StudioPress is a key cornerstone company among the WordPress community. It was founded in 2007 by then-novice developer Brian Gardner, who released the Genesis framework three years later.
Before the emergence of page builders, Genesis, paired with its fully-designed child themes, offered one of the easiest ways to build a WordPress site. It also gave developers a starting point as a framework theme, allowing them to use the framework to create their own themes through Genesis child themes.
This led to the launch of the StudioPress marketplace in 2011, a marketplace you can still use to acquire new child themes for the framework.
StudioPress has grown and changed quite a bit since then, even becoming acquired by managed WordPress hosting giant WP Engine in 2018.
That's why in this post, we're going to take a look at everything this theme house has to offer—for developers and general WordPress users.
The Genesis Framework + Genesis Pro
Although it was released in 2010, Genesis is still StudioPress' flagship product and the focal point for every other product they offer.
It's a framework WordPress theme, which means it can't be used on its own. You'll need to use a child theme alongside it, and your options for doing so is why Genesis is still standing well enough to compete with more modern page builders and the WordPress block editor. You can either use the framework as a starting point to build your own custom design or install a premade, Genesis-ready child theme.
The framework even comes with a sample child theme, so you don't even have to create your own entirely from scratch. Genesis takes care of key theme aspects like performance, security and SEO. All you need to worry about is creating custom designs for clients.
For busy developers and non-developers, StudioPress has a marketplace where you can find first and third-party ready-made child themes for the Genesis framework.
Here's a quick round-up of some of the framework's top features:
- Built with HTML5 & CSS3
- Optimized for SEO
- Well secured
- Easy updates
- Block editor-ready; includes a block and template library
- One-click setup
- Extensive list of options to configure in the customizer
- Multiple page layouts
- Plenty of optional plugins
Top Genesis Themes
Breakthrough Pro is a simple business theme by StudioPress. It has nine widget areas for the homepage and uses a customizable header. It's also pre-styled and optimized for WooCommerce.
Authority Pro is another business theme, though this one is aimed at entrepreneurs and solo marketers.
As another StudioPress theme, it's similar to Breakthrough Pro. It simply uses a different design and a bolder style.
Revolution Pro is another theme by StudioPress. It's a photography theme that comes with multiple homepages for different purposes. Each one is designed to feature images prominently, and much of its design relies on images.
Genesis Pro is a packaged bundle that includes around 10 themes (most of StudioPress' child themes have been archived) made by StudioPress themselves.
It also has the Genesis Page Builder plugin that adds a collection of blocks to the WordPress block editor. These include blocks labelled Call to Action, Post and Page Grid, Advanced Columns, Layouts, Device Mockup, Portfolio, Testimonial, Profile Box, and more.
This plugin also has premade layouts you can use to build sections and entire pages, a process that's similar to how you use page and section templates in page builders.
There are even role-based editing permissions that allow you to control what your team, guest authors and clients have access to.
Genesis Pro also comes with Genesis Custom Blocks, a tool developers can use to create their own blocks for the block editor by using advanced block fields for repeater, user, classic text, rich text and taxonomies. There's also an export and import feature, allowing you to transfer blocks you've created between Genesis websites.
Genesis vs Other Site Building Tools
Genesis has been a site building tool for developers and even regular WordPress users for over a decade. Many other tools have since emerged for site building. Let's examine how Genesis compares with each of them.
Genesis vs Page Builders
The most obvious difference between Genesis and page builders is the way you use each one. Genesis is a framework theme that requires a child theme for its style and functionalities. While some page builders have themes built for and around their functionalities, they're still just plugins that allow you to design individual pages, not entire websites (some page builders do have theme building capabilities, however).
Genesis Pro and Genesis Blocks use the block editor for page building. This means pages built with Genesis Pro will be a lot more lightweight than pages built with code-heavy tools like Elementor, Beaver Builder and Divi.
Genesis Pro also adds a lot to what the block editor offers by default, so you may want to check it out if you've been disappointed by the block editor thus far. Even so, while Genesis Pro may do enough for some, its page building experience is still nowhere near that of page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, Oxygen Builder, Thrive Architect and more.
Genesis Pro does add more section layouts and templates to the block editor, but it's still quite a different user experience. The biggest difference is the way you build pages. Page builders offer live frontend editing while the block editor is still stuck on the backend.
This means that although Genesis Pro adds quite a bit to the block editor, its primary structure and editing experience are limited by whatever changes Automattic decides to make to the editor.
Page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder and Divi in particular even allow you to customize your theme's header, footer, 404 page, blog page, archive pages and more without code. These are things your child theme is in charge of in Genesis. You'll need to add your own code to apply such changes more often than not.
Fortunately, plenty of people use Elementor within Genesis child themes if you want both, even if StudioPress doesn't support page builders officially.
Genesis vs GeneratePress and Kadence
Genesis is most comparable to framework themes GeneratePress (released in 2016) and Kadence (released in 2020).
Genesis is a great theme for developers, but it offers very little for end users who want to customize their sites on their own (unless they choose a third-party theme that includes such features).
GeneratePress and Kadence are much more practical in this regard as they have a lot more options in the customizer and many starter templates to choose from. They even have their own block libraries.
They're also a lot cheaper than Genesis Pro. You can get lifetime access to GeneratePress and use it on up to 500 websites for $100 cheaper than what Genesis Pro's annual license costs.
GeneratePress is more developer friendly than Kadence if you're looking for a Genesis replacement. It gives you access to advanced hooks and offers tips on how to add CSS and PHP, use filters, create a child theme, and more.
There is a third-party tool by Cobalt Apps called Dynamik Website Builder for Genesis, but it'll run you $99/year or $299 for lifetime access. It comes with design options that don't require code as well as plenty of template options and custom coding for developers.
