You might have noticed a change in my blog design recently. I did indeed switch from the Thesis Theme to Genesis Framework few days ago. The new look and feel is still a work in progress but I am quiet happy with the initial results.
I have tried several Studiopress themes over the last couple of years on different projects and always had them in mind for the big HowToMakeMyBlog redesign. The time had now come for me to make the big move.
Were there any specific reasons for a move now you may be asking. I love Thesis, it was my first ever premium theme and I still work with it on several different projects. The biggest issue with Thesis for me is the 2.0 version which doesn’t allow me to upgrade my blog from 1.x version and keep all the customizations. It basically wants you to start building your design from scratch.
Another thing was that the “teaser” thumbnails that are big part of my home page were no longer easily available in the 2.0. This made me delay my upgrade for far too long time as I was waiting for an easy solution (yep, I am lazy), but the easy solution didn’t appear so I was increasingly looking at an outdated theme and an outdated design.
I had two choices really. To start from scratch with Thesis 2.0 or to explore something new and different. The choice fell at the latter. Since Brian Clark left Thesis and took over the Genesis business they have grown dramatically and Mr. Copyblogger has got most of the influencers that once used Thesis to use Genesis instead. This has contributed to Studiopress now being the pinnacle of premium WordPress themes.
They feature many different designs. I bought the whole package and explored several options before making my decision. I picked to work with the Executive Pro child theme. It is very customizable, clean and optimized, mobile responsive and built in HTML5. Everything you need for a modern and optimized website design.
Here’s a more detailed look into my switch with some advice and suggestions for those that are doing the same. Enjoy.
From Thesis Theme to Genesis
This is the process I went through over the weekend while moving from Thesis Theme to Genesis:
- The initial switch. In terms of changing the theme it is simple. Just upload the new Genesis and its child theme and activate it. Go through the theme settings. In most cases your blog will look fine after that unless you want to experiment and customize your site further in order to make it more unique and more your own. For me there was a bit more work needed to be done get the thumbnails, other images and excerpts to display the way I want them.
- New header. I decided to not go ahead with using my old header image. I loved that image and have used it for many years but it was a right time to move on. No more big header image for me on this site. Now the header simply says the title of the blog and the title is only a small part of the overall header size. It feels fresher for me like this and helps me get to the main point faster and closer to the top of the screen.
- Issue with Thesis post images. Thesis Theme custom post image format is not compatible with WordPress and Genesis formats. This can be a hassle for many of Thesis bloggers as a lot of manual work is needed to move the images over. I found this premium plugin called Thesis Post Image Converter which was a great help for me to transfer some 500+ images over to WordPress image format. Nice, quick and easy. Saved me a lot of time.
- No more www. Alongside the old logo I also got rid of the www part of my domain name. Saves me 4 characters in social media and looks nicer. This is easy to do in Setting – General in WordPress, just make sure also to make the change in your Webmaster Tools in Site Settings as well so your search engine rankings don’t suffer.
- Simplified the permalink by removing the category from the link. Now my posts are in the clean and simple howtomakemyblog.com/post-name/ format. Good thing about WordPress is that it automatically redirects the old URL’s to new URL’s without me needing to worry much.
- Reorganized categories and the way I am categorizing posts. Now I am down to about 6 categories only from having more than 50. These categories are now much more important in the way I display my content and are all featured on my front page. These 6 categories are very simple for visitors to understand and they split the content nicely in six dedicated topic areas. It feel much lighter and nicer for me now.
- Installed Yoast SEO. Genesis is already optimized for SEO but this plugin helps make it easy to implement Twitter cards, Facebook open graph and XML sitemaps. It is worth activating! Have a look here for my list of recommended plugins.
- Fixed broken links by installing Broken Link Checker plugin to run through all the links on my posts and discover broken links. There was a handful of broken links so that has now all been sorted. This should make the user experience better and also help Google figure out my posts more easier.
- Changed comments system. Completed my Facebook comment experiment by installing Disqus which I last used on this site few years ago. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a way to transfer Facebook comments over so I am left with a gap of no comments for the last couple of years. Well I better start getting new comments in. UPDATE: Have now decided to totally delete comments. Makes my day more simple and allows me to focus on those tasks that give me the best results.
- New web analytics. Decided to give Piwik a try for my web analytics. What I like about it is that it is an open source software (as are some of the other tools that I use day to day) and it is very customizable with different options and plugins. Will do a report with more details when I collect enough learnings and feedback.
There was a bit of stress and panic at some stages as it inevitably happens when doing such a major revamp but all in all the process and the transition were smooth and everything went fine without too many problems. I am looking forward to exploring more of the Genesis theme and looking forward to more blogging adventures with HowToMakeMyBlog. Thanks for being part of the ride!