Thesis Review: Buying Thesis? Read This Before You Do!

Note: This is not an "Thesis Is Awesome! Buy it As Soon Possible!" type review. It is based on our experiences with Thesis Theme. Read on to find what we mean. Last Updated on Dec 20, 2010.

Thesis Good For You?

Find The Answer In This Post.

Two weeks ago, we changed our design. Now we are using Thesis framework.

On that post, some readers said that they were planning to buy Thesis. When we decided to buy Thesis, we read some reviews and guess what? None of them was completely true!

You will find many articles out there promoting Thesis. Guess what? They all say, thesis is great. But not many tell the other side!

Short Thesis Review

Thesis is a great framework, but it has some minor flaws! Period.

Long Thesis Review

I will not be amazed if you tell me that you have seen hundreds of reviews of saying that Thesis is awesome and can do wonders for you. Lots of bloggers out there are using this theme, and almost everyone is recommending it.

So, what's great with it? Here are the pros:

  1. Speed: Thesis is the fastest WordPress theme out of the box. The code is clean and well optimized. To speed things more, it caches the thumbnail images. We have noticed a 33% increase in speed after changing to Thesis.
  2. SEO: It has almost all SEO features included. There's no need to use a plugin separately for SEO. And it uses custom fields for SEO, so if you later switch to some other theme with integrated options, you can use the same meta data!
  3. Reduced Plugin Clutter: It has lots of functionality packed in, and many of the features reduce the need for a separate plugin. SEO, Notes, and Google Analytics code are all taken care of by Thesis.
  4. Custom Templates: Out of the box, theme has two custom page templates (pages with no sidebars and archives page). No sidebar template is good for making landing pages where you can use the full page for your message. The Archives template presents a monthly post archive along with the categories list. This could save you from installing another plugin.
  5. Back-End: Thesis back-end(control panel) is one of the best I have seen in any WordPress theme. It is simple and elegant, and the options are neatly categorized. The latest version also has a custom file editor that lets you edit custom.css, as well as other files that you normally can't edit in WordPress editor.
  6. Hooks: Thesis allows lot of customization via hooks. If you know PHP, you will love these. It will take you less than 5 minutes to learn how to use hooks. Using hooks, you can easily add custom code to any part of the theme.
  7. Support: When you purchase the theme, you get lifetime support. The forum guys are fast, and most of the problems are quickly solved.Thesis Theme

Now, some cons that you will not read in any other review!

  1. Thesis Is a Framework: It is a theme framework. And that means that it comes with a child theme used by 99% of Thesis blogs. Really, how can someone pay $87 and still afford to have the same look as everyone else? To give the theme a different look, you either need to use your coding skills (which, unfortunately, many of us do not possess!) or hire a designer. (If you go this way, don't forget to read #4.)
  2. For Non-Coders, It can be a Nightmare: If you are not good with PHP, CSS and HTML, working with this theme will be a nightmare for you! Want to know how much you can customize without editing code? You can select the number of sidebars, their positions, homepage layout, change 2 or 3 other settings and that's it! Without coding, you can not even add a header.Update: Version 1.8 lets you add header image. (Even the default WP theme lets you do this without touching code!)
  3. Backlink: Call it marketing/SEO tactic or whatever, the personal license requires you to have a backlink with the "same anchor" as the license says. So, either expect to spend more for the developer option or learn to live with that link!
  4. You Need to Maintain Thesis: With every new version, lots of options change. So, even if you get a custom design, expect to call your designer soon because most likely, some things will break in the next release!

Is Thesis for you?

Let's come down to the most important question: "Is Thesis for you?"

Thesis is recommended if:

  • You want a fast, SEO optimized theme.
  • You have deep pockets and can afford a designer or a child theme. Child themes can cost anything from $0 to $79!
  • You are a designer/coder and have lots of time to spend.
  • You have no problems with the the default "clean" look in favor of SEO options.

If you have time and resources, it can be the best investment for your blog. Take a look at Thesis testimonials to find out what people are saying about it.

Buy Thesis.
Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community
Have you bought Thesis? What do you think about it?

