Thesis 1.8 vs Genesis 1.3 – Detailed Comparison

Let’s be reasonable here. When it comes to WordPress frameworks there are only two real competitors: Thesis from DIY Themes and Genesis from StudioPress. Headway has made some nice strides and does offer a beginner-friendly interface, but its bulky and doesn’t match up to the efficiency or extensibility of Thesis or Genesis. There are several other notable frameworks. I’d love to see them do some catching up and really drive the market to be better, but they aren’t there yet.

What This Is And What This Is Not

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a full-time web designer/developer who works exclusively with WordPress and almost exclusively with Thesis. I have worked a fair amount with Genesis, and have, for the most part, enjoyed the experience. I’m attempting to be as unbiased as possible, but I say this so you know where I’m coming from.

Second, I’m not going to tell you that one framework is unequivocally better than the other. I’m striving to provide an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each framework, and to give you the tools you need to make an informed decision.

Playing for Keeps

Both Thesis and Genesis, as I’m about to explain, are great pieces of software backed by solid developers that I have a great deal of respect for. With that said, its important that you make a decision and stick to it. Changing frameworks on an established site is a big no-no. Even if your site is visually and functionally similar, your HTML will be completely different and you may be penalized by Google. Its not the end of the world if you switch, but its a road I don’t recommend traveling.

The Criteria

I’m not going to give you a grade for each criteria or anything like that, but this type of thing has to have some structure, or I’ll end up writing a book. Thus, I’ve laid out a set of criteria that I think are crucial in determining which framework is best for you. This is by no means exhaustive, but it should get you started.

In no particular order:


Both frameworks are obscenely fast! When used in combination with W3 Total Cache, and a decent server setup both frameworks can be served up in under 1 second even when heavily customized.

In a technical sense, the frameworks load almost 100% differently. Genesis more or less uses the traditional WordPress method of using different templates for the header, sidebar, footer, index, etc. Thesis almost completely ignores this structure. Regardless of how important you may think it is to use native WordPress functionality, there’s no questioning the fact that both methods are producing extraordinarily fast websites. At the end of the day. That’s what matters.

YSlow Analysis

To get an idea of just how fast each framework is, let’s take a look at YSlow. YSlow is an add-on for Mozilla Firefox that tells you exactly why your page is loading slowly, and gives you a rating from 0-100 for your website’s page load speed. I’m running a fresh WordPress installation, and fresh installations of Thesis and Genesis. Also, I’m using the latest YSlow ruleset which is version 2.0, and of course, that means I’m running the latest version of Firefox as well.


Out of the box, Genesis achieves a score of 82 out of 100 on YSlow. Its score deductions come mostly because my setup is not using a content delivery network or gzip compression. The deductions that can be controlled by the theme come from the 3 javascripts.

The total page download for the Genesis homepage under this setup is 111.9KB. 4.4KB of this is the HTML document, 21.1KB can be attributed to the style sheet, 0.3KB can be attributed to 2 CSS background images, and 76.2KB is composed of 3 javascripts that take care of the fancy drop down menus. This means the entire page requires 7 HTTP requests. For the record, HTTP requests are usually the main culprit when it comes to high page load times.


Thesis achieves a score of 82 out of 100 on YSlow. It has the same score deductions as Genesis accept that it receives larger deductions because it has 3 style sheets instead of one. Thesis also loads 1 random inline image that is between 10KB and 20KB by default, and, like Genesis, Thesis has a total of 7 HTTP requests.

The total page download for the Thesis homepage under this setup is 49.0-59.0KB. 4.9KB is from the HTML document, 33.2KB from 3 style sheets, 1.0KB from 2 CSS background images, and 10-20KB from 1 inline image. If you turn off the multimedia box image, the total download drops under 40KB, and you’re only looking at 6 HTTP requests. That’s still pretty darn slim, but it could be better. Thesis developer Chris Pearson has stated publicly that he plans to eventually cut down on the number of style sheets, and that would certainly help. For now, you can use W3 Total Cache to minify the stylesheets and combine them into one. That cuts out two HTTP requests right there. For the record, you can do the same for the Genesis fancy drop down JS and cut out two HTTP requests there as well.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

So, all of these ratings and statistics give us a decent barometer for efficiency, but ultimately what matters is the actual page load time. YSlow also records the amount of time a page takes to load. In as close to an unbiased test as possible, using the same setup as above, ignoring load results over 1 second, and running 100 tests for each theme under default settings here are the results:

Average Thesis page load time: 0.647 seconds
Average Genesis page load time: 0.683 seconds

If we cut out the unnecessary components of the default setups of each framework, here are the results:

Thesis without the multimedia box image or custom.css style sheet: 0.615 seconds
Genesis without the fancy drop downs: 0.676 seconds

Keep in mind, this test is a small sample, and not completely controlled, but Thesis was just slightly faster.

In any case the difference is less than 1/10th of a second, and both frameworks are still just obscenely fast!

It should also be noted that Thesis comes with a stylesheet specifically for Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Genesis does not. While I have not encountered any issues specifically because of this in my experience with Genesis, the potential is certainly there for issues with those browsers. Having an additional style sheet would be a welcomed addition.

Learning Curve

Both frameworks do the heavy development lifting using hooks, filters, and CSS style sheets. The way they go about it is slightly different (okay, almost completely different), if you can learn to use hooks in Thesis, you can definitely learn to use them in Genesis. Thus, in terms of learning curve, the differentiating factor definitely lays with options panels.

These are two of the best options panels in the industry. That’s where the similarities end. The options can be more or less summarized into two separate divisions: seo settings and design settings. Both frameworks offer options panel for site-wide changes as well as post and page specific options.


SEO Options

Genesis certainly has some serious chops when it comes to site-wide SEO options. You have a ridiculous amount of control over what goes in the head of your HTML document, and you can control what portion of your homepage is wrapped in an h1 tag which has some serious SEO implications! You’ll also find some standard features here like robot meta control (noindex and nofollow archive pages if you please) as well as canonical URL control.

As for SEO options on individual posts, Genesis is absolutely rockin’ here as well. Of course the standard custom title tags, custom meta descriptions, and custom meta tags are included, but you also have the ability to add your own custom canonical URL for each individual post. Awesome!

Design Options

Genesis definitely brings the noise when it comes to SEO options. No complaints there. In fact, I’m thrilled! Then, I go looking for the design options and an extremely efficient framework with phenomenal SEO options leaves me wanting more. The design options in Genesis leaves me sorely disappointed. Aside from the ability to add breadcrumbs (which you have very little control over) and an about the author box (which, again, you have very little control over), there really isn’t much there. Brian Gardner and Co. over at StudioPress have stated on numerous occasions something to the effect that there focus is not on design options.

I must say that despite my disappointment with the design options site-wide, the ability to specify a 1, 2, or 3 column layout (and designate the column order) on a per-post/page basis is pretty frickin’ sweet. So is the ability to add custom tracking code on a per-post/page basis. I also love the integration of the new(ish) post thumbnails too. No complaints there.


SEO Options

Thesis also does a great job with SEO options. While you don’t have as much control over the content of your document head, all of the WPGarbage is removed by default (as it is by default in Genesis). One thing Genesis does that I would LOVE to see Thesis emulate is the option to wrap the h1 tag on the homepage where ever I please. You don’t always want it to be on the tagline (though most of the time that’s fine).

As for SEO post options, Thesis offers you a ton of flexibility. You can, of course, set custom title tags, meta descriptions, and meta tags. You can also 301 redirect any post or page to and URL, and you have all the robot meta control a man could ever want.

Thesis has an added SEO bonus as of 1.8! Now you can control the title tag, meta description, meta tags, headline text, and item description for each and every tag and category! That is absolutely enormous for SEO on your archive pages!

Genesis also has options for archives pages. They also support seo options for custom taxonomy pages which is pretty slick.

Design Options

Thesis SEO options are great, but the design options are where it really shines. You can control the size and color of virtually every font on your site all through the “design options” in your WordPress dashboard. You can also enable most of the commonly used javascript libraries on a site-wide or per-post/page basis with the use of an options panel. On top of that, you can choose from a page framework which is similar to the Genesis layout, or you can use a full-width framework which allows for more control of the site’s background among other things.

Thesis also gives you the ability to control the layout of your homepage using any combination of featured posts and “teasers” to create a magazine style layout. Finally, you have near complete control over what shows up in your bylines, comments, teasers, and post content. It really gives you an insane amount of control over the layout of your site. Its not perfect, but its the industry standard in my opinion, and it completely blows Genesis out of the water in this department.

My one major complaint here is that Thesis is still sticking to this archaic post image system. I really like the new wp post thumbnail system, and I’d at least like to have a simple option to use that instead rather than writing the code and inserting the image myself. If there were some way to migrate images from the legacy system to the new wp system that would be extremely sick!

Development Capability

Most of my complaints above about the lack of design options are irrelevant to me personally, because it doesn’t take much time for me to write css to manage whatever font size, font color, background colors, etc. my little heart desires. At the end of the day I am – and I believe you should be – infinitely more worried about the potential power of your framework to create versatile, scalable websites than whether or not the framework comes with some easy to use design options.

Both frameworks come with more than 50 hooks, and a whole bunch of filters (Genesis has significantly more filters). They use style sheets to dictate CSS changes. Again, that’s about where the similarities end.

If you’re a developer, and this section actually applies to you, you probably know what hooks and filters are and how they work, so I’ll leave that part out. I think its sufficient to say that both frameworks offer enough hooks and filters to do just about whatever you want in terms of controlling your site’s content.

I do want to talk about the difference in the way Thesis and Genesis are customized though as its a HUGE difference and I do think its relevant.


Genesis uses a child theme for customization. Basically, the process for getting started looks like this:

  1. Create a new folder in your wp-content/themes/ directory
  2. In that folder, place a png image entitled “screenshot.png”
  3. Also place a file called functions.php
  4. Create an images folder within this here new folder
  5. Copy the Genesis theme style sheet into this same folder
  6. Finally, insert Template: genesis below Theme Name: [your theme name]

Viola! You’ve just created your first child theme. Now, make all of your CSS customizations in the new child theme style sheet, and put all of your custom functions, hooks, and filters in the new functions.php file you created. When you’re done, activate the child theme. Just like that your new design is live. Need to add custom page templates? No problem! Just add your_new_page_template.php to your new child theme folder, and it should be available to use as one of the page templates in the page template drop-down. Want to modify an existing page template or loop? Genesis has 13 hooks that fall within the loop!!!

I really love working with this system. It might honestly be the only system I’ve ever seen that is simpler than the Thesis model of a custom folder containing a custom stylesheet, images folder, and custom_functions.php file where you place all of your functions, hooks, and filters. I must admit, I really like the idea of just 1 style sheet instead of 3.


As I said, the Thesis system involves a custom folder contained within the main Thesis folder…not a separate theme. The customizable ingredients are an images folder, a custom stylesheet, and custom_functions.php. Yes, I know you silly WordPress purists don’t like it because its not native functionality. Whatever…it is exceedingly simple, and, while I’m not sure its as intuitive as the child theme concept, its very efficient and extremely extensible. With the addition of the Loop API (more on that in a minute) I would venture to say its more extensible than Genesis.

If you’d like, you can find out more about the way that Thesis handles hooks and custom css.

Recent Game-Changing, Spoon-Bending Development

When Thesis 1.8 dropped, Thesis added the new Loop API. This enables you to create absolutely any kind of template for absolutely any page on your website. Talk about game changing. Genesis does offer similar functionality with the genesis_loop hook, but it doesn’t offer quite the same flexibility or ease of use.


No, gentle reader, this is not a matter of personal preference. There are certain, incontrovertible facts concerning the way the human eye digests information. Well thought out typography will make people spend more time on your site.

