This is not your typical Thesis WordPress review.
The technical in’s and out’s of Thesis have been well covered throughout the blogosphere so I’m not going to go into them in too much detail here, but I will review some of the new features in Thesis 1.8.
I’ll also help you decide if you think Thesis might be right for you.
But first, here’s a quick story about how I came to buy the Thesis Theme for WordPress in the first place back in 2009.
Before I ever heard of Thesis, and before Thesis was ever created, I used to stumble across Thesis creator Chris Pearson’s personal site once in a while. This was back sometime around 2005 when I was starting to become curious about websites and blogs.
At first I tried out Blogger and created a haphazard food blog about cooking, which is one of my passions. I threw up three quick posts, peppered the site with Adsense and waited for the money to come pouring in.
Although it’s laughable when I think about it now, I try to keep in mind that everyone starts somewhere.
I began using Google in an effort to discover what blogging was all about and how to make it work. Along with obvious sites like Problogger, Pearsonified was one site that kept popping up in my search results.
I remember being impressed by Chris’ design and free themes, but confused about the content in his posts. I had zero knowledge about WordPress, SEO, hosting or how to use “themes”. It all seemed like one big daunting tech mystery.
These frustrations, combined with zero Adsense revenue (big surprise) was enough to put the whole website/blogging thing on the back-burner.
A year a so later during university I started to create some hobby sites for friends and social events I was involved with on the free Wordrpress.com platform. I thought its default themes were a bit slicker than what Blogger was offering.
I knew there was a WordPress.org option but it involved web hosting which I found intimidating. Plus I was busy with school.
After I graduated in 2006, I wanted to create a site of my own but I was still unsatisfied with the look and feel and lack of flexibility WordPress.com offered. So I set out to figure out how to use the WordPress.org software.
I was also starting to read sites like Problogger and Copyblogger more and noticed they were using WordPress.
Eventually I felt like I had enough information and was ready to push myself out of my comfort zone and purchase web hosting. Although I was still uneasy about using FTP, I was able to get WordPress and a couple free themes installed.
I recall being very happy about this breakthrough. However, my happiness soon turned to frustration and disappointment as I simply could not figure out how to get the themes to work properly or customized in the slightest.
Then I remembered Pearsonified. I headed back and it was like a brand new site that suddenly made sense to me. On my previous visits to the site I wasn’t ready yet for the resources available.
Now I was.
It was fall 2008 and Chris had a post about a theme he had recently released called Thesis. I had a feeling it was going to be a solid product.
Part of the reason was because Chris had demonstrated his abilities with his own design and his free themes. I also got the sense from his content that taking shortcuts wasn’t his style and that he cared deeply about getting things right from a coding and design standpoint.
Thesis looked great and I actually viewed having to pay for a theme as a positive and not a negative. As far as I was concerned it meant less people would have it and my blog would be more professional and less cookie cutter. That’s changed now because a lot of people own Thesis, but at the same time it’s getting even easier to customize.
Back then I thought it was mind blowing just to be able to select the number of columns on your blog and move them around with the click of a mouse. That feature alone sold me.
Learning how to build websites
Purchasing the Thesis Theme for WordPress was a turning point for me online. I was starting to create websites for some of my relatives who have businesses and Thesis allowed me to create a professional web presence with very limited coding knowledge.
But I was determined to learn how to fully customize Thesis and the support forums were the perfect classroom. They make learning HTML and CSS so much easier because every forum thread is like its own customization case study.
Could I have learned how to develop and customize WordPress websites with another premium theme? Probably. Have I tried other premium themes? Yes. And they all have their positives and negatives.
But I started out on Thesis so it will always have a special place in my heart.
Even with the recent drama regarding Thesis and the GPL – and the fact that some influential bloggers are trying different themes right now – it doesn’t change the fact that Thesis makes building great looking sites super easy.
So what’s new in Thesis 1.8?
Thesis 1.8 has just been released and it’s another step in the right direction, especially for novice users.
Here’s a select look at some of the new features in 1.8. (For a full list of features, head over to DIYthemes)
Header Image Uploader
As far as I’m concerned, for the everyday user, this is the most important new feature in Thesis 1.8. Adding a header image is the first thing everybody wants to do when they create a new website or blog.
The ability to do this without having to touch any code has been a major request in the forums and I’m glad this feature has now arrived. What’s also great is that Thesis recommends the optimal width for your header based on the size of your content columns. Now even the most inexperienced users can give their site a unique look and feel with the click of a mouse.
SEO Character Counters
This is a small but nifty feature that I really like. Thesis already comes with the ability to customize the title tags and meta descriptions of your blog posts but you had to count each character to make sure you weren’t going over the limit Google would display on SERP‘s.
Now as you type your title tags and meta descriptions Thesis counts the number of characters just like Twitter does when you’re typing a tweet.
If you’re anything like me then you usually have at least five tabs open in your internet browser at all times. Adding a favicon to your site makes it easy for users to identify which tab belongs to your site and it’s one more opportunity to add a bit more branding.
Support for Google Fonts
I’m a bit of a font junkie so I was excited to see Thesis 1.8 provided support for the Google Font Directory. That’s 28 new fonts that you can play with. Pretty sweet.
Plus the fonts are all web safe. In other words, every user can see them no matter what browser they use.
Category/Tag/Taxonomy Page Options
A cool new feature in Thesis 1.8 for those who want get a little more advanced is the ability to edit the headline, add introductory content and customize the SEO options for your category pages.
This is exciting because it allows you to create content rich pages that are highly optimized for different topics organized by category. And if you wanted, you could use your new customized category pages as way to organize and handle the cornerstone content on your site.
The bottom line
Since I first bought Thesis, I’m happy to say that Thesis and the DIYthemes support forums have taught me a tremendous amount about building websites which is a service I’m now able to offer to other people.
Plus there’s an affiliate program that allows you to promote Thesis and earn cash. And it works. The first dollar I ever earned online was through Thesis, so yes I will get a commission if you buy Thesis through my link.
If there’s one small knock on Thesis, it’s that to make it look highly customized you do need to get into a little bit of code.
But again, with every new release, Thesis keeps getting more “point and click.” And if you’re inclined to learn a little code, Thesis and the DIYthemes forums are the perfect place to start.
For me, Thesis was the final destination in my journey to create a website that I was really proud of.
Three Reasons Why Thesis is Worth it
- Thesis is easy to use. You know that exciting fuzzy feeling you get when you experience a breakthrough and figure something out? When you buy Thesis and start playing with the design controls you’ll have more of these than you can handle. And if you get stuck, the super-active support forums have you covered
- Thesis gets the first sentence read. Let’s face it, amateur design turns people off and cheapens your content. And if you ever want to sell something, your design better convey trust. Even out of the box, Thesis looks good enough to keep people around and convince them to give your content a shot.
- Thesis is inexpensive. The previous blogging, kumbaya-mindset of “everything should be free” has shifted. Free doesn’t necessarily mean good anymore and now more than ever people are willing to pay for the perfect solutions to their problems. At $167 for the Developer’s Option and only $87 for the Personal Option, Thesis is a small (but critical) investment in the business or project you’re ready to pour your blood, sweat and tears into.
For content marketers, bloggers and small business owners, Thesis will get you up and running quickly with a slick looking, search engine optimized content platform. And under the current pricing structure you get lifetime free upgrades.
Plus, there’s a risk-free 30 day money back guarantee.
So if you’re looking for a good theme framework to get started on, you’ll get a lot of value out of Thesis.