Have questions? Feel free to ask in comments or Contact us.

Blogging With Success Logo
Join 600+ Subscribers to get latest posts delivered straight to your inbox and 4 Free Blogging Guides

About Ishan Sharma

Hi, I am a young Blogger from India. I am very passionate about blogging and also co-founder of Blogging With Success. I write about general blogging tips and WordPress. You can read other posts by me here.If you need help, feel free to contact anytime!


  1. I use Thesis 1.8 Developer option – with WP3.0.1, and I agree with most of this post. I have experience with HTML and CSS, but am just grasping PHP. Thesis is very powerful if you know what you are doing, otherwise, I'd recommend sticking with the free WP and the 1,000's of free themes out there. I almost wished I had, however I am enjoying Thesis and learning to do different things with it.

    I also wish there were just a couple more free Thesis skins, it's a shame that Open Source has gone the way of Thesis.

    • Hello Deborah!

      Yes, there are so many free themes. However, I find many of them lack something and require customization. It could be the size of the font, the number and size of sidebars, no footer position and navigation of menu… It's especially true for those of us with Html/Css experience! For those who are not into DIY (do it yourself), it's worth considering using a web designer. We've built sites that are low maintenance — even our site didn't have to change after the initial design, but we wanted to tinker…

      Free child themes would be nice… This site lists a good number for free ones, like our "Fresh Company" skin (you pay to remove linkback): (ones at the bottom like Thesis Bold,Straight Shooter,etc.)

  2. Thanks for this post, I am considering buying thesis today but the price is kinda holding me back and it doesn't seem like there are many free child themes. I can't decide what makes thesis any better than hybrid theme which is free?

    • If you don't want to spend $87 for Thesis you can find a designer with a developer's license. They can get you a "single Client Site Option" for $40. Downside is you don't have access to the support forums, except via the developer. I have a developer's license for so let me know if you're interested. The list of free themes is growing.

      The hybrid theme is fine if you want to spend the time building up your design. Since it's free, why not install on a test site and see… ? One caution, the free version lets you see the forums but not post a question or see tutuorials… you pay $25/yr. for the membership club.

  3. I had Thesis at first for my design site, but it froze up my WP dashboard and after a call to my hosting company (HostGator) the tech discovered it was a corrupt 'js' file within Thesis that was causing it. The theme had to be removed and then WP had to reinstalled to get back to a working site. So to all who are considering Thesis just be aware that this happened to me. I'm not saying it will happen to anyone else, but in my experience there's no such thing as a "perfect" theme.

    • I see how that could turn things real sour for you! Did you get a response from Thesis on what happened? I know from downloading another theme (not DIY) that files can be corrupted between the download, unzip and upload process — without explanation. I reported it in the forum and no one else had the problem (the moderator even downloaded and installed the same theme, no problem).

      As for no 'perfect theme', you're right and it's folks like us (and Mr I) who make sure to find needed improvements! LOL

  4. There are many bloggers who want a design that's different from the crowd (to show off their great content). Like you, I've seen many blog designs where I know from the top of the home page that it's by Thesis. But I've seen several that are highly customized and unique. The real key is feeling comfortable using child themes (some are free, so cost a few dollars) like the one we use here AND knowing CSS/Html. In addition you must be organized to keep track of modifications and detail oriented. That's a fairly large order. Seems you could handle it.

  5. Sharing my views on Thesis, regardless of the SEO power it has I strongly believe that it more common these days to see blogs with Thesis, I use a free theme and I have customized it in such a way that its the best for SEO, Whatever theme we use, they are finally HTML codes, so I directly cracked my free theme to render tags in best optimized SEO way and It really worked. Earlier 20% of my visitors are from Search Engines but now more than 50% . Im not avoiding thesis for the money I should pay , but for the commonness it has in the blogosphere.

  6. Thanks for this insightful review. I'm really researching to find the best solution for my new online venture. I know enough about CSS, etc., to be dangerous, but do want to find something that won't make me want to jump off a cliff to customize. The new blog is going to be a video blog. I can't find any Thesis sites that have done this. All the premium themes that are specific to video blogs have lots of cons to them. Any suggestions on creating a niche Hulu/YouTube type site with Thesis? Also, any suggestions on the best resources for CSS and PHP? Thanks!

