In this article, I explain what the Genesis framework is, what a child theme is, how it works on a WordPress website, and whether or not you should be using it to build your blog.
This article is for those who are…
- Getting started with WordPress
- Using WordPress but not Genesis
- Looking for a robust theme for your blog
- Wondering what a child theme is
After deciding to use WordPress.org to build your blog or website and installing it on your newly purchased hosting plan (explained in depth over at Food Blogger Pro), the next thing you have to decide is what theme to use. As you’ve probably seen, there are infinite themes to choose from. Many of them are free, and some of them are paid.
In your search, you may have come across StudioPress, the home of the Genesis framework. If you’re new to creating websites, the $100+ price tag for a child theme and the Genesis framework might have made you close the page almost immediately. However, there’s more than meets the eye to using a Genesis theme, and today I wanted to talk a little bit about whether or not you should use the Genesis framework for your WordPress website.
What is a framework? Is it different than a theme?
Yes and no. Bjork over at Food Blogger Pro has a really good way of describing what a theme framework is. He puts it like this:
Think of your website like a car. WordPress is the chassis, the frame of the car. It’s what everything else sits on top of. A framework is like the engine, it’s what makes it run. And a child theme is like the paint – it’s what makes it nice & pretty to look at.
That up there is definitely not a direct quote, but in essence that is how Bjork describes it, and I think it works rather well.
So is the Genesis framework different than a theme? Well, sort of. You install the Genesis framework just like you would any other WordPress theme, and if you left it at that and didn’t install a child theme you would get a rather basic-looking, but totally functional, WordPress website. So yes, the Genesis framework is a theme.
What’s special about it, though, is that Genesis is meant to have a child theme installed on top of it. It’s not meant to be the active theme for your website. Instead, Genesis provides you with a super robust framework for your blog, and expects that a child theme will sit on top of it. The child theme uses components of the Genesis framework along with custom styling for that theme to create a website that looks just like you saw in the theme demo.
Why is it necessary to have all these extra layers?
With the internet, things are always changing. Always. That’s part of what makes it so exciting to be involved with – there are always new features to discover, new techniques to learn, new tools to use. It’s awesome!
The last thing that you want to do is to be stuck with technology from a couple years ago – heck, even technology from a couple months ago! Your website is going to need constant updating – from the plugins to the themes to the WordPress platform itself.
A common problem with regular themes is that if you change anything at all to customize it (think colors, fonts, etc), if the theme developer pushes out an update to include new technology, all of your changes are lost. That means you either don’t get the new technology, or you have to redesign your website. Neither is a good solution.
With the Genesis framework acting as a third layer between the “chassis” of WordPress and the “paint” of the child theme you chose, the StudioPress team can push out updates to the Genesis framework without ever affecting how your site looks. So even if you went to town and made a million customizations to your child theme, none of that would be lost when Genesis updates.
So is the Genesis framework worth it?
In my ever so humble opinion, yes. Definitely and entirely yes. Let’s look at a few reasons why.
Theme support & community
StudioPress is a long-standing, well-known and well-respected company in the WordPress community. They are the standard for robust and functional themes for WordPress. That means that they will stand behind their product and provide support, updates, and key fixes whenever necessary.
There is also a lively community of users who are willing to help over on the Genesis forums.
Themes found on the StudioPress website are backed by a 30-day guarantee, which means you can try it out for 30 days and get your money back if you decide you don’t like it.
Each theme sold on the StudioPress website comes with complete setup instructions to walk you through how to get it set up just like the demo. Of course, there are infinite ways to set your site up, but setting it up like the theme demo is a great way to start off.
3rd party themes that are sold on the StudioPress website are supported by those individual developers. However, getting a theme on StudioPress requires quite a lot of hard work, and the themes there have all been vetted and endorsed by the StudioPress team. So, each 3rd party theme comes with setup instructions with the caliber of StudioPress, but are hosted on the developer’s website.
The Genesis framework & SEO
Themes in WordPress dictate a lot of what your site looks like to visitors, but also what your site looks like to search engines such as Google. Without getting too much into depth about this, your theme can give positive SEO signals to Google, or it can give negative ones. What?? Negative signals?!
Hopefully, no theme developer is intentionally creating themes that give negative signals to Google. However, as Google continually changes and refines their Search Quality Guidelines, signals that used to be positive or neutral can sometimes become negative. The average webmaster like myself doesn’t keep on top of these things, so it would be impossible to know if the theme we were using was adapting to what Google wants to see.
I rest very comfortably at night knowing that there is a whole team of people over at StudioPress making sure that my website is up to par with Google’s guidelines.
This doesn’t mean that Genesis takes care of all SEO for your website, but it just means that they are doing their part to keep my website ahead of the game with changes to Google’s guidelines.
Functionality & consistency
So much of the Genesis framework’s power all happens behind the scenes. The StudioPress team have built out an extremely functional set of tools to use with your WordPress website that work with any Genesis child theme you choose to use.
The beauty of this isn’t quite as apparent until you’ve worked with a lot of websites and dove into their code, but take my word for it. If you ever want to get involved in website code, the StudioPress Genesis themes are a breath of fresh air.
There are a lot of other reasons to use a Genesis theme, but I’ll leave it at that. I also have some things to say about choosing a particular theme for your website, so look for that in an upcoming post.
Is there anything I missed in this post? Let me know in the comments!
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