Genesis 1.1.1 (Updated)

Genesis is a new theme framework from StudioPress, the purveyors of many well known themes including Revolution and AgentPress. As company “main dude who likes crappy sports teams” founder Brian Gardner describes it, it is the result of having to continually re-use the same code and standard practices whenever developing their own themes. So really, it was designed for StudioPress and the rest of the world can have a chance to use it.

The result is that it does many things well – things that are ubiquitous to StudioPress themes – but does not try to do a lot that they wouldn’t already do for their themes and clients. Genesis surprised me a little. Some of the areas I expected to perform well really did not, as you will see. In the end, Genesis is less about the theme itself and more about encouraging the use of child themes – which is what we as a core WordPress community are moving toward and encouraging out of theme developers.

Price

As a framework, the pricing starts to ascend up and to the right from where the previous themes priced out at. The cheapest option is cheaper than the other two at $59.95 but it’s “all theme pack” package is a pricey $249.95, but provides free access to all StudioPress themes. If you buy the single version, you still have the option to purchase child themes (think of these as skins) as well so add the price of the desired theme to your final cost unless you want to build your own.

Grade: A-

File Size

Genesis is the big winner in terms of file size. The total size of the framework is a mere 737k ¬†which beats Thesis by ~100k and Headway by… oh forget about Headway in this comparison.

Update: Genesis 1.1.1 weighs in at 651k.

Grade: A+

Database Calls

Ouch, ouch, freaking ouch. The Genesis theme fails miserably in the database category with 10,020 calls in our stress test setup. Guys, this is a primary area of concern and needs to be addressed immediately. I believe the problem lies in your navigation execution which loads up every page, apparently, into the navigation. WordPress 3.0 menus may solve this, but backwards compatibility with older versions of WordPress requires you to hit the reset button on this. Even 100 pages will generate another 100 database calls. No excuse.

Update: The StudioPress guys took this information to heart and immediately set about resolving the database call issue. It was a result of navigation elements being a little too inclusive. With Genesis 1.1.1, due to be released on April 12, the default database call number is 11 out of the box. Massive improvement.

Grade: A+ (Original Grade: F)

Page Load

Due in no small part to the database call problem, this stress test generated a 39.29 second load time. This was, once again, with no special configuration of the theme. I think if you fix the database call problem, this problem will dwindle as well. As a result, I’m not failing Genesis on this count but I have to give it the lowest possible non-failing score.

Update: With the database issue resolved with Genesis 1.1.1, the page load is reduced to 1.29 seconds. Massive improvement. Still want this under a second.

Grade: B+ (Original Grade: C-)

Hooks

Genesis kills the competition in number of hooks. Weighing in at 131 hooks (75 filters and 56 actions), it offers a crazy amount of extensibility option. Props to putting a nice emphasis on filters as well

Grade: A+

Internationalization

I appreciate the efforts that have been put into localization of Genesis.

Grade: A+

Security

I know for a fact that Mark Jaquith did a security audit of Genesis prior to its release. This combined with the prolific use of the security API gives Genesis the top security billing it can get

Grade: A+

BuddyPress

As with all themes in this report, Genesis does not support BuddyPress out of the box. Unlike the others, there are immediate add-on options via PremiumBPThemes.com. Though the Rennicks (the master WPMU core contributors – Ron is actually a core committer) don’t work for StudioPress, they worked closely with the StudioPress team to provide GensisBuddy as an add-on to make Genesis BuddyPress-friendly.

StudioPress should acquire this as their own and add it to Genesis core but pending that obvious decision, there are at least options which don’t include manual hacking.

Grade: B

SEO Support

Genesis offers some high-level SEO options. I’d still rely on Headspace 2 if you really need SEO stuff, though.

Grade: B

WordPress 2.9 Post Thumbnail Support

It does.

Grade: A+

WordPress 3.0 Navigation Support

It doesn’t. No point loss though.

Grade: F

Raw SQL

Probably in large part due to the security risks and it’s exception security audit, there are no custom tables or raw SQL present in Genesis.

Grade: A+

Summary

There are massive problems involved in Genesis that, despite a total of 925 points over 11 data points for an 84% average, give me pause to recommend it. Considering though that that problem, while massive and potentially a blocker, is really the only main downfall, I’d still offer it up with the cautionary note: make sure your MySQL is finely tuned!

Update: Genesis quickly evolved to resolve its glaring issues. It’s new total points are 1064 for an average score of 96%. Well done guys.

Genesis 1.1.1 can be downloaded here.

Finally, Builder!

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.