Hooks and Genesis Hooks visual references.

I’m new to Genesis, but one of my commenters alerted me to this little issue with editing the Genesis style.css:

While it *is* possible to edit the style sheet file within the Genesis theme, it is definitely not recommended to do that, since making use of the one-click automatic update feature in Genesis will wipe out those customisations.

Instead, you can install the free Sample Child Theme (it looks exactly like the default Genesis theme) and make the customisations to style.css there – you’ve then got the power of Genesis (unmodified), coupled with all your customisations safe elsewhere.

Thanks Gary J. for the tip!

If you’re not comfortable editing your functions file, your alternative are the simple hook plugins. Thesis has a OpenHooks plugin, and Genesis similarly has Simple Hooks – both lets you add custom coding within hooks through a simpler interface.

Click below images to see expanded version.

Thesis OpenHooks Plugin Options Genesis Simple Hooks Plugin Options

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Who Uses Thesis and Genesis

Now the part where we do a little name dropping. Here are some famous names around the interwebs using themes built on the Thesis and Genesis Framework.

 Thesis by DIYThemes  Genesis by StudioPress
 Neil Patel (Quick Sprout)  Darren Rowse (ProBlogger)
 Matt Cutts (Google Spokesperson)  Chris Brogan (Social Media Expert)
 Ramit Sethi (NYT Bestselling Author)  Brian Clark (Copyblogger)
 PsyBlog (Popular Psychology Blog)  Jay Baer (Social Media Specialist)

Jump to: Pricing | Framework Design | Thesis Skins | Genesis Child Themes | Installation | Admin Options | SEO | Theme Customization | Who Uses These Themes | Summary

Thesis vs Genesis – Comparison Summary

That’s a pretty good bit of information to digest. Even I was a bit overwhelmed compiling this post. To summarize, here are my thoughts between the two frameworks.

  • When it comes to pricing, the two are relatively comparable until you look at the developer’s options. For developers who are designing websites for clients, the one time $299 investment in the Pro Plus Package for StudioPress’ Genesis Framework plus Child Themes is the best way to go.
  • Out-of-the-box design for both frameworks are pretty bland. Genesis Child Themes have the best designs for a variety of industries vs. the Thesis Skins which are more business and marketing focused. Plus Genesis Child Themes are supported by the makers of the Genesis Framework. The Thesis Skins are not supported by DIYthemes but by the skin’s developers.
  • Thesis wins when it comes to design options customizable through the admin options panels. But if you know enough about CSS, you can easily fix the same things just by editing the Genesis style.css file.
  • The initial installation of Genesis is much simpler than Thesis, unless you’re already familiar with FTP and file permissions.
  • Theme customization must be done through the hooks and functions or using the simple hooks plugins. Both themes break if you mess up the functions file – you don’t have better luck with one over the other between Thesis or Genesis.
  • SEO types seem to be heavy users of Thesis. Social media types are leaning with Genesis.

Alternative Premium WordPress Themes

If, after reading all of this, you’re not convinced you want to try Thesis or Genesis Framework, I thought I’d add a few other premium WordPress themes I would recommend as I have used them for various projects over the past few years.

Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes offers over 60 premium theme designs built for businesses, personal portfolios, photographers, magazines, and more. For $39 you get access to all of their themes for one year for your personal websites, or for $89 you get access to all of their themes plus the Photoshop files for each theme for personal and client websites.

Press75

Press75 offers premium theme designs built for video, photo, portfolio, news, and commerce sites. Their themes are $75 each, or you can subscribe to packages offering access to all of their themes for use on an unlimited number of websites for two months ($100), six months ($200), or a lifetime ($400).

Which Theme Do You Choose?

Now I open the floor to readers. What premium WordPress theme do you use on your site, and how do you like it? If you have experience with both Thesis and Genesis, which one do you like the best? Any other theme suggestions? Let us know!

By Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and ghostwriter who specializes in business and marketing topics.