Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

Thesis WordPress Theme Review – Take Two


  1. Kate Saunders says:

    Great review, Sugarrae!
    I love Thesis, as well, and it makes a huge difference in how well my sites rank.
    I didn’t know you had a tutorial on hooks, and that’s something I seriously need. Thanks for that, too. :)

  2. Hi Honey Sweet Sugar Rae, I’ve been looking for an eCommerce style child theme for Thesis. A front-page that features 5-10 products would be great. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck. I hadn’t heard of Themedy before, and checked them out but they don’t have any close to what I’m looking for. Any leads? Thanks!

  3. Great review sugarrae!
    You mixed in the old review also. Don’t you think if Google will treat as Duplicate?

  4. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Mike – I’ve been looking for the same unfortunately. If you find one at some point, be sure to let me know!

    Raj – Thanks… I only took a few quotes from the old review – everything else was written new. I don’t worry about quoting the old content considering 1. it’s a small percentage of the overall content 2. it’s a small duplication of internal content vs. external content and 3. because this is a living URL. :)

  5. Great post. I’ve been looking at Thesis a bunch lately since it offers everything bundled together like that. I don’t need the SEO plugin, the REL plugin etc… It would be sweet if there was the auto-to-twitter-et al- social network on new blog post option.

  6. garethjax says:

    +1 on the internal linking feature!
    Of course using “Smart seo links” made by Prelovac is also an excellent alternative…

  7. Shane Arthur says:

    Damn good review. The nav customizations are my fav update.
    I like your breadcrumb links. I’m assuming that the feature box.

    P.S. No subscribe to comments? ;)

  8. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Shane – nope, just a custom function using thesis_hook_before_content to display them. :)

    And yeah, I gotta get on the subscribe to comments feature.

  9. Adam Baird says:

    Great review.

    I would expand your 7th point to include further control over blog post displays on EVERY index page (home, tags, categories, custom taxonomies). It would be great to be able to choose how many, include/exclude certain tags/categories, choose how to order posts, choose how many to display on a given page, etc.

    My only gripe is that I’d rather not see .htaccess and robots.txt available in the editor. Honestly, I encourage everyone not to use the editor since its so easy to break your site editing PHP files.

  10. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Thanks Adam… I get where you’re coming from re htaccess and robots.txt, but frankly, someone can break the site just as easily editing the custom_functions.php file IF they didn’t know what they were doing. And since I *do* know what I’m doing, I like the ability to be able to edit them all via the editor. If you upload something and it breaks it, you FTP in, grab the offending file, delete what you added and reupload it via FTP. Right now, a lot of people I know use a plugin to be able to edit htaccess and robots.txt through the WordPress backend. So the feature is already available – I just want to cut one more plugin out. :) In my view, a simple message at the top saying “don’t use this unless you know what you’re doing” pretty much makes it “yo fault” if you mess with it *without* knowing what you’re doing. ;-)

  11. Adam Baird says:

    I definitely understand the perspective, and for someone like yourself who knows what you are doing, its useful.

    The problem is a lot of folks who have no clue what FTP is try to edit their site, break it, and are stuck. And, let’s face it, if its there, people will try to use it, warnings or not. IMO it does more harm than good…of course that is just my opinion.

  12. What a great review and information on Thesis. I am a total newbie and setting up my website/blog right now. I chose Thesis because it was highly recommended by so many people. I see why. I don’t know much and I’m learning more every day. The support from the Thesis people is superb. I have asked a few questions in the forums and they have answered quickly and in a way a newbie can understand.

  13. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Oh, Adam, I totally get it. If I were a designer like you, I’d also cringe at the thought of curious, well meaning but uneducated clients being able to TOUCH their site files. :)

    And thanks guys!

  14. Raymond Parker says:

    Indeed, one of the best things about Thesis is the dedicated and friendly community surrounding the theme.

    As a complete WordPress newb just over a year ago, I was at first intimidated by all the new stuff I had to learn to get the look I was after–that I’d been used to creating with Dreamweaver.

    I chose Thesis because it promised to give me more flexibility without being a coding expert. Like you, I was even more intimidated when I was confronted by such things as hooks and custom functions! After all, I moved to a database CMS to escape the technical demands of website ownership and concentrate on content. However, I was very impressed by the help I got (and continue to receive) from the Thesis Forums and sites like this one.

