Why I Ditched The Thesis WordPress Theme

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Update Nov 2012: Since this article was written, I have now switched to the Genesis Prose Theme and couldn’t be happier with this mobile responsive design.  I no longer use WooThemes or Thesis.


It’s such a harsh word isn’t it?

Nevertheless that’s the verb many people have used in the past week when they noticed my new theme design.

Hey Lisa!  Why did you ditch Thesis?

Let me make one thing clear.  My move to another theme was less about any love lost for Thesis and more about finding what I needed in one theme and at the right time.

Update Nov 2012: Thesis 2.0 launched in October 2012 and in my opinion became less user friendly. I no longer recommend Thesis unless you are a developer. The reviews have not been good for the average WordPress user. Hopefully it will get better with updates, but for now, I recommend Genesis. That’s the theme I’m using now. Check out all their themes here.

I was actually planning on installing a fresh copy of Thesis on my local WordPress testing platform so I could redesign from the default design, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t in the mood.

My e-buddy Brankica highly recommended The Genesis Theme after using it for her new design — which I did eventually buy and used for NapturallyCurly.  However, I wanted something different for this site.

About two weeks ago I remembered a Facebook fan raving about WooThemes so I decided to check out their designs.  And while browsing through, it just so happened their Headlines theme had everything I wanted and more.

My wishlist for the new design included, but was not limited to…

  • Clean (more white space, fewer colors)
  • A customizable, all-in-one latest/popular post widget
  • Space for a banner ad in the header

Could I have accomplished all this with Thesis?  I sure could have, but not without more work than I cared to deal with at the time.

Not to mention, I fell in love with many of the additional WooTheme features I never even thought I wanted such as…

  • An animated feature post widget on the homepage (I will probably go back to a partial static homepage like before, but I haven’t had time to tweak much yet.  I still think it’s important for a blog homepage to have some static elements.)
  • Dynamic post thumbnail features
  • Tons of extra sidebar widgets, including ones for 125×125 ads, a Twitter feed, author box and more
  • It’s also very AdSense-friendly with spots for AdSense in the header and top of the posts.  All you do is paste your code into the admin panel.  No plugins needed.
  • Shortcodes to easily add contact forms, social media icons/buttons info boxes, [highlight]highlighted text[/highlight], dividers and more right into your post by using the WOO button on the edit bar.

But Wait…

Now having said all those wonderful things about WooThemes, I can’t lie. I immediately began missing several Thesis features.

Keep in mind, I had been using it for nearly three years, so it’s easy to forget how many of the customizations were specific to the Thesis theme only.

I was spoiled! :)

For example, if I wanted to change the width of my sidebars and post area with Thesis, I just had to go to the Design Options menu and adjust the values.

With this theme, I’d have to edit the PHP files directly and begin fiddling with <div> values — which can get messy.

I also love how easy Thesis makes it easy to customize the smaller details like nav menu colors, site-wide font colors and sizes, post bylines/meta etc.

Fortunately I’m pretty comfortable with CSS, so the changes I made weren’t that hard to pull off.  However, a CSS novice may have gotten stuck.

My Customizations

So the theme you’re looking at now is pretty much Headlines out-of-the-box.  I did upload my own red nav bar image that I made in Photoshop because the original was too small and so was the text.

I also tweaked the header CSS to make room for a 728×90 AdSense banner.  The theme only allowed space for a 468×60 image.  Fortunately the banner was already coded in so it was an easy tweak.

Also, this particular theme does not have hooks — which makes it easier to customize or add elements to different parts of your site (after the post, before the comments, after the header, above the footer, etc.)

Thesis was a pioneer with the hook functionality, and many themes have adopted it since.  However, WooThemes does have a Hook Manager for their Canvas theme, just not this one.

So yes, Thesis definitely wins the “ease of customization” battle, however WooThemes delivered the overall feel I wanted with minimal tweaking.

For the record, I am not completely abandoning Thesis.  If Chris Pearson EVER releases version 2.0 (sigh), I may revisit again to test out the new features.  That’s a perk of having free upgrades as a customer.
But I’ve got to say, making those few customizations in WooThemes made me appreciate some of the Thesis features I took for granted for the last few years.

In Summary

Most themes have pros and cons, and I find it hard to find one that I like out-of-the-box.

Unless you’re going to code your theme from scratch (the ideal solution but not a desire for me) or hire someone, it’s usually about finding one that gets close to what you want and then tweaking it after the install.

