The Pros and Cons of Upgrading to Thesis 2.0 [WordPress Theme Review]

About two months ago, Thesis 2.0 was released. Since I’ve been so busy with business travel, I didn’t see the available update until I decided write some new blog posts over the holiday weekend. Alas, I ended up spending the weekend upgrading from Thesis 1.8.5 instead.

Thesis 2.0 looks great on the surface. The new DIY Themes home page is HOT, and their blog promises that you can build the same sort of page using Thesis 2.0. And you barely even need to touch HTML or CSS because of Thesis’ new boxes and packages. At least, that’s what the claim is.

You definitely still need to know how to code to do anything besides rearrange and add colors to the basic default skin. It took me many hours to update from 1.8.5 to 2.0.2, simply to make my site look the same as it did before. And I would consider myself an intermediate CSS coder.

Here are the pros and cons of upgrading (or doing a fresh installation) of Thesis 2.0. Let’s start with the negative.

Con #1:  No documentation from the theme creator

According to the Thesis blog, no documentation was released with the upgrade so eager Thesis users could get their hands on it ASAP. Ok, that’s all fine and well. As the person who used to write all of HubSpot’s documentation, I would call a product without documentation a beta release… a VERY beta release. There is no “beta” anywhere on the DIY themes website.

I could let that technicality slip, but it’s two months later, and there’s STILL no documentation available. Fortunately, there are some smart people out there who figured out how to use Thesis and know how to make videos. While a bit long-winded, these videos will teach you the basics of setting up your Thesis 2.0 site.

Con #2: Drag-and-drop isn’t so intuitive

To explain the unintuitiveness of this, I actually need to create the documentation to show you how to add a new section to one of your Thesis 2.0 templates. First, you need to add a new box…

Thesis 2.0 Boxes

When you create the box, you need to declare the CSS or ID classifier…

Thesis 2.0 Declare CSS

Then you need to create a CSS package for that box…

Thesis Packages

Then you need to declare the reference and CSS classifier (which doesn’t match the HTML class from two screenshots ago, by the way, since you need to add a period here)…

Thesis 2.0 Classifier

Finally, you can customize the CSS of this box in the Additional CSS tab…

Thesis 2.0 Box CSS

But wait — there’s more! You have to add the reference from two screenshots ago with an ampersand in front to actually make Thesis recognize your new CSS package. Why? I couldn’t tell you. And there’s no way I would have known to do this without watching the tutorial videos referenced above.

Thesis 2.0 Reference CSS

Con #3: Still no skins, boxes, or packages available to download

The DIY Themes homepage makes it seem like there are tons of skins (themes), boxes (widgets), and packages (CSS stylings) available for download. But the truth is, two months after launch, there still isn’t much out there. Here’s what I could find at the time of this writing:

Thesis 2.0 Skins

Thesis only provides two skins out of the box — one is extremely basic, and one is literally a blank slate. Upon searching the web, there are only two free 3rd party skins:

  • BizLife 2.0 – very basic
  • ThesisAwesome – they have two free skins: BlogSkin2 and Legendary
  • Kolfolio – a great free theme for people who want to set up a simple portfolio site

And only a few paid skins:

  • Marketer’s Delight – this is the most impressive Thesis 2.0 skin I’ve found, and seems to make it easy to generate marketing leads
  • Aroxis – very slick theme, looks great on mobile
  • BizLife 2.0 Pro – similar to the free version but with a mobile-responsive layout

Thesis 2.0 Boxes

  • Revolution Slider Box – looks like a fancy slider; I haven’t tried it out so I can’t say how easy it is to set up
  • Author Info Box – I’m using this on this blog, see my author box below. However, I had to make a bunch of customizations to the PHP and CSS file to get it to work correctly in the position I wanted it, so it did not work out-of-the-box for me.
  • Parallax Content Slider – again, looks fancy, but I haven’t tried it out yet
  • Optin-Slider – this is just a blank box that slides in from the bottom of your header. There is no opt-in form; you need to configure that yourself.

