Genesis Framework for WordPress

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I started another blog a few days ago and wanted a fresh new look. Most of my sites run on Thesis and end up looking extremely similar because I find out how to make specific edits and then incorporate the changes into multiple sites. I figured this was a perfect opportunity to deviate from the norm and try something fresh and new, so I purchased the Genesis framework with a child theme.

Genesis appears to work very similar to Thesis by adding hooks and filters to your (child themes) functions.php file, so one might argue that I could create the same looking website with my existing Thesis framework as I could with Genesis. This might be true if I was a coder or designer, but I’m not, and I’m sure all of the premium theme designers are happy there are people like me who are not only buying functionality, but buying a semi-configured look as well.

I make my theme purchases based on how much I like the demo, and how easy I think it will be to emulate that similar look, so I went with the spacious and mobile friendly Eleven40 child theme. I’ve never cared for the three column look before, but this one was so nice looking that I flipped the switch almost immediately to give it a try. It’s easy enough to change with a one click default layout option if I was so inclined, but for now it’s exactly how I want it.

To give you an idea of how spontaneous I am when it comes to starting something new, the inspiration for this new blog came about from a five minute conversation. It’s a hot, timely topic that I don’t know a lot about, but when I checked how many monthly searches there were, I figured it was worth exploring. When I found a 9 letter domain name that is also a popular keyword phrase getting 90K+ searches a month, I bought it and put the gears in motion.

I don’t see this topic being short-lived or faddish so there should be plenty of time to develop content and grow with the public’s interest. Since I don’t know much about the subject, I’m using the blog as I would a college course with each new post being like an essay on a topic I’ve researched. While I might not be able to turn around a few posts a week with this kind of objective, I’ll at least have some (hopefully) decent information to pass on to visitors.

Back to Genesis. There’s not as many built in options and features as Thesis, but for the most part these missing choices are negligible. I do miss how easy it is to upload a header image in Thesis though. For something so basic, I would have figured this would be included in my Genesis child theme to replace the text option, but alas it was not.

I absolutely love the default font size and face. I never thought to go bigger like that, but surprisingly it makes the text more inviting and easy to read. This child theme has an easy to configure header widget for a custom navigation menu and nice extended footer widgets too. There’s also two built in widgets called page title and after post that would be perfect for inserting advertising without the need for an additional plugin.

It’s probably still too early to pass judgement on Genesis, but I’m a few days into it and I’m still learning and excited about the possibilities. To see what you’d get, check out the default Genesis demo as well as the Eleven40 demo I decided to use. The real test will be the response I get in the forums to compare to the diythemes support folks that are top notch. If they’re just as good, this might just be a dead heat.

Me Gusta User Generated Content Theme

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It amazes me how popular those meme or captioned picture related sites have become. Websites like 9gag, quickmeme, knowyourmeme, failblog, and LOLcats all receive heaps of traffic. Those entertaining posts are ideal for the shrinking attention span of internet users. So how do you get your slice of that pie?

I did a few searches for user generated content WordPress themes and the available options appeared quite thin. I seem to have a knack for wanting to play in areas where there’s not many out of the box WordPress solutions readily available. (see Photo Battle, Software Repository) In my opinion the standout in this category was the Me Gusta theme from CosmoThemes.

If I had to pick one site to compare Me Gusta to it would be with a complete sidebar instead of that stunted, non-moving one 9gag has going on. I actually prefer the long sidebar because if you ever managed to snag as much traffic as 9gag, you could fill up all that space with ads and affiliate stuff to make a little coin. With over four million Facebook likes, these people must be cashing in big time so if there’s a site you’ll want to try and emulate, it may as well be this one.

So what does this theme have to offer? It’s got the nice layout as I mentioned, it has a nice one click like (or love rather) button next to each post, a built in lightbox for images, a not safe for work feature that shields a photo from view unless you’re logged in, Facebook comments integration, and an easy to use control panel with many configurable options in the WordPress admin dashboard.

The theme does have a couple of things I’m not crazy about too. For example, the whole keyboard window thing that jumps in front of you like a pop up ad is annoying. The caption for it is actually “advanced navigation for a better experience”, but I honestly find it a nuisance. Luckily you can easily disable this feature. The other issue I have is registration. For a user generated content theme, they don’t put the register link in an obvious place or easy to find. I don’t like that you have to (know to) click on the login button to even find the register link.