At least that’s how I roll when it comes to WordPress themes. :)

Why I Don’t Recommend Thesis Anymore

If you are interested in learning more about why I stopped recommending Thesis altogether, click here.

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  1. says

    Hey Lisa,

    I was doing some research on themes and landed on this page.

    Sorry to hear about your travails with Thesis and WooThemes. On the positive side, it did lead you to Genesis!

    I’ve been using and recommending Genesis for years. It really is among the best theme frameworks available.

    Agreed, the parent/child setup and code editing is a bit more complex, but I think the effort is worth it for all the benefits you receive. Plus, now with Genesis 2.0, you get the added benefits that come with optimizing your site with HTML5 and Schema.org markup.

    We just converted our sites and it took less than 15 minutes each. I documented the step-by-step process we followed and the free online tools we used. For anyone interested, you can read it here – http://htwp2.com/upgrade-to-genesis-2-0-and-html5/

    Best Regards,
    TJ Greene

  2. Sérgio Nogueira says

    I do not speak english, I’m using google translator.
    I gave up completely from Thesis. I’m not a developer and I felt betrayed, since most marketing theme has always been about ease of use for common users seeking a theme customizable. What we see with the Thesis is far from it. Buy Avada, and after three hours the site was working the way I wanted, that is what is important to me

  3. amyeyrie says

    Did you try Dynamik Child Theme for Genesis? This has column widths and hooks and is like a supped up version of the old Thesis Design settings. Also, it’s a one time fee with excellent support.

    • says


      I just checked out Dynamik Child Theme, I have to say it looks great.

      I just wonder if all the functionality scare people off- I’m not really sure but if a person is going to take the time out to learn how to use Dynamik Child Theme they should take that same time to learn how to use thesis theme 2.0.1

      In my opinion Genesis Framework and child themes are so wide successful because it’s not complex out all (to the end user), Dynamik child themes brings back the complexness.

      With that said I am going to picking it up, what can I say I’m nerd a heart plus from what I seen in the presentation it has the old thesis 1.8.5 beat.

      I would like to build my next niche site on it. If nothing else it will make for an awesome content piece, this is the kinda of stuff techies love.



      Thanks again.



      I have to tell you, you did an awesome job on this article! I really like the fact that you approve all comments and not just the ones that agree with you.

      • says

        Thanks Willie! Keep me posted on how you like the theme. I could see myself maybe tinkering with Thesis 2.0 or even Dynamic Drive because I am somewhat technical, but like you said, if it’s complex that’s not something my average reader would like. It’s why I now recommend Genesis for the average user.

    • says

      Do you mean help you obtain it illegally without paying? Sorry, I don’t think that’s fair or ethical to the StudioPress theme. I hope I’m misunderstanding you.

  4. says

    I’ve been using and developing sites using Thesis for several years. The upgrade in my opinion is a disaster. Developer or not, throwing all I know out the window and seemingly having to start from scratch to both learn it and or to upgrade sites is just poor business. I have yet to have the time to migrate…and I know the damn theme!

    I know people using Genesis…and I might just have to take a further look too; Thesis has lost a whole lot of points with me!

    • says

      That’s sort of what I felt like. I think Chris is super talented, but I just think it was a bad business move to alienate your CORE customer (which appeared to be the person who is not tech savvy). Sure there will always be people who are patient or more tech savvy and think the theme is brilliant but again…. it was like they forgot who the core customer was. It was almost like they released a completely different product.

      • says

        I thought it fell somewhere in between…my clients would never have been able to do what I can but I also didn’t have to hire an outside contractor to do custom programming. Win-Win for everyone.

        Now I just have to hope that the last version of the ‘old’ Thesis works for a very long time; changing out all of our client sites would take months and no one expected to or will be willing to pay what it will take just to upgrade. Whether I can do it or not…you hit the nail on the head; for a smart guy he was really ignorant of his customer base.

  5. says

    Well, I won’t mind editing the theme specially when it comes to saving money for newly made blogs.Moreover everyone should learn to edit themes because it would be a waste not to modify a theme because in that way your site would look like every other site on the great world wide web.

  6. says

    Over a period of time I used thesis theme for my websites and used built in SEO features. Once I planned to changed theme after the introduction of 2.0 and above version, I migrated all data to All in One SEO plugin which was another disaster. Now I am not going to use any other built SEO feature from any theme developer.