Genesis vs Astra and OceanWP
Astra and OceanWP are framework WordPress themes that require the use of a page builder and starter template. They work with Elementor, Beaver Builder, Brizy and the block editor. They even come with blank templates you can use to create your own code-free designs.
The biggest difference between them and Genesis (and even GeneratePress and Kadence) is how much they rely on page builders. Whereas Genesis uses child themes you cannot customize without code, these themes enable anyone to design a site with customizer options and templates optimized for their chosen page builders.
The caveat? They're only as lightweight as the page builders they utilize allow them to be whereas Genesis is as lightweight as themes come.
Genesis vs Divi (and Page Builders with Themes)
Divi, released in 2013, is more like Astra and OceanWP, except it has its own proprietary page builder built into its theme. Similar to those themes, you can use it to get a complete site design up and running in minutes with ready-made demos.
Other developers have also released primary themes for their own page builders. These include Elementor with the Hello theme and Beaver Builder with the Beaver Builder theme.
No matter which option you go with, they operate much differently than Genesis. Whereas these themes have multiple options for headers, footers, styles, layouts and more, dozens of starter templates, live frontend editing, and theme building aspects, Genesis is still really only useful for developers who need a barebones theme for custom projects.
The StudioPress Marketplace
As previously stated, a Genesis-built site requires the Genesis framework, which is free, and a child theme. The framework comes with a sample child theme, which you can use to create your own design. For pre-designed child themes, you can use a theme made by StudioPress themselves or purchase a third-party theme.
You can no longer purchase StudioPress themes individually. You must purchase Genesis Pro or host with StudioPress' parent company WP Engine or its subsidiary Flywheel. Choosing any one of these options will give you access to StudioPress' entire library.
You can find third-party themes on StudioPress' Themes page, but you'll need to purchase the one you want from the developer's website.
Most of StudioPress' themes are business oriented, though some, like Revolution, are suitable for portfolio websites.
StudioPress' marketplace cites over a dozen third-party developers. These themes give you access to more styles, and the types of themes it adds to StudioPress' library include blogging, ecommerce and LMS.
The selection isn't terribly diverse, but you can Google “genesis themes” to find more not mentioned on StudioPress' website.
Plugins Made by StudioPress
We've already mentioned two of StudioPress' Genesis-based WordPress plugins: Blocks and Custom Blocks. They're free and help you supercharge the block editor and your page building experience within Genesis.
If you view StudioPress' developer page on WordPress.org, you'll find a large collection of plugins the studio has created and optimized for the Genesis framework.
Its most popular plugins include Simple Social Icons, a plugin that makes it easy to showcase links to your social media profiles, Genesis Responsive Slider and Genesis Simple Share, a social sharing plugin.
Here are a few other plugins the company owns (there are over a dozen):
- Genesis Simple Hooks – Insert code from the Genesis settings page and attach it to any one of Genesis' 50+ hooks.
- Genesis Connect for WooCommerce – Replaces WooCommerce's shop templates with ones made for Genesis.
- Genesis Author Pro – Creates a library you can fill with books you recommend. Each entry has fields you can fill out for descriptions, price, ISBN, publisher and more. You can then showcase your books in widget areas.
- Genesis Portfolio Pro – Creates a Portfolio custom post type, allowing you to create posts specifically for projects and galleries to showcase multiple projects.
Many of the developer's plugins have a warning about not being tested with the latest major releases of WordPress, but representatives of StudioPress have confirmed in reviews and support threads that the plugins work just fine with the latest versions of WordPress and Genesis.
The Genesis framework used to be a $59 investment on top of the fee you'd need to pay to acquire a child theme. Now, the framework is entirely free.
The Genesis Blocks and Genesis Custom Blocks plugins are also free.
Genesis Pro costs $360/year. This price includes every StudioPress-made theme, pro versions of Genesis Blocks and Custom Blocks, free access to future StudioPress products, and support and updates for one year.
It's a hefty price in comparison to Genesis' biggest competitors, but you do have the ability to use Genesis and any of its themes on an unlimited number of websites. Plus, StudioPress offers a 60-day refund policy for Genesis Pro, which is quite generous.
If you host with WP Engine (pricing starts at $30/month) or Flywheel (pricing starts at $15/month), you don't need Genesis Pro to access StudioPress' themes.
StudioPress' reputation in the WordPress industry is well earned. They were a pioneer in making theme building a much quicker task for developers. They were even one of the first tools that made it easier for non-developers to have custom designs without having to create designs from scratch.
As it stands, Genesis is still a useful tool for developers who want to create custom themes for clients on the fly. StudioPress is even bringing page building elements to the framework by incorporating advanced features and options for the WordPress block editor.
Unfortunately, Genesis is beginning to lose influence in the wake of page builder plugins and more intuitive yet still developer-friendly framework themes like GeneratePress and Kadence. Newer site building tools also have tools built specifically for WooCommerce, a major WordPress component StudioPress has long neglected.
Recent pricing changes (including the removal of a lifetime option) have even made Genesis much more expensive than its newer competitors.
Fortunately, the Genesis framework is now free and comes with a sample child theme. Plus, the Genesis Blocks and Custom Blocks plugins are also free, so you can get started with StudioPress without worry.
- StudioPress Review: StudioPress
- StudioPress Genesis Framework: StudioPress
- Breakthrough Pro – Genesis Child Theme: StudioPress
- Authority Pro – Genesis Child Theme: StudioPress
- Revolution Pro – Genesis Child Theme: StudioPress
- StudioPress – Genesis Pro: StudioPress
- Elementor Plugin Homepage: Elementor
- Elementor Theme Builder: Elementor
- GeneratePress Homepage: GeneratePress
- Genesis – Third-Party WordPress Themes: StudioPress
- StudioPress WordPress Plugins: WordPress