As of right now, that’s just about it. I could not find ANY Thesis 2.0 packages. If you know of any skins, boxes, or packages not included here, please let me know in the comments.

Con #4: Hard to find coding mistakes

Because there are so many different boxes, packages, and places to add CSS, sometimes you’ll have conflicting CSS. Sometimes you”ll miss a bracket somewhere. And even if you can find the mistake using Firebox or Chrome developer tools, it can be really challenging to find the exact bit of incorrect code in Thesis 2.0. I nearly ripped my hair out earlier today trying to find why my nav bar suddenly didn’t want to extend the full width of the page, and it took me 1/2 hour to find the bit of code in which I was missing a close-bracket. That’s 1/2 hour of my life down the drain, when I could have easily found what I was looking for on a single CSS style sheet.

Con #5: Cannot replicate containers

It is entirely possible to clone a template, but it’s not possible to clone just a piece of your template. If you’re an advanced Thesis user, you’ll eventually have many templates. If you want to make a change to your footer, for example, which you want to be the same across all templates, you have to manually drag-and-drop the right boxes (and often boxes-within-boxes) in each individual template. This is pretty tedious, and it seems like this would be an easy fix.

Con #6: It takes forever to migrate from Thesis 1.x to Thesis 2.0

Again, it took me a large part of a holiday weekend to migrate my Thesis 1.8.5 template to Thesis 2.0.1. There’s no button you can click to automatically migrate anything over; you literally need to start from scratch. I used the first video on this page to learn how to do this; otherwise I would have been completely lost.

Alright, that’s enough negativity for now, especially because there are actually some really cool things you can do with Thesis 2.0.

Pro #1: Easy to create multiple templates and customize EACH POST with a specific template

Note the all-caps in that heading… this feature’s really exciting. This makes context marketing entirely possible. Let’s say I’m writing a new blog post about Facebook, in which I want to promote all of my Facebook offerings (the eBook, the checklist, etc.). I can create a specific template for all of my Facebook posts. This template can have any sidebar content I want, any content above, inside, and below my post — basically, anything I want — that’s different from the rest of my regular posts. Then when I’m creating my new Facebook post, I can easily select that Facebook template.

Thesis 2.0 Custom Template

This makes it possible for you to show your readers content you already know they’re interested in. I’m eventually going to create custom templates for each high-level category on my blog, and this is definitely a feature I’d recommend Thesis 2.0 for.

Pro #2: Limitless customization

Once you figure out how, you can customize ANYTHING on your blog if you use this theme. The lack of documentation, skins, etc. is frustrating at the moment, but I imagine this will get better in the next couple of months. At least, one can hope.

Pro #3: You can uninstall the Thesis Openhook plugin

This is only relevant for people upgrading from Thesis 1.x, but if you know what I’m talking about, you know what I mean. That plugin was a pain in the arse.

Pro #4: Thesis 2.0 loads more quickly

I use a plugin that prevents me from loading WP Super Cache or any of those plugins that speeds up your blog’s load time. So this one was huge for me. Page load time is a big factor in Google’s SEO algorithm these days, so anything you can do to speed up your site will improve your search engine rankings, and help you get more traffic. Eventually, when developers create more Thesis 2.0 boxes, it will enable you to uninstall your slow-loading plugins. We’re not quite there yet, since there aren’t many boxes available yet, but hopefully that will chance soon.

Pro #5: Excellent SEO tools built in

You can uninstall the All in One SEO Pack or whatever SEO plugin you’re currently using. Thesis 2.0 comes fully equipped with all the SEO tools you need. Besides, you should know by now that good SEO is all about having great content now, not meta keywords.

Hmm… 6 cons and 5 pros. Maybe I was just in a complaining mood. Also, the hyperlink button on my WYSIWYG editor is randomly not working. Maybe it’s related to Thesis 2.0, but maybe it’s not. After all the work I put into migrating over, I’m definitely not uninstalling the theme to find out.

Think the pros of Thesis 2.0 outweigh the cons? Click here to buy Thesis 2.0 and try it for yourself. To be 100% transparent, this is an affiliate link. I hope this article helped you with your theme research!