  7. Thesis was the first theme I ever purchased and I was sorely disappointed as it did not live up to the hype. I wanted something that would work straight out of the box, as it claimed to do and it just did not live up to it, although it is getting better with each update.

    The thing is that I paid for it and I wasn't going to waste my money by not using it so I am now using it on my loadofbullshit blog, a fitting home I reckon.

    As I still wanted a theme that was easily customizable I kept looking until I found what I considered to be be far superior and I now use it on all my blogs, baring the LoadofBS one.

    • Glad you found a theme you could live with on your many blogs! Of course I took a peek at the others and they do look different! Read your informative comparison of your theme with Thesis. I see it costs almost as much for single use, but you can't put a price on "happiness aka it does the job!"
      Thanks for visiting.

  8. Nice review on Thesis. I have to say I have been looking at Thesis for a while and read some great reviews of it. Thanks for giving an honest review about the difficulties if you don't know how to code.

  9. Great tips and well said reviews, Buying thesis is not that useful. It really contribute a lot if we do our own thesis. It will mold our understanding in one thing.

  10. I always wondered why Do people always go for Thesis but Now, I understand what are the pros and cons of Thesis.

    Most of the blogs have the same theme and that's the reason I would never switch to it.

    • Glad that the review helped you. Most people go for Thesis because it has been marketed like hell and most reviews out there are positive. Secondly, it is a great framework.

      With some customization, any blog can look unique using Thesis. In future, I'd suggest considering Thesis as other themes do not have that powerful SEO framework.

  11. This is one of the most honest review i have ever read about any product as you have mentioned there are many reviews about the theme at the moment my blog does not uses wordpress but seeing theme i can understand why it is so popular most reviews are in some affilliates review everyone ie selling this good to see some one telling the pros and cons why should some one pay for a theme and still has a link i don't understand

  12. Nice review dude… I tried thesis for some hours in my blog.. but quickly changed.. because I love my blog's current theme very much.. :( currently trying to cure the theme.. :)

    • Hi Pradeep,

      Your current theme is quite good. However, I would like to know why you changed Thesis? Did you not like the default looks?

      Feel free to contact me if you need any help with theme.

  13. Firstly: I am happy and very proud of you that you are writing a true review of an Affiliate paying you more than 25$ per sale!

    Thesis appears to be very good if it is customized properly, but most bloggers use the default look which is similar to hundreds of blogs worldwide, this is the saddest part!

    I am planning to download a pirated code of thesis from rapidshare without buying a legal license, then I will play around it, try to customize it, and If it think it will work well for me, I will think of purchasing a legitimate license. How do you like my idea?

    • Thanks for the compliment.

      Regarding the pirated version, we do not encourage piracy. Your intentions are not wrong but still, piracy is piracy.

      Instead, I’d recommend buying Thesis license and then customizing it. If you like it, you can keep it and if you don’t like it, you can get your money back (Thesis has 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee).

  14. The early Thesis releases did require you to know some CSS to maximise the potential of the custom CSS file. Also, hooks in the early releases were a nightmare for people who didn't get the logic (like me!).

    However, as Derek has mentioned above, the Thesis OpenHook plugin greatly simplifies the ability to move elements around on your page – I use and install it on every Thesis installation I work with – it's magic. It removes the need to understand hooks.

    Plus, the latest version of Thesis (1.6) includes some more features in the Design Options screen:

    * Colour management (for fonts, backgrounds, links etc) – which you previously had to do through the custom stylesheet

    * Menu bar customisation – which, again, you previously had to do through the custom stylesheet.

    *Drop down menus. (These aren't in the Design Options screen – you just set your parent/child page hierarchy in WordPress and Thesis does the rest all by itself).

    These give the non-coder a lot more design options than before.

    Upgrades have been fiddly to date, for sure, and if you're considering an upgrade from an earlier version to 1.6 it definitely requires some work. This is because they've re-structured the menu design coding.