There are four basic elements to good typography: contrast, size, hierarchy, and space.

Contrast simply refers to the color of your text against the color of your background. Dark red on dark blue = bad. Both Thesis and Genesis having black on white = good. Moving on.

Size refers to the size of your font. Its Crazy. I know. The basic idea here is that you shouldn’t use small font. Both frameworks seem to use readable font sizes. Awesome!

Hierarchy refers to the differing size of your text. Important text – such as headlines – should be significantly larger than the text of your main content. Thesis has quite a contrast there by default. Success. Genesis does not by default. In fact, most of the font size on the site seems to be pretty close to the same size by default. This is horrendous and needs to be addressed. The StudioPress site design does, yet its framework does not out of the box??? Fail. I realize this is easily changed with CSS, but, again, this is where design options would be sooo clutch!

Space refers to the space between blocks of text. Thesis does this as well as any theme I’ve ever seen. Of course, there are weak spots – comment meta anyone? Genesis, on the other hand just runs together sometimes. Its really completely inexplicable for such an excellent framework to mess up something so simple. The really bad thing is that it trickles down to most of the child themes as well. Again, I know its an easy fix, but you have to understand that so many of your users aren’t going to do the CSS work.


One of the most important factors in choosing a framework to work with is the support that stands behind it. In my opinion this is a three-pronged ideal.

The Development Team

First, you absolutely must have a development team behind the framework cranking out awesome sauce updates on a regular basis. Genesis has a great team behind it. With people like Brian Gardner, Nathan Rice, and company you know you’re in good hands going forward.

The same can be said for Chris Pearson. As far as the development aspect of Thesis/DIY Themes, he’s a one man show, but his development consistency over the past two years speaks for itself. Love him or hate him, you know you’re going to get quality updates on a regular basis, and its quite possible that Chris has provided more innovation in the premium theme market than any other developer in the past two years.

Staff and Community Support

Second, you need good quality staff and community support. Genesis appears to be getting there on this one. Having only been around 6 months they don’t quite have the community of 28,000+ users that Thesis does, but they’re gaining steam and the support forums are quite active.

Thesis speaks for itself on this one. They have quite possibly the most active support forum of any single WordPress theme, and they employ several staff members focused primarily on support.

You’ll also notice I’ve linked to a couple Thesis tutorials written by community members. This is not because I’m biased, but because there are an abundance of community-written tutorials for Thesis, and there are virtually none for Genesis.


Third, you absolutely must have good documentation. From a development perspective its incredibly frustrating to not be able to find a list of filters listed anywhere on the StudioPress website or anywhere in the support forum. Maybe I’m missing it, but that’s just inexcusable. The specific how-to’s are great, but give me the basics first please! I do need to cut them a break here and say that being only 6 months old is a pretty big detriment in this regard.

Of course, the Thesis documentation is absolutely rock solid, and has gotten a big boost recently with the addition of Derek Halpern to the Thesis team as well as the talents of a certain girlie. You’ll find detailed documentation for every Thesis hook and filter along with a growing list of specific how-to’s based around commonly used design elements. Again, being around for two years longer is a big advantage when it comes to things like documentation, but you definitely have to be impressed by the docs that Thesis offers.


Please note: I am not a security wizard by any stretch of the imagination. Take what I say on this subject with a grain of salt!

Security is absolutely one of the central issues you need to be concerned with at all times as a webmaster of any sort. Genesis has been the industry leader in security since its inception. It makes extensive use of the WordPress security API, and has been audited by Mark Jaquith who seems to be considered one of the foremost experts on WordPress security.

Thesis was slammed for its lack of use of the WordPress API in a recent comparison of the major WordPress frameworks. Accordingly – I have no knowledge of any direct correlation – Thesis 1.8 has introduced use of the WordPress security API and should be more or less up to par with Genesis security.

Again, I’m not a security expert, but I haven’t had any issues with security in two years of working with Thesis. To my knowledge, neither have any of my clients.

Future Outlook

The future outlook is definitely an important factor in making a purchasing decision here. Where is the theme going to be a few years down the road? As your site grows, you need a theme that will grow with you.


The outlook for Genesis is about as positive as it can possibly be. Honestly, the majority of the few pitfalls Genesis currently has are results of only being 6 months out from release. In another year I fully expect Genesis to be leaps and bounds ahead of where it is today. The fact that it has apparently been merged with Copyblogger certainly points to a bright future.


Despite the exodus of Brian Clark, and the recent feud between Chris Pearson and Matt Mullenweg, I have it on good authority that its full steam ahead in the quest to create the best WordPress framework on the market.

Considering the two years of established development history, and the game-changing developments in Thesis 1.8 (with the addition of Google Fonts, the loop API, etc.), I don’t think there’s any doubt that Thesis will continue to be one of the driving forces pushing WordPress theme development forward. Given the innovative nature of the recent Thesis updates, the future looks very bright for Thesis as well.

My Thoughts

At the end of the day I think Thesis remains king of the hill by a slim margin. At this point in time Thesis is still – especially with the addition of the loop API – more flexible from a developers standpoint, and offers significantly more design capabilities for a novice user who may not be familiar with CSS, HTML, etc. You also get a framework that is blazing fast and built with SEO and content consumption in mind.

With that said, I don’t think Genesis is a terrible option by any means. Its still very flexible, has great SEO options, and provides you with an efficient framework to build on. If you have the coding skills to do the design stuff yourself, its certainly a viable competitor. Improved typography and some semblance of a design options panel would turn what is already a pretty close comparison into a relative coin-flip.

Thesis has been around for a couple of years, and, it would appear, finally has some reasonably close competition. That can only be a good thing for you and I as end users. Regardless of which framework you choose, you know that development is going to be pushed forward that much faster with more competition. That’s a win for everyone involved!

Adam is a WordPress designer, Thesis specialist, and blogger from Indianapolis, Indiana. Check out his custom work here.

Written by Adam Baird

Adam is a Wordpress designer, Thesis specialist, and blogger from Indianapolis, Indiana. Check out his custom work here.



  • Nathan Rice says:

    First of all, let me congratulate you on one of the most balanced framework comparisons I’ve read. I know that probably wasn’t easy, given your history with Thesis, so I truly commend you.

    Secondly, I’d like to thank you for recognizing the features we’ve worked so hard to include in the last 10 months (development began in November ’09). We’re certainly proud of what we’ve built.

    I would like to make a couple of corrections/additions, though.

    1. Genesis has has per tag/category SEO options in the category/tag edit screens since Genesis 1.2 (well before Thesis 1.8). Ours also work automatically with custom taxonomies as well.

    2. Genesis has had a custom loop function (if you want to call it an API, that’s fine) since Genesis 1.1 (well before Thesis 1.8).

    3. Our default markup structure has always accommodated a “full width famework”. Each of the major sections of the markup (header, inner, footer) all contain a div with a .wrap class, making this easy as cake.

    4. You can’t talk about Genesis without mentioning the auto-upgrade feature! :-)

    5. Copyblogger didn’t acquire StudioPress. The two companies actually just merged. Brian and Brian are now part of a team of partners, all under the same roof.

    That said, everything else looked good, well balanced, and honest.

    Oh, one last thing … we’ve launched a pretty heavy development community recently. I’ll make it a point to get a filter list up there ASAP. Thanks for pointing that out, though, the source code is really the best place to find and utilize filters. A list of filters is only useful in that it lets you know they exist. Using them depends entirely on seeing how they are used in the source.

    Thanks again!

    • Adam Baird says:


      Thanks for leaving your thoughts, and apologies for the inaccuracies…again that’s nothing intentional. Just a product of using one framework quite a bit more than the other. I’ll update accordingly.

      My only point of contention is that the Thesis docs actually have usage examples for every hook and nearly every filter. I’ll agree that it helps to look at source, but its nice when its just laid out clearly without having to search through and parse code.

    • Nick Reese says:

      From what I have seen, there is are a lot of miss conceptions about what each theme is capable of and who developed what feature set first.

      In reality the “Who had which feature first argument” doesn’t make any sense when comparing the two themes. The Thesis team could easily chime in and say they developed XYZ features before the Genesis team. The fact they haven’t thus far says something in my opinion.

      From my perspective, Thesis really helped pave the way for many of it’s other competitors within the “Premium Framework Market.” I never thought I would spend money on a premium theme and I don’t think many WordPress users in early 2008 thought they would either.

      Today’s marketplace is much different and the progress made by Chris Pearson and the DIYThemes team is notable.

      If both development teams want to clear the air about what their theme can do, it should be handled in the documentation.

      As it currently stands Thesis simply has better documentation and a more seasoned group of developers. Thesis also has a huge advantage in the way of 3rd party tutorials. These tutorials really help the masses understand what each theme is capable.

      I interfaced with Adam as he was writing this post and I can attest that he dug WAY deeper than just the surface, to understand what Genesis was capable of. Based on the current documentation for Genesis I think Adam did an outstanding job of comparing the two frameworks.

  • Craig Tuller says:

    Ditto what Nathan said about your comparison … very professional, honest, and thorough!

    In addition to Nathan’s corrections, here are a few other points:

    We recently started our next phase of site enhancements and now have community-written tutorials: along with additional developer reference tools.

    For the record we have 32k members. Admittedly, some of those are still “classic” members (that is what we call our older pre-Genesis themes), but many have converted to Genesis and many more are in the process.

    We also provide our Genesis members with a ready-to-go child theme {free}, so they don’t have to write their own.

    • Adam Baird says:

      Do you have any sort of estimate as to how many actual Genesis users there are? If so, I’d be happy to make note of that in the article.

  • Right now, the biggest win for me is the community of people that grew up coding up thesis. That’s the most compelling reason that it’s usable. You can get help because someone has done it before.

    That’s the business asset that DIY has to maintain the lead in, and we hope that they do.

  • Woohoo!! Someone finally wrote something unbiased. Well done Adam, you’ve done both frameworks proud in my opinion.

  • Woody says:

    An interesting read, I think I will try Thesis out a bit more ;)

  • Thanks for putting together such a thorough review of two ballin’ themes! The best comparison that I have read by far. :)

  • Wonderful review! I’ve been planning to write one for a while now (actually have a draft post, “Thesis and Genesis, a developer’s perspective” ) but yours is so much better than I would’ve written so I’ll just link here :)

    I’ve been a Thesis developer for 2 years and a Genesis developer for about 2 months, so I’m still learning my way around Genesis. That said, I actually came to a different conclusion: Thesis is much faster for development of simpler websites (by simple, I mean 90% of the projects that come to me), but Genesis is better/faster for building more complex ones.

    I haven’t worked much with the Custom Loop API in Thesis, but the child theme structure is so much easier to customize than hooking everything into the thesis_hook_custom_template() or other hooks. When necessary, it’s nice to be able to use a simple template file, especially when building something using new WordPress features (custom post types, custom taxonomies…) that aren’t fully supported by Thesis.

    This website ( ) was supposed to be built in Thesis. Since it depends so heavily on taxonomies – there’s a city taxonomy used alongside the categories, so you can get Austin, Music, or Austin Music – I ended up building it from scratch. If I knew Genesis as well as I do now, I would have built that site in Genesis.

    For the vast majority of websites, both Thesis and Genesis will work just fine. I find Thesis is a bit faster to develop because of it’s great Design Options (can jump in and set 2 column, specify order and width, font styles for headings and sidebars…).

    My biggest complaint about Thesis is it’s lack of support for native features (post thumbnails, taxonomies…) and the recommended parent/child theme format. When a project needs a native feature or is really complex (child themes are more customizable IMO), then I think Genesis is a better solution.

    • Adam Baird says:


      Thanks man! My only point of contention is the Loop API. You gotta try it! I’ll agree that the child theme system makes it much easier to create custom templates than did thesis_hook_custom_template, but the Loop API is pretty sweet, and is at least on par in my opinion.

