Partial WordPress Theme Review: Thesis

So I decided that since I blow tons of money on pretty useless things, I thought that $87 was not much to pay for Thesis, a WordPress theme. After watching their videos, I felt like I could comfortablymake the jump. Unfortunately, it was a mistake.

Because Thesis is touted as an “SEO Optimized Framework”, much of the underlying structure of the theme is hidden away in custom functions and all that other jazz. This makes it less convenient for those who like to customize their theme. I was previously using Pixel (depending on when you’re reading this, I may be using Pixel or trying to customize Thesis), and that theme was a breeze to customize. My only background is having taken a year or so of high school level computer science (C++/Java/Javascript/HTML/CSS), that and I seem to have a knack for basic programming.

With that said, I normally find it easy enough to modify a theme to suit my needs. Not so with Thesis. I have to resort to clicking through pages upon pages of message board posts. The fact that I have to ask for help is already a big hassle. But when it’s difficult to do something as simple as adding a header logo, that’s crossing the line. If they had just stuck with the default WordPress framework, I could just look everything up in the WordPress Codex. But no, Thesis is not as thoroughly documented.Anyway, although typology is very easy to mess around with, I was incredibly disappointed to see that simple color changes needed to be done through a custom CSS file. And how do you edit that CSS file? It certainly isn’t an elegant solution. You must use a text editor to edit the file, and then you have to upload it via FTP to the custom directory of the Thesis theme. And you have to do this EVERY SINGLE TIME you want to make a change. This is a far cry from in-browser editing, which is available for pretty much all free themes: WordPress just lets you edit the CSS file in its own interface.So far, my list of changes includes:

  • Move the Navbar under the header
  • Have a Feature Box that showcases a random rotation of my best articles and posts
  • Change the border colors
  • Remove the showing of comments on the index page
  • Move meta information onto one line

Let’s see how much work this takes. But so far, it’s not looking so great. I remember that it took me only about six hours, on and off, of tinkering to get Pixel the way I wanted. I had written about Mimbo Pro a long time ago. I had qualms about purchasing any themes back then, and I should’ve stuck with what I thought to begin with. Because Thesis right now looks like it’s going to take more work than I want to put in. Frankly, as someone on the message boards had said, the level of PHP knowledge you probably need to really mold Thesis is probably high enough that you have to wonder why this person’s not off making themes themselves.

We’ll see if this is going to turn out to be one of the biggest waste of $87 I’ve ever had to experience.

  • Gary

    I'm viewing it on Thesis right now, and I must say, I think I liked your old theme a lot more.

    "And how do you edit that CSS file? It certainly isn't an elegant solution. You must use a text editor to edit the file, and then you have to upload it via FTP to the custom directory of the Thesis theme. And you have to do this EVERY SINGLE TIME you want to make a change. "
    You make it seem like thats such a hassle, but outside of WordPress, thats how its done on most websites. At least you don't have to access cpanel each time, now that's a hassle.

  • I don't remember what cpanel is, but I used to use Lonex as my host: they had some kind of web app where you could edit files directly through the browser. Even that's better than the 'reuploading via FTP method.'

    I like my old (free) theme a lot more too lol. Which is painful to admit, considering that I spent $87 on this new one. I hope I can create some sort of facsimile of what I used to have using Thesis, or something that was as satisfying. We'll see how it goes…if I really can't get it done, I'll can always just say that it was an expensive lesson that taught me not to ever buy a theme.

  • Gary

    I don't know why you think FTP is such a hassle, in fact, I think FTP is much better than using some sort of browser app for upload. Get CuteFTP, it's an amazingly easy to use program- for what you're doing, all you'd have to do is simply update the version of the CSS file on your hard drive and then upload it straight to the server. Much easier than having to open your browser, log into WordPress, go to the Design page, and so on…

    Cpanel is that interface that, I think most hosts use, for stuff like browser based uploading (which is a hassle, and limited compared to FTP), managing mySQL databases, setting up email accounts and various other accessory things.

    Your layout looks a lot better now, by the way.

  • I do use CuteFTP. Here's why I still don't like FTP.

    Opening up a browser isn't an issue: I always have a browser open. I am always logged into WordPress. I have a shortcut that leads straight to the admin interface. So for me to edit a CSS file inside the WordPress framework, here's what I have to do:
    Click on shortcut to admin interface.
    Click on Editor (under Appearance).
    Click on the CSS file.
    Edit. Save.

    Compare that to FTP:
    Open CuteFTP (which I do not have running at all times).
    Log in to my FTP server.
    Navigate through the many folders to get to the theme.
    Download a copy of the CSS file.
    Open it, edit, save.
    Drag and drop this CSS file back into CuteFTP.
    CuteFTP asks if I want to overwrite.
    I have to click yes.

    So all in all, it's just more mouse movement and keystrokes and mouse clicks. Maybe your're set up differently, but for me the most elegant, streamlined, and ideal solution would be to edit everything within the browser. I'm aware that FTPing is the most common method. However, considering that I paid for this theme, and considering how Thesis seemed to have so many things editable via their own interface, I expected something as simple as editing a CSS file to be included.

    Fortunately, I found out about the Thesis Open Hook plugin which allows me to edit the CSS in the browser as I wished.

    I'm still working on it, hopefully I'll be able to achieve my vision. As you can see, I just sort of based it off of my old theme, which begs the question: why the hell did I buy the theme in the first place if I'm just going to copy it? lol