    The result is that if you used the custom stylesheet in an earlier version to add some different designs to your menu you'll need to re-do them after upgrading. The plus side is that re-doing them is a heck of a lot quicker than it was because so much can now be done in the design options screen.

    We Thesis addicts are assured that some of the re-structuring in 1.6 means that future upgrades will simply require copying the contents of your custom folder from your earlier version to the new version. Time will tell :)

    As Derek also mentioned above, the support forums in Thesis are very good. They've always produced quick and accurate responses for me.

    Plus, there are a lot of Thesis tutorials available online – just google them. So there's a lot of support available if you're a current user or thinking about taking the plunge!

    My personal view is that if you're serious about working online you do need to know some CSS and HTML – they are the basic tools of the trade, after all.

    And you can achieve some great designs on Thesis without knowing more than basic CSS.



    • Martin,

      I'm glad I visited your blog (to read your Thesis review yesterday), you saw my footprint in your sidebar visitors widget and made contact. I appreciate the time you took to add your thoughts, experience and point our readers to more resources! I also think the next round of Thesis updates will be a lot easier for all of us. And there is a lot of 'free' help in forums, tutorials and on social networks.

  15. It's nice to finally see a review, and a not a "review." I might consider thesis in the future, when I can afford to hire a designer. I don't care to dig into coding too much.

  16. Thanks for the cons that you've mentioned here. This is the reason why I did not buy it and instead settled on another one which is much easier and user-friendly.

  17. Indeed, when checking Thesis on the internet, you see nothing but great reviews. It is a good thing to also read about the downsides of it. Not sure if it will stop people from buying it (which is not a bad thing), but it will help people to make a more thoroughly considered purchase. After all, the price isn't that low…

    • Well, good reviews were what we saw when we bought Thesis. First, I was a little disappointed but then other features took my attention off and and now I like Thesis(framework! Not the default looks. They are still too boring for someone like me).

      I did not write review to stop people from buying it. It's just because I felt that it would have been nice if I had this information before purchasing Thesis. Yes, the price isn't that low but then the features are also not!

  18. While I generally agree with your points on the pros / cons of the Thesis theme, I don't think it requires a wealth of time to make your site look unique if you have knowledge of CSS and/or PHP. If you don't have the knowledge, you now have a little more control to customize things in the 1.6 release than before but ultimately it might be in your best interest to invest in the assistance of someone that has that knowledge leaving you to do what you do best.

    • Hi Derek,

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, it doesn't take much time for CSS and PHP ninjas ;-) .I had average joe in my mind when I was writing the review.

      Some themes have more options and let even non coders easily customize them. But then Thesis has its own strengths!

      • There is no question that to get the most out of changing up the design that you're going to have to get into some code, but things like the OpenHook plugin from Rick Beckman can help simplify some of that. And I've had the pleasure of helping a few "average Joe" site owners with answers to CSS and PHP questions that helped get them over the fear of touching the files on their own.

        With all of that said, I do think that people need to be aware that Thesis is a good theme but it is not the end-all, be-all that will instantly make their site a huge success (which is the type of hype it seems to have produced).

        • people need to be aware that Thesis is a good theme but it is not the end-all, be-all that will instantly make their site a huge success

          I fully agree with you. Most affiliates are marketing Thesis in that way and that's what I wanted to tell people about.

  19. To put it simply I think Thesis is a great theme. But it comes a with a decent learning curve. You should also mention that there is a great forum and comes with it. Everything I wanted to do I was able to go there and figure it out.

    It is a nice theme and I kind of like the simple look they had for it. Although I did customize mine a little bit. The seo and backend are really cool though. I think it just depends on what you want to do with your blog.

    If you want to do something really complex then you may been in for a ride. I have to say though, that it's worth it once you get it all setup. I'm no coder either and ran into a couple frustrations, but so far I'm pretty darn happy with it.

    Nice review!

    • Hi Chris,

      I have mentioned forum in point #7.

      Regarding the simple theme, people have different views on it. Many like it and many don't. SEO is of course a great strength.