    • Bill,

      I added the Custom Loop API to Thesis 1.8 to address the exact issues you’ve mentioned here. The theory behind the Custom Loop API is simple:

      — Allow modification of every type of WordPress page (full list here) and also allow targeting of specific pages, categories, taxonomies, etc. using the conditional WordPress template tags you know and love.

      — Provide a simple way for you to maintain all of your template customizations in a single file. This has two key benefits: [1] you have everything in one place, and [2] by taking advantage of the lightning-fast Thesis architecture (as explained in the this comparison article), you can serve any type of custom page faster than you can with any other theme.

      Admittedly, I was disappointed with the way that 1.7 was limiting with respect to taxonomies and advanced customizations of category, tag, and taxonomy pages. This was my motivation behind the new Term Options (more on this in a bit) and the Custom Loop API. Both of these new features in Thesis 1.8 provide an unprecedented level of control and awesomeness for this crucial WordPress functionality.

      And the new Term Options? These have opened up a critical door for discerning website owners and SEO-savvy developers by allowing you to provide a unique headline and unique content for any type of category, tag, or taxonomy page.

      Once upon a time, Sugarrae posted a detailed tutorial for how to add unique content to category pages; now, this task can be accomplished from within the WordPress interface using the new Term Options that debuted in Thesis 1.8.

      Finally, Thesis 1.8 supports the WordPress child theme architecture, so you can now build out sites in whatever manner you prefer. No matter what kind of customizations you want to employ, Thesis gives you efficient, flexible ways to get the results you’re after.

      So, now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, I just want to say: Bill, you are a hell of a developer, and I love your work. I encourage you to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest Thesis features, because I think you’ll discover more of the magic and detailed excellence that made you a fan in the first place!

  • Jason Hobbs says:

    Nice job Adam and I think you succeeded in keeping it unbiased. I love both frameworks and their communities, definitely agree they are the top two options.

    As a non-coder, I will say that Genesis with the 23+ Child Theme Options seems to be a bit more palatable to my small business clients, just easier to visualize their final product and a little less intimidating for some of them. Also, cost is a big determinant for me and most of my clients and both deliver HUGE value comparative to their cost, I think Genesis is leading right now for two reasons:
    1. In the developer option there is no fee to use the themes on client sites, with Thesis its $40.
    2. The Thesis skins are awesome, I own a couple by Matt Hodder, but they are a bit more expensive than the Child Themes by Genesis.

    Still, I love both and will continue using both in the future, very excited at how they continue to push WordPress forward as they compete. In the end, we customers are the winners imho.


    • Adam Baird says:

      I considered adding cost as a criteria, but I came to this conclusion:

      If you’re serious about your blog/business, there’s absolutely no way that a maximum of $108 should be any factor at all in choosing the best framework for your business. The long term effects on your business could be hundreds if not thousands of times that much.

      You can easily make the argument that developers will incur a higher cost, but I just pass that on to my clients at cost (and let them know accordingly). I’ve rarely had an issue with that.

      • Jason Hobbs says:

        I agree with you on this and in no way am I insinuating that you erred in the least by not including price as a criteria.

        I agree with one caveat, you are knowledgeable about the internet and websites and comfortable with online marketing and so on.

        Many of them that actually have a website already, were sold a site previously that was subsequently left there to collect dust and they were charged a premium for it to boot. Many, if not most, of the small business owners here in my neck of the woods are not even remotely close to your comfort level with the internet and using it and social media etc to grow their business.

        So while I can, and do, talk about long term impact til I am blue in the face, out of pocket cost is still KING in their minds and I do not feel that makes them any less serious about their blog or business.

        • Adam Baird says:

          Can’t fault you for doing what you have to do to make a living. Client concerns are a factor in almost every development decision! In a brick and mortar business world its certainly more of a concern.

          Most of the clients I deal with are web based and costs like that are expected/insignificant.

  • Joi says:

    Outstanding writeup! I have 8 blogs/sites and currently use Brian Gardner’s on 4 and Chris Pearson’s Thesis on 4 – so I’m completely familiar with each. In a perfect world, I could get everything I need for AlL of my sites from ONE theme but, as it is, certain niches seem to fit with certain themes better than others.

    If you want a magazine-type of blog that pretty much resembles a website as opposed to a blog, Genesis and its child themes are great. They look fantastic. No complaints whatsoever. I’m all about rotating banner images and thumbnails, on product-related blogs especially.

    For blogs that are content rich, however, you’d want to utilize the white-space and create a thoroughly clean and open atmosphere (no distractions). When it comes to clean, no one can top Chris Pearson. His typography is the stuff dreams are made of.

    As for Pearson’s recent controversies, I have a feeling they will only serve to light a fire under him and I can hardly wait to see what that leads to.

    Great article – thanks for all the time and effort you put into it. This post is a perfect, perfect example of what you want from a theme. You want to be able to focus entirely on your content (which is still king, of course) without worrying about everything else.

    • marianney says:

      I’m glad you said this (about the reasons why you would pick one over the other). I have been looking for the right theme/framework for a magazine site and you just answered my question. I was actually leaning towards Genesis for it anyway because of that fact.

  • Adam, like Nathan and Craig pointed out – very thorough article, and thanks for writing it. I’ll assume that a lot of people will end up here at the post to compare the two, so props for putting this together.

    My only reservation in the post is that the comparisons don’t always come across as factually accurate. I’ve seen on numerous occasions (one here) folks pointing out features/benefits with Thesis that Genesis doesn’t have – when in fact, if you look underneath the hood they do – and in many cases had them first. My point is that to do an extremely thorough and factually correct comparison, one needs to go deeper than the marketing behind the two frameworks. Just because we don’t Tweet about a feature – that doesn’t mean we don’t have it.

    An instance of this was when I saw someone recommending Thesis over Genesis because of SEO – and we were called out for not having specific controls on tag/category pages. So an uninformed user was told Thesis is better b/c of that, when in fact Genesis had them long before Thesis.

    I point this out because I’d love for posts like this to be deemed completely unbiased – but where there’s a pattern (whether it be unintentional or not) of Thesis is better than Genesis because’s going on out there when they really aren’t true, it’s a bit worrisome. And I truly hate having to point these out, because many folks will think we are whining – when in fact we are merely pointing out factual information.

    Anyways – more than anything I wanted to drop by and say great job on the post – it’s been well thought out, well written and I appreciate (as a hardcore Thesis user) your approach and professionalism with this responsibility.

    You could have easily dropped the ball with this – but didn’t.

    • Adam Baird says:


      I don’t take that as whining at all. I appreciate that you guys are here pointing out my shortcomings. At the end of the day that makes for a more complete resource which was my aim.

      I did dig deeper than tweets, and I did put in a full day of research for this article prior to doing any writing. I just grabbed lunch and I’m sitting down now to add notes to the article to account for factual inaccuracies. All I can do is apologize. Unfortunately, I’m not sure its possible to be completely unbiased. I assure you it wasn’t for lack of effort.

      I could have done a week of research and probably still missed a few points for Genesis. Like I implied in my response to Nathan, there’s not much substitute for being intimately familiar with a framework through working with it day in and day out. As I said at the beginning of the article, I do that with Thesis…I don’t with Genesis.

    • Adam Baird says:

      Also, thanks for the compliments! I really do appreciate it!

    • Nick Reese says:

      Brian, as I responded to Nathan’s comment. I think better documentation is in order to clear all this up. I can definitely say that Adam spent a ton of time and research writing this article and by no means relied on just “marketing” or “tweets” to determine each framework’s feature set.

      In the past, you said that you were not out to compare Thesis and Genesis, yet that is exactly what you and Nathan are doing here.

      From the user’s perspective “Genesis had this feature before Thesis” is a silly debate. Users want features that work and work well. In reality users could probably careless who developed what feature first as long as that developer can continue innovating and pushing the envelope.

      When all is said and done I think innovation should be the end goal for both frameworks as this only helps push the entire WordPress community forward.

  • With all due respect to Derek, who’s been a great addition to the team – it’s my very own fingers which are still cramped from creating the ~100 pages for all those hooks and filters. ;)

    (And I’m still not done with fleshing them out, plus I’ve got a list of even more docs I want to add, as well as making sure existing articles have been updated for 1.8-specific instructions.)

  • Gary says:

    Well done Adam, a nice article.

    I was making mental notes as I was reading to pick up on the bits that I thought could do with checked, but then Nathan addressed them all in the first comment :-)

    One thing not addressed is your point about community tutorials on the web, which you said that there are an abundance for Thesis, but virtually none for Genesis. Others picked up on this by mentioning the site. This would involve tutorials that were equivalent to the Thesis Answers site that I know Girlie was putting together.

    There is an advantage to having a centralised collection of tutorials / how-to’s, in that it’s far easier to keep them up to date as new versions of the frameworks are released. How many Thesis tutorials are out there (including on my own code snippet site) which were originally are targeted at Thesis 1.6 which are no longer valid / needed or are considerably broken in Thesis 1.8? By being in control of both the code and the tutorial, a centralised tutorial can be edited to say for which versions it’s valid for.

    Another point is the use of each Framework on a MultiSite installation. With Genesis and it’s use of child themes, for a second site, you can just create second child theme if you want a different theme. With Thesis 1.7 and earlier (it may have been addressed in 1.8), a hack on core files was needed to get it working – that’s always going to be messy for those who don’t fully understand what they are doing.

    My final point is about the Staff and Community Support comments you raised, specifically the Genesis is “getting there” bit. Having spent a fair bit of time on the Thesis boards (1550+ posts there) and more recently on the Genesis boards (270+ posts so far), I’d have to conclude that I personally think the Genesis boards are run better.

    I think the support work that Girlie, Godhammer and highly valued contributors like yourself are a fantastic for Thesis, but due to a lack of active moderators, and only rare visits by Chris himself, it never seemed to be one that felt efficient – too many repeat questions were being asked, threads resurrected with non-related problems etc.

    On the other hand, Genesis appears to have a wider support base, with CEO Brian, lead developer Nathan, Daisy, Rebecca, Charles, Sozo, Nick and other moderators all keeping things tidy and doing a better job of supporting not only the core Genesis framework itself, but all of the official child themes, all of the StudioPress classic themes as well as the general issues.

    The above thoughts may well be biased – I feel far more welcomed into the Genesis community in a month or two than I did in 16 months or so with Thesis. As a developer keen to help others get to grips with WordPress, it’s important to me to feel I can contribute back to the community for a product that helps me make a living as a developer. Does that matter for Joe Public who just wants a single site set up and forgotten about? Probably not, but then choosing a framework can be about far more than what’s under the hood.

    • Adam Baird says:

      Its interesting to see other perspectives. For me personally, 99% of my decision on which framework to use is based on what’s under the hood. That’s because the amount of time it takes me to do things largely determines my income level.

      For someone who isn’t a developer or is more concerned with community involvement, I can see the motivation being quite a bit different.

      • Gary says:

        That’s a fair point, and there are a few unique features built in to each (teasers vs breadcrumbs, off the top of my head), but on the whole, Thesis and Genesis are so far ahead of everyone else that most of the built-in features that I use/used I consider to be equal. The amount of work it took to undo/override the default Thesis styles for instance, is equal to the time it takes to customise the Genesis sample child theme to the same level. Genesis has the bonus here of having lots of child themes as different potential starting points.

        In terms of actual development time, I recently did a project which had been designed for Thesis (as the designer had done for 10+ other projects). I decided to go ahead and build it with Genesis, and with help from Brian over a Skype call on one sticky point that I’d not yet dealt with in Genesis (the type of support I would never expect Chris to offer btw), I got the project complete in only about an hour longer than it usually would have taken me in Thesis. I fully expect to have that down to the same time or quicker once I’ve done more of them.

