Headway 1.6.1

Grant and Clay Griffiths are the Father-Son pair behind the Headway Theme. I got a demo of Headway while in Miami at WordCamp Miami and was duly impressed. The theme is not without its problems though.

The cornerstone of the theme is a drag and drop style layout editor, but attempts to duplicate most of the functionality found in Thesis as well.

Price

Headway is tied with Thesis, essentially, in terms of price. It ranges from $87 for a personal license to $164 for the developers license, a mere $2 more than Thesis for the equivalent option.

Grade: A

File Size

Headway has a massive failure in this category. It ranks so bad in file size, a massive 3.1MB, that it garners an F. Most of this is due to javascript libraries and code required to build the drag and drop interface builder accessible on the back end, but I still cannot stomach a theme of this size.

Grade: F

Database Calls

Headway generates far too many database calls and, as such, cannot be recommended for large sites, but probably is fine for intermediate sites. It generates 23 database calls in an unconfigured state.

Grade: B

Page Load

Yikes. Under stress, Headway performs miserably with a page load of over 16 seconds! 16.81 seconds, actually. Keep in mind that this test is a stress test and may not reflect real world usage. I recommend optimizing around queries for pages (navigation, recent pages, etc).

Grade: F

Hooks

Headway does provide a decent number of hooks but, like Thesis, puts more emphasis on action hooks than filter hooks. Probably not something to ding too hard on. 18 filters, 74 actions, 92 total hooks.

Grade: B

Internationalization

There is no internationalization efforts in Headway. There really needs to be, guys.

Grade: F

Security

Headway does a nice job with the WordPress escaping API. It shines where others don’t. Remember to get a full security audit if you’re concerned, but based on stated criteria, Headway gets high marks.

Grade: A+

BuddyPress

Like Thesis, and all themes, Headway is not BuddyPress compliant. Automatic F. Think about this for future releases, guys.

Grade: F

SEO Support

Headway has pretty good SEO controls built into it, though not as detailed as Thesis. It allows granular control of how titles, meta tags, etc are presented on a global level.

Grade: A-

WordPress 2.9 Post Thumbnail Support

Headway has done a good job integrating WordPress thumbnail support.

Grade: A+

WordPress 3.0 Navigation Support

Considering WordPress 3.0 isn’t even out there, I give Headway credit for being the only theme to support the new nav system out of the box. Unless you’re using WP 3.0, you can’t use it yet, but once WP 3.0 drops, Headway themes will immediately support it. This is the equivalent of a bonus question. If the theme supports it, it gets bonus points. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t count against them. Headway gets the bonus points.

Grade: A+

Raw SQL

Yikes. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL. Headway provides its own tables and thus raw SQL. As stated in my criteria, my bias is that this is not needed and bad architecture.

Grade: F

Summary

This is a hard summary because Headway did so poorly in the grading process. It managed a mere 655 points over 12 criteria for a 55%. A total failing grade.

However, the tale of the tape is that Headway is improving and has functionality baked in that no other theme has. The WYSIWYG interactive layout creation interface is exceptionally good and some of the areas that it got dinged are relatively minor areas in the grand scheme of things. The important areas – security and core feature compatibility are huge pluses even if it doesn’t factor into the score.

Headway 1.6.1 can be download here.

On to Genesis!

Published by Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, A Senior WordPress Developer for the NBA, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, and on his professional blog.