Thesis 2.0: running a website or want to? This could help you
Thesis 2.0 is something I've based my refresh of basini.com on and so I wanted to review it. It's a bit of a departure for me but I wanted to share my views because this new theme system for WordPress seems to have really polarised people – some love it and some hate it!
Let's start with some background. Many people run their websites using WordPress – which started as a blogging platform (and of course still is) but many of us use it as a quite sophisticated fully capable content management system for a website. If you are thinking of setting up a site or a blog then I would highly recommend WordPress. Now on top of WordPress if you want your design to be non-standard rather than the default you need a theme. There are thousands of themes for free that can make your site look great at the click of a button. For those that want even more customising then you can either buy a premium theme or a theme system. I've run my websites including Basini.com and for a while in the early days we ran ALLOW on WordPress and the Thesis 2.0 theme system.
The previous version of Thesis 1.84 was a very easy and fast way to customise your site without needing any code understanding. As many of my regular readers will know I am an entrepreneur and marketer rather than a techie but I've developed and run many websites over the last 10 years (if you want to join my regular readers then sign up here). Whilst I have some level of understanding I don't like messing with code and when I have to it takes me loads of time which takes away from my content development. So I like systems like WordPress and Thesis which help me get a design and functionality I like easily. If you have a blog or website or are thinking of setting one up then go do it! It's great fun, you learn a lot and it doesn't cost very much money. It's a great way to build your personal brand and reputation, share your views and contribute knowledge to others.
The brave new world of Thesis 2.0
So what do I think of Thesis 2.0? Well at first I absolutely hated it! The previous version of Thesis was much, much easier to get your head around. Lots of options, easy to understand decision and simple layout. You could customise your site in a few minutes. The team over at DIYthemes and the genius Chris Pearson behind it promised an upgrade for years – I remember logging into the support forum and seeing loads of people asking time and time again for the next version for months and months – the consistent answer was, "it's coming".
Thesis 2.0 didn't start well for me
Then Thesis 2.0 launched in October. I eagerly installed it and it completely broke my site. I equally quickly uninstalled it and thought, "what a disappointment". However I have wanted for a long time to refresh Basini.com and so I looked again and installed Thesis 2.0 on a fresh version of WordPress and started to play. What is promised by Thesis 2.0 is that you get complete control of your site design and layout without having to know any code – powerful and simple. Unfortunately this isn't true – at least for someone of my level of web skills! Wrapping your head around how Thesis 2.0 works takes time and effort so the question becomes is it worth it?
Nothing is ever as "simple and easy" as promised
Well for perspective almost everything on the web promises to be "simple and easy" and in my experience rarely is – and Thesis 2.0 is no different. Of course some things are easier than others but all require you to understand, read, learn and experiment which takes time. In my opinion Thesis 2.0 is the same. It took me a month of playing – totalling probably 12 hours – to only start to get comfortable. I nearly gave up several times. I looked at competitor theme systems. Then the mist started to clear and I started to understand the way the new Thesis 2.0 works and it really is as powerful and customisable as Chris Pearson and the team at Thesis say it is. If you come at it from the perspective of an upgrade to Thesis 1.8 then this is probably misleading and I think makes it more difficult. Thesis 2.0 is completely new and different and, yes, better.
Thesis 2.0 completely new, different, and, yes, better
Thesis 2.0 works through a drag and drop interface of boxes that make layout much easier once you understand how the theme works. It is more effort to set up the templates for your pages but it is much easier to set up the page you want and then apply styling to those boxes without having to understand HTML and CSS that much. Note however that as with everything on the web if you really want to get exactly what you want rather than a compromise then you will need to spend time learning about how things work and how to make the system work for you. For example I wanted to use some Google Fonts rather than the rather limited set of web-standard fonts, this requires you to add a line of custom code in the styling for each of the boxes that you want to use that font in – luckily this was covered in a blog post on the DIYThemes website and wasn't hard to do but you still needed to read and learn how to do it.
You need to make some effort to understand how HTML and CSS work in order to get to grips with Thesis 2.0. This is where expert web developers (which Chris and his team clearly are) go wrong! They just don't understand how clueless the average person is – including me! For example the boxes in the template designer and the CSS editor require you to enter classes or IDs for these different boxes. Now its the most basic of concepts of HTML and CSS that you assign a class or ID and that then looks at the CSS for a style (i.e. formatting) to apply to the particular element – that's not hard to grasp but if you have never heard of classes and IDs then it can be confusing. As with anything new you need quite a lot of trial and error to understand and get it right but remember you are learning new skills all the time that you learn and play!
This review of Thesis 2.0 is a big thumbs up
If this review of Thesis 2.0 is making you think you'd like to have a go then I'm glad to say that there is more and more advice and support building all the time. When Thesis 2.0 launched in October there was very little advice but I've watched the great videos on Build Your Own Business Website, various videos on YouTube and the support forum over at DIYThemes has grown and grown with advice on Thesis 2.0. Now there is certainly enough to get you going as a non-expert web newbie.
So does this review recommend Thesis 2.0 for non-web expert marketers and bloggers? Absolutely it does. It isn't as easy as promised but once you get the principles and have played around with it for a while then it is very powerful and allows you achieve a level of finish to your site that is really excellent. I'm really proud of the new basini.com – I hope you like it too! – it was achieved in about 20 hours of fiddling and experimenting with my site and Thesis 2.0 which isn't bad and allowed me to relaunch basini.com with a new design in about a month.
If you have a WordPress blog or site why not have a look at Thesis 2.0?
NOTE: I am an affiliate of Thesis and so the links here are affiliate links. I recommend Thesis 2.0 because I have been a customer of DIYThemes for over 4 years and run my site on Thesis 2.0 and genuinely think it is a good product.