    • “but due to a lack of active moderators, and only rare visits by Chris himself, it never seemed to be one that felt efficient – too many repeat questions were being asked, threads resurrected with non-related problems etc.”

      I’m not really seeing the connection between our members asking repeat questions, or resurrecting threads with unrelated problems; and the number of forum moderators we have, or the frequency of visits by Chris. People who are inclined to do those types of “inefficient” things aren’t going to stop doing them just because we have more mods sitting on the other side waiting and watching for them to do it.

      Also, as most new members quickly notice, I’m an extremely active moderator, in the truest sense of that role – I don’t just *answer* questions, I also keep threads organized in the proper sections, merge duplicates, split off unrelated posts, remind people about the guidelines (sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly), etc.

      And while Godhammer and Phil don’t perform actual “moderation” duties, that doesn’t make their presence on the forum somehow “inactive” or any less valuable than my own role as “official moderator”.

      Really, about the only thing suffering around here is my ability to take long, afternoon naps on rainy days like this one. Sigh.

      • Gary says:

        “I’m not really seeing the connection between our members asking repeat questions, or resurrecting threads with unrelated problems; and the number of forum moderators we have, or the frequency of visits by Chris.”

        You’re right, I guess I was mixing up a couple of points there.

        In terms of moderation, I meant that within the Genesis boards, threads are closed a lot more as soon as the OP has had their issue satisfied. It may seem a trivial thing, and occasionally frustrating to arrive just after a Mod has been and closed it when I want to contribute to the solution, but it does keep everything focused and doesn’t allow threads to become polluted. In saying that, I do recognise Shelley did/does a *lot* of useful thread organisation, merging, splitting and so on, but that may be my point – it doesn’t seem to get to that stage within the Genesis boards. Imagine how many rainy day naps you could take, or how many more tutorials you could write if the Thesis boards were more self-governed, or if you had 5 moderators to do the admin work :-)

      • As a newbie for about a year now on Thesis, I have spent a lot of time on the forums and have always had my questions answered very quickly. ‘girlie’, godhammer and phil have been awesome help to me. I have learned so much from them. The forum never felt lacking in knowledgeable help. They have gotten me out of some pretty sticky situations for a gal that had no web design experience when I started. I will admit WP / Thesis has been a big learning curve. The design options section has been really great for me. I wouldn’t want a framework that did not have the options that Thesis has there, since my css and php is very limited.

  • Rachael says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful, deep analysis of these two themes.

    At my studio, we only develop in Thesis, and I’ve been a loyal Thesis user since I discovered it. I love what I can make that theme do, and it makes my awesome designs able to function in an awesome way.

    Reading your review of both, I can see that there are times when the Genesis theme should be on my short list of possibilities for my clients. So again, thank you. This was a marvelously written article. You obviously spent a lot of time carefully deciding how you would present it, and it shows.


  • Kevin says:

    I’ve traditionally been a Thesis guy, but I’ve been using Genesis at work for the last couple months for a few different projects. This is how I’ve come to feel:

    Thesis is hands down my choice when it comes to building a site from ‘scratch.’ The level of control that it gives you in the UI alone is more comprehensive than what you’ll find in Genesis — and when you want to customize something, the theme does a great job of just getting out of your way.

    With that said, the default child theme that comes with Genesis is more visually appealing to me than the default Thesis theme. Now, that doesn’t affect me so much as I always build from nothing and like starting with the blank slate that Thesis provides, but to someone who maybe just wants to change a few colors and slap up a logo, Genesis will leave you with something a bit more presentable IMO.

  • Eathan says:

    I’ve used Thesis for sometime and I’m new with Genesis, but I think this is a great comparison. AND the tone and attitudes are much more productive than other comparisons. With that being said, I think the market and the users will dictate what features are developed in the future. I appreciate all the hard work that Girlie has done to make the forums and Thesis tutorials. I noticed a difference almost immediately.

    I’ve used Studiopress forums a couple times in the past, but I’m still learning my way around forums (regarding Genesis).. so i don’t have much to say regarding my like or dislikes. I’m middle of the road for now.

    Once again.. great post

  • Steve says:

    I think both frameworks are powerful and have their own advantages over each other…
    I have been impressed by the support from both communities and staffs (although it does feel like Brian is much more accessible than Chris… but Chris has answered questions for me in the past, as well and I’m appreciative.) I think the main differences for me are:

    Multi-site support – As mentioned above it is a bit of a hack still in Thesis 1.8 (although Chris has promised future support… but I feel that it should have been addressed already since 1.8 came out post WP 3.0)

    BuddyPress support – Chris has stated that BP support is unlikely. Thesis was briefly compatible with older version of BP due to the efforts of a community member, who now does not have the time to keep support up of his “child-theme.” Genesis, however is designed in such a way that it is BP compatible. Additionally through the efforts of Ron and Andrea almost all Genesis child themes are BP compatible through an additional purchase from their site.

    Child Themes/Skins – I love the flexibility of using Child Themes/Skins as a starting point for a new design over just the vanilla versions. The Pro-Plus Themes package from Genesis offers all child themes current and future (except for those sold independently of Studiopress) for 1 purchase price. Skins for Thesis are mostly developed privately and spread about online.

    CSS – Child Themes allow you to completely write the css from scratch if need be, whereas the Thesis css files basically need to be overridden. Not always a big deal, but sometimes requires a bit of frustrating legwork to override some stubborn CSS in 1 of the stock css files. Would be nice if we can turn off the vanilla style sheets in Thesis as an option.

    Upgrades – Upgrading Thesis while not too bad, is still a bit of a chore. I’m always nervous about the upgrades, and they have on occasion failed or caused serious issues with the site (not necessarily a fault of Thesis). Genesis automatic upgrades are a dream.

    Licensing – I’m not going to beat the GPL horse, but if I purchase Genesis I can use it on as many sites that I want and on client sites. With Thesis, I need the developer option to use on multiple sites, and then I can’t use it for client sites, and additional client license needs to be purchased. To me, it is much more restrictive with Thesis while Genesis is convenient.

    Basically right now if you are considering BP or MS, Genesis is the way to go. Also, if you want access to a wide range of child themes with the convenience of 1 price & 1 location…. then Genesis is the way to currently go. And if you want almost thoughtless upgrades again Genesis.

    That being said Thesis also has it’s advantages. Many that have been stated above. I have yet to play with the new loop… and love the flexibility of the Multimedia box, although I have been able to mimic it in Genesis, although it took a lot more effort to do so. I think if design options are your thing, I agree Thesis has the edge (which is probably more pertinent for the non-developers) But as a developer, I think both have equal advantages for customization of functions and css.

    Great post… Both great Frameworks.

    • Nathan Rice says:

      Everything you mention about Genesis above were carefully considered and brainstormed before we ever started building them. I’m SO happy to see someone notice these awesome features and highlight them here. We’re pretty darn proud of what we’ve done, and I’m glad to see that our users are too!

    • Adam Baird says:


      You raise some great points here. Obviously I couldn’t hit on every point of comparison or this article would have gone from ~4k words to who knows how many words.

      Genesis instant upgrades are pretty sweet, and involve significantly less risk.

      The idea of one CSS sheet also appeals to me, though I’ve not had any of the problems you’re referring to using the Thesis custom.css system. The main concern for me is that on a heavily customized site, Thesis is loading a ton of dead CSS.

      I’ll also agree that the lack of multi-site support in Thesis is inexcusable given that 1.8 came out after 3.0.

      My only point of contention here is the BuddyPress stuff. Genesis isn’t exactly plug and play with BuddyPress. GenesisBuddy makes it workable, but you’re going to need some coding know-how to get that working with any sort of custom set up. Just performing the install on a child theme goes beyond what an average WP user is comfortable with. Its certainly easier than wrangling Thesis and BP, but its not exactly “BuddyPress ready.” Also, GenesisBuddy is not even close to the efficiency of Genesis itself.

      The easiest way to get BP and Thesis working together is to install BP Template Pack, and edit the templates to conform to the Thesis header and HTML structure.

      • Andrea_R says:

        Actually, we are beta testing a new version of GenesisBuddy to make this process easier. It will literally be plug ‘n play – something any user can handle. ;)

        Brian’s efficiency is rubbing off on us and he’s continually inspiring us to do better. Between that and customer feedback, we feel that the next iteration will please a lot of people.

  • Cliff Smith says:

    Hello all you crazy techie types :) One straight forward question, but first …

    Thank you so much for this article! I must say that, even being an absolute non-techie, I was able to benefit significantly from the original, excellently written, article and all the follow up comments!!

    I have been searching for months and months for a wp premium theme, but for one reason or another (maybe lack of understanding) cannot find everything I seem to need in one theme. I finally found the one that entices me most, but love the idea of creating my own to emulate it rather than using the theme with all the inevitable upgrade issues etc. etc. hence the research time dedicated to Thesis and Studio press.

    So the simple question is: With all the necessary learning required, can I indeed emulate the following theme using either of the two frameworks? Or should I just purchase the theme!?!

    I would very much appreciate any comments you may have, and thank you in advance for your time!

    ~ Cliff

    • Adam Baird says:


      I can’t seem to get that link to load, so I can’t view the theme, but I would almost always tell you that its better to work with a framework than with a theme.

  • Peter says:

    Thanks Adam for this great comparison!

    I’d like to add one more point to the list:

    As every main online business focus on the american market, they sometimes forget to support other areas of the world. I’m pointing to the localization issue. I’m living in Hungary, so if I’d like to make business with a framework it is very important to translate everything on the frontend and backend. Thesis is lack of supporting it totally. There is a language file, but for some reason (???) it doesn’t have all variable. There are some texts, that I can translate with filters (previous post, next post) and there are some texts with no translation possibilities (“submit” button on comments). With Genesis I didn’t have any problem during my work.

    And one more thing regarding 3rd party support for Thesis. It is true, that you can find a really helpful community to make your Thesis powered site as custom as you want. And it is true that Genesis doesn’t have spcialized ninjas to help you, but you don’t need special help, because Genesis follow the traditional WordPress way, so every WordPress fan and developer can help you customize Genesis. In this point of view Genesis has way more 3rd party support sites, than Thesis.

    • Adam Baird says:

      Hi Peter,

      There seems to be a vicious rumor circulating that you don’t need any help in order to get what you want out of Genesis simply because it follow the “WordPress” way of doing things.

      This idea that every WP fan and developer can work with Genesis but not Thesis is just plain uneducated (a reflection on the community at large, not you personally).

      In reality, despite the fact that Thesis doesn’t use child themes, the way that the two frameworks are customized is actually very similar. Both require the use of hooks and filters to handle the bulk of the development load. That’s something that most “WordPress fans” are completely clueless about. Developers will probably be able to handle hooks and filters, but I would venture to say that any developer who can work with Genesis hooks and filters, but can’t figure out Thesis hooks and filters is probably not worth working with.

    • Nathan Rice says:

      Adam is right. I don’t believe either theme has a larger learning curve than the other. Neither Genesis nor Thesis pioneered the idea of hooks and filters. That was all WordPress. Thematic was one of the first themes to take advantage of Hooks, and the Flexx Theme from iThemes used them too. We all stand on the shoulders of great developers.

      Both themes have vibrant communities to help. Literally, tens of thousands of customers and dozens of helpful forum moderators.

      As to your point about standards, we have tried to make sure that Genesis always utilizes the latest WordPress features as soon as they are available. One reason we did this was exactly what you mentioned … if we’re using standard WordPress features (like menus, featured images, etc.), then you’re more likely to find tutorials and users, OUTSIDE the Genesis community, that can help you. We think this policy benefits our users greatly, and they seem to agree.