    Hooks, custom functions and a little extra CSS can accommodate just about anything you can imagine. I keep Dreamweaver around just to edit those custom files, but FTP them via the free Filezilla application. Again, there are plenty of tutorials around to make these steps easy. Thanks for this one.

    Now I’m beginning to get a kick out of every new trick I learn, for instance the widgetized footer I added to my site this week!

  15. I bought Thesis hoping I could create a nice looking site. Boy was I wrong. I quickly learned that you need to know CSS to make it look decent. If you don’t know CSS, you need to troll around the support forum hunting for snippets of code. I gave up on Thesis after I bought the Catalyst Theme because it’s like Thesis on steroids. You can design without knowing CSS and you can move things around without the complexity of open hooks. Anyway, I created a site that looked much better than what I could do with Thesis……however, it still didn’t look very professional. That’s when I found ThemeForest. Some of the best designers in the world create fabulous designs that are highly customizable and low cost. Anyway, I doubt this comment will get published since I’m not drinking the Thesis Kool Aid…but mad props to Sugarrae if this makes it past moderation. To each their own.

  16. Lenzfire says:

    If you could have published this review on thesis a month ago, I could have never researched anywhere in the net other than this review to buy thesis. Anyway I’m happy that I bought Thesis, gave my site a professional and unique look. This is the one that I can say as ” A complete Review” for Thesis Theme.

  17. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Thanks Lenzfire. :)

    Sean – I don’t have any problem with opposing viewpoints. :) My first question would be what version of Thesis you initially tried. The latest version has a lot more CSS based control in the Design Options panel. Trust me, as I said in the review, I’m also CSS impaired. I know HTML like the back of my hand and being a Thesis user has taught me a lot of php, but I’m barely able to read a CSS file much less code one haha. However, I think it comes down to what you want and what is most important to you.

    You can find tons of sexy themes that utilize core WordPress as you mentioned, but you’ll have to give up the functionality and advantages over traditional themes that comes with Thesis. But Thesis skin sites are starting to pop up as well (I mentioned Themedy in the post) which offer the templates, but on the Thesis framework. As I mentioned in the review, Thesis is not a design, but a framework. There are lots of awesome options out there for WP themes, but for my needs and goals, Thesis is the most versatile and beneficial. :)

  18. A bit more difficult to use than other wordpress theme but Thesis is quite a serious challenger. I appreciate also headway theme which is quite good too.
    Thanks for your precise article.

  19. Heather Reisig says:

    I asked this the other day, but will do so again for everyone else.

    How is the speed with Thesis? Very often, themes with a GUI backend are slow…at least in my experience.

  20. Rainvale says:

    Hi Rae,

    Thank you so much for sharing your great review on Thesis. I’ve been looking for a great WordPress template that will help me build a site – professional look and SEO friendly.

    I will definitely use this Thesis theme!

    Thanks again.

  21. John Shearer says:

    Hi Rae, Thank you for the great review. I was giving up on wordpress from lack of design and seo control; but the theme looks to be top shelf.

    I do have an important question I hope you can answer. Can the robots.txt file be altered? I use a third party service for video sitemapping and it requires adding code to the robots.txt file.

    Anxiously awaiting your answer.

  22. Hi Rae,

    Thanks for such a great review. I’ve been looking for a decent theme that can be easily and extensively customised without having to get into css. I had it narrowed down to a handful of themes, but I couldn’t decide which one to go for. Reading this has helped me decide – Thesis all the way !

    Thanks again


  23. I don’t like the fact that regular and progressive updates to Thesis have stopped in the wait of the “revolutionary” 2.0 version, which Mr. Pearson is writing from scratch. For an entire year, Thesis has been at a standstill, and the promised version is still far away, according to Mr. Pearson’s latest message. In the meantime, people publish feature suggestions in the Thesis Support Forums, but again, the “big” 2.0 version is being built from scratch, so all those “small” suggestions will serve no purpose. I hope I am wrong.

  24. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    George… I can’t speak for the lack of updates, but I can say I’ve seen sneak peeks of 2.0 and it really is insanely amazing (to me anyway.) I’m looking forward to it’s release – and if Pearson is smart, he’ll raise the price when it comes out (because it deserves one.) That’s one big reason I’m recommending folks buy now since the updates are free :)

  25. Alex Aguilar says:

    I don’t use Thesis for my blog but after reading your glowing review I am very tempted! I went to the Thesis website and checked out a couple sites from their showcase and was quite impressed at how complete different and unique each one seemed. That being said, I have to wonder how much of the design work on some of those sites was done through the Thesis Design Options Panel and how much was done through custom written css.

