Headway Themes just released what was probably their most anticipated update: version 3.7. This update includes a lot of new features including a fully redesigned interface, so it’s time to look at the DIY Theme Titan and see what all the hype is about.
Before I begin my review, a quick background. My name is Corey Freeman and I run Headway101, the most popular unofficial resource for Headway Themes. I purchased Headway when it came out in 2009 and have been working with it ever since. This review will be coming from a place of watching Headway evolve through each new version, but I’ll be honest and open about what I think. So let’s get started…
What IS Headway Themes?
Headway Themes, released in 2009 by developer Clay Griffiths and his father Grant Griffiths, is a “do-it-yourself” WordPress theme framework. Headway set itself apart from other products in the space by including the “visual editor,” a drag n’ drop, what you see is what you get method of building your WordPress site. The editor has evolved from a simple panel in the WordPress admin to a full fledged visual editing tool.
What’s New in Headway 3.7?
The latest version of headway comes with a few major updates, the most noteworthy of which is the visual editor redesign. Headway recently changed from their dark gray/black color scheme to a flat white/blue design similar to WordPress 3.9’s own admin design. The change seems to be resonating differently with each customer or developer, but I personally like it. I’ve seen a lot of questions regarding how to remove the black design ever since they introduced the dark editor scheme, and now that it’s finally here, the high contrast and smooth style really makes it easier to see all the options.
In addition to the new design comes a new editor feature, Snapshots. Snapshots will save your visual editor options to the database as separate records, allowing you to roll back to changes based on the date and time. Now you can experiment with different designs and easily revert changes without having to upload a backup buddy save or wipe the slate clean.
Headway 3.7 also clears up their new “templates” feature by moving it to the back-end. Templates, previously “skins”, allow you to install a pre-designed look and feel onto your Headway site and then use Headway’s tools to tweak the elements to fit your style. Templates can be created by anyone by simply exporting designs directly from your Headway Themes site.
What’s Been Improved?
Headway 3.7 now loads faster than previous versions of Headway. Several behind the scenes changes have made data handling and improved compatibility with WordPress 3.9 and various managed WP hosts.
New blocks have also been built-in to the update, including “Pin Board” and “search.” New styling options have also been including, adding even more fine control to the look and feel of your website without having to dive into CSS.
Any Cons with Headway 3.7?
Unfortunately, there’s still no upgrade path from 2.0 to any version of 3.0, and we in fact may never see that happen. My recommendation for users still using 2.0.x and looking to upgrade would be to hire someone familiar with 3.0 to help them through the process.
Some people will find the radical change in the design of the visual editor confusing, or a step backward. I think whether or not this move is positive depends on how much time the public spends with it.
Additionally, the difference between designing for “instances” and making global changes to the design is still the hardest concept for newbies to grasp. It remains to be seen if the modifications to Headway’s workflow clears up this issue.
From a developer’s standpoint, I don’t see any cons in the new design.
So, Is Headway 3.7 Worth the Hype?
Absolutely. 3.7 is the biggest step forward Headway has made to date. I, for one, am excited to start teaching people how to use it to its full advantage. Not to mention, Headway is now more affordable than ever at just $59 for a personal license.
I, for one, am excited to use the new and improved Headway Themes.