  • Kris Olin says:

    Thank you, Adam for producing probably the best comparative article on the topic!

    I am currently looking for a new theme for my existing blog ( and I’m wondering if it will get messed up if I change over to either Thesis or Genesis.

    I would really appreciate any comments if I’m just looking for trouble or is it just a walk in the park. (Or should I just go with Chris Pearson’s free Neoclassical.)

    Best regards,
    Kris Olin

  • Wow, from reading all this, one would THINK there are only 2 WP Themes worthy of consideration, Thesis and Genesis. I have been looking at Frugal and Headway as well as these 2 themes for my business. So far, Thesis is looking like my choice of a platform, because it looks the simplest to use. I am ONLY looking at WP Themes because Blogspot SEO sucks.
    But as a consumer who is going to buy from one of you developers, let me say this. IF Google ever adds the neat SEO features of Thesis and Genesis to Blogger Blogs, and added some better templates, the party will be over for many of you. I am looking for a platform to replace the website linked to this post. It is a TERRIBLE web site I made 10 years ago on a platform called webspawner I outgrew years ago. I am so confused and turned off by all this Thesis vs Genesis vs Frugal BS that I have a good mind to simply redirect my URL and import my business website to a free Blogspot Blog. They are super easy to use, forgiving of mistakes, and you can skin them at will.

    • Adam Baird says:

      Obviously you’re free to do whatever you like, but there’s a reason you don’t find too many blogspot framework comparisons…

      If there’s one thing both sides would agree on here, its that WordPress is pretty easily the best blogging platform on the market, and its quickly becoming one of the premier CMS solutions on the market as well. That’s not to say its perfect, but using an inferior product because some people are having an argument seems a bit silly to me.

  • Fred Gray says:

    What a well written comparison, it has resulted in some very positive and thoughtful feedback. I have just started using both Genesis 1.3 and so this information is really helpful…Thanks Fred

  • Danny Brown says:

    Great comparison and, as has been said more than once, especially coming from a “die-hard Thesis user”. :)

    One thing I’m curious about. You mention early on in the comparison that switching frameworks on a well established blog is a no-no. I was using Thesis for a while, then changed to Headway for my current set-up (on my personal blog).

    I’ve been messing with Genesis for a new site, as well as some client work. If I was to go the route of wanting to use Genesis on my own blog, is this going to be detrimental to my site? If so, how come and can I counter anything?

    Cheers, and again, great comparison.

    • Adam Baird says:

      The issue is with search engines. They don’t like it when your HTML structure changes. While both frameworks have solid, semantic markup, they do have different structures, so changing from one framework to another is likely to cause some changes in your rankings…

      • Nathan Rice says:

        I would be curious to see any evidence of this. I’ve heard of Google using speed as a comparative measure in rankings, but I’ve never heard any serious SEO say that changing your HTML structure can negatively affect your rankings, or even that they “don’t like it”.

        Certainly, if you were switching from Genesis to something bloated and non-semantic, there would be a problem. But I can’t imagine switching from Genesis to Thesis (or the other way around) would do any harm at all.

        • Rich Staats says:

          I don’t know that there is much truth in this, but from a rational standpoint what Adam said seems to make sense to me. If, for instance, google recognized how to navigate a site based on a structure that it sees all the time (i.e. a WP framework like Genesis and/or Thesis), in theory it could crawl deeper, easier. I know you asked for evidence, and I have none, so I’m not sure that this comment has warrant. But since SEO is a bit of a mystery I try to think rationally in the sense that, though I could never create the algorithm, I can in fact use logic to create a list of things (over 200 some say) that make sense to go into the algorithm.

          There are a lot of sites on the web using both frameworks, and if google sees that there are several structural elements that are consistent on each, maybe it could have an effect on rankings when those elements are abruptly changed. it’s worth thinking about at least.

        • Adam Baird says:

          Likewise, I have no real evidence to support this. I’m not an SEO guy. I have picked up a fair amount of knowledge in my time as a developer/designer, but its not my area of expertise.

          However, I will say that it makes a ton of sense to use a framework regardless. As you point out Nathan, you know you’ve got clean, concise, semantic code to begin with. When you switch to another theme, you may or may not get that. Also, its SOOO much easier to switch designs when you’re building from the same base.

        • Nathan Rice says:

          I’m not disputing the idea that switching to a poorly coded theme will negatively affect your rankings. It most likely will. There is evidence to support this, as well.

          The point of contention I would raise is the assertion that switching from one well-structured theme to another well structured theme would negatively impact a site. I don’t see any reason why it would.

  • […] know that WordPress coupled with a powerful theme framework is the best way to run a […]

  • Ginger F says:

    I have been debating Thesis versus Genesis for a large multi-site network of real estate neighborhood blogs. After reading this it sounds like Genesis is the way to go. However I have a question on footers and customizations.

    Adam said “Thesis also gives you the ability to control the layout of your homepage using any combination of featured posts and “teasers” to create a magazine style layout. Finally, you have near complete control over what shows up in your bylines, comments, teasers, and post content”

    I want to use unique bylines for different authors and have a lot of control over which posts are featured on the home page, etc. Am I going to be limited with Genesis. Most of the Genesis themes do not have footers but I am assuming any good developer can work around that no?

    • Danny Brown says:

      Hi Ginger,

      The Genesis theme comes pre-loaded with an Author Box option, so you can have different bylines after each article (we use it over at our blogging multi-author site).

      Having a widgetized footer is achieved through some custom CSS and your developer would be able to do this for you. :)

  • Rene Lynch says:

    I have been wringing my hands over going with Genesis or Thesis. I found this extremely helpful. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I appreciate it.

  • what a wonderful comparison. I am using thesis 1.8. I have heard about Genesis But never try it. But i like the comparison and feels like trying genesis on my other blog

  • Well, you know what finally decided it for me ? The guy who is moving my website to a WP Blog has a Thesis developers deal, so I am getting Thesis. Now, I am looking at some premium skins for Thesis. One that has caught my eye is called Print is Dead, and it costs 50 dollars.
    Any suggestions to some other premium Thesis Themes I might look at ?

  • Owen Marcus says:


    Great post and perfect timing for me. I was one of the original Thesis customers. I have built many sites for myself and others using Thesis. I have loved Chris’ continuing development as well as his support team. But sometimes good things come to an end.

    Five weeks ago, a new site that I am building crashed after I migrated two other Thesis blogs into the site. The site works with other themes, but Thesis keeps misbehaving no matter what fix I try. Thesis support and Girlie suggested a few fixes, but unfortunately they didn’t work. Girlie was gracious enough to offer to go into my site to take a look. She did. Then after three weeks, she got Chris to look at it. It seems now they are back to saying it is the data base which was thoroughly checked four weeks ago. Server works fine for other sites and other themes.

    Because of my disappointments with my old love – Thesis, and the Thesis crew not apologizing for its dysfunction, I am hunting for a new love. Genesis looks like my girl. Thanks for the write up.

  • Hey guys, what is a Child Theme ? Can someone please explain what it is, advantages and or disadvantages ? Another question I have is if you are moving a website to A WordPress theme, and the existing front page of the website has a ton of text, is it ok to incorporate that existing website page into a WordPress Theme using a snippet of text, followed by read more ? How will search engines see this ? My existing website pages are well indexed, and rank highly. What would you be sure to do to maintain the high ranking when moving to any WordPress Theme ?

  • User says:

    As others have said, this was a really fair and in my opinion, accurate assessment of Thesis vs Genesis. I agree Thesis still has a slight edge, but as you stated, this may not be the case as Genesis matures. Thanks for putting this together.

  • Marianne says:

    I just bought Genesis and a theme (haven’t even installed them yet) to go along with it. As a newbie to working with frameworks and very little coding experience, I think I’ve made the right decision. After reading your post along with all the comments, I’ve given me a good idea of what to expect. Thank you! :)

  • I am a relative blog newbie. I had 2 blogs – one thesis and one genesis. Glad to know I accidentally chose the two best options.

  • An excellent article and one I’ve bookmarked. Thanks for the time and effort put into your detailed research, and it’s great to see the theme owners/developers themselves taking part in the discussion. Makes me feel confident in using both of these frameworks!

    • Adam Baird says:


      I was just reading over the article again, and its amazing that a 4,000 word article can miss so many key features of each theme. Thesis is absolutely amazing, and, now that I’ve used genesis on a couple more sites, I’m starting to realize I really didn’t do either theme justice here. Here’s to both teams for kicking out a couple of awesome products.

      • I went and bought Genesis on the back of this article mentioning the SEO features and I have to say I’m impressed, the control is incredible. Once I’m comfortable with the ins and outs of Genesis I’ll check out Thesis. However being such a huge framework though the documentation (or lack of it) has made this a slower learning curve than I thought. Sitepoint’s “Wicked WordPress Themes” was very helpful but is built using a completely different framework. Hopefully someone will release a similar book for Genesis (hint hint) :)

        • Actually I thought about this comment again- there is a ton of Genesis documentation on their website which is very helpful. What I’m missing is a decent eBook or set or related articles that explain how to put together a whole case study, written for the first-time WordPress programmer. Genesis actually really straight forward once you have a grasp on where things are happening and how to control the output. If someone wants to write that book I’ll bet there’s a market for it.

  • Alain Lesage says:

    Thanks a lot for this very thorough and informative review. I was just about to make a choice and this was extremely useful. I will share it around.

  • William A says:

    Thanks for the great review. I will share with my friends.

  • Tinh says:

    My knowledge expanded a lot while reading this and I have planned for a switch and you convinced me very much in doing this. Great comparison :-)

  • PhilD says:

    Great article,
    I’ve only just become aware of Thesis, Genesis & the buzz surrounding them.

    Do either frameworks come with flexible grid layouts and
    intelligent use of CSS media queries etc?

    That would shave a bitta time off the process

  • Shivanand Sharma says:

    hmm. I hear ya, problogger & copyblogger…

    I’m totally clueless why I should be using Genesis after already running Thesis for over an year. But you’ve given me enough reasons to start developing on Genesis for my clients. Excellent article.

  • Funvblog says:

    Nice Comparison. I recently buy a thesis theme and apply on my blog. Such a great frameworks

  • Traffic and Trust Review and Practical Web Design Application says:

    […] I don’t exactly gain a copious amount of fulfillment from either one. I can write some pretty good stuff, but I’m not the best at getting traffic or building a brand around what I write.Nick […]

  • Darren K says:

    Hey Ginger,

    Did you ever figure out which solution to go with for your multi-site real estate implementation? I am doing a similar job. Thanks!

  • Ankit Saini says:

    Great Comparison..
    I am currently using thesis in my blog and its rocks..

  • Rich Ashby says:

    I’ve just finished my second Genesis website in the space of 3 weeks, having learned the framework from scratch about 4 weeks ago. It’s simply a case of taking the sample child theme and fixing up the CSS et voila- website done. If you have access to the full set of child themes you can see how the pros re-work the standard Genesis CSS into pretty much anything you can think of.

    To learn it all you need to do is study the HTML being output and understand where the Genesis hooks are, the online documentation helps you out with this. Having a solid grasp of CSS selectors is essential, from there it’s just trial and error.

    Anyway the more I use it the more I love it. My clients have been blown away with the SEO options. I’ll be building my next few client sites in Genesis for sure, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  • Keith Davis says:

    Great in depth review Adam
    I’m looking to buy something like Thesis or Genesis in the future.
    Your article has probably moved me in favour of Thesis.

    Thanks for taking the time to compare the two – saves the rest of us having to try and compare them.

  • Adam,
    Fantastic job on reviewing these themes. I think you did an amazing job while keeping the article “readable”. There’s almost no way to cover everything in one article, but you came close. :)

    I’m unashamedly a Thesis fan and user. Hands down, my sites rank the fastest and best with the Thesis theme, and my small business clients realize the same results. The SEO structure is incredible, and makes my job a lot easier. I’ve tried other themes (although not Genesis), and their performance can’t compare.

