When I first switched from Blogger to WordPress, I was in awe at how different the two platforms were. There were so many words I didn’t understand, design files I hadn’t seen before, and tons of code in a language I’d never worked with. Basically, it was insanely overwhelming.
If you’re using self-hosted WordPress, you might be feeling the same way. There are thousands of themes out there to choose from, and each theme comes with its own customization options, meaning you’re always having to learn something new. Some might be coded so strangely that it’s hard to alter them in the first place! And most importantly, using a theme on WordPress requires creating a child theme if you plan on making any edits to it, which a lot of bloggers don’t realize. Let me give you the run down.
On WordPress, there are two types of themes: a parent theme and a child theme. The parent theme is like the skeleton of your design. It has all the main files that you’ll probably never touch, and whenever WordPress gets updated, these components remain intact. The child theme is purely for design, and you’ll most likely only change the CSS file of this theme. The changes you make on the child theme will take priority over the parent theme files, and anything you don’t change will just be taken from the parent theme. Basically, using a child theme means you only have to mess with CSS!
My favorite parent theme, or framework, that I use for every design I create is the Genesis Framework. It’s a fantastic framework for both new and old WordPress users, and there are tons of gorgeous child themes that would work for almost any blogger. Along with that, these are my favorite features and reasons why I chose the Genesis Framework:
1. There are tons of fantastic plugins available
Plugins add additional functionality to your blog, like allowing you to create a featured posts widget or making it easier to add CSS code to your blog. The Genesis community is huge, and within that are skilled developers who have created plugins specifically for the Genesis Framework. This has become one of my favorite perks by far! A few of my favorite plugins are the Genesis Sandbox Featured Content Widget and Genesis Simple Hooks.
2. The Child Themes Are Responsive
Ensuring that your theme is responsive should be at the top of priority list when picking one out. A responsive theme is one that changes automatically to fit the size of the screen it’s being viewed on. The Genesis child themes are built responsively, so you don’t have to worry about coding that in yourself! Even if you’re planning on changing up the theme, as long as you’re not editing it too much, that responsiveness should remain intact.
3. It includes helpful widget areas and layouts
Creating a widget area requires a special plugin or access to the main php files, which is a pretty big hassle if you’ve never worked with code before. With the Genesis Framework, all of the child themes have built in widget areas that create unique layouts, so you can have more than just a sidebar and content area. This is especially useful if you’re wanting to build a homepage!
4. The Genesis community offers a ton of support
Using such a popular framework means there are hundreds of tutorials and knowledgable people out there to offer support. StudioPress (the company that created the Genesis Framework) has a great forum for any support you could need, along with a resource list of tutorials to help you customize your child theme. I’m also going to start a series about customizing a blog built on the Genesis Framework, so if you have any tutorials you’d love to see, let me know in the comments!
5. Non-coders can have a beautiful blog up in minutes
The selection of child themes available on the StudioPress site is so diverse, you’re bound to find one that fits your needs. To name a few:
- Simply Pro is a great theme for the everyday lifestyle blogger
- Foodie Pro has built in features perfect for a food blogger
- Pretty Chic has lots of options for an online business owner + blogger
Seriously, there’s a theme for everyone!
Most of these themes come set up so well that you don’t have to do much to get it matching your brand. Getting a beautiful website up requires just a few minutes of following the included instructions!
6. It’s A Great Starter Theme For Developers
One of the best developer features of the Genesis Framework is that you’re allowed unlimited use of it, so designing themes on it for clients requires a single purchase! You can either build off the simple theme included with the Genesis Framework, or work from a child theme if your client likes one in particular. I built my blog on the Fun theme, although it looks nothing like the original now!
The plugin Genesis Simple Hooks is extremely helpful if you need to add code to files not included in the child theme. It allows you to “hook” code into specific portions of your theme by placing the code in the text box labeled with the location you want it to show up. Most of the time though, you can get away with only editing the functions.php file of your theme, which is where you can add widget areas and other functionality.