Gather around the WordPress campfire and let me tell you a little story about why I decided to start building my sites with the Genesis Framework.
If you're not sure what WordPress Framework is please read this page in the Codex, if you're not sure of the benefits of using a theme framework I recommend you read this article by Nathan Weller on the ManageWP blog.
Before discovering StudioPress' Genesis Framework, I was a fan of iThemes Builder which I eventually grew to disdain for it's messy markup and opinionated CSS decisions which were difficult to override without hacking core.
For example, on mobile sizes iThemes builder defines specific CSS styles on how different columns behave and stack along with their margin and padding. These specified styles are extremely difficult to overwrite and if you're doing a PSD to WordPress theme conversion your odds of achieving pixel perfection become slim.
At first, I thought iThemes Builder was great because it allowed me to build complex layouts and create complicated custom loops without having to touch a lick of PHP.
Yet, I yearned for more.
I wasn't satisfied with the bulkiness of the Builder framework, and it's one-size-fits-all ethos.
I wanted to develop more aesthetic and higher-quality WordPress sites. I knew that sooner or later I needed to learn how to code to accomplish the things that my clients would require of me. I knew that there was a problem with relying on a single framework to make up for my lack of PHP skills. If I was going to take things to the next level, I really needed a framework that gave me the opportunity to grow as a developer.
I started researching alternatives when I discovered StudioPress, Genesis, and everything else that parades under the Copyblogger umbrella.
Since the first time I installed Genesis, until this very day, I've used it exclusively and never looked back.
1. Genesis Is Easy To Customize
Genesis is a parent theme, that contains its own library of hooks and filters to extend the functionality of your website quickly and easily.
Perhaps the terms hooks and filters sound foreign to you and only reminds you that you'd rather be fishing, or changing your air filters than reading this blog.
Don't sweat it.
Think of a hook as a literal hook where you'd hang your clothes. Now pretend that your site's Widget is a jacket hanging on a closet hook. Genesis provides you with the ability to "unhook" or remove that Widget from one part of your closet aka website and "hook" it into another spot.
Even if you don't know PHP it's not that hard and scary to learn I promise you.
You can compare Filters to an actual water filter. With a filter, you take a piece of code and you "filter" out or modify certain aspects of that code and spit it right back out again.
A real world example of this can be seen in the header of this website. If you have a look at my name in the top left corner of this website (as of the date of this post) you'll see part of it is super bold and part of it isn't. Using a Filter, I added a special class to my site's title to allow me to apply different styles to my first and last name.
Here's an example of an action hook.
Let's say you want to move your site's entire primary navigation into the header. Simply copy and paste this into your theme's functions.php file. Notice how there's no HTML here?
With most non-Genesis themes you will have to dig into your child theme's header.php file copy and paste the required HTML/PHP to make that change and you might be dealing with slightly different markup on each theme you touch.
Using the Genesis Framework as a parent theme means that no matter what Genesis theme you are using whether it's made by Studiopress or a third party you can just as easily change the position of your site's navigation bar. This functionality is not limited to your site's navigation. Every content area, all the widgets, etc.. can easily be moved and set to display conditionally in sync with your project's needs.
It's important to note that there is a bit of a learning curve to get used to using action hooks and filters to modify your theme, but after you have a clear understanding of how these things work you'll literally be unstoppable.
Don't let this discourage you if the thought of coding terrifies you. There are plenty of plugins, and options out there to accomplish nearly everything under the sun without having to be an expert coder.
2. Genesis Is Unopinionated
Some frameworks (ahem I'm talking about you Builder) assume A LOT about how you want your website to look and behave.
The Genesis Framework makes the minimum amount of assumptions possible so that every time you start a new Genesis child theme you are free to enjoy all the wonderful hooks and filters without having to resort to hacking your theme, or using bad CSS practices to try to override things you simply don't want in your theme.
Never again will you feel compelled to have to hack into your parent theme in order to add new features to your site.
3. Tremendous Support and Community
The Genesis community is unlike any other. On Twitter, Facebook, and through various blogs there is a ton of individuals talking about Genesis, helping others, and sharing their knowledge about the Framework.
If you Google just about any Genesis question you might have and sure enough one of the many big names in the Genesis community will have written a post about it at some time or another.
This is rarely true of other WordPress frameworks where you might have to wait days for support, or post in a support forum and pray someone answers your cries for help.
It's rare that I've had a problem related to Genesis that hasn't already been solved, and blogged about by one of the many zealous members of the Genesis community that are actively blogging about the framework.
Post any question in the Genesis WP Facebook group and you'll have an answer in less than an hour. Alternatively you can search the #genesiswp hashtag on Twitter, or ask any question with the hashtag and often times you'll instantly get a response from a helpful soul!
There's nothing more unnerving than having a problem with a theme or plugin and your cries for help are met with the sound of crickets. With the Genesis community continuing to blossom you're never alone.
4. StudioPress Themes
StudioPress is the company that is responsible for the Genesis Framework, and they have an extensive theme library that relies on the Genesis Framework.
If you're not a theme developer, or you simply want to customize an existing theme StudioPress themes are world-renowned for being elegant, minimalistic, well-coded and well-supported. StudioPress themes are held to an extremely high standard and don't suffer from many of the problems that themes in other marketplaces suffer from.
For example, functionality is never mixed with the presentation. That means that there are no annoying shortcodes that you need to remove if you decide to change your theme, there are no required plugins that you need to install, there are no messy page builders or sliders built in.
Whenever the Genesis Framework, or WordPress updates your StudioPress theme will remain unaffected and your customizations will never be overwritten.
If you want to switch themes it's extremely easy to do so.
You simply swap out the child theme leaving the parent theme (Genesis Framework) intact and all of your Genesis related settings remain intact.
5. Plugins, Plugins, Plugins
There a ton of Genesis-specific plugins that make my life a heck of a lot easier. Best of all? Most of the really good ones are free. Some of my most frequently used Genesis specific plugins include,
- Genesis Simple Share
- Genesis Featured Page Advanced
- Genesis Connect For WooCommerce
- Genesis Layout Extras
- Genesis Visual Hook Guide
There are also a few premium plugins for Genesis including the Dynamik Website Builder and the Genesis Extender Plugin. These plugins allow you to extend the functionality and alter the style of your Genesis website without having to touch code. Personally, I haven't used either of these plugins yet so I can attest to their useful, but they have a lot of raving fans in the Genesis community.
Still Not Sure If Genesis Is For You?
- tired of bloated themes and frameworks and don't need a ton of built-in options?
- sick of being burned with crappy support on themes in the past and don't want to have to worry if you'll find an answer in case you have a problem?
- wishing you the developer of your theme didn't make it so darn difficult to use?
- in need of a solid and stable framework to build your next site?