If you weren’t sure you can build websites, these themes will remove any doubts you might have. Here are four WordPress themes that are dominating the field these days:
- Genesis Framework
Every one of them makes it possible for you (yes, you) to create a beautiful, responsive website – absolutely no coding knowledge required. But which one is the best for you?
Choosing the Best Themes
It’s easy to be seduced by a cool layout with lots of interesting images on a theme’s sales page. But before you buy a theme, you need to think about what you need to build your site.
Here are a few things to consider before you pull out the plastic:
- Can you ask questions before your purchase?
- Do they have a demo you can try?
- Is there a money-back trial period?
- How much does it cost?
- One-time fee or subscription-based?
- Use on unlimited sites or not?
- How does the theme manage support?
- On a scale of 1-10, how familiar are you with web technology?
- How comfortable are you with learning new things?
At the risk of stating the obvious, you can always Google “known issues with theme name.” We also encourage you to take a look at the list below, particularly if you are new to building websites.
Every theme will have documentation that serves as an online manual. We’d suggest you take a look at it – some are written better than others. More importantly, you need to how it’s written – is it written for professionals or all users?
All of these themes are designed for people who aren’t programmers. but see if they organized their documentation the same way. If it’s set up for people who know the right questions to ask – and you don’t – it isn’t going to be helpful.
This is a searchable database about the theme. Sometimes it searches the documentation, other times it’s a forum of support questions by users. We think it’s best when they include both, but some of that depends on how support is set up.
You can also see if they have a blog, and if they do, how frequently they post. Blogs are a commitment to ongoing communication with customers. You can sometimes find answers using a simple Google search that turns up the theme’s own blog.
That’s happened to me with Divi I don’t know how many times. (They have a great blog!)
This is a biggie – when was the last time the theme was updated? This is where you find out if theme developers are staying current with changes in other applications and what’s on trend. Themes are versioned as they are updated.
When a version is released, it’s either a major update, minor update or a patch.
||MyTheme 2.7.2 First version you purchase
||MyTheme 3.0.0: Major upgrade – significant impact on features and code. Always back up before you do a major upgrade
||MyTheme 3.1.0: Minor upgrade – typically a tweak. You can back up if you want to, but probably won’t break anything.
||MyTheme 3.1.1: Quick patch to fix a glitch. Don’t really need to back up but you can.
Just a quick reminder that technology is constantly changing so your theme better change with it. Browsers go through regular updates and so does WordPress. In fact, WordPress is doing a major release of a brand-new editing interface (called Gutenberg) that will affect every theme in use.
Managing updates is important for developers and for you. Log into your site once a week to check update status on your theme, your plugins and WordPress.
Avada, Divi, Enfold & Genesis Framework
Each of these themes are trending in the WordPress market. Let’s take a quick look at each theme and discuss their pro’s and con’s. They are all strong contenders – it’s just a question of what you need.
Avada is a big deal – it was the first mega-theme on the market, introducing the Fusion Builder. There was nothing else like it out there and since then, it’s become one of the most downloaded WordPress theme online.
Despite being fully packed with tons of modules, page layouts and demo themes, Avada is isn’t just a pretty face…It’s fast. The developers prioritized performance and kept the code from becoming bloated. With all the features and functions – you need fewer plugins too. Since every plugin adds a bit of drag on your load time – that’s another bonus point for speed.
Avada is relatively inexpensive – the standard license is around $60 and covers the use of the theme for one website. It includes six months of support and for a few bucks more, you can up it to a full year. Avada’s support is okay – nothing out of the ordinary. But because it’s been downloaded so many times, all you have to do is wind up the Google machine. Tips, tricks, how-to’s – by the thousands from Avada users, developers and designers.
One last thing. Though Avada was late to the party, their Fusion Builder 5.0 does include a front-end editor – already in use by other mega-themes. It’s interesting how long it took them to get there.
|Load speed: With more and more users heading to mobile, this can change your bounce rate in a big way.
||Not Responsive on Tablet: For theme of this quality, the tablet glitch is a big deal. Fully expect is to be fixed soon, but currently columns shrink to unreadable sizes on standard tablets.
|Demo Sites: Avada has a ton of demo sites packed into their theme. You get the pages and the perfectly sized images in the price.
||Complex Customization: Avada has multiple locations to set styles and standards. Can be hard to know what’s where.
|Public Update Schedule: Avada puts their changelog right on their navigation menu. You can see what each update entailed right from the start.
||Intrusive Admin Bar: Avada is a little pushy in terms of your dashboard. The theme tends to take full control. You’d think that would solve the issue above, but it somehow makes it worse.
|Price: Very affordable
Get Avada | Learn More About the Theme.
Divi: Elegant Themes
Divi came on the scene in 2012 – one year behind Avada – and is quickly catching up. Divi uses a similar builder model and came out with a pretty nifty Visual Builder.
It’s unbelievably easy to use and let’s you look at the display in different device sizes. In fact, they have a demo they let you play with – check it out.