  26. Mark Hockenberry says:

    Thanks Rae for speaking in laymen terms. I’m really liking Thesis, and much like you, I’m not css fluent, but you guys sure make it look easy.


  27. David Burch says:

    I’d be interested in your take on the Catalyst Theme framework. I was an early adopter of Thesis but lately I’ve been using Catalyst more and more because I can customize the design a lot more (I’m not a designer and I have developer versions of both frameworks).

  28. Doc Sheldon says:

    Great stuff, I agree, Rae!

    I had originally intended to buy Thesis when I set up my site a year ago, but I allowed myself to be talked out of it by folks telling me you had to be a php wizard to get it to do what you wanted.

    I don’t know if that was true then, but it certainly isn’t now. I just recently installed Thesis, and am in the middle of a redesign, and I’m blown away by the features. I highly recommend it!

    I find myself missing the ability to edit various files from the backend, too. I can certainly appreciate wanting to hide much of that ability from meddlesome clients, but it seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult to incorporate the ability to selectively hide those files.

    Thanks for the great review, Rae. I’m still learning all the abilities within Thesis and you’ve given me some new stuff to check out.

  29. Steve Barker says:

    Great comments Rae and I agree with almost all you say. When will you do a post on how you made your WordPress/Thesis site secure from hackers? Mine was hacked last week and I never realized how easy it was to hack a wordpress site and what we should be doing to make it more secure until after the event. Would love to hear your thoughts and what you use.

  30. Stephanie says:

    Woow, great review.. Some of my sites run on Thesis, and Thesis is the shiiit.. :)
    I really like to follow your site, not just because im also a girl in the online marketing world, but simply because you share so much information :)


  31. Really learned a lot from your Thesis review…still sort of fuzzy, though, about differences between a feature box and a multimedia box…will keep researching..brand new to Thesis and I love it, too!

  32. An absolutely fantastic review of a product I own and use. I share many of the items on your “wishlist” especially easier manage-ability of the feature box and design options for sidebars. Although I’m quite pleased with my current version of Thesis (1.8) . . . I can hardly wait for Thesis 2.0. Thanks again for a great read . . .

  33. Al Spaulding says:

    Great update to your review on thesis Rae. Your review from about 8 mths ago was why I decided to buy thesis over Genesis. You Rock!

  34. Thanks for this great article! When I started out I must have wasted weeks of my life playing around with free themes trying to get it look how I wanted, getting fed up, completely changing the theme again, rinse and repeat… I looked at Thesis many times, but thought it was too ‘expensive’ (not for what it is but as I wasn’t making any money from my rubbishy looking sites!) I also thought it had too big a learning curve, and my brain was fried enough…

    However with the new Thesis 2.0 which looks much more idiot proof, and working it out on a ‘cost per wear’ basis, if I had actually bitten the bullet and gone for it in the beginning, not only would I have had awesome sites by now but the time I spent fiddling with free themes I could easily have invested on learning Thesis!

    Sheesh, slow learner!! :D Finally time to invest in my Business…

  35. Do you have plans to write about Thesis 2 soon? I have been a happy Thesis user since I read your review all those years ago. Unfortunately, I find Thesis 2 to be completely opaque. Their home page trumpets all these “benefits” which make it sound like the promised land. When I install it and go to start working with it there is simply nothing to get hold of.

    Reading assorted blog posts and forum threads I get the sense of massive hubris on the part of the developer. So, a month after release, I can’t find any value whatsoever for me. I would love to be proven wrong, but at this point am ready to move on.

  36. Awesome review, I recently just bought the theme and this was a really helpful read, thanks!

  37. What @Paul said. I purchased Thesis 2 last November, in the (perhaps mistaken) expectation that it would make it easier for me to migrate a chopped down version of my already simple website to WP.

    My capabilities are mixed: I can do some coding, but I didn’t want to mess about with html and css just to get going: maybe later to tighten things up. The main thing is that Thesis 2’s ‘out of the box’ state is exactly what Paul said – opaque.

    @Sugarrae – I’ve enjoyed your blog and web presence; entertaining and informative, but I think DIYthemes have jumped the shark with version 2

    So far, Thesis 2 it has simply steepened the learning curve. I’ll persevere a bit more, then have a look at 1.8.5; then if I’m still spending time on how to get the basics running, I’ll cut my losses and check out headway or themeforest.

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