Thesis 2.0 Review
Thesis by DIYthemes is a framework for WordPress designed to make the prospect of designing and maintaining your web pages a whole lot easier, especially for those who don’t have very much time or experience with coding, or who simply prefer a more user-friendly way of getting things done.
With the release of Thesis 2.0, the product has been improved to provide even more intuitive and simple methods of designing skins for your WordPress site. The way it works now is largely drag-and-drop, and the system provides immediate feedback on the changes you make by way of the Canvas window.
With the uniquely SEO-focused approach of Thesis, the framework is a tremendous option for anyone looking to start any type of web business or make a mark online. You don’t have to write any code, and neither do you necessarily have to take a course on search engine optimization. The system promises to do all of that for you, and in this review I hope to show where it delivers on those promises and what types of users stand to benefit the most.
The New Skin Editor
Thesis 2.0 comes with two skins installed by default, and both are great starting points to build from in creating your own unique designs. The key here is to think of them as nothing more than starting points, because the real value of Thesis 2.0 is that you will be able to create your own unique themes from scratch.
The two options are:
- Thesis Classic, a fairly simple style which was used with the original framework. Existing users may be familiar with this one and prefer it for that reason.
- Thesis Blank, a new option which really lets you start out with a blank slate to build your own design. I feel that this will be the best choice going forward.
Other skins are available to use with the framework, and more will be made available with time. For the most part these will be structural differences that allow you to create different kinds of web pages more easily, but some will also be very useable as standalone themes if you don’t want to do a whole lot of customization yourself.
Using something like Thesis it is generally best that you do go into it with the intent to build a site that is completely unique, and one that will not necessarily look like it was made with any of these starting themes at all. The process of creating your own look is very simple, after all, so customization is the key.
Boxes: A Possible Alternative to Plugins
When it comes to extending the power of the platform and adding greater functionality to your website, you now have an option outside of the usual WordPress plugin system.
The Boxes that Thesis 2.0 brings to the table are not as comprehensive in selection by a long shot, but they are specifically designed to work with any Thesis site.
At the time of this writing there are no Boxes available from DIYthemes, but expect that to change in the very near future.
It’s an important feature, and one that I know means a lot to the developers and the community alike, so it should get a lot of attention once more development has been put into individual functions.
As of now, though, it is more something to look forward to than a feature you can hope to take advantage of right away.
Using Boxes promises to be even easier than installing plugins, because they are so closely related to the Thesis framework itself. You should not have to worry at all about compatibility with your theme, and the likelihood of suffering through tedious and quirky upgrades is very unlikely. If the box model catches on with developers it stands to be a game changer.
In the interim, you will be glad to know that existing WordPress plugins will work with Thesis 2.0, so you are not left without option in extending the power of your website. Plugins are very easy to work with in their own right, and I expect that complex websites will continue to use many plugins even after boxes are properly available. When a choice is possible between the two I think boxes will usually be the better option.
Baked-In SEO Optimization
One of the things that has always set Thesis apart is its emphasis on search engine optimization, and things are no different here. The people at DIYthemes believe that SEO should be a part of a site’s design, not just an afterthought, and their output reflects this in many ways.
Most SEO techniques are not necessarily a part of the structure of a website itself, but many are, and using a framework like Thesis gives you that extra advantage and a great starting point. The code generated by the skin editor is semantic and built to please the search engines, and Google in particular.
You can be sure with Thesis 2.0 that your page’s elements will make proper use of heading tags, lists and will highlight your content effectively for search.
You will most likely still want to employ a third-party plugin for WordPress to get the most out of your site when it comes to SEO, but Thesis does cover a lot of the basics and should make those types of plugins work even better.
One additional thing that Thesis 2.0 does for SEO comes with the addition of several new custom fields to the Post page. This will allow you to set individual keywords and meta information for every single thing you publish on your website, so you can set different goals and reach out to specific demographics with every piece of content you put forth.
The Little Things
Tips are presented in the Thesis 2.0 admin area by creator Chris Pearson (complete with a fake nose and glasses) and Missieur, a dog who is generally more knowledgeable—or at least Missieur’s tips seem a bit more in-depth and advanced.
It’s a bit of color and personality used to present information which can actually be fairly valuable, and the kind of cute addition that shows a love for the product and the industry from its developers.
There are less than perfect things, too, however.
Some of the page elements in the Thesis 2.0 admin area are poorly aligned or lack padding, making the system look a bit amateurish, which is a shame considering just how powerful and professionally-made the framework is. It might only bother you if you are a particularly sensitive person when it comes to design, but a system built for beautiful design should itself be designed beautifully.
Current DIYThemes Pricing Options
Thesis 2.0 is available in three different packages for different types of users, stressing the more expensive Professional package as the best choice.
The three-tiered pricing model is as follows:
- Thesis Basic: This comes with the full installation of Thesis 2.0, 12 months of free upgrades, and full forum support for life. $87
- Thesis Basic Plus: This is the same as the Basic plan, but it also includes two more skins to base your designs off of—Pearsonified and SocialTriggers.com. $164
- Thesis Professional: All of the above, plus Social Media Boxes and an Email Signup Box. Note however that both of these added box bonuses are not yet available at the time of this writing. $197
All of these options are good enough to get by with, and they each come with a 30-day money back guarantee in case you are not satisfied with the system.
Most users should go with the cheapest option, since the two additional themes are probably not worth the extra money unless they specifically meet your needs, and while the additional boxes of the Professional edition could have a great value it is impossible to review them right now.
Thesis 2.0 Is an All-Around Improvement
If you are weighing the pros and cons of different frameworks for WordPress, this new version of Thesis from DIYthemes should catapult the product right to the top of most lists. If not for the much improved skin editor, then for the prospect of what the new Box model could mean in the future—though it may be best to wait and see what Boxes are truly capable of before buying.