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A defense of Thesis 2

Thesis 2 HTML CSS Page

My first blog entry will be a defense of Thesis.  A point/counterpoint.  The review I’m reacting to was posted by Samuel Chan on Google+.  The great thing about opinions is that they are subjective.  We can each have our own without necessarily being wrong or holding it against each other.  I don’t know Mr. Chan but respect his site and opinion.  However, I will attempt to counterpoint Mr. Chan.

First, about me.  I’m an ex-programmer.  We’re talking COBOL and a little Java.  I know, I know.  I haven’t coded since 2007.  However, in 2009 I built four websites using Thesis 1.6.x.  I built one using 1.7.x that is no longer hosted.  All these were for small businesses.  I haven’t built any in the last couple of years until my wife wanted me to re-host her free blog from  I logged into my DIYthemes account and discovered that they released version 2 in my absence from the WordPress scene.  This was January of this year (2013).  Having missed all the hype surrounding the release of 2.o I had no idea what I was in for.  I uploaded and activated it and thought, OH MY GOSH!  How am I going to use this thing?!  I “Googled”, poked, prodded, tested, and fumbled my way through the site build.  Afterwords, I thought “this was fun, I have to build my own site to play with”.  Voila! was born.  Not having any real purpose for my site, I decided I would document a complete site build, one step at a time, using Thesis 2.  So I’m currently working on The Complete Guide to Thesis 2 Theme for WordPress.

Disclaimer: I have an affiliate account with DIYthemes.  Not because “Anecdotally, endorsers of the Thesis are either affiliate marketers of the product, or loyal followers that has sticked with Thesis since it’s very first release.” as Mr. Chan states, but because I actually believe in the product.  This is my first personal site and my first time as an affiliate.  I have no personal or commercial interest in the sites I built for others.  I have a regular day job that pays the bills.  This is only for fun and if I made a few bucks then I’d take my family to dinner.  I also believe in my host and my domain name registrar of which I am also an affiliate.

Let’s begin.

i. Thesis Theme used to be good

Not really.  Ok, good, not great.  Why do I say this?  Because, in addition to HTML and CSS, I had to hack at PHP.  This slowed me down tremendously.  It also broke my site so many times that I became deathly afraid of the custom.php file.  I could usually find the functions I wanted on the internet but somehow translating them to my site was a tedious exercise.  Maybe it was just me.

Now it is good-to-great.  The HTML and CSS pages are why this is true.  Thesis 2 provides a base HTML template for each WordPress page type.  Not only that, they’ve made it dead simple to add and remove items from each page independently.  You can create a custom page layout in a matter of minutes.  Prior to version 2, this took a lot of custom PHP using “hooks”.  This saves me so much trouble and time that it is nearly worth the price of admittance if only for these features alone.  So far, there are boxes (paid and free) that provide any necessary PHP work so that I don’t have to do it myself.  There is no glory in hacking PHP, the glory is in the finished product (the site).  JMHO.

ii. Code is Poetry — but there’s no money in poetry.

Thesis 1_6

I much prefer the current UX/UI to the prior versions.  In pre-2 you had to expand a bunch of sections and poke around radio controls, check-boxes, drop-downs, and text-boxes to get what you want.  I find the metaphor of dragging and dropping HTML controls into and out-of the page template to be much more straightforward.  Not only that, each HTML “box” has a corresponding CSS “package”.  What could be easier?  And, each CSS package has an “Additional CSS” tab for infinite control.

iii. Thesis 2 Admin Panel.

I believe I have addressed most of this above.  However, I like the distinction between WordPress UI and Thesis 2.  I want to know when I’m in the theme and when I’m not.  As far as the red color, they must have listened as it is now black.

iv. Thesis 2 review: Undeserving of the hype

I have only used a few plug-ins as I try to minimize their use.  I have no complaints so far but would not count myself qualified to draw any conclusions here and would rely on community-at-large for this.

I would make the argument that the design does take the user in mind.  In my case, the user is me.  I only wish 2.0 is where 1.6 was.

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go back to 1.8.5.  As an aging programmer I can understand the resistance to change.  I’ve been there myself.  But time marches on and change is inevitable.

v. Neither ignorance, nor impotence. It’s Arrogance.

I’m not sure where the commercial argument is going.  The net is deluged with affiliate links.  Some sources you trust, some you don’t.  Since I was out of the WordPress game for a couple years and missed the run-up to Thesis 2 I don’t know what to say here.  I’ll admit it.  However, I don’t believe that I am either “delusional or dishonest”.  I am giving my firm opinion based on my experience.  Being in the software business, I’ll call a bad product for what it is when the shoe fits.

A pricing model is a tough thing to get right.  It is likely more art than science.  I’m not going to pick a side here.  Outside of free, no price is right for most consumers.  We all have smartphones with over 100 free apps.  We probably can’t fill up the fingers on one hand with the number of apps we actually paid for.  There are plenty of great competitors out there.  Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate of Genesis.  That’s the great thing about a free market.  The market will eventually decide the winners and losers.

vi. Final Note

The reason I don’t know, or care, what the split-GPL license means to me is that I don’t even know what the GPL license means.  What I do know, and care about, is that Thesis 2 allows me to do the things I want to do in an easier, more straightforward way, than prior versions did.  That is what consumers like me care about.

The lack of extensive documentation may be a pitfall, but it would have prevented me from endeavoring on this site.

Thanks Mr. Chan for stirring my thoughts.  I’ve read several reviews on both sides and wanted to weigh in myself as a brand new Thesis 2 user.  Your post just happened to stand out and move me to post.  No hard feelings are meant and I only post out of respect for the debate.

About the author: I’m a techie, a gadget geek, a former programmer, and all-around technology nut. Currently I’m a business analyst for a technology company. I love what technology can do for us. I love smartphones and apps for everything. Building sites with Thesis 2.0 and WordPress help me to reconnect with the feeling of building something tangible.

I’m on: Google+ and Twitter

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Samuel Chan February 19, 2013, 8:43 AM

    Thank you for your thoughts on Thesis 2 and my view of it. I am glad you took it sportingly and expressed your thoughts in such respectful manner. I wrote briefly about your step-to-step tutorial here: and if I one day fall in love with Thesis 2 (afterall) and decided to cover the subject more intensively I’ll have that to refer to.

    Samuel Chan.

  • DougM February 19, 2013, 9:32 AM

    Samuel, thanks for taking my post in the spirit of gentlemanly debate that it was intended. So often the internet devolves into name calling that I’m glad we were able to engage in a friendly manner. I have started reading your blog after finding it on Google+, good stuff.

  • KJ March 4, 2013, 8:03 AM

    Hello Doug & Samuel,
    I just had to comment on your comments 🙂
    I do so wish that healthy online debate, was written in the cordial fashion that you both displayed here.
    Plus a big thank you Doug, for the best written and most informative, free tutorial I seen on Thesis 2.

  • Doug Macklem March 4, 2013, 5:45 PM

    KJ: Thanks. I like good debates. They are often hard to have, unfortunately. I’m glad you are enjoying the tutorials.

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