The overwhelming number of recent posts conclude that Genesis is superior to Thesis (bear in mind that there are plenty of other premium frameworks that you can use besides these two, but in my mind these are the most vetted and popular). I never felt qualified to talk about the differences since I had only run Thesis on my site, but after recently switching over it occurred to me that I could write about these with some level of objectivity.
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Thesis ruled over the premium frameworks. Genesis created a product that required less tinkering, and then Thesis 2.0 (which was a complete change from the previous framework) freaked people out. That’s the tipping point where people describe their decision to switch to Genesis, and that’s why I think many arguments about the advantages of Genesis over Thesis are weak.
My fidelity to Thesis 2.0 was rooted in one fundamental truth about me:
I am a cheapskate, and therefore adopted Thesis 2.0 instead of initially purchasing a license for Genesis.
Just as I took the time to learn the ropes with Thesis hooks and php in Thesis 1.X, I endured the same learning curves with Thesis 2.0, unlearning a lot of the intuition around 1.X. That said, I like working with Thesis 2.0 a lot more than Thesis 1.X and Genesis, and I’ll go into the reasons why a little later.
The decision to switch to Genesis was tough, but was solidified for me when I realized that a pretty well-known caching plugin wasn’t working at all (and it has never advisable to use Yoast’s SEO plug-in with Thesis, either). I got the feeling that somehow I was deviating from the mainstream, and figured that from an SEO perspective I would be somewhat advantaged to be in the mainstream. You’ll see from my discussion of each platform that I don’t think that Genesis currently offers a delineated SEO advantage over Thesis (judging exclusively from my experience).
I don’t regret migrating to Genesis, but the decision still isn’t as clear-cut as I thought it would be.
What I want to do in this post is to list out the advantages of each framework relative to one another.
- Everybody is using it.
This is a huge point of differentiation for me. In the Thesis heyday, Matt Cutts ran his blog on Thesis and migrated around the time that Thesis introduced 2.0. I don’t think you can conclude that there is any Google issue with Thesis 2, but having Matt Cutts running your framework is an assurance that the framework is copacetic with Google search. Cutts is a Genesis convert.
I also mentioned that I don’t think the rationale for bloggers poo-pooing Thesis 2.0 was fair, however my opinion is immaterial to the fact that most serious bloggers are using the Genesis framework. Since everyone is there, there is some assurance that search engines must take the framework seriously.
- Great licensing structure.
Another thing that Thesis did was to change their licensing so that a Thesis developers license was only valid for sites explicitly owned by the licensee. Given the pivots that Facebook made in their monetization effort, I’m not sure that you can fault the folks at Thesis for this…. but the Genesis license is far more generous for developers allowing use of the framework on third-party sites.
- Pretty good selection of themes.
The Studiopress folks do a fantastic job to develop a variety of turnkey themes for its users. I don’t know that very many people want a completely turn-key solution for their website, but StudioPress offers some very cool themes. They also have a strong selection of HTML5 and responsive themes, either of which is increasingly important for browser and mobile usability.
By contrast, Thesis offers few turn-key theme solutions.
One option (that I’ve used) is Themedy, a company that provides another source of turnkey themes (called ‘skins’ in Thesis) for both Genesis and Thesis. I recommend this particularly for Thesis which is difficult to initially create from the ground-up, but also for a further complement of Genesis themes.
- Best. Support. Ever.
I was shocked at the (relative) lack of documentation around Genesis when I migrated from Thesis. The DIYThemes (Thesis) support admins have helped me through a figurative crap-ton of coding issues and respond quickly. Also, most of the issues that I’ve had I can find answers to in their robust forums.
By contrast, it doesn’t seem as if there is anywhere near as much documentation in the Genesis forums. Also, let me caveat that by saying that I didn’t lean on the Genesis support nearly as much as I did on Thesis, so I suspect that the Studiopress team is very responsive to support requests as well. This support isn’t as well documented in their support forums as it is in Genesis.
- Easier to use and understand
I know this is an unpopular point of view, BUT I found Thesis 2.0 far easier to build a site with than Thesis 1.X or Genesis. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to migrate so quickly to Genesis if I didn’t understand CSS divs, classes and ids from working in Thesis. Here’s an example from my front page right now:
I’m having some difficulty with the SoundGecko plugin interfering with the excerpted text. I will fix it eventually, but for now it looks like butt. If I were using Thesis 2.0, I know I would have this fixed. Thesis 2.0 is designed to manage objects extraordinarily well.
- Better SEO (now?)
This point doesn’t have a lot of substantiation (since search methodology is quite unknown) – however – my search referrals have decreased every week since I’ve migrated to Genesis. This of course was not the intention. However, I think this point needs to be vetted a little more (and may be a off-shoot of my point about speed).
What I will say is that I was stoked to be able to use the Yoast SEO plugin again, until I found that it was slowing down my site to the point that it was causing problems for posting articles and for leaving comments. I know this has happened to a vociferous minority with this plugin and likely isn’t representative of most people’s experiences. However it did happen, and I did delete the plugin from my site. So, it would be hard to prove that Genesis gave me any additional SEO benefit over Thesis.
- Thesis is fast
You may recall when I said that a popular caching plugin didn’t work with Thesis? Just with minification Thesis loaded faster for me than Genesis. Same content, same (pretty much) everything. Now it’s not a demonstrable difference for me, but for one client it added nearly a second of load time.
I also experienced this with another client site and had to use a caching plugin just to get Genesis in the neighborhood of Thesis.
So if you like Thesis so much why are you sticking with Genesis?
There are two things that (I think) will keep me using Genesis:
- I want to write articles and not focus so much of my time on site design. Like almost everyone blogging, I would rather be writing than fumbling with CSS. I can’t manipulate Genesis like I could Thesis, but it’s close enough to accomplish what I want to accomplish.
- I want some assurance that my stuff is going to be indexed properly on search engines. Genesis is so much more popular than Thesis right now, I feel as if there is less risk to be amongst the masses even if I had a little more success using Thesis.
I am lazy and risk-averse and that’s why I’m a Genesis guy (for now).
That said, I think both Genesis and Thesis are awesome frameworks each with very cool benefits. I could go back to Thesis anytime and feel very comfortable that I could place an object where I want to on any page on my site – and that may be useful for me one day.
I feel as if a lot of people talk about Thesis from a place of ignorance because they didn’t take the time to understand how to use Thesis 2.0, and that’s unfortunate because Thesis has some really neat features that would be useful for a lot of people.
Either framework offers a path to the same destination (more or less), but the difference isn’t as clear cut as many people might suggest.