    I probably won’t try Genesis, because I’m not technically oriented so I’d prefer not to start the learning curve over again w/a new theme. With that said, I don’t think I need to because I get everything I want within Thesis.

    Matt Hodder and his brother have done a great job with skins for Thesis at ThesisThemes(dot)com, and several of their skins are free.

    For a non-techie girl like me, with a passion for helping local business, it’s web-utopia.
    (P.S. A pdf tutorial would be awesome. DoubleMult(dot)com wrote one in 09 that was fantastic. Does anyone know if an updated manual exists?)

  • Anand Kumar says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. I was confused to select the better theme.

    Thanks again!

  • WebMatros says:

    I know HTML well, but I think there is a lot of merit to Chris Pearsons Thesis ideology about having an HTML framework that is fully optimized and never changes. So, when I recently did a Thesis based site for a client I somehow enjoyed the lean theme structure. No big theme folder full of files. Just hooks and CSS.

    That’s zen theming;-)

    And Thesis is motherrockin’ fast! Very few db queries to show a page.

  • DizitalTech says:

    An interesting read, definitely will gonna try Genesis!

  • Saqib says:

    Awesome review. Very well written and you succeeded in covering all aspects. In short, Thesis wins :)

  • KJ says:

    Wow what a comprehensive review, I have just run some database speed tests on Thesis 1.8, Genesis 1.5, Genesis 1.6 (beta) plus over 40 other WordPress Frameworks and Themes.

    I think you’ll find my results interesting:

    I would really welcome any feedback on my testing.


  • Gus Venditto says:

    Very helpful — as someone who has just started shopping for a WordPress theme design package, this has saved me so much time.

    I have to agree with those who point out the advantage Genesis has on pricing. I was actually close to buying Thesis until I started to read the pricing options and started scratching my head. Would I need to change the ownership record for domains I own to suit Thesis’ definition of whether they are registered to me? I probably would have to change whois records for 5 domains to save myself $200!. And there’s no option on the site to get more information. Not even an email link. I guess the great support starts after you pay?

    I haven’t made a decision yet but Genesis’ simple pricing and the fact that the website gives you more upfront answers are major pluses.

  • Paul says:

    Great comparison there cheers. You can see the strength of it by the positive and constructive comments above by developers like Chris Pearson and Nathan Rice.

    Web design wise I just play around, though I look after several sites for myself and friends and I was looking for something like this after seeing a time limited offer for Genesis on Twitter.

    I’ve used Thesis myself for some time and love it’s clean look and easy design, especially when it comes to playing with style sheets. For me, one of the greatests strengths of Thesis is actually the Thesis Openhook add-on ( ). Personally I’ll like to see that taken in-house, but that’s my own view.

    The fact Copyblogger started using (and it seems reading this has merged with) Genesis was what perked my interest, especially in view of this weeks offer at for the framework and all themes for $250.

    As I don’t actually make any money doing web design, even ads don’t cover the cost of the server (more ‘cos I don’t try!), $250 is a lot. Still, I’m giving it a lot of though, if only to keep my options open.

    Anyway, here’s my thoughts of what I’ve read, biased an an existing Thesis user.
    1. The pricing system for Thesis could be made clearer.
    2. Thesis is a very clean framework and easy design around
    3. Genesis themes look really slick – and yet of the 37 or so they already have available, I haven’t seen a one that I’d say, ‘Yes please, I must have that!’
    However, some of the features some of the features at like, ‘Oh I do like that…’

    As it stands, I’m still trying to make my own mind up, but my feeling is I will stick this Thesis, but get Genesis to play with. I guess it all comes down to the best tool for the job, so I’d say get both, default to the one you are most comfortable with.

    • If you like Thesis for its OpenHooks plugin, Genesis has one just like it called Genesis Simple Hooks ( ).

      While I understand how these plugins are useful for some, I don’t like them. If you type something wrong you could break your site, making it impossible for you to log into the backend and fix the change in OpenHooks or Simple Hooks.

      It’s best to edit the code either directly on the server using an HTML editor (so you can click “undo” and save), or work locally and periodically upload your changes to the server, keeping the file open so you can undo, save, and reupload if there’s any issues.

  • Paul says:

    Been looking for an honest straight forward review between these two themes. Looks like this post have answered most of my questions. Good thing cause I was about to purchase something less desirable.


  • Great article, thanks for the comparison! I started out with Thematic a few years ago but switched to Thesis back in 1.5 and have been using Thesis exclusively ever since. Recently we’ve been wondering if it was time to consider other alternatives but this article makes me more sure that I’ll be sticking with Thesis until there is a real reason to switch..

    I agree with Paul above who touts Openhook as a great feature that Thesis gives you access to .. I’ve also been able to leverage openhook to create themes on multisites – add a css link to the wp_head and because it is in the db instead of the file system, you can customize per site.

    The design controls are invaluable to me as a custom theme developers. The ability to go in and setup all of my fonts and layouts in one pass saves me tons of time.

    One feature I didn’t see mentioned is the ability to import settings with Thesis. I have a couple of different settings templates saved for particular types of designs we use, and I can cut out a lot of repetitive work by importing the settings that I use each time ..

    Does the Genesis framework have any sort of import function like this? Or is it irrelevant with their lack of design controls?

    I have yet to delve into Genesis, and maybe their docs have come a long way in the last 6 months (?) but I would agree with the above comments that the Thesis rtfm is fantastic and comprehensive. The assertion that docs aren’t needed because you can just look at the code is just silly to me..

    Thanks again for a great article and the productive conversation is has provoked!

  • Soren says:

    Great comparison between the two, and also great additional info in the comments… I think for me personally it got a bit too technical, but I think to my overall understanding that if you’re serious about your site building foundation, and if you do not want to use already made child themes, then your best bet will be the Thesis framework, right?

    I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the great review.

  • Vinay says:

    Thanks for such a great article.

  • Hi Adam. Thanks very much for this article. This was exactly what I was looking for as I’m hoping to start my WP blog real soon. Thx for being objective.

  • Gouri says:

    Thanks Adam for such a detailed analysis. As you said, both frameworks are among the best ones in the industry.

    But the preference of one over the other depends upon one’s requirements and usage.

    If I want to use it for multiple blogs and want each one to look different without having to develop/buy a skin, then probably I’d find it more comfortable to work with Genesis supported by its readily available child themes. On the other hand, if I am well versed in developing skins, or don’t mind paying for them at the drop of a hat whenever I feel like changing the looks of my blog, then may be I’d go for Thesis.

    Also, those who don’t feel comfortable paying out for theme each time they develop a site for their client will find Genesis more helpful.

  • Society of Socialpreneurs says:

    […] Thesis Theme v. Genesis Theme: A WordPress Premium Theme Comparison by Adam Baird […]

  • Deepika says:

    Thanks for such a great article. How can a multimedia box (featured box) be added to genesis.

  • Bernard says:

    Excelent post. I was looking for this kind of review. You have done a great job putting this together. Thanks!

  • prem@premslog says:

    Nice Comparision……….According to me Genesis lags Some Features Of thesis ,

  • Mel says:

    This was by far the best comparison I have came across for Thesis/Genesis.

    I went with Genesis but did try Thesis on another site. I liked the out-of-the box child themes for Genesis better. I have been struggling with the learning curve involved with Genesis and the lack of tutorials outside the support community for things that I want and need. I assume this is from being newbie.

    From my (very little) experience its a lot like Mac & PC which is better debate! Thanks for this comparison post.

  • Jey@tecnoupdates says:

    Nice comparison dude thx

  • Great comparison. I’m so tired of affiliate bloggers who write up horrible comparisons and reviews just to push someone to the highest paying opportunity.

    I personally use Thesis and love it. Just looking at Genesis as a viable option for one of my clients.


  • Haroun Kola says:

    Thanks for a great and unbiased review of both themes, I’ve tended to go with Yoast’s recommendation of using a plugin for my SEO, and I like Thesis way of handling custom content before the category.

    All in all, both themes are great to use and as a designer one can get either of them to do what a good WordPress site should do.

  • I own Thesis developer license and have developed several complex sites. Recently bought Genesis pro plus package. Man the “type” is all over the place! For a developer who’d like to focus on design and coding, spending time to get typography correct is aweful. But as a developer I have clients who demand Genesis sites. With several layouts/child-themes, it tends to be easier to start with a layout of your choice (if you can do with the typography). Nevertheless I avoid Genesis (typography mainly). I love a framework as clean as a canvas and with the type so beautiful it would make me weak in the knees.

  • Great impartial review.

    So often i read a review on a particular program and then there’s an affiliate marketing link to the program in question.

    Great review- off to Genesis i go!

  • Thank you so much! I have been struggling with which one to get until I found your post. I am going to run over and get Thesis right now. Great article on a comparison between Thesis and Genesis.

  • Great article. I have referred to this article many times over the past 6 months, as I grapple with changing to Genesis.

    I have been using Thesis for the past 24 months. It is how I learned how to use WordPress and have developed half a dozen sites with Thesis. The support with Thesis has been great and I have learned alot and invested tons of time to get my main site to where it is; and it still needs work to get the dynamic footer going.

    This past month I tried Genesis with a child theme and my site was up in a couple hours with a lot of the features I had to code and/or tweak with Thesis. Granted the typography choices are not as flexible and easy as Thesis, but if you want a site that has footer widgets and ready to go second nav bar for categories without any coding, Genesis with child theme is the way to go for me. I am about to switch to Genesis for my next main blog site effort.

    I have waited a year for Thesis to get child themes but it just hasn’t happened yet. Please Thesis, can you get this part moving for us who are not experienced developers.

    • Adam Baird says:

      Thesis does not offer in-house child themes as of yet, but if you google “Thesis skins” you’ll find quite a few Thesis designs – some premium and some free.

  • Adam
    When I checked into the skins that were comparable in design to the Genesis widgetized post and page feature, they didn’t offer the flexibility that Genesis does. Also the slider they had included in the theme the comments I read on it people were having problems with it.

    Also, without being able to try out the theme or skin before you buy is limiting. I was able to test drive Genesis and it was pretty easy for me to adapt to their method.

    So for now, the child theme of Genesis seems to be able to give me the most flexibility I need with little coding.

  • AC says:

    Awesome writeup! Quite impartial and loaded with useful info. Thanks!

    • Keith Davis says:

      Agree with you AC – a great article and some pretty informative comments.

      I’ve just bought the pro plus package of Genesis and am just about to go live with my first Genesis site.
      Particularly interested in the page load time and the built in SEO settings – lots to learn but the forum over at Studiopress is pretty good.

      Also impressed with the rate of new theme production.
      Great themes, which make it hard to choose.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great review. And I agree wholeheartedly that Thesis is the better option of the two. I just bought a nice theme over at ThemeForest after trying to decide between Genesis 1.7.1, Elegant Themes, and the theme I just purchased (Mingle theme for WordPress). What scared me away from the Genesis theme (it really isn’t a framework at all) was the fact that there is literally no way to make design changes without having to edit the theme’s core files. Unlike you, I’m not a developer, and I don’t have the time (or skills) to deal with themes that provide ZERO options for clients to make design changes to their site; to me, that’s no different from using a free WordPress theme–most free WordPress themes ALSO provide no design options, so why would I PAY for a theme that’s basically no better than something I can get for free?
    Someone gave me the chance to test Thesis and Genesis 1.7, but I chose a theme that literally turns WordPress into a CMS, and although there is a slight learning curve, I’m getting the hang of it, AND I appreciate that I don’t have to “code” anything to make my site look good. Theme designers need to pay more attention to us little guys–and gals. I mean: why waste time developing themes (themes with ZERO design options) for developers, when those developers already know how to design/build their own themes??? Maybe that’s a bit of common-sense logic the developers over at StudioPress need to work on “developing”.

