Note: Please see the updated version of this post here.
Before I go any further in this post, I’d like to make a few things crystal clear. I was not given a “review copy” of Thesis. I bought the theme. I forget where I’d first heard about it, but I believe it was a tweet by copyblogger.
PLEASE NOTE: The below review is of Thesis in 2008 and NOT a Thesis 2.0 review. Find out more about my thoughts on Thesis 2.0, Genesis and why Sugarrae switched.
I saw it, liked it, bought it, tweaked it and played with it. I like the theme… thus why I am using it, went back and bought a developers license so I can use it on other sites and you’re damn right I am linking to it with affiliate links.
Ok, with that out of the way, I really think thesis is the best “in the box” WordPress theme I’ve ever come across, though I still have a few wants on my wish list for future upgrades.
For someone who doesn’t get a lot of php and hacks their way through WordPress themes, Thesis will give them a lot of functionality they wouldn’t be able to obtain for themselves otherwise by being able to make changes via a simple control panel instead of having to alter any actual WordPress code (click the images below to see larger versions).
You can tick a box that allows you to use either the default css theme or your own custom css file and you can also “tell Thesis” to replace all of the generic links to your rss feed in WordPress with your Feedburner one (though I totally admit to hacking this in by hand myself because I am weird like that).
Thesis also allows you to pick and choose which “pages” you display instead of utilizing a code that simply displays anything you designate as a page. It also allows you to mix and match pages and blog categories in the top navigation header and even allows you to add links to outside sites. If you want to remove the author name or dates of your postings from the template, add tags to your template or anything else along those lines, you can simply un-tick the box. you can even insert your Google Analytics or Mint tracking code… all right from the control panel, complete with a “big ass save button” – no, really.
My favorite part of the Thesis theme is the Multimedia Box (see the top of this page where the 300X250 Thesis ad is), which you can change to rotate between pictures, embed video or even include custom code for all those folks that want to show advertising in that area.
Big deal… most themes have spots for advertisements. Yeah, but what made Thesis stand out to me is that I can change what appears in that area on a page by page basis if I want to. For example, you’ll notice my homepage has an ad for SEOBook.com, while this page has an ad for Thesis. Since my guide to small business SEO gets a lot of traffic from small business owners, that page shows an ad for Yahoo Search Marketing.
I’m able to override the base choice I’ve made of what to show in that area for the majority of my site pages/posts in the Thesis control panel, all without ever having to touch a drop of code in the WordPress templates by utilizing the custom key option on the specific page or post.
If you view the photo above, you’ll see I was able to select the “custom” key I defined in the Thesis control panel and “override it”and insert specific code to replace the normal “custom” key, only for this post. This allows me to target my advertising on specific pages, especially higher traffic ones.
Imagine you own an SEO blog but get a lot of traffic from people searching for routers due to a one off post you did… with Thesis, you can change your advertising on that single page to be router related without forcing you to rely on webmaster welfare to do it for you.
Can you use custom fields without Thesis? But of course. You can do everything Thesis does without putting down any money buying the theme. Hell, you could also do this with wordpress if you knew how to (yes, no shit).
Now, you might be someone who can do all this without buying Thesis.
However, I am not. So I bought Thesis.
Now, is Thesis all unicorns and rainbows? No.
I have a few gripes and a wish list for future upgrades I’d like to see added to the theme, including:
1. The default template doesn’t include the category that the post was made in and doesn’t have a simple control panel check box to enable on. If a user lands on one of my Facebook posts from Google, I’d like them to be able to see the post is in a Facebook category so they can see all my Facebook posts should they choose (yes, I get that it is still in the sidebar, don’t care).
2. You can’t access the custom style sheet through the WordPress theme editor. So, if you use the custom css (rather than the default one), which I’d imagine most professional bloggers would, you actually have to edit it offline and then ftp it back to the server to make any changes to it. I’d much rather edit it the same way I do everything else relating to the theme.
3. While the design and theme are very SEO friendly, and I might even go as far to say it is the most SEO friendly theme I’ve ever seen “in a box”, it is not perfect and it does lean a little heavy in implying it is doesn’t need anything “extra” in regards to plugins or the like for SEO reasons. So, if you do buy and use Thesis, I’d recommend the following “enhancements” (at minimum) to Thesis’s great base for SEO friendliness to turn it into SEO excellence:
- SEO title tag (Thesis lets you change post/page title tags without this plugin, but it doesn’t let you change titles of category pages)
- RSS footer
- Permalink redirect
- Custom query string
- WordPress breadcrumbs
- SEO slugs
- Robots meta
4. I’d like to see an option to enable/show social media buttons in the Thesis control panel. I’d love to tick off Digg, Delicious and Stumbleupon boxes and have the graphics (or text links) show up nicely and properly coded to work. An option to check off a box to enable a div to make the Digg plugin (or something like it) nicely align with your text (like it does here) without having to actually touch the design template (installing a plugin and checking a box is so much easier).
5. The ability to create a nice contact form for yourself without actually having to know any code would also be awesome.
6. Adding things to the sidebar is a breeze since the theme is widget enabled. However, the widgets do not accept any php. So if you have something utilizing php in your sidebar, you’ll either have to hack the template in the code or go without it. I’d like to see this become a non-issue in the next release.
7. I’d like the ability to specify a specific advertisement to a category or archive page, not just individual posts and pages.
However, even with my gripes and wish list, I still think Thesis is the best out of the box solution I’ve seen in regards to a blog theme. Easy to use, pretty damn customizable and when you see them say over and over on the Thesis sales page that the support is awesome, they ain’t lyin’. And all future upgrades/releases of the theme are free.
So if you kick ass at php and can do all this customization yourself by utilizing your mad coding skillz, rock on. If you’re like me and well, can’t, then Thesis might be a solution. The ad targeting features alone for the professional (or semi-professional) blogger should easily make up the cost of buying the theme to begin with if you’re getting any decent traffic.
Edited to add: Let me know if you guys like the product reviews. I sometimes find good stuff (like Thesis) among all the flat out crap I try (and buy, sigh). I’ll share more of the good stuff if you’d like.
PLEASE NOTE: The above review is of Thesis in 2008 and NOT a Thesis 2.0 review. Find out more about my thoughts on Thesis 2.0, Genesis and why Sugarrae switched.