Recently, I joined the WP Watercooler crew along with my fellow Genesis recommended developers for a discussion about using the StudioPress Genesis Framework for your WordPress website — and of course we all shared why we use the framework and what we like about it.
While the episode is heavy in back and forth banter, we do cover some key things that you should know if you’re considering using the Genesis Framework as the foundation for your WordPress website.
What is the Genesis Framework?
I jumped in and shared that calling it a framework is really a misnomer. Genesis is just a parent theme. It’s no different than using the 2015 WordPress theme and building a child theme on it. The Genesis Framework is a toolbox for building child themes that gives you a consistent output of HTML markup and a standardized style sheet to work from.
I also pointed out that while calling it framework is great for StudioPress’s marketing efforts, it does cause confusion and misunderstandings in the larger WordPress community about how it works.
What are the advantages of using Genesis for a WordPress site?
Several panelists on the show agreed that one of the best advantages of choosing Genesis as your parent theme is the community around it. The Genesis community writes an enormous of articles, tutorials, how-tos, and code samples, and makes them available for free for anyone to use.
Starting with Genesis also speeds up the development process.
I look at Genesis as a pre-built set of Legos. Like Legos it can be taken apart and rebuilt anyway you want to create something new.
The Genesis Framework gives you a set with instructions for the header markup, navigation menus, sidebars, footer, footer widgets, etc. — and it is coded well, using HTML5 and it is integrated with Schema.org markup. There is nothing that can’t be edited, changed, filtered, removed, or added. In all of our years using the framework to built custom Genesis child themes, we’ve experienced no limitations on what can be done with it.
Chris and Dave point out that another benefit is that there are a lot of places to hook into and drop in elements, which is much easier than with other solutions and themes. Also, because of the hooks available, there is a large number of Genesis Plugins available that use the hooks to insert new elements into the right place.
What skill level do you need to have to use the Genesis Framework successfully?
I think everyone agreed that working with Genesis requires a different mindset when thinking about build or working with a WordPress theme.
- Rebecca pointed out that when hiring developers, she needed a different level of developer — one who understood hooks and filters, and how the framework works.
- Steve shared that he tried building a couple themes with Genesis and that is definitely requires a different approach to thinking about a theme and that he couldn’t wrap his head around hooking/unhooking.
- I agreed with steve — it is a different approach. When working with Genesis, instead of template tagging everything, you’re working with action hooks and filter hooks, changing markup, and moving things around.
- With a solution like Underscores, you start immediately editing the theme template files to get the results you want, but with Genesis you first move things around to create the structure, then add in your custom work.
At Bourn Creative, we started building custom themes before underscores existed. When we first began using the Genesis Framework to streamline our development process, it took me about six months to wrap my head around Genesis and get really comfortable with it at the core code level of how it is built and how it works.
Is Genesis For Developers or DIYers?
Se pointed out that Genesis isn’t exactly user-friendly for new users, and that is seems more oriented to developers who create custom sites and customize existing themes. While this may be the perception, developers aren’t the largest purchasing group of the StudioPress themes.
StudioPress does have active forums that provide help with customizing themes, answer questions, help point you to tutorials that can help achieve what you want. And again, there is an abundance of tutorials available online as well from Genesis Community members.
Chris pointed out that that the beauty of working from a standardized framework is that you can take snippets of code from tutorials or forums, drop it into a theme/site, and have it work. Plus there is a large number of small, functional Genesis-specific plugins that help you do almost anything you need to do, which is why, as Rebecca pointed out, many DIYers feel empowered by Genesis to work on their own site.
Using The Genesis Framework is Like Building a Hamburger
Se pointed out that with the Genesis Framework — or any other parent theme — there are layers to your website. A Genesis-based WordPress site is layered like this:
- Child Theme
The Bottom Line
The Genesis Framework, StudioPress, and the community around it are approachable. The heavy lifting is done for you and it’s fairly easy to figure out. You’re still going to have to do some work. Easy doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything.
The difference is the amount of tools, tutorials, plugins, and resources available to you when you choose to get started and build your WordPress site with the Genesis Framework. They far exceed what is available with any other parent theme or framework.