There’s no doubt I’m a fan of the great Genesis WordPress Framework. Design matters, and design can bring your blog down if it’s really horrible or makes a difficult reading (read how I increased my reader’s engagement in 5 minutes by changing typography) for your visitors. Whether you’re going pro or not, if you don’t have a premium theme, you’re starting with the wrong foot.
While I’ve been testing a lot of themes lately, the Genesis Framework from the StudioPress guys is one of the best and that’s what I’m using at Stream SEO. This doesn’t mean I’m using it on all of my websites, since I like to test different services, but this is how I started after a good analysis and reading some reviews. First of all, let’s dive into the benefits of using a Framework and Child Themes on your blog.
What’s a WordPress Framework?
Basically, the Framework helps you build a base for your blog and makes it independent of the rest of the design. Your CSS and functions.php documents are store withing the Framework, and it acts like a Parent Theme.
WordPress Codex defines a Framework as:
A “drop-in” code library that is used to facilitate development of a Theme
A stand-alone base/starter Theme that is intended either to be forked into another Theme, or else to be used as a Parent Theme template
If there’s a Parent, there’s a Child. The child theme is the code that’s going to build the overall look of your design, without touching the basics.
WordPress Codex defines a Child theme as:
A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme, and allows you to modify, or add to, the functionality of that parent theme.
How to Review the Genesis WordPress Framework?
Reviewing a WordPress Theme isn’t as easy as going to Studiopress Themes and copy the features shown on the Landing Page. I’ve been using the Genesis WordPress Framework for a year already, and I’ve done a lot of changes and experiments with it.
I’ve changed both parent and child theme’s options and modified the source code to customize my blog to my needs (including ads, typography, layout, etc). In this review, I’m going deep down to the Genesis Framework menu and the features you get inside. I’m not really talking about any child Theme because that differs from one to another. The things I want to cover in this Genesis WordPress review are:
- SEO Settings
- User Interface
- Theme Settings
- Support and Tech Service
- Layout and Navigation
- Color and Customization
- Feeds and Code integration
Genesis WordPress Framework – The User Interface
There’s no magic behind a Framework. If you install the Genesis WordPress Framework on your blog, you need to install the parent child and after that, install the child theme. Otherwise it won’t work. Once you’ve done that you can go to the WordPress Dashboard and you’ll find the following menu below the Feedbacks menu.
There are 4 secondary menus on the Genesis Framework, and we’re checking all of them:
- Theme Settings: this is where you’ll probably mess up with the theme to customize it
- Export/Import Settings: So that you can create a backup or load it after any trouble
- README: where you can get extra information about your theme
- SEO Settings: All SEO settings can be modified here
Let’s start with the basic menus and finish with the bigger ones, shall we?
Genesis WordPress Framework – README
Once you install both the Genesis Framework and your child theme, you can go over the README section where you can find extra information from the Studiopress guys.
First, you’ll find your child theme and the URL, along with some instructions to install it if you’re having troubles with the process.
However, there’s also a deep explanation of the widget areas included with your theme. Read this information carefully if you’re looking to do some customization to your sidebar or if you’re planning to add some banners on it.
The README section also lets you know the recommended banner dimensions and finally there’s a link to the support site at Studiopress. You’ll get access to this site after you’ve purchased your theme (parent or child). I’ve been there more than a couple of times and their response time is fast with a big community behind.
Genesis WordPress Framework – Import/Export settings
This is a really cool feature included with the Genesis Framework. After you’ve customized your parent’s theme settings (including SEO) you can export and download a copy so that you can keep it safe on your hard drive. Of course, it also allows you to import a previous configuration (in the form of a .json file) so that you can recover your settings or use them in another blog with the same framework.
That’s basically what you can do in this section. Needless to say, you can export both your Theme settings and SEO settings (if available). I’ll go over SEO later.
Genesis WordPress Framework – Theme Settings
Finally, let’s check the Theme Settings. Here’s where you’ll probably hang after installing your Parent’s theme, and where you’ll spend most of your time customizing your new blog.
Don’t get me wrong though… after you’ve configured everything you need (and exported a copy on your local computer) you won’t have to visit this section anymore.
Let’s see how easy is to configure your Theme Settings here:
The first part allows you to setup updates, color and feeds. The good thing about the Genesis WordPress Framework, is that you can update both parent and child’s themes with a click. No need to uninstall or disable any theme to do it. No need to manually download your new theme and upload it to your WordPress Dashboard.
I’m giving an A+ here to Studiopress because compared to other WordPress Themes providers, this is the easiest installation/update process ever!
