Why the Thesis theme stinks

Yea I said it. All you people out there using Thesis have been suckered into thinking it’s some WordPress equivalent of sliced bread. Have it any way you want! Get freakin’ powerful SEO! Who doesn’t want these things? Oh, and it’s upgradeable too – because so often I need to upgrade my theme…

Let’s break down why Thesis sucks so much. First off, let me say that I’m very familiar with it. I’ve used it on several sites, and I love the idea of modularizing code. I also use Thematic which is better than Thesis. It just doesn’t have the admin panel that Thesis theme has.

Their marketing ploy is based on some seriously vague and lofty statements. “Airtight SEO” they claim – all you have to do is “add killer content” and you’ll be set. Wow no shit! Add content and you’ll be good? That’s a golden rule of SEO, no matter what site you have. Using Thesis offers no super special features to do that, rather it’s up to you. Also, consider that Thesis is build upon WordPress’ platform, whose motto is “Code is Poetry”. There’s a reason WordPress is so damn SEO friendly. It’s build with clean coding practices and flexibility in mind. Moreover, SEO is in general a very broad practice, full of theory and takes place both on and off-site. They make it seem like it’s this almighty SEO machine, but really is it? What do they offer that’s so exceptional? I can’t find much on the site to tell me.

Then there’s the whole flexibility thing. It’s a bitch to modify this theme. Why do you think the forums are littered with helpless people trying to figure out the simplest of things like how to relocate the menu, or maybe add a custom homepage template? Countless sites exist just to help people using the theme. That doesn’t seem very reassuring in that it’s easy to use and modify. At least the newly formed Thesis theme consultants have some more business.

It has a steep learning curve and alt althoughthey point out a number of web gurus who use the theme, that doesn’t say much to me. I want something that’s easy to customize from a design standpoint and I don’t think Thesis offers that. Again, it’s a brilliant framework. But so is Thematic, and that’s free. Plus the documentation that Ian offers is great. But even then, I’d rather use a blank canvas, like the Sandbox theme for my starting points.

I guess my whole beef is that they mislead people into thinking Thesis is some incredibly different WordPress theme. The marketing is good, for sure. Maybe I just don’t get why it’s so exceptional.


Michael Meisner is a code-slinging, data crunching, growth hacking extraordinaire. He combines these powers to create traffic generation strategies and drive brand awareness for clients he works with. When he's not staring at a computer screen he can be found sipping a glass of wine with his Pit Bull and wife by his side.

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9 Responses

  1. One of my first clients wanted to use Thesis and I already had bought a copy to see what all the hype was about. Then a couple more clients went with Thesis and I quickly became really proficient in Thesis.

    Over the past few months I got a bit sick n tired of hitting various walls with Thesis…or well, not walls but cases where what I was doing would’ve been much easier in a non-Thesis theme. I started playing around with Hybrid, knowing Justin was top-notch and haven’t looked back since. Now I’ve done a few site with Hybrid and love it so much I’m recommending some of my previous Thesis clients to move on over. And so far they love it too, I’m able to give them more in a much cleaner interface without all the random Thesis stuff cluttering things up.

    Anyway, in the end I think Thesis is OK for people with very small budgets who want to tinker with their design without doing any coding, but it’s not the bees knees by any means and once you have someone develop on top of Thesis you’re losing a lot of the pros of Thesis. I don’t think Thesis is total garbage, but there are better options out there for most of the market.

  2. Sire says:

    I originally bought Thesis because of all the hype and I admit it wasn’t what I expected of it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had to learn ‘hooks’ to get it to do anything half decent. Still I paid for it so I use it for my loadofbullshit.com blog rather than let the money go to waste.

    I’ve found another them which I am much happier about and I use that theme on all my other blogs.

    • Mike says:

      Yea, I think it’s a big misconception that its an easy theme to modify the appearance of. Just check the forums and look how many people are asking how to do something simple like replace a header image.

      From a designer standpoint, I’d much rather start with a blank white canvas when creating a new site. Normally I’d choose Sandbox, but if I wanted something like Thesis, there are free options, like Thematic.

  3. Valerie says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’m neither a coder or designer, just a casual blogger who wants a blog that I can make changes without contacting a web designer. I bought Thesis about two years ago and was disappointed that it did not live up to the hype for me. Since I don’t work on the back end and don’t know hooks, changes I could make were very limited.

    I recently changed to Headway Themes and I am pleased. I don’t think Thesis is garbage, it just didn’t work for me.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Valerie,

      I agree it’s not garbage, but feel they market the theme under a lot of false promises. As you said, it’s not easy to customize without sufficient knowledge of hooks and functions. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the headway theme though, and will have to check it out more thoroughly.

  4. Kristy says:

    Thanks for the heads up.. I’ve been reading their marketing material and wondering what makes it so hot and although I couldn’t put my finger on it, I have to admit I was slowly getting sucked into their sales pitch. Good to have been able to read the experience of others and side step it.

  5. rakesh kumar says:

    Some how you are right, thesis is a framework and it needs a lots of customization, if you want to run it according to you needs, when ever we add codes to customize it, it does not loads as fast as it claims. so i stop working with thesis and developed a new theme which is much more faster when loaded and this now support a lots of things.

    One more point it does not support 100% valid css and xhtml. if i am anywhere wrong. please correct me

  6. Donna says:

    Thanks for this article. I’m using Atahualpa right now and something just crashed. I was seriously considering purchasing Thesis until I read this post. Going to do some more research first now. I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years and I’ve heard a lot of negativity about Thesis, but I also know a lot of the big bloggers use it. I’m just not sure yet so I think I’ll keep looking around. Thanks a bunch for your opinion.

    • Mike says:

      What exactly crashed with Atahualpa? Might be fixable…

      I’m not saying Thesis is a terrible theme, but the marketing they do is pretty hyped, and BS in my opinion. There’s no way it can just “do” SEO, and it’s certainly not easy to customize. If it were, everyone who uses it might have different designs. But they don’t. Good luck on your search for a new theme.

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