Despite these minor problems, I still think Me Gusta is the leader of the pack for this niche and I hope they continue to update, improve, and develop the theme further. Just because you’re on top today does not guarantee that same success for tomorrow if you get lazy playing king of the hill. I like to call it the Blockbuster effect.

I’ve included a screenshot of the Me Gusta options panel within WordPress down below. If it looks like something you might be interested in exploring further, be sure to check out the Me Gusta demo.

What is Thesis Theme

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With the release of Thesis Theme 2.0 this past week, I’ve had to change my focus a bit for this post. Originally I wanted to talk about how I use Thesis, what benefits I gain from using it, and what hurdles I face being a non-coder. Over time I’ve converted the majority of my sites to use Thesis. In that time I’ve learned tons from the helpful DIYThemes community, so with each new site I switched to Thesis, the easier and quicker it got for each transition.

Now that Thesis 2.0 is out, I feel like the learning curve has been reset. This version isn’t a continuation of version 1.85, it’s an entirely different product. Most of my sites are finally working the way I want them too, so with the idea that I will have to rebuild each one with Thesis 2.0 (no simple upgrade process), I’m naturally feeling a bit frustrated and overwhelmed. I’m hearing from others that there’s no immediate need for upgrading if you’re happy with the way your sites are running now, be it’s only a matter of time before the 1.8X versions become outdated and eventually unsupported. Like it or not, the clock is now ticking.

What Thesis 1.85 is to me

Thesis 1.85 is a WordPress theme framework that provides me with flexible layout options and the ability to customize my sites by only editing two files. I didn’t always think of it that simply. When I first ordered Thesis, I realized I was immediately in over my head. There was no demo so I assumed the default looked something like the site, but that was far from the truth. What you get with Thesis isn’t a polished looking design like you might get with Templatic or WooThemes. Thesis gives you the “ability” to create, but not the creation itself. That part is up to you.

So what was my only option after spending nearly two hundred bucks on a theme that I didn’t know a thing about? Learn Thesis. I spent the time to go through nearly every Site and Design option there was to see what changed for each setting. Then when I learned just about everything there was to change via configurable presets, I spent time searching and posting in the forums, asking questions about php hooks and filters and css classes, and probably being a pain in the ass to some extent.

Over time a funny thing happened. I grew to really like Thesis. So much so that I moved nearly all of my sites to Thesis. I still can’t figure out php, and even with the help of Firebug I can’t make css changes to save my life, but everything I picked up in the forums was enough to hook me. I used the changes I made on one site to change the next, and the changes from those two to customize the third, and so on.

Thesis 1.85 represents the culmination of my theme design accomplishments since version 1.6. I’m comfortable with it, I know it fairly well, and I’ve got my heels dug in pretty deep with so many sites running a 1.8X version. I know what most if not all of these options do, and I’ve developed an affinity for that Big Ass Save Button.

What Thesis 2.0 is to me

Looking over Thesis 2.0 brings back memories of the first time I installed Thesis 1.6. I don’t know exactly what to do with it. Supposedly it’s better, but I can’t quite affirm or deny that yet. I always try to see how much I can do before reading any docs or watching any videos (which they’ve announced is lacking at the moment in order to not miss the promised launch date) to test how intuitive it is, and so far there is nothing I could pick up from just browsing around and clicking.

Actually, I take that back. I managed to drag the header box above the navigation box which magically moved the logo about the menu on a test site. This used to require code in the custom_functions.php file, so I admit that’s a pretty cool. Although, after one glance at the css package section, I doubt everything is that simple.

Other than that little morsel of knowledge, I’m a bit overwhelmed so far. I usually take quite awhile considering whether or not to change a theme because I know it will be a commitment in both time and patience. I have to be sure to spend enough time acclimating myself to something new. With 2.0, I feel like the changes were sprung on me suddenly. I’m not ready for a redesign. I’m not ready to relearn an entirely new theme either.

I should be thankful I’m receiving this product as I know there must have been a boat load of hard work that went into building this new theme. I often wondered how it was a sustainable business model to keep offering new versions to everyone forever, but it makes more sense now with Thesis 2.0. I suspect there might be new product offerings for “skins” that would help keep the revenue flowing for quite awhile.

Maybe when time allows I’ll get to read, watch, and learn all I can about this new theme, and maybe it will turn out to be the framework of all frameworks. Thesis won me over before, so perhaps all I need is to put in the time to learn it all over again. I just wish I didn’t have to, you know, start over.