      Nice to know that your are happy with Thesis. Thanks for commenting and compliment.

  20. I was seriously considering getting Thesis. But I have little patience for code and only know a little bit. I'm going to rethink now, thanks for the information.

    • Glad that review helped you. If you spend some time learning PHP, Thesis will not be that hard to customize. Do consider SEO and speed when making final decision.

  21. I read your post and would like to say a few things:

    1. Thesis theme like most others that have a backlink to their site, that is why you have to buy the developers one to exclude it. No one forced you to buy it, you made the decision yourself.

    2. As with new versions of themes, it is obvious that some changes must be made. This will always be there as the developers can't build all options in the theme. Many sites have unique layouts with unique code, that is why you need to check if it works when a new version comes out.

    3. You mention about others having the same layout, this goes for other themes as well. Even when you have another premium theme and you make changes to it for your site, those changes need to be done in the new version as well if its not part of the version.

    4. Everyone who owns a site has to learn PHP/HTML/CSS sooner or later. There is no way that you will get a theme out of a box and have all the bells and whistles.

    5. Yes, thesis is a bit expensive, but then again most other themes don't have the same options and benefits.

    Please note that this is my opinion.

    • Hi George,

      Regarding #1, I don't think that footer link is needed by many other themes. Even many cheaper themes do not links. If you buy Elegant Themes subscription($19 per year), they do not need a link! I do not object about free themes having footer link because the developers have to be credited but when you spend $87, this is not at all expected!

      Regarding #2, I agree. I was just outlining that if someone hires a designer for custom Thesis work, he/she may need to spend more on maintenance.

      Regarding #4, many themes let you customize anything without touching a single line of code. Again, Elegant Themes are grate example of this. Even a free framework Atahualpa has more customization options than Thesis!

      Personal opinions differ a lot about same products. I am a kind of person who cares about design as well as features and difficult customizability of Thesis is something I did not like.

  22. Everyone loves thesis , you point out some really important factors which one must consider. Nice article .

  23. I love thesis sooooooo much, and no matter what others are saying, I'm not going to change it with other themes whatsoever

  24. Nice review here. I personally use Thesis dev license for 2 reason.. Removing the link attribute from the bottom and also I use it on multiple websites…

    When I bought Thesis months back I had no idea about designing and SEO power of Thesis, I bought it just for the sake of hype it has created and went with flow.. but I never regret paying 180+$ for a theme..because now I can see what I have learned in these 6 months and SEO power of Thesis….

  25. Nice… very nice theme guys… All the luck for the future…

    Thesis seems to be the happening theme these days,,,



  26. Thesis is a great theme framework. I personally feel that if u r too worried about ur blog design then thesis is a good option. But if u r good at coding then it is wise to invest somewhere else.

  27. Thanks for giving the other side of Thesis. There are so many blogs with this theme that I've stayed away from it. However, it looks like you did a great job of customizing it so you were not only able to take advantage of its powerful framework but also stand out from the crowd!

    • Thanks for the compliment! :)

      I agree with you that many blogs use the default look and is is very common to see a blog with Thesis. However, Thesis allows lot of customization and many bloggers have used it to get different look and layouts.

  28. ohh… "Adult theme" means thesis theme with developer License

  29. I use the Thesis theme and I pretty much agree with this post. My blog is very simple … no bells or whistles and yet, my CSS sheet is a mile long. And the newest upgrade totally screwed up my navigation bar which I had spent weeks tweaking immediately before the release (and again, it's one of the simplest looking navigation bars you've ever seen but you wouldn't believe how much CSS I needed to get it to look that way, prior to the newest upgrade).

    I absolutely see the potential with Thesis and if I was a better coder, I could see Thesis being incredibly powerful. But as a non-coder, I find it frustrating that frequently, the most minor of changes requires CSS editing.

    Overall, I love it. I just wish it were more user friendly to the non-coder.

  30. Thesis is the best premium theme i ever seen…. I decided to buy a Child theme. But… seems you forgot to write about Adult theme :-)


  1. [...] recommend buying Thesis theme because it can be turned into almost any layout. However, if you are short on time or have limited [...]