Thesis 2.0 review for non-web expert marketers and bloggers

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 reviewThesis 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. 

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

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. 

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

Best Books for Christmas

Books for Christmas?

Well it's the 1st December so time to offer some help in the run up to Christmas! If you are looking for some Christmas Book inspiration for friends, family, colleagues or your team what better than to give a top business or marketing book to give them something to think about when they aren't passing the port or munching on a mince pie. These are the best books that I've read recently and I've sorted them into four sections: digital and internet, brand & marketing, economics & business, personal & entrepreneurship. Each one would make a great book for Christmas either because they are beautiful or packed full of fascinating and useful ideas.

Digital & Internet Books for Christmas

The Revolution will be Digitised by Heather Brooke

This book is sub-headed: "Dispatches from the information war." And opens with a powerful quote from Thomas Jefferson about the value of ideas spreading being like the air in which we breathe. 

What is so compelling about this book is that it is a series of vignettes from Iraq to Washington to Berlin all about how information and ideas are changing our beliefs and understanding of the world both for good and ill. 

The premise for the book is that we are in an extraordinary age – akin to a new enlightenment where information and knowledge flows freely. However there is also huge negative forces at work – the gulf in information equality, the power of the state and big business, and how our privacy is under threat and no longer valued.  

This is a well written, punchy, easy to read and engaging dip into the war for information that is surrounding us. 

 

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

I've done a video review of this book in a previous post
 

Information is Beautiful by David McCandless

What with infographics everywhere around us today and the Guardian-style of information communication becoming more and more prevalent this coffee-table book presents a set of fantastic examples of how to bring information and data alive through graphics. 

All of us may have been taught at school with ruler, pencil and graph paper how to draw a table, or chart, and may have even got quite good at graphs in Powerpoint but if you really want to see how information can be beautifully rendered and represented then this book is a must have. 

Information is Beautiful would make a wonderful Christmas Book for the right person interested in data and analysis not just in business but across the spectrum. 

 

Marketing & Brand Books for Christmas

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

Brandwashed has got a mixed press but I enjoyed it. Like many books of its like it tries to make a huge amount of fuss over what is pretty standard marketing and brand practise. 

We all know that marketing surrounds us all and uses psychology to try and trick us into letting our buying barriers down. Martin Lindstrom's examples are good and the book is easy to read. 

You don't need to be in marketing to enjoy this book just a consumer, victim to some of the £16bn spent on trying to BrandWash us in the UK every year. 

 

Priceless: the hidden psychology of value by William Poundstone

No-one knows the price of anything anymore. Everything is deep discounted or on offer from GroupOn! With DFS shouting about 75% of that sofa how do we actually know what the actual thing costs. 

Pricing is a very modern game from "free" models on the internet to the psychology of the sale this book explores how we think about value and what we use to assess it. This book is packed with examples and experiments into price that expose why we react, for example to £9.99 vs £10 and why. 

A well researched and yet still entertaining book for any business or marketing person. 

 

LogoDesignLove by David Airey

As Christmas Books go for brand and marketing folks this is a winner. Again it is of the coffee table variety but is a beautifully produced object in it's own right. The graphics, typography and illustrations are wonderful. 

This book goes through all the elements of what makes up an iconic logo from Kellogs to Nokia to Google breaking them down into elements, process and the representation of a product that connects with consumers. 

This would make an amazing Christmas Book for someone with a brand design bent. 
 

 

Business & Economics Books for Christmas  

The Economics Book by Dorling Kindersley

Don't let the Dorling Kindersley tag put you off and make you think this is a noddy economics book. Whilst it might not satisfy Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes, for the rest of us it would make a great Christmas book. 

It is beautifully laid out and designed and gives a very satisfying dip-in, dip-out approach to economic history from the earliest forms of economic exchange to one page summaries on the key economic thinkers over time.

A wonderful looking book this would be a great book to give this Christmas. 

 

The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Perhaps a little heavy for Christmas but what better time to think about equality, or rather inequality, than at a time of traditional opulence. Reading this book will make that yearly viewing of Scrooge even more filled with meaning. 

I found this book full of optimism and hope suggesting a powerful diagnosis of why inequality is such a cancer in society and what we, and businesses especially can do to tackle it. Packed full of anecdote and examples Spirit Level is a well written and easy to understand book about an important subject. I also read Will Hutton's Them and Us about similar themes but this book is much lighter and digestible.  

 

Personal & Entrepreneurship Books for Christmas 

The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries

A modern classic and absolutely required reading if you are going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg! This book is packed full of practical and pragmatic advice, which is largely well founded and even when it isn't still makes you think about the way you are approaching building and scaling your business. 

The book is well structured and methodological without being too boring which many in this genre of books are. 

A great Christmas book for any budding or mid way through business and brand builders out there. 

 

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

I absolutely loved this book and it would be a great Christmas book for any budding entrepreneurs. The book presents a 9 block approach to creating a business model from the value proposition to the value chain. It is easy to engage with and written in a very accessible way. 

The rather bland and academic title is perhaps slightly off putting because the book itself is an absolute joy and uses pencil illustrations and clever visual metaphors to deliver a very visually stimulating experience. 

 

And of course if you are still looking for a great book for any business leader or marketer then please consider my book: Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU? which is packed full of great research, frameworks, case studies and interviews about trust and how businesses and brands can build it with their customers. It's now available on Kindle as well. 

 

I hope December is a great month for you – and that your shopping is now a little easier!

Justin