    • Nathan Rice says:

      You’ve evidently not heard of our Prose child theme. It does exactly what you’re talking about.

      The reason it’s not a part of Genesis itself is because building design options into Genesis would have made our 40+ turn-key child theme designs difficult, if not impossible. I think after you look at it, you’ll agree that the Genesis product line is both powerful AND flexible.

      • Adam Baird says:

        I don’t see that it would be impossible to maintain design options and child themes. Theoretically, you could write some sort of filter/api to change design option defaults, no? (honest question…its not something I’ve had occasion to attempt, and I’ve not really dug through the Genesis options code)

        To me, that would just add one more layer of flexibility to Genesis. Child themes are great, but most people want their site to look unique. Giving the non-coding crowd a chance to change a few colors/fonts/etc. without having to dig into CSS or pay someone would be great.

        • Danny Brown says:

          Thing is, though, the price of Genesis and Prose together isn’t that much more than Thesis, Headway or Catalyst (amongst others). So, essentially, you’re getting to do all these frameworks do (as far as changing design colours, styles, etc) for about the same price, and using it to build a “unique” look.

          With all that being said, the new Blocks system on the imminent Headway 3.0 look amazing, and could really put the cat among the pigeons on theme/framework development when released.

          Whichever framework is used, I think it’s safe to say that the real winners are us bloggers, with all the quality choices we have. :)

  • The only feature of Genesis is it’s child themes which offer you several layouts. They all come with a compromised typography. Nothing more to it. I offer Genesis services not because I like Genesis but because my clients want it.

  • Nathan Rice says:

    Could it be done? Maybe. But one of two things will happen. Either: 1) child theme development time gets inflated or 2) child theme designs become far less creative.

    But instead of disputing the potential of combining the two, I’d rather dispute the supposed demand for the combination. I don’t think there is very much. We have an option for people who want to point and click their way to a unique design, and it’s separate from the main framework. We believe this is the undeniably the most practical solution, for a myriad of reasons. But Prose is not our best selling theme.

    I think we are guilty of assuming that people WANT to design their own site. They don’t. Regular people generally suck at design. And the people that CAN design generally don’t have much of an issue learning how to translate that design into CSS (quite possibly the easiest programming language to learn. In fact, most programmers would punch me for calling CSS “programming”).

    I’d put the Genesis showcase up against any other theme showcase out there.

    We’ve built something for the people who want the “no code” design stuff. But we’ve specifically focused most of our resources on creating turn-key child themes, and that is consistently the option that our customers choose most often.

    • Adam Baird says:


      You guys have definitely done a great job of targeting your audience, and that shows with your results.

      That said, I don’t think most people want to create full-fledged designs from scratch, nor was it my aim to suggest that. I think most folks would prefer to change a few things here and there within the parameters of a given child theme.

      Of course, you guys have to do what you believe is best for your customers, and none of this is to say that the Thesis design options are perfect or give people everything they want (though it will be interesting to see what 2.0 brings.)

  • […] “Thesis 1.8 and Genesis 1.3 Compared” from Art of Blog compares two of the leading WordPress themes. One of the criteria that the article uses to assess the themes is support and documentation. […]

  • BTW Genesis does beautifully with Buddypress and bbPress plugin. Genesis is already leading in this area. That’s where Thesis is ages behind and doesn’t seem to have a solution anywhere in the close future or any intent thereof.

  • BobR says:

    “…The outlook for Genesis is about as positive as it can possibly be. Honestly, the majority of the few pitfalls Genesis currently has are results of only being 6 months out from release. In another year I fully expect Genesis to be leaps and bounds ahead of where it is today…”

    This article compares Thesis 1.8 with Genesis 1.3…Genesis is today at 1.7.1 so my question is: how is the situation now?
    I’m asking this because I’m looking to buy a new premium theme for my future blog and I would like to know which one is better in terms of speed and SEO?
    I can see this article is about Thesis and Genesis but how do these two top WP themes compare with Headway and Builder 3.2, the “new kids on the block”? Your expert opinion would be much appreciated.

  • BobR says:

    Thanks guys for your ansewrs, however I’ve decided to give Genesis a go after a chat with one of the WP SEO guru out there… and I’m not looking back :). Using Genesis on one of other sites has increased the organic traffic with almost 50% (yes, doubled the traffic after installing the Genesis framework in connection with a child theme). So I’m convinced to use Genesis on other websites I’m going to build.
    I’m looking to build using Elle theme from Studiopress Marketplace.
    I would have liked to give Headway a go but it seems they don’t offer a 30 days money back guarantee as Thesis and Studiopress does…

  • Sean Davis says:

    Thanks for this outstanding comparison. I don’t even have anything useful to add. This was the exact resource I was looking for as I am running a Thesis site and am extremely impressed with and I had no choice but to wonder.

    For now, I think I am sticking with Thesis. They are both outstanding, though.

    Great article and I most definitely appreciate the time and effort.


  • […] their child themes (Prose) we went with Genesis for some websites, based on external comparisons, including this one. For a single site and theme you can buy Genesis for under US$100 and for unlimited sites and child […]

  • Token Health says:

    Excellent comparison, I have been using Thesis 1.8 myself but have yet to give Genesis a try. Thanks for showing them side by side.

  • Luke says:

    Thanks a lot for this Thesis vs Genesis post. I read it and most of the comments too.

    But from my point of view it’s simple: only 1 of them (Genesis) has attracted world class designers, and that’s the most important thing. Looking through all the premium skins and child templates available for both that’s my conclusion.

    And this was the exact situation with Xsitepro vs WP. Xsitepro is more secure and is also far faster to deploy, has in-built SEO etc. So people promoted it on technical grounds. But what we found is that your site design will suck because the platform hasn’t attracted quality designers.

    Regular folk aren’t designers.

    DIY design takes many, many hours. (Web design is complicated for non pros). And after all the tears, it’s still not worth it because DIY design usually sucks when compared to professional stuff. There’s evidence of this in Thesis and Xsitepro sites I see.

    It’s like buying a blank canvas with boxes of paint. With just those, you have little chance of painting something professional. At first I first bought Thesis. Now I see that Genesis have the right idea with their professionally designed child templates. I’ll be switching.

    • Well the last comment is more of a compliment for Thesis. Genesis child themes get you something to start with, but Thesis gives you unmatched typography and a blank canvas with unlimited flexibility and scope for your creative juices to flow.

      • Luke says:

        And the last comment links to site owned by a professional web designer. Ahhh. This makes my point for me again… Let me repeat it.

        We are not all web designers. We cannot work from a blank canvas then create professional layouts with navigation gradients, css borders, hover buttons etc.

        How many non-designers have you ever seen create professional layouts from blank, using CSS, navigation gradients and so on? I’d say none, especially based on Thesis site’s I’ve seen.

        If I wasn’t clear enough, my comments are not aimed at you guys, but at a normal non-web-designer person.

        And when I talked about Thesis not attracting world class designers, I was talking about skins/templates, not bespoke work.

        • Adam Baird says:

          There’s no argument that, at this point, Genesis provides less resistance if you’re a complete beginner with limited funds who just needs a plug and play solution.

          You can buy Genesis and a child theme and be up and running in minutes.

          I hope (and I assume), that Thesis 2.0 will close that gap.

          All that said, Thesis is still extremely powerful if you have the patience to beat the learning curve, or the funds to hire a professional.

        • Lolz. I barged uninvited as you mentioned developers. Just thought I’d say I absolutely love Thesis. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Jeremy Ferguson says:

    After awaiting thesis 2.0 for too long we have moved to Genesis, looking for better support of various WP 3.0 features. We won’t be looking back. Genesis is very well documented (despite the above) and the transition has been very smooth. Better support of multisite through child themes and more typical adherence to various WP standards are among the things i really like about Genesis so far.

    I do miss my font controls but I’m adapting.

    • I hope Thesis catches up. And I wish Genesis had more hooks and filters. Being a pro, I don’t need the options at all.

      • What additional hooks/filters are you looking for? I’ve been building Genesis sites for over a year now and haven’t found any hooks or filters needed that I’m missing. But if there is something you’d like, provide the use case and it will most likely make it into Genesis.

        By the way, one of the best new features of Genesis 1.8 is the improved inline documentation. Here’s an example of documentation automatically created from Genesis’ inline doc:

        Under the Files dropdown, start typing a function (like genesis_get_option) and it will show you the file where it is, and clicking on it you’ll see all the documentation on that specific function.

  • To me, Thesis is the small block Chevrolet of WP Platforms.
    It has been around a long time, and there are lots of cool things for it, as well as people familiar with it.
    Genesis is cool too, and has some child themes I like.

  • Mydul says:

    Very informative post. I personally find genesis more fascinating. But thesis has a better supportive community. Without any doubt they are the two biggest theme giants.

  • Serjoka says:

    Everything I’ve read till this line it’s was an awesome reading, but not so useful for me, I’m approaching WP Framework mostly because of “Time Saving” solution.

    I’m a PHP developer and I build Both Joomla and WordPress templates and I’ve always done my templates starting from scratch, from a base scheleton and going over, sometimes enjoying Smarty framework for really customized projects. But the fact is that no matter how many lines you write describing a Item against another and how complete such comparation is, because you will never have the right idea until you do not try by your own.

    And unfortunately for both framework there’s no way of using a trial version before to buy it.

    I would prefer to buy a more expensive framework which exactly fit my need rather than buying a cheaper one but how can I make a choice without trying it?

    Will you buy a two size bigger suit just because its material is better compared to another one?

  • Nikhil Goyal says:

    Its a very comprehensive and most complete comparison between the heavyweights of the two wordpress theme framework.

    From what I gather from here is that both framework have their strengths and weakness and they are just going to be more awesome with each new and upcoming version. I look forward to utilizing both framework in future frameworks.

  • DIYThemes Thesis 2.0: A Marketing Con or a Great Step Forward? — Aussie Views News says:

    […] Out of interest, here is a reasonably good comparison of current Thesis with its nearest competitor Genesis 1.3. The article is by Adam Baird and it is from the website artoblog. […]

  • Billie says:

    I used to use Thesis when it first came out until I found StudioPress and started working with their themes. Then, they introduced Genesis, which I love.

    Recently, I went back to Thesis to build a site for someone and it reminded me how much I LOVE StudioPress.

    As far as SEO, hard to measure because you don’t know what a person is doing for on / off site SEO but one of my StudioPress sites is kicking similar sites who run on Thesis’ butt. Of course, I do a lot of SEO work and they might not be.

    Genesis & Child Themes get my vote

  • Shailesh Tripathi says:

    Nice theme I’m gonna use it on my next site. I loved the layout and design of the site. Share it to each other is my current website and I am constantly conscious of it’s design factor.

  • Keshav mishra says:

    i have been working on thesis and i love it alot … its flexiblity has inspired me!!! never used genesis so wornder it will be better than thesis or not … still its good and i am satisfied :)

  • I came here because I was just confused whether to go for Thesis or Genesis. With thesis I have a developer version. But genesis I don’t have any yet. But I was considering to buy Genesis as there are ready made child themes available, so I thought it would be easy to setup. Which one should I ready go for?

    Thesis or Genesis? I want one which I can setup easily.

  • Stuart says:

    I’ve been searching for a flexible option to the free basic theme available for WordPress. I have read many arguments for both Thesis and Genesis and this comparison is tops and almost unbiased! My thoughts however I’m leaning towards the adoption of Genesis for my stable of sites. Thank you everyone for your fantastic input into the overall comparison.

  • Daniel Lim says:

    Dear Adam,

    Great article, thank you so much for the in depth review!