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Comments

  1. says

    That sounds like a mess. Thanks for the detailed review. I think I’ll wait until the next release at earliest. I’ll hope you’ll let us know if some of the important naming items get fixed.

  2. says

    Thanks for this detailed post. As a non thesis user, the CSS part seems laborious to me – definitely looks like a learning curve.

    I am not sure if Thesis 2.0 is responsive? I don’t see it advertised as such. I think ‘responsive’ is such an important attribute nowadays, it would have been highlighted if they had it.

    Was there ever a time when you did not use Thesis? How much increase in traffic or SERP did you see after switching to Thesis initially?
    With almost a 200$ price tag, would you say it’s worth it?

    Thanks!
    pb

    • says

      There was a time in which I didn’t use thesis. I used the free theme Flexibility. It was a good theme, but I wanted complete control over my design and layout, and at the time (about two years ago maybe?) it was hard to get at the CSS/HTML. It might be better now.

      I did see a dramatic increase in traffic, but I wouldn’t attribute it to the Thesis theme itself. It was because of the content on my site — at the time I was blogging on a regular basis, and adding new pages to my site, and that’s really important for increasing blog traffic. I think that the $200 price tag is only worth it if you’ll be applying Thesis to multiple sites and have an understanding of how to code. If you understand how to code, the sky’s the limit. Otherwise a free theme like Flexibility, in which you don’t need to touch code, could be more beneficial.

    • TruffleMedia says

      pb: Look at the cost of Thesis not as one to increase SERP/traffic but one to save you time. Thesis provides a simplified approach to quickly configure, change and adjust look/feel of WordPress without opening up files on the sever. At $50 to $100 per hour for your time, $200+ is worth the return.

  3. says

    Thanks for the objective look at T2. I’m not a coder at all, and my 1.8.5 design took me ages to make. I just started playing on a test install of T2 and I’m struggling to make any sense of it at all. Looks like I may stick with 1.8.5 for a while longer.

    Wish me luck!

  4. TruffleMedia says

    Thanks for the notes. Key message: don’t upgrade production site without some planning and experience building on Thesis 2.x.

  5. says

    Thanks for a good breakdown. I am evaluating several wordpress
    frameworks and it appears to me that all of these are trying to have the
    same functionality as joomla. Why not just use Joomla. So far Gantry
    Wordpress framework seems to have better value all the way around from
    documentation to child themes to easier functionality. Having said
    these, I think for the time spent on any of these, we will just continue
    to expand on our own framework.

  6. says

    Hi Diana, I read this article from the link on your comment system article. I’ve been trying to help a friend upgrade her WordPress site but it is in French and English. It can be a real problem to get the theme you choose and a language plugin to work together. Fortunately, WPML language plugin and Atahualpa theme worked together and let me keep the custom look: http://cecileh.com

    Comment to Charles’ comment. I love YooThemes, which started with just themes for Joomla! but now offers WordPress themes. Also Nick at ElegantThemes gives terrific support and they are pretty.

  7. says

    I “was” pretty excited for Thesis 2.0 when it was announced, and even jumped on board. But the changes they made left the armchair blogger out in the cold. And back when I did ask about the documentation on their site, well, my timing was pretty bad, as they shut down comments right after that.

    As a Thesis user, I’ve been abandoned. And I don’t have the time to sit through videos. Sigh… I gave me pause and now I’m checking out their competitors to put my site in.

    Nice pros and cons piece here. Thanks. You seemed to nail it on the head, as far as the cons are concerned.

    -Brusimm

  8. Sérgio Nogueira says

    Sorry, do not speak English, so use google translate. How many felt frustrated with the release of Thesis 2.0. All the tools that made the topic easy to be used by those who do not engage in programming were removed, change the color of a single item has become a difficult task.
    Completely changed my theme, I discovered that the genesis allow me to change the entire layout of a site without writing anything at all (with the use of a premium plugin). And that is possible with the avada hours in developing a custom website in a simple way. Why continue with Thesis?

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