This week, I confess: my all-time favorite WordPress theme framework is Thesis (full disclosure: affiliate links). Here’s why.
Thesis offers the best array of options for non-coders, right out of the box.
1. Without knowing ANY code, a user can decide their site layout, the number, width and position of columns, navigation bar colors, highlight colors, etc., typography (font, colors, size) for the whole site, and many other options.
2. You can choose a plain-vanilla blog or site format, or, there’s a built-in magazine-style layout option. With one mouseclick you can display thumbnails of every post, or just some posts, on the home page.
3. There’s a built-in “multi-media box” for videos, automatic image rotators, ads, etc.
4. You get one-click options for displaying or turning off post and page elements like author, date, etc.
5. Thesis is extremely SEO-friendly.
6. It’s easy to add scripts, like Google tracking, with absolutely no editing of files.
Even better, here’s what you don’t get.
With many WordPress themes and theme frameworks, however beautiful the design, it doesn’t carry through to the admin area.
Confusing and poorly organized theme options, excerpts that must be edited to the letter level in order to fit into pre-configured boxes on the home page, certain options that when selected, inexplicably affect other options already chosen elsewhere… all of these can be sources of endless frustration. But Thesis‘ well-designed control panels largely do away with these time-wasters.
Now let’s talk customization.
First, the developers of Thesis have used some coding legerdemain to escape the parent-child model for WordPress customizations. (Although for those who wish, Thesis also supports child themes.)
I love this feature. Ordinarily, customizing a child theme requires, at a minimum, hand-coding some CSS. Usually it also requires adding custom functions, and perhaps some page template alterations. Sometimes, just figuring out which CSS or PHP file must be altered in order to most efficiently achieve a particular goal is a challenge.
Thesis makes navigating the WordPress programming wilderness incredibly easy.
First, instead of creating an entirely new “child” theme to contain all user customizations, Thesis bundles all site modifications into a special folder called “custom”. If you need to update Thesis itself on your site, all you need to do is copy the “custom” folder, update the theme, then reload your entire custom directory. Voila. Your Thesis theme is up to date, and all your changes and customizations are intact.
In addition, within this custom folder, all changes are confined to two files, one for changes that affect the functionality of WordPress (adding, moving, and removing page elements and workability), and another for the CSS that changes the appearance of existing elements on the page.
As a designer learning programming on the fly, I have found this Thesis’ solution to be intelligent, elegant, and practical. I’ve been able to make innumerable modifications that would otherwise have been beyond my capacity. And when I can’t figure something out, the Thesis user community is large enough that I’ve never been without help with any issue, even extremely complex functionality. All of this makes Thesis the ideal entry point to ease a non-programmer into the complexities of WordPress coding and customization.
Multisite management, too.
Finally, in addition to built-in customization options, ease of hand-coded custom theme alterations, and simplicity of updating, the latest versions of Thesis add WordPress multisite management capabilities. If you’re running multisite with Thesis, you can modify all of your sites from one location. Here’s what the Thesis blog says about that:
Let’s say, for instance, that you’d like to modify the footer attribution on every site in your network. Sounds like it should be simple, right?
With traditional WordPress themes—and especially ones that rely solely on child themes (instead of custom folders, the way Thesis does)—this is not only annoyingly difficult, but it is literally impossible to accomplish by only editing a single file.
With the new Thesis Master Control, edits like the one above are simple and can be accomplished from a single custom_functions.php file that governs all the sites on your Thesis-enhanced WordPress Network. This gives you unlimited power over your entire Multisite environment.
Simply the best.
Like Genesis, another top theme framework, Thesis has been conceived, designed and constructed by top-notch WordPress experts. It’s updated regularly, with major improvements in each iteration. There’s a lively user community and plenty of support tutorials, both on the Thesis site, and around the web.
From my point of view, whether you’re planning one site, or dozens, the Thesis theme framework for WordPress is a versatile and intelligent option that minimizes aggravation and maximizes your site’s potential for success.