They even give you the option to notify you by email before updating, so you can choose whether or not to update ASAP.
The second option allows you to change your Theme’s color (this varies from Theme to Theme). Easy as that.
The third part is about feeds. By default, your blog has a feed document, but if you decide to customize it (using Feedburner, for example), you can add the custom URL here and redirect your visitors. This also works for comments feed.
Next, we have the layout:
Here, you can modify the layout settings and overall design of your website. However, let me go deeper here and tell you that you can choose different layouts for every post/page on your blog with a simple click. This option just sets up the default layout for your homepage.
Then you have the navigation settings, where you can enable drop-down menus, include primary or secondary navigation menus and even enable extra things at the right side of your blog.
Finally you have the breadcrumbs menu to enable those on certain areas of your site.
Next, we have comments and trackbacks:
Here you can enable and disable comments and trackbacks on both posts and pages. Again, this is the default setting but you can change it individually every time you craft a new post/page.
Then you have the ability to modify how your blog shows archives and content on the homepage. You can setup a limit of X characters and even the size of the features image. This is very useful when you don’t want to show the whole post on your homepage.
Finally, you can choose whether to display all the categories on your homepage or exclude some of them, and finally, the number of posts shown on your homepage. Easy as that!
Finally, we have code integration:
Basically, here’s where the genesis WordPress Framework allows you to add some scripts or code in the header or footer of your site. This is really useful to add your Google Analytics or any similar code to your blog. However, I recommend doing this with a plugin instead.
Let’s move onto the final menu…
Genesis WordPress Framework – SEO Settings
You didn’t see the SEO menu on the first image of this review on purpose. I wanted to show you, that having SEO settings on the Genesis WordPress Framework isn’t bad or intrusive at all. If you install any SEO plugin (I use WordPress SEO from Yoast), your SEO settings will disappear from the Framework so you can focus on the plugin you’re using. Isn’t it cool?
However, if you want to use the SEO settings right on your theme, here’s what you get with Genesis:
First you have Doctitle settings, which by default you should leave them as they’re. This contains the site title, post/page title and archives.
Next you have the Homepage Settings:
Here, you can choose which text will be wrapped on <H1> Tags (valuable for SEO), modify your own Home META description and keywords.
After that, you can modify your Document Head settings to include short-link tags, real link tags and support for Windows Live Writer. If you don’t know anything about those tags, leave them unchecked.
Finally, you have the Robots Meta Settings, which allows you to select which pages are being indexed by search engines. You can also prevent search engines to cache your page and modify canonical paginated archives. Again, don’t modify those if you don’t know what you’re doing. The Genesis Framework has you covered already
Genesis WordPress Framework – Widgets & Extra stuff
Other than the settings from the Genesis Menu, you’ll find some extra stuff on your Widgets area.
Depending on the child theme you’re using, you’ll find different options here. However, you’ll likely find the following (marked in yellow) widgets available for you:
All of them allow you to improve your experience by adding widgets you wouldn’t have without the genesis framework. Some of them (Social Circles for example) can be downloaded from the WordPress plugin directory.
Also, you’ll find new areas for you to modify within your blog (depends on the child theme):
I’ve marked a few just to show you what kind of customization you get with the Genesis Framework. There you can add banners, ads, scripts, plugins, etc. with just a few clicks. By default, most child themes have 2-3 areas for banners and the possibility to edit the footer in 3 different areas.
Wrapping it up
There you have. This is a complete view of the Genesis Framework panel inside the WordPress Dashboard. As you can see, the pros of having a Framework are:
- Great features by default
- Stability and reliability on a parent theme
- SEO settings included
- Ability to customize your homepage and overall layout without changing the theme
- Tech support
- Import/Export settings included
- Many child themes and possibility to update automatically
However, using a Framework can initially cost a lot more. By default, any Genesis Child theme costs $75 (framework included), but later you can buy additional themes for $25 because you already have the Framework. It’s all about how much you want to spend and how far you want to go on your website.
For now, the Genesis Framework has worked great for my needs, and many people love the design of my blog. I even changed my typography and spacing in less than 5 minutes within the CSS without messing with the child theme code.
Enough said, I really recommend using a Framework to enhance your performance, stability and reliability. Studiopress has got a lot of child themes for your needs. So no matter if you’re building a business website or a personal blog, they have you covered. The only niche where I think they’re still lacking of child themes, is within the WordPress eCommerce niche. However, there’s an alternative right from Elegant Themes here.
What’s your experience with the Genesis Framework? Leave your comments below