Diving into the Genesis Framework

WordPress PHP CodeMy very first WordPress website was for myself back in 2007; next came websites for friends and family. In 2011, I formed an LLC, Republic Insights to build websites for political candidates. As I professionalized my operation, one part of WordPress development that became increasingly frustrating was the learning curve that came with each new theme along with trying to replicate the demo. Eventually, I started building about 90 minutes of “learning time” into my web development plan (and fee), so I could figure out how the theme worked. While annoying, I accepted it as a part of working in WordPress.

Following the 2012 election cycle, I made an effort to diversify Republic Insight’s portfolio and add some small businesses into my web development mix. In addition to picking up a few small businesses, several candidates I built a website for won and kept their sites active for their eventual reelection run. As 2015 was coming to a close, I found myself with a new WordPress problem: up until this point, all of the websites I’d built had a relatively short shelf-life, but now, the sites I was building were sticking around for years. The problem was, the developers who created the themes had mostly disappeared.

During the summer of 2014, there was a steady drumbeat of security related stories about the HeartBleed vulnerability, after checking my websites, none of them appeared to be in danger. However, in December of 2015 when the XSS vulnerability was discovered I decided to get away from themes where I wasn’t convinced there would be long-term support. Since 2012, I’d also become much more proficient at PHP and CSS, so I wasn’t as scared of writing code to accomplish what I wanted. As I started exploring options, the Genesis Framework kept coming up as a solution to my problem.

What is the Genesis Framework?

Genesis is a light-weight framework that takes the heavy lifting and repetitiveness out of building a WordPress theme from scratch. While Genesis has a ton of features to make customizing the structure of the theme a breeze, it doesn’t provide a GUI for changing colors, selecting fonts, etc. If you want to make changes to the design environment of the theme, you’re going to need to be familiar with CSS. If you want to unlock the power of Genesis, you’ll want to be familiar with PHP and hooks; you’ll also want to be comfortable reading technical documentation and forums. Andrea Whitmer wrote an excellent article about what you should know before buying Genesis. I recommend starting your research there if you’re trying to decide if the Genesis Framework is right for you.

Why I’m using Genesis

  • Long-term Support – as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the primary concern was finding a WordPress theme or framework (once I learned such a thing existed) which would be around for years to come. StudioPress, the folks who make Genesis have a track record and don’t appear to be disappearing.
  • Improves My Bottom Line – time is money (especially when you’re a freelancer), so having a consistent back-end as removed the need to learn how to use a theme each time I start a new client project. Since Genesis does the heavy lifting for me, I’m not wasting my time spinning up a new theme each time I begin a client Both factors save me time and help my bottom line.
  • Secure and Super SEO friendly – honestly who wouldn’t want these features in a WordPress theme?
  • Designed to be Highly Customizable – I always got a bit leery when adding CSS or modifying the functions.php file. The Genesis Frame work is built for you to do that. When you purchase the framework, you get a child theme so you can modify the theme’s CSS and PHP to your heart’s content. In addition to excellent documentation, there’s a robust community answering questions and creating tutorials for Genesis; so if you’ve hit a wall, there’s someone out there to help you tear it down.

Is the Genesis Framework right for you? That really depends on your needs. If you’re not familiar with PHP and CSS, my recommendation would be to stay away until you’ve got a modest level of comfort with them. There are plenty of Genesis themes available, but I wouldn’t jump into Genesis based on those alone. I recommend using the Google machine to do some research and tweet at me if you have questions.

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