Page Layout Selection
The next area to compare is something that’s very interesting and that is page layout selection. In Thesis, each page or post can only have one of two layouts, either as the default layout that you set up or it has the no sidebars layout and Archive pages can only have the default layout.
You can change this programatically so if you want to use PHP code, you can make this different but out of the box, Thesis allows you to choose the page layout I just mentioned. I’m going to just give you that example for a moment.
You can choose the number of columns and you can choose the column order so for example if you choose the 3 column layout, you can have sidebars on one side, sidebars on both sides or sidebars in the other.
If you have a two column layout, you can have your sidebars on one side or the other and you set this up for your entire site. Once you are looking at a page and you are editing this page or setting up a page, you have a choice either of the default template which is that default layout or you can choose the no sidebars template. Those are your only choices really for a non programmed variation.
In Genesis, you do set a default layout in the same way that you would set this but each page can have one of those 6 layouts and the same is true with Archive pages. For example, if we are looking at our Agency site, look at the Genesis settings and the theme settings, it does have this place for you to set your default layout but each page also gives you the ability to make that decision where you can choose either the default layout or you can choose one of these 6.
As a practical standpoint, I don’t think that is a strong benefit but if you are the kind of person who wants this kind of a layout on his blog but this kind of a layout on all the rest of your pages, then this may very well be a very strong determiner in making the decision.
Genesis does let you make these kinds of choices for yourself on a page by page and post by post basis. If we look at our posts, you do the same thing on a post by post basis and you can also do this with Archive pages.
If we look at one of the Categories, you can see that you can choose not to use a default layout and have a specific layout for this specific category. It does have that built-in functionality which some designs might want to take advantage of. This is one of the things that makes Genesis significantly different than Thesis.
Customize the Appearance Without Coding
The seventh area of comparison is customizing the appearance without code. Genesis has no system of customizing the appearance of the site without using code. The only way to customize what Genesis looks like is by using either a predesigned child theme or using your own child theme but there’s no system for customizing that without physically writing code.
Currently, there aren’t any plugins that exist to augment that. I do expect that the future in that regard will change and I will be developing plugins that allow you to alter Genesis but for the time being, I only have a couple of Genesis plugins and they don’t really focus on customizing the appearance.
On the other hand, Thesis gives you extensive options for customizing the appearance. Obviously, hundreds of options that you can change without code and you have my fabulous BYOB Plugins to augment that which really allow a very wide array of customization without code.
Now, this is a double-edged sword, right? Having no system of customizing without using code means you have a fairly simple system to learn in order to make the site look polished. You select a child theme that you like and it has a limited number of customization options. You follow the instructions for that child theme and you have a very polished looking site very quickly.
You don’t have to make a whole bunch of decisions in order to make that work. However with Thesis, you’re starting with a blank canvas and you have to begin to make decisions about what you want your site to look like. I’ve seen plenty of new people flail forever on that one part ,that all those decisions just make it very difficult for them to decide what they want their site to look like so having all those options is a two-edged sword.
Thesis does have this entire system and if you add BYOB website plugins to that, there is an entire system of customizing appearance of your site without using any code at all whereas Genesis does not have that system except for the child theme system.
Customize the Appearance with Coding
Comparison number eight is customizing the appearance with code. Thesis currently has 3 systems for customizing with code. In my opinion, there are really only 2 systems we’re talking about but nevertheless, there are 3.
There is the Native System which is you’re adding code to Custom CSS or Custom Functions PHP and you do that on your own site in those files which is what hundreds of videos on my site are about, “How to Customize Thesis Using Custom CSS file and Custom Functions PHP file”. That’s its Native System for using it.
The second system is a Skin System which I’m not going to describe but is a slight augmentation to that. The third system which is new in Thesis 1.8.4 is the Child Theme System. The Child Theme System is a system I’m going to teach starting in May. It probably is the future for this kind of Thesis customization and in the future, we’ll end up in Thesis with really 2 systems, Child Themes and then the Native System.
Adding Code Snippets
Thesis has a built-in simple method of adding code snippets that will survive theme upgrades. That was the genius of Thesis when it first came out and remains one of the cornerstones of why you use Thesis and that is you can customize the appearance with code without hacking the core. You can make simple or complex changes to your site just by adding to your Custom CSS file and Custom Functions PHP file and for that matter .
BYOB Website is a Thesis website and it is a highly complex, there is a very complicated set of functionality associated with the site and all of that is programmed using the Thesis system of Custom CSS, Custom Functions PHP. Those customizations survive upgrade without having to hack the theme.
On the other hand, Thesis’ new child theme system is very nice but it does lack some very easy tools that Genesis has and that other competing frameworks have for creating child themes. It does have child theme support but it’s not as mature, it just came out in this latest release. It’s child theme support is not as flexible as Genesis is or other competing themes but it still is a very nice system.
Customizing Genesis and Thesis Child Themes
Genesis only has one way for you to customize and that’s the WordPress way using child themes. This means that there’s really no simple method of creating a child theme for you to customize your Genesis website and still allow it to survive an upgrade. It’s not that difficult to create a child theme but nevertheless, it’s not as simple as using the Thesis system and there’s no way to customize a child theme without hacking the child theme.
For example, if you are using the Agency Child Theme, the only way to customize it is to either use the customization functions it has or you actually have to hack the child theme. You don’t want to hack the child theme because the next time they upgrade Agency, you’re going to lose those hacks. Genesis doesn’t have any way for you to customize the child theme however, Thesis does have its system built-in.
If you use a child theme, it still gives you the ability to use your Custom Functions PHP file and Custom CSS file to augment that child theme without hacking the child theme’s core. That’s one of the things that makes Thesis stand apart from the other systems of child themes and it does allow you even with child themes to customize those themes without hacking the child theme’s core.
In Genesis if you got a child theme and you almost like it but you don’t quite like it but you want to make a few changes to it, you have to create your own child theme using that child theme as its base. You won’t be upgrading that child theme without losing that customization or having to port that customization over to the upgraded theme.
However, the child theme support is very robust. It has many easy tools so as soon as you want to create your own child theme in Genesis, Genesis is designed to easily create child themes.
If you want to add footer widgets to your theme, or some additional widget areas to your theme, or you want to have Breadcrumbs, other navigation menus or add some meta boxes, Genesis makes it very easy for you to add those things without a whole lot of complicated programming.
It expects people who are using it to want to create their own child theme or at least expects people who are going to learn programming to use it that way. It has built-in a very robust set of tools that make creating a child theme easier and those tools don’t exist in Thesis, it’s really two competing systems for customizing with coding.