Headway vs. Genesis – WordPress Theme Debate
Headway Themes and Genesis by StudioPress are two of the most popular themes available on the entire WordPress market. Before choosing a theme, many WordPress users will conduct their due diligence and search for things like “best WordPress themes” and this search will almost certainly lead them to blogs and forums that at least mention either Headway and/or Genesis. These two themes have each developed a large user base since they became available and for good reason. Therefore, many WordPress users, especially newer users, often debate over which route to go. This post is to highlight some of the key features for each theme and determine which is best for you.
Headway is the premier “drag and drop” WordPress theme. There are other drag and drop themes available and some are quite good (Divi by Elegant Themes is amazing!). However, none carry the same built-in customization options as Headway. With some CSS knowledge, and even a bit of PHP, Headway users can pretty much customize whatever they want and can imagine. Creating layouts in Headway is as simple as clicking and dragging your mouse across the grid. You can create boxed or full-width layouts with the click of a button and easily change the grid’s column widths to adjust how narrow/wide your content appears. To create layouts in Headway, you can edit each individual post or page or you can create templates that can be reused (I recommend creating templates for everything). You fill in the template using “blocks”, which are different types of content (i.e. custom code, images, text, navigation, etc.). Headway also has a number of premium, third-party blocks to add additional functionality to your website. Once you’ve created the layout and it has been assigned to a content type, you can pop over to the design editor to begin working on the design. Again, Headway is as flexible as can be. Each element can be styled individually for the current layout or globally across all layouts. For a little extra control, you can use the built in CSS editor to add your own custom CSS.
- Flexibility without code. The type of customizations you can do with Headway would require massive amounts of code and long development times. With Headway you can insert simple HTML or display custom loops to display your content however you want without needing to worry about coding the template.
- Ease of use. As with most WordPress plugins and themes, there will be somewhat of a learning curve but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome. The more experienced you are working with WordPress the quicker you will overcome that curve. Once you get used to the Headway interface you will be able to crank out some pretty complex websites withing hours.
The only type of disadvantage I can think of when using Headway is the added bloat. This isn’t to say that Headway is a hog on the server but it takes additional code to let you add stuff without coding yourself. Therefore, Headway isn’t going to be the leanest theme you will find. For most cases, this is not very important.
Genesis, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite of Headway. It has no drag and drop features and comes with very few built-in design options. The theme options is minimal and there’s essentially no bloat to theme. That’s why Genesis is an ultra lightweight theme. Genesis is used with child themes and that’s where the customization happens. Customizing Genesis child themes requires at least some knowledge of CSS. If you want to edit layouts beyond what is available out of the box, you will need HTML and PHP. Another awesome thing about Genesis is the amount of pre-made child themes available. You can purchase Genesis by itself (includes the Genesis Sample theme) or with any of the available child themes. You can also purchase them all and save a boat load. The developers of Genesis, Copyblogger Media, are experts at content marketing and pretty much everything related to WordPress and their support for Genesis is awesome. Genesis is a great theme framework for developers and anyone comfortable with code.
With Genesis, it’s important to know that your website will not magically become a great looking site as soon as you install it. There’s not much to it and you have to put in some effort (or money) to customize it. If you’re willing to do so, it’s well worth it.
- Ultra lightweight. Genesis is very small and coded by true professionals. It is optimized right out of the box.
- Tons of child themes that are ready to be customized.
- Huge community of users. Headway also has a large community but, after working with both themes, I’ve noticed the Genesis community to be larger in terms of third-party tutorials and tips. This may be because non-coding Genesis users need more help customizing Genesis than non-coding Headway users.
- Value/Price. While I don’t think price should be the biggest factor when determining something as important as a theme for your WordPress website, it’s definitely something to consider. What I like to consider more is what I get for my money. Most developers will provide support and one-year of updates so I like to research their support quality by reading reviews. Also, many developers (Headway included) will discount the renewal fees when it’s time for you to renew. The base versions of both Headway and Genesis start at less than $60 ($59 and $59.95, respectively) so you can get your hands on a copy of either at an affordable price. What’s great about Genesis is that you automatically receive lifetime updates and support. AMAZING!
I have nothing to file under the “cons” section for Genesis. However, as I’ve mentioned a few times already, Genesis does require adding and modifying code to customize. I don’t consider this to be a deal-breaker for anyone who can’t code but it may present some limitations. Genesis is a high quality theme and is a solid choice for any WordPress website. You can always hire a Genesis developer to help out if needed.
Which is right for you?
If you’re debating between purchasing either Headway or Genesis, I’d recommend you consider your skill-set or budget first and foremost. If you are not comfortable with code and don’t want to spend the money on a developer to customize your site, Headway is a great way to go. If you are comfortable coding, maybe go with Genesis because it’s so lightweight and perfectly optimized. If you are looking for the best value for your money, Genesis provides a fantastic one. If you want to create an awesome looking website in a short amount of time, Headway will let you. Also, do your research. Watch videos on YouTube and read blogs, forums, and any documentation you can from each website. If you’re still torn and are so inclined, you can always purchase both! I own both and am glad I do. Make sure to choose what’s best for you and enjoy.