Genesis has always been about the framework. Its developers have worked hard to retain its core purpose as a pure framework theme, which is to provide a solid foundation for its Child Themes, the very thing that makes it so darn useful as an efficient WordPress website building tool. You can’t even activate Genesis by itself without it griping at you about how you need to activate a Child Theme. It’s like a grumpy old man sitting in his rocking chair saying, “When I was your age there was no scrolling down a page. You could only scroll UP. And there were no navbars. If you wanted to find a page on a website you just had to start typing random page names at the end of URLs and hope for the best. So stop all your griping and activate a Child Theme already!!” But he’s right, a great framework is naked without its Child Theme. It’s a foundation laid in rock solid concrete, but without walls, paint, and essential oils diffusing in the corner of the room, I mean if you’re into that kind of thing.
Now of course Child Themes are not unique to Genesis, as they hold a prominent place in the WordPress platform itself, at least when working with these kinds of theme frameworks. But I don’t believe it is too far fetched to state that Genesis itself has played a significant role in making the “Child Theme” a kind of household name in the WordPress community. They helped turn the Child Theme idea from a brief explanation in the WordPress Codex, into a notable DEV tool that speeds up the web design process and helps make the “Internet Marketer who also provides Web Design services” look more like a “Web Designer who also provides Internet Marketing services”, if that makes sense. They helped make Child Themes more useful and more attractive.
So why all the Genesis Child Theme hype?
Well, Genesis 3.1 (read about it on the Genesis 3.1 Release blog post), I believe, is going to help usher in yet another ground breaking stage in the evolution of this wonderful WordPress Parent/Child Theme ideal. Where 3.0 was preparing the way for better Gutenberg integration and Child Theme goodness, 3.1 is the culmination of those ideas, coupled with those final pieces necessary to make it all work beautifully. To put it simply, 3.0 was 3.1 beta, and 3.1 is the real 3rd generation of the Genesis Framework.
Now let’s look at how this is the case and why I see an even brighter future for Genesis now that Genesis 3.1 has made its way to the forefront…
First, for the supporting cast let’s look at the Gutenberg goodies. We now see those page/post-specific Genesis options moved from a place where scrolling is required, to a more integrated spot right there inside the Gutenberg sidebar. Not only that, but we now have two new options, allowing for both the Site Title and the Breadcrumbs to be hidden from any given page or post type. This is a very welcome feature as we will no longer need custom code or 3rd party Plugins to achieve such a simple, yet sometimes necessary page tweak.
Adding to this move toward leaving unnecessary 3rd party Plugins behind, Genesis 3.1 provides the ability to easily customize the Genesis Footer content through a new Customizer footer option. I mean, I love you Genesis Simple Edits, but this is one relationship that I have no problem ending. You’ve been good to me for so many years, but it’s now time we part our ways and for you to live out the rest of your days in deprecation, dreaming of the glory days. Also, the generous Genesis developers were nice enough to make it so that any present Genesis Simple Edits customizations would be automatically imported into the new Genesis 3.1 Customizer option, making this transition seamless.
Also new to the Customizer are options to output featured images on singular content. As it states on the beta release post linked to above, “Genesis 3.1 makes it easier for theme developers to offer users the option to output featured images on posts, pages, and other content types.” Again, providing functionality that removes the need for custom coding or the addition of yet another Plugin. That works for me.
OK, so these are nice additions and refinements to Genesis, but why all the hype in the title of this post?
Well, I can answer that in three little words: Genesis Starter Packs. I call this kind of thing “layered development”, or “compartmentalized customization”. It’s where you have ever deeper layers of compartmentalized design and customization elements in your workflow, allowing you to more easily and efficiently fine-tune the direction of your design. So the basic concept of this can be found at the core of WordPress where you have the Platform itself (WordPress), then the Theme Framework/Parent Theme (like Genesis), and then the Child Theme (such as the Genesis Sample Theme). And even further compartmentalization is found in the Plugin model, allowing you to add all kinds of further customization capability with each Plugin install.
Now with Genesis Starter Packs we’re going a layer deeper, providing yet another fork in the road for the end-user/developer to choose their design destiny. And though all we have in the 3.1 Genesis Sample Theme is the ability to choose between a black and white homepage image and a colored version, this new possibility has been presented to us, daring us to run with the idea. Now the Child Theme developer has the ability to create a core design, one that might provide a solid foundation for all kinds of website types and uses, and then offer numerous Starter Packs. How many times have you seen a Child Theme design that would perfectly suit your latest project needs, only to recognize that its static homepage, recommended Plugins, and demo content are geared toward a completely different kind of website? At that moment you’re either calculating the time it would take to convert the Child Theme’s “theme” (for lack of a better word) over to the kind of site you need it to create, or you simply keep scrolling down the page. With Genesis Starter Packs the Child Theme developer can provide you with multiple sets of starting points to allow you to pick the appropriate site configuration, placing the beginning of your web project that much closer to the finish line.
So Genesis 3.1 is great not so much because of what it does for you, but more so because of what is allows you to do. It peels back the curtain just enough to show you what’s possible, but as a theme framework should always do, it leaves the full execution to the developer. The foundations have been laid for a new generation of Genesis Child Themes, and I’m excited to be in a place to not only see how other Child Theme developers run with this flag, but to be able to participate in the process. The future looks ever brighter for the Genesis Theme Framework, and that can only mean great things for its rich community of developers and designers!
Create Genesis 3.1 Child Themes Using Our Freshly Updated Professional WordPress Development Plugins
I just pushed out all new releases of both our Genesis DevKit and Themer Pro Plugins (see the release post HERE), both of which now allow you to create fully Genesis 3.1 compatible Child Themes, with powerful customization tools ready to go! These Genesis DEV tools allow you to both create and customize Genesis Child Themes, based on the latest and greatest Genesis Sample Theme.
The primary difference between these two tools is that one provides hundreds of point-n-click design controls (Genesis DevKit), requiring no coding to take control of your Genesis website design, while the other is more geared toward those who like to do their customization in the code editor (Themer Pro). So if you prefer to do most of your site design using color pickers and drop-down menus then DevKit is the way to go, but if you prefer full control over your theme files, and coding is your thing, then Themer is a great choice.
Finally, if you like both development concepts then note that you can use both together. Or the ultimate combo is Genesis DevKit matched up with our Instant IDE Manager Plugin. Then you have both point-n-click design power with the most epic custom coding developer tool available for WordPress! And you can get ALL THREE of these powerful Genesis DEV tools in our “Genesis DEV Pack” bundle for a super low price! It’s by far the best value, but also note that you can always purchase one, try it, and if you want to go the bundle rout down the road you can upgrade at anytime and only pay the difference in price!
Setting that all aside for one last moment, I just want to give a shout out to the StudioPress developers who keep their Genesis Framework in prime shape! It’s been my pleasure to develop Themes and Plugins for it over the years and with these latest updates I know that it will be around for many more to come.