  7. says

    Took your advice and went with a Genesis theme for my new website – http://www.asmrhq.com/

    I chose the Lifestyle theme and love it. The site looks professional without even trying.

    I did try Thesis some time back but that was too much work in my opinion. Genesis is super simple and just looks so good.

  8. says

    Yes, Thesis is NOT user friendly for the average wordpress user. You have to learn all the hooks, so customizing it can be a pain. It’s good for web developers and designers that need complete customization.

    I’ve used it for several sites, and I find it a pain to learn all the hooks.

  9. says

    I like the new theme. It’s cleaner and easier to read.

    I also like that you tweaked the ad spot to 728×90, cause 468×60 has lower CTR.

  10. says

    Is this opinion still in effect today? I’m being asked to use the Thesis framework in a site and trying to read up on the most recent feedback about it. Also… what do you think about the quality of the comments to this post? Are you glad you got so much engagement or regret causing a gripefest?

  11. says

    Have been using Thesis 1.8x for 2 years now on many websites (mine and clients) and have loved it. Have been reluctant to start using Thesis 2.0.x as my first impression was not favourable. So different to previous versions and was not looking forward to having to re-learn from scratch. However, over the past few days I’ve devoted a bit of time to checking Thesis 2.0.x out. Have to say that every new feature I work out how to use is absolutely fricken awesome. Plus there’s more and more instruction becoming available on the net and in the forum. Here’s one great bit. By setting up one site to look how I want, with all the Thesis “boxes and packages” I want, I can easily transfer all the functionality to another website at the click of a button. It’s saving me heaps of setup time. In conclusion, it’s learning time very well spent and the Thesis 2.0.x theme is taking WordPress to a whole new level

    • says

      Hey David

      You know, I figured that would be the case (regarding duplicating your layout). It seems that once you sit down and really take the time to learn it, it’s very powerful and nothing like anything else. The problem is I know my audience and the average user would be so frustrated. And I just can’t endorse it if I don’t even know how to use it. Glad it’s working for you.

      • says


        I know what you mean (I to0 Love Thesis like David) I can’t share Thesis 2.0 with my audience either, the reality is most people just don’t want to go that deep with web mastery. Thesis is awesome for web developers or programers; however, for a newbie not even close.

        I have to tell you, I picked up the Genesis with the lifestyle child theme (almost grab Generate Theme) and I can see right off why you would recommend it to a new person vs. Thesis.

        I had it up and running on my niche site in about 10 minutes flat and it would have been shorter then that but I was playing around with the theme checking out the features.

        So, I can’t say I will give up Thesis because I love to much; however, I will be be using Genesis on a lot more of my sites because I don’t have to code it allows me to be lazy. It’s widgets for everything and that’s super cool and really easy to learn from a newbie stand point.

        I guess you could say I love them both, but I would tell someone to go with Genesis if they don’t want to go deep into HTML, CSS or even PHP, because with Thesis 2.0 your going to have to learn it as 2.0 is built around it.

        If your not really looking to do all that and you just want a web business/ website that you can mangage yourself and easy to customize then I say go Genesis.


        I hope this update help. I thought it would be really
        cool to share my thoughts since I now have both
        themes vs. just having one.

        • says

          Really glad you came by Willie and I COMPLETELY agree with you about Thesis being good for advanced developers or people who don’t mind learning a bit more about how it works. But that’s not the average person. Most people want something they can get up and running quickly.

  12. says

    We still use Thesis 1.8.x but upgrading to Thesis 2.0.x is a no no at this point. Having spent so much time with Thesis, the latest version is not intuitive at all and feels rushed. We used to recommend a lot of Thesis related themes and plugins on our site but we don’t intend to cover Thesis 2.0 unless it gets a whole lot better. Seems the guys behind Thesis need some expert designers and UX professionals. Genesis and Headway are the only two frameworks I personally use. WooThemes I have not had the best results with.

  13. Dboy says

    I used to swear by Thesis but realized that Woo’s theme called Canvas allows me to do a lot of the same customizations but way faster. Also it’s responsive out of the box. It doesn’t translate perfectly to mobile on every install, but it’s usually some just a matter of css’ing. This is a huge advantage for me coming from Thesis 1.8, because using that theme I had to do a lot more work to get mobile. There are still some buggy areas in Canvas, or maybe I’m just getting used to it…but doing the math I’m definitely saving time. Pretty stoked. I also found Thesis 2.0 to be too much a change from 1.8, even going through their video introduction. Canvas was way more intuitive. Just my 2 cents

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