Customizing for mobile is so freakin’ easy with Divi too. No matter which builder you use – back-end or browser – Divi’s flexibility is on full display. Not only can you adjust font sizes and spacing specific to a phone or tablet, but you can make entire sections invisible.
For example, the background image that looks so good on the computer doesn’t work at all on a smartphone. Just copy the section, swap out the image and go to the Advanced Tab/Visibility. Check where each section should be seen.
The support team is very knowledgeable and super nice, but the new chat systems is really more of an email system. And to say it’s staffed 24/7 is a misnomer. It’s not a deal breaker, but not their best decision either. Elegant Themes did recently add a Help Center, with an FAQ for some common questions and troubleshooting. There’s some pre-sales stuff too.
Updates at Divi are ongoing. Personally, I think Elegant Themes is one the most innovative team of developers around. These aren’t just improvements for design functions – though those are there too. It’s security, privacy, token-based remote access for support. These guys are at the top of their game.
|Responsive on Mobile: Divi looks good on any standard Android or Apple devices. Even Amazon’s Silk browser on the Kindle resizes right.
||Useless Plugins: When you buy Divi, you get access to another theme and some plugins. Love Divi but the plugins aren’t that great, and the Extra theme is only a stand-in for the real star of the show.
|Demo Sites: Divi has numerous demo site and their designs are interesting and unique. Not cookie cutter.
||Image Issues: Divi headers and sliders are a source of frustration since it rolled out. The height of the modules are dependent on the amount of text you use. (Crazy!)
|Amazing Blog: The Divi blog produces an article every day. You can subscribe before you buy. And they give away a whole bunch of freebies – demo sites and background images.
||Chat Support: Divi missed the memo on under promise and over deliver. The support team is knowledgeable, but imply it’s staffed 24/7 is a misnomer. Expect to interact by email.
|Price: Lifetime plan is one- time fee – good buy at around $250.
||Price: Annual subscription model – highest priced theme in the group.
Get Divi | Learn More About the Theme.
Enfold is nowhere near as well-known as Divi or Avada, but it should be. This theme has all the same features and options that they do, but it’s built for customization.
Enfold has it’s own Style Generator as part of the theme. You can take care of all the customizations in the same place. That’s not the case for Avada or Divi – they have multiple places to customize by module, by page, by theme – plus custom CSS. Trust me, it’s easy to forget what gets changed where – but not with Enfold.
Shortcodes are a unique element in Enfold’s approach. This is kind of a cool touch – since any number of the shortcodes are the types of tricks that used to be the purview of more technical types. These built-in snippets are fun to play with and add some extra interest to your site.
Enfold demos start with two complete sites for you to customize that aren’t industry specific – just cool, modern websites. Then the developers throw in all the niche sites for various types of businesses. Less than the other themes, but they are building their inventory.
Enfold is also very open about updates. They post their change-log, so you can see every issue, glitch and bug they’ve resolved, along with the innovations and ideas. We’re a big fan of update transparency.
|Excellent Support: Enfold is definitely top of the crowd for support. The team is knowledgeable, and you can search the threads to find answers to questions that have already been asked.
||Less Users: The only reason this matters is because there is less expertise on available for free online.
|On Trend: Enfold is quick to tweak their element inventory to respond to what’s current. For example, they are the only theme in this bunch with a built in Mega Menu.
||Load Speed: Enfold in the past has had some problems with clunky load times. They’ve added a performance dashboard and tweaked the code, but you should be aware of the history.
|Price: Enfold is very affordable – the cheapest of the bunch.
Get Enfold | Learn More About the Theme
Genesis Framework: Studio Press
A framework is a little different than a theme – it’s the infrastructure for a theme. When you upload the Genesis Framework, it includes a child theme. The child theme can be customized at file level and those customizations won’t be overwritten then the framework is updated.
Once you’ve installed the Genesis Framework, it runs in the background – the only thing you need to activate is your child theme. We haven’t worked with it yet, but expect to put it on a development server in the coming months. Here’s what we know from our research:
- According to data from com Genesis Framework is quickly becoming one of the most downloaded WordPress applications online.
- Genesis Framework prioritizes SEO and has built in support for Schema.org – which gives your SERPs a leg up by adding microdata to your site.
- This site is built to go to browser in HTML 5. That’s kind of a big deal – HTML 5 is the foundational code for the next generation of websites.
- The theme was recently purchased by hosting provider WP Engine – an interesting development.
- You get unlimited support and updates once you have the theme set up.
- Pricing plans vary across a huge range:
- Get just the Genesis Framework for $59
- Get it with a hosting plan at WP Engine (no cheap date to host with WP Engine)
- Get an all-access bundle from Studio Press for just under $500. (All their themes and some from other developers – you own them with unlimited support/updates forever.)
Get Genesis Framework
We really look forward to hearing from anyone using this new WordPress application! Once we have a site up and running – we’ll update this post with a link to a detailed review.