    I currently am running a blog ( I started out the blog using a heavily edited theme, because I wasn’t ready to pay for a premium theme. However, after writing content for the blog for a few months, I’ve realized that its time for me to go to the next step. I would like to do that by placing ads on my blog, as well as start promoting my content more. Problem is, with the current state of code, it would take me really long to get all those things sorted out (as I don’t have much background in coding).

    Could I ask if by purchasing and using the Thesis theme, I’ll be able to customize it to something similar to what I have now on my blog? I really love the Minimalistic design and would be really sad if after purchasing the theme, I can’t get back something similar.

    Would really appreciate any advice you give me, thank you so much!


  • Max says:

    Great review. I have been using genesis for a while now, I have never used thesis though.

    Not being able to comment on thesis, I just wanted to say about the studiopress team, I have posted a few requests for help in their forums (user : maximusb) over the past 6 months and I have always got fast, helpful responses. I really have felt like no issue was too small for them, and they were happy to take their time and help someone as new to it all as me. After reading other posts in their forum it’s obvious everyone gets the same treatment.

    Excellent after sales support Studiopress!!! thank you.

  • […] jury is still out regarding which theme is the best. For example, a recent review of Thesis and Genesis showed that they both offer many of the same features, and that the best […]

  • Derek Murphy says:

    Thanks! Really enjoyed this. I tried Genesis and a child theme, but with almost no options to customize the settings I was too frustrated; I couldn’t make even the very basic simple changes that I’m used to with wordpress.

    Maybe I’ll give Thesis a shot. I love the look of this blog, especially the signup boxes on the top and bottom – is this Thesis too? Is there a tutorial?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, this is thesis.. and you def should switch to thesis as it sounds like you are like me and are not a developer in any shape of the word. Trust me (and anyone else that’s reading) you will have far more control over customization with thesis if you’re a newb like me.

  • Chris Olbekson says:

    Nice comparison post. The thing about Thesis that bothers me the most is all the hoops you have to jump through to do any customization from a development standpoint. I don’t really use either theme but I’ve have built sites on both because clients requested them. The Genesis hooks and filters system is more inline with doing it the WordPress way than the stupid Thesis Custom Loop API.

    To crown the champion your going to have to let everyone know which affiliate marketing program you made the most on from this post. I think Thesis probably pays more since thats there bread and butter for selling themes.

  • Casey H says:

    I would like to thank you for an awesome comparison of the two frameworks. I have been debating between which one to use for a new client site, and this has really helped to shed some light on things.

    Keep up the great work! I really enjoyed this review!

    – Casey

  • Fajar says:

    I like Thesis Framework sir..
    because Fast load,fast indexed and SEO friendly.Thanks :D

  • Craig Smith says:

    Ive never used an alternative Framework that sits on top of WordPress. WordPress in it’s self is it’s own Framework. So reading your post, it is something that is interesting. The problem I have with Templates, or possibly these could be called Frameworks as well, is most don’t follow the natural flow of the WordPress in general. With hidden files, custom php code and functions. Making it all very confusing. It’s like the developer totally disregarded all the time and effort put into WordPress itself.

  • Rob says:

    Disclaimer: I’m an absolute novice when it comes to coding.

    Just wanted to add my 2 cents here. I’ve been using the genesis theme for a couple of months now, and will continue to use it in combination with a few child themes I’ve purchased, but overall I wish i would’ve went with thesis and will purchase it soon. As someone who has no coding skills whatsoever, the COMPLETE LACK OF DESIGN CUSTOMIZATION is just a deal breaker for me. I’m sure, for many, the child themes are the perfect solution, but thesis makes it so much easier to customize your design. You quoted the developer of genesis as saying that design customization isn’t a priority… uhh yeah, I can tell. Not sure why he would make that decision intentionally… I guess it’s easier to SELL MORE CHILD THEMES if you can’t customize jack in the “premium” framework. To anybody reading this, unless you have some coding skills, go with thesis. I had the opportunity to play with it a bit recently and instantly was kicking myself for not getting it in the first place…. Oh, you mean I can actually customize the design of my site with my premium WP theme? Hey, what a novel concept.

    • (I don’t work for StudioPress, but I do build websites using Genesis)

      The Genesis theme framework does not, will not, and should not have design options built in. That’s the domain of child themes.

      The child theme contains your specific website’s design. If you’re a coder, you implement this design with code. If you’re not a coder, use the Prose child theme which lets you design the site using design options.

      The great thing about Genesis is that coder’s have a ton of flexibility to build what they want and provide options to do what they want. But if you’re not a coder, you have all the same design options using Prose.

      For design options, don’t compare Genesis to Thesis. Compare Genesis+Prose to Thesis.

  • Robin Stanley says:

    A great resource. Thanks Adam!

    It’s been two years since you wrote this article, and I’d love to know what new considerations you now think we should be taking into account.

    What are the most relevant developments as you see it.

    Understandably in a debate like this technical considerations make their way to the forefront however it’s also important to consider the teams behind both products.

    Chris Pearson is obviously smart but might not his antagonistic relationship with Matt Mullenweg ultimately not backfire both on him and his customers?

    Just a thought.

  • JJ says:

    Just curious as to why there has been no discussion about Genesis with an add-on like Dynamik. I understand that’s an added cost, but for that cost, it “seems” to catapult Genesis+Dynamik way over Thesis. Now I do not have first hand experience with this, but have heard from a few experts in the field who use that combo that it is a dream. Anyone else here have an input on that? Or does Thesis have an add-on as well that puts it on par with that combo? I understand we are trying to compare apples with apples, but to me, whats more important is the potential and the final product combo (unless the added cost is ludicrous of course) for the user/designer… FYI, I have a been a professional web/graphics designer and have added SEO in the last 2-3 years fairly aggressively, but I hate coding work and try to avoid it.

    But this has been my favorite post so far on Genesis and did not even know much about Thesis until now since I am just diving into WordPress, committed, having decided it is about time I get away from HTML and Dreamweaver and spend more time on marketing and content. The added comments for 2 years strong is just as valuable as the OP!

  • rsalumpit says:

    Do you have any plans on releasing 2.0? maybe in 2015?

  • terry-o says:

    Love the article and the subsequent discussion is stellar. Amazing community here. However, I’m still missing something. Why would someone even want or need to choose Thesis or Genesis? You can simply select WP2011 and turn that into just about anything you want with a child theme.

  • super comparison adam…but nevertheless i still think genesis is the way to go, as nathan pointed out genesis auto upgrade feature is very much required and for seo we can always use wordpress seo by yoast, its rock solid and has tons of features than the standard in-built settings in genesis or thesis.

    as far as the js goes yes genesis uses superfish for dropdowns and combining them will certainly reduce http requests (good point you made). Perhaps why i am more attracted towards genesis is coz it uses wordpress native functionality for powering its framework, call me paranoid but i like that setup ;-) i still think wp post thumbnail feature is the many debated topics when it comes to thesis vs genesis.

  • Chris Langille says:

    “In a technical sense, the frameworks load almost 100% differently. Genesis more or less uses the traditional WordPress method of using different templates for the header, sidebar, footer, index, etc. Thesis almost completely ignores this structure. ”

    Is that a good thing or a bad thing? (that Thesis ignores that structure)

  • Finally. An article comparing these frameworks that isn’t just a summary from the developer’s sites and basically just a way to generate affiliate sales. Would be nice to see an updated post though and one that considers responsiveness.

    I’ve been using Solostreams for 2 years, so I’m a little worried about switching given your comment about getting penalized for SEO.

  • I have been with Thesis for about a year now. I have been thoroughly pleased, though I have not had the opportunity to take Genesis for a spin. The idea behind Thesis 2.0 is amazing as I have experienced it so far.

    However, at this point, I am seriously considering a switch. The main reason being what Gautam Doddamani was referring to regarding non-native WordPress structure. This is evident in the fact that BuddyPress and bbPress do not play nicely with it.

    I know the Thesis team is hard at it to make them work better together, but the frustration is building as each day passes and I hear nothing about these WordPress native plugins.

    Reviews of Genesis seem to assert that it already flows with them quite nicely. The only hesitation I am having is that I do not want to shell out another $60+ to discover that, yet again, I have to spend time doing web design instead of content-creation (the fear I earned while spending the last few weeks wrestling to make my Thesis 2.0 site look like it did under Thesis 1.8.)

    I just want to have my site up and work. I want to move on to content-creation and community management. Currently stuck in the mire of web design. I am holding out for the Thesis team to continue to deliver as they have to date, but I cannot handle the wait for much longer, let alone the prospect of massive future alterations like the ones with 2.0.

  • Zimbrul says:

    Now that Thesis is a different whole thing should you upgrade or write another review comparing Thesis 2.0 with Genesis 1.9 (perhaps) when Genesis 1.9 will come up?

  • helenna says:

    hi adam, let me the first to say thanks for great review about thesis and genesis. according to your conclusion, i chose thesis 18. but something that confusing my mind about h1 and h2 tag on home page. after i check on seoptimer, my home page h1 tag is “description”, how tho change h1 tag to become home title/blog title on thesis 18? thanks….

  • I am a new blogger, i want to apply thesis framework and thesis theme on my blog, but searching a lot place, i am not able to understand the difference between thesis theme and thesis framework,

    I contacted a designer, but he referred me to some other person.

    Please, can anybody refer me to a guide to apply this blogging framework on my blog?

  • Abhishek says:

    I just purchased Thesis for a whooping $199. SInce I never used anything like this, I am confused whether I made a correct decison of paying such a huge amount.

    • KJ says:

      Abhishek, I think the next update 2.1 will allay your concerns.
      But in the mean time check-out & for great videos on using Thesis 2

    • Anand says:

      Thesis is rock solid framework but I like Genesis most. From Thesis 2.0 it is really hard to work with that.

      You should invest few more bucks in Thesis theme template. It will be best choice.

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks for the comparison. I have been using Thesis for 5 years and I was very happy with it until they released Thesis 2 which is very confusing and difficult to work with. There are no good skins available which makes it even more difficult. Genesis seems to have such nice Themes and the sites look so much better. I am sad to leave Thesis mainly because their forum is so helpful but I think that most Thesis sites just don’t look as good as Genesis sites do.

    • EmmylouS says:

      Thanks for clarifying this to me, Nicole! :)

      What do you guys think about Headway theme?

  • Brett says:

    Switched to Genesis about a year ago. A few issues with some of the hard-coded pieces but overall very pleased with it.

  • FERNANDO says:

    A huge article to compare tow of the best frameworks out there. I have used both of the frameworks and now using Genesis for all my sites and clients websites and blogs.

    I would like to know what theme you use on this website as it’s load very fast and looks stunning for the reader eyes.

    Thanks for the great post and hope everyone got a good idea about those frameworks.

  • Hi Adam!

    I know a good piece of work when I see it. Definitely thank you for that article. Discussions about those frameworks often end like a snowboarder is fighting against a skier on the question who has the better sport ;-)

    Personally I would like to determine which Framework would be the best choice if the end customer with simple skills has to handle design and modifications?

    They both seem very comprehensive as you said but I don’t really know how intuitive the handling is itself.

    I have never seen the frameworks in the backend maybe I just have to try them both.

  • Janie says:

    Any chance of 2013 update on this article?
    You still come up first on google, but things must have changed with both themes since 2010 :)
    Janie x

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Janie,

      I am currently working on a new design with Genesis 2.0. I will plan on writing a detailed Genesis 2.0 and Thesis 2.1 comparison in the coming weeks.

      Thanks for the comment and suggestion!

  • Serg says:

    Genesis for developers, Thesis if you don’t have the patience.

  • Byron says:

    honestly after having tried both, I can say, I love genesis Genesis Framework.