Last updated May 14, 2015
Did things just get classy? Why yes, yes they did.
WordPress themes have three big benefits:
- They help manage your site easily.
- They give your site a professional appearance in mere minutes.
- They future-proof your information for upgrading or changing by using the wordpress base.
In short, I like ’em.
First, a note on free themes:
There are plenty of free themes. I’ve used them, I’ve coded around them, I’ve tried to make them work.
Yet, this is the same decision I’ve encouraged you to make through all of my resources. You want your site to look professional and (perhaps even more importantly) you should spend time creating great content, not fixing errors on a theme that’s not working.
Free themes often fall short when it comes to support and the flexibility to really give wordpress site the layout it deserves. Many times free themes don’t allow you to adjust the sidebar width (important for adding advertising), don’t regularly update (important for security reasons), or skimp on the very important SEO tools. Sadly, every time I’ve realized this it was after spending hours (if not days) trying to make a free theme work.
All of these themes I recommend let you do the most critical things you require. Although there are lots of great premium themes, I should note that all these themes I recommend are my favorite themes for food blogs (or any photography heavy, social media integrated site).
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However, let me summarize this entire page: I demand the the best option available (within reason) for myself and my websites. I have tried and will try almost anything available to make sure I’m at the forefront of awesomeness. This is a summary of everything I know to date. (tldr; Go with Genesis and move on with your life.)
(tldr; = too long, didn’t read)
Genesis has been available for a many years and I originally avoided trying it. I didn’t like the idea that I would need to buy a framework ($59 one-time fee) and then a theme on top of that (usually $40 – $60).
So, why am I recommending this at the top of my list now?
Genesis is the combination of everything you want in a WordPress website – SEO optimization, variety of layout choices, ability to edit design customizations, and a great support network.
With Genesis, you’re going to get all that rock solid underlying support (stuff none of us want to deal with but need to be working well), while not spending days making your site look professional. Not only does Studiopress have a number of themes they sell, but they have a wide variety of options varying from in-house designs to those created by 3rd parties.
I also always like to see a large list of resources on an theme site, as I’m sure I will run into questions. Here’s the list of resources by Studiopress.
One other major benefit to Genesis is that there are over one hundred plugins designed for use specifically with this framework. So, let’s say you want to edit the footer, but don’t really want to get into the code to find where to change the text. There’s a plugin for that! How about a clean email subscription box? Yup, there’s a (great) plugin!
I have developed many websites on Genesis (including Minimalist Baker). Although this is a rock solid framework for custom designs, so far I have found almost all the flexibility I needed available within a Genesis child theme.
After getting my hands a bit more dirty and really customizing these themes, I’m more convinced than ever that Genesis will continue to grow and remain the dominant WordPress framework. It’s a tight package of options and provides both the flexibility and functionality I like to see in a WordPress theme.
There’s a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll do some learning no matter what theme you end up using. The benefit here, however, is that once you start to learn how to use Genesis, you will learn tactics that will help you in managing your site for many years. Since Genesis is your framework, even if you eventually change your child theme, you’ll still be able to understand the basic structure of your website – a tool that is incredibly valuable.
Genesis is a great all-around package for giving your site that professional look and making sure the important details are regularly updated and working well with WordPress. It’s relatively affordable, extremely flexible, and full of support tools.
There are a number of themes, but here are some of my favorites for food blogs (or checkout my 100+ WordPress Themes for Food Blogs):
And again, here’s the full list of Genesis Themes.
Elegant themes operates on a subscription platform and lets you purchase a membership for $69/year. Considering that they offer a number of really great designs, this is great deal to be able to try a few different styles to make sure you get a design that works for you.
Don’t let the annual pricing confuse you. If you want to only sign up for a year and cancel your subscription, you could continue to use the any theme installed on your site. The benefit of staying a member is that they continue to add new themes and provide updates for themes.
Elegant themes is probably your best option for having a great looking website ready in the least amount of time. All of these themes look great and work right on top of wordpress.
Another benefit is that all themes come with a little interface that make it easy to change colors and small details about your pages without getting into any code.
However, where elegant themes lacks is in their overall flexibility. Although they have a great support network and forum, I’d suggest only using elegant themes if they offer a theme that is close to the final design you want. For instance, changing the sidebar width is possible, but not nearly as simple as it is to do on Genesis.
If one of these themes looks close to the design you had in mind, I’d highly recommend them. They are quick to setup and integrate with your site. Then, if your needs change, you’re only out $69.
I’ve designed a number of sites on elegant themes and they were our first paid theme service. It was a great option at the time until we needed some more flexibility and I was willing to start learning how to customize our site a bit more.
Note: Elegant themes also offers a developer option for $89/year which includes premium plugins and a few other perks.
The following themes are from themeforest. Although they don’t have a framework or some of the other benefits of the previous options, they are still highly-visual and good options if you find something that fits your personality and site. Below are a few of my recommendations, or you can check out all of the themes available here.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of other theme options available at themes forset here.
I used to have a long description about my use and understanding of Thesis. However, I can simplify my rambling to some straightforward advice: Don’t use Thesis.
Minimalist Baker was originally designed on Thesis and later designed on Thesis 2.0. I don’t know the whole story or what exactly happened, but this was one of those themes that had its glory days and then fell far behind.
I wanted to still mention it as you can probably find other reviews claiming this is still such a great framework. Most of those recommendations are based on using Thesis 1.8.5, which was a great theme four years ago. Version 2.0 is much more difficult to use and deceptively complicated.
All this to say, I would specifically not recommend using thesis. I’m not even going to link to it any longer as there’s no way I can suggest this as a reasonable option.
I designed two versions of Minimalist Baker on Thesis before moving to Genesis. I have no plans on leaving any time soon.
I know some of these options seem a bit cost prohibitive at first, but really, a small investment goes a long way when setting your site up correctly.
Comments / Questions:
Sorry, but I’ve turned off comments on this post as I was having a hard time succinctly responding and making time to create new resources. The best way I can help if you have a question is if you hit me up on twitter!
Updated May 14, 2015