Templatic WordPress Themes

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Apparently this is WordPress theme week for me. I’ve had a handful of themes I use (or have used) that I’ve wanted to mention for awhile now, but I never planned on them being all in succession like this. This one is about Templatic and their very cool selection of premium themes.

The first theme I purchased was the ebook theme with a layout that’s geared towards a single product or service. I used this theme as the front end of my brilliant but unrealized real estate website idea. What I like about the theme is it isn’t cluttered and there’s just enough displayed to get to the point of what you’re trying to say. I’m also a fan of finding a layout that I can use out of the box by simply filling in my own details. If you look at the design of the eBook demo, that’s pretty much what my site looked like, except with my own image and information.

The other theme I purchased from Templatic was the popular GeoPlaces city directory theme. I know what you’re probably going to say. Go ahead, it’s ok. A directory? Really? Yes, I know, the directory and review idea is near complete saturation, but I like to think there’s still room for the occasional niche directory to flourish.

What’s my incredible niche idea you ask? It’s for people of the night. No, it’s not a Goth directory. It’s a directory for late nighters. I’m a night owl. It’s not because I work nights or anything. I just like staying up late. More than once (more like hundreds of times) I’ve found myself searching for what’s open late or in the middle of the night to get myself a snack, or find something to read, or to shop. I figured there has to be others like me out there, so that’s how the idea began that landed me back at Templatics door.

For such a great (at least according to me) idea, I have really phoned it in on this one. I don’t even dare give out the url because I’m embarrassed by how little I’ve done with it in nearly a years time. I think I must have needed something new to play with, so instead of downloading something open source, I came up with this idea for a website I had no right to begin because of all the other stuff I have going on. So there it sits, still unfinished, collecting dust.

As far as the theme goes, it’s rock solid and I couldn’t be happier with it. The site looks very professional and it’s certainly not from anything I did. The framework is really attractive and no matter what colors you go with (six options you select in Design Options), it’s just a very cool looking site. The best thing I like about this site is the fact that I use four plugins and have everything I need and it still looks great.

While these aren’t the only configurable options, check out the whole slew of design options in the GeoPlaces theme.

Gorilla Themes Real Estate Themes

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I planned an entire staycation around purchasing and setting up a site using a theme from Gorilla Themes. At the time I was searching for a first home and I realized that most real estate ads were just inadequate. They lacked the extensive information and photos needed to really get a potential buyer interested.

What I also realized during my house hunting is the personal website real estate ads (,,, etc.) really peaked my interest, and I often looked at them when I got back home even if the homes were out of my price range. I started to think that offering this service would be a great idea, especially if I had a template (theme) set up like I wanted and all I had to do was plug in the specific home data for each new domain.

I used a theme from Templatic as the main website, but I set up a subdomain called “Demo” and used the Gorilla Themes theme called Homeowner customized with a fictitious piece of property for sale to display the “product”. There are some really nice looking premium WordPress real estate themes out there, but not only did Gorilla Themes have the most, I thought they also had the best looking ones too.

Most sites have one or two real estate themes, if any at all, but as of this writing Gorilla Themes offers a whopping ten real estate themes. Check out the list of them below with links to the demos.

As with a lot of my ideas, this one fizzled out as quickly as it began. I think I lost interest when I ran into a couple of small issues with customizing and I started worrying what would happen if my future customers wanted me to make simple changes I didn’t know how to make. I realized I was setting up a business that was geared more towards a designer than a Hack with a premium theme.

I spent that whole week on that website and loved every minute of it, yet I never moved past that initial set up stage. This is just more proof that this OpenSourceHack website was the way to go. I may not keep most of my other websites very long, but I’m always messing with something and that gives me an endless supply of stuff to share and write about here.

I invite someone with more php/css skill and focus to pick up this idea and run with it because I still think it’s a great idea. Go open a HostGator resellers account, throw up a website and offer the service of setting up these targeted websites for real estate agents to use. All you’ll have to do is buy the domain of the customers choice, set up WordPress, install the real estate theme of their choice, and input all the relevant date to the home. (pictures, descriptions, agent info, etc.)

You could pitch the idea to both agents and individuals in your local area, and for the price you could charge, you’d probably cover your entire years reseller hosting on your first sale. For most of these sites, they wouldn’t even be needed the entire year if the home sold, but in the event it didn’t simply means another opportunity for income. Second and subsequent years could be offered at half price since all you’d be paying for is the hosting of an existing static site.

If any of you jump on this one, or have already been doing something like this, I’d definitely be interested in hearing about it in the comments.