Using bad themes has continued to haunt me.
My first theme was from ThemeForest which was created by an independent developer who abandoned his theme. Next was Outreach Pro theme in Genesis Framework (no complaints really). Then I was sold on “spicing it up” with Elementor which I should’ve known better and caused the majority of issues I’ve been facing. I hired help to convert the theme to Gutenberg with ACF and some custom code which made my site faster, but left me with a list of problems.
I was still left the mediocre design, no templates to create blocks/pages (even editing the site seemed impossible), too much CSS from table/gallery plugins, and a very bloated additional CSS file. Redesigning my blog using this theme seemed impossible without paying someone. When I had to pay a developer to add a single image to my homepage, I knew I had to move on.
GeneratePress has fixed every issue so far, even more so since Gutenberg and GenerateBlocks have built-in tables and galleries so I don’t need to use plugins. I can pretty much edit anything and have my block templates. While it’s still early and I’m writing this GeneratePress review on a staging site, I’m excited so far and am finally motivated to fix all the problems from my old blog, and more. It took me way too long to move to a block editor. I’m playing catch up, but I’m here.
- Problems With My Old Blog
- Starter Templates
- Reducing Plugins With Gutenberg Blocks
- Reusable Blocks Are Saving Me Time
- Better Compatibility Than Classic Editor
- Theme Customizer
- Fast & Lightweight
- GeneratePress Free vs. Premium
- Well-Maintained With Documentation
- Conclusion: I’m Very Happy With My New Blog
1. Problems With My Old Blog
I got frustrated with my old blog for several reasons:
- Limitations – when you’re not able to change things on your site without calling your developer, it get expensive and time consuming. I didn’t think this would be a problem considering all my pages in Genesis Framework were custom coded. But just to give you an idea, it took my developer a little over 30 minutes just to add a single image to a page.
- No Templates – there were no design templates and if there were, I didn’t know how to use them. Plus, I was holding onto the classic editor for dear life and didn’t want to adapt.
- Poor Design – redesigning my site in Elementor was a huge step backwards not only for speed, but the design too. Fonts, layouts, colors, branding… it was way worse than before.
- Featured Images – I never used category pages on my old blog, so I spent an entire week in Canva creating (or redesigning) the “main images” for all 220 of my posts: featured images, top post image, Facebook/Twitter og:images. I made most them (but Twitter) the same ratio as Facebook’s og:image (1200×630) so they can be resized easily and save time.
- Navigation – since this is a blog, it makes sense to have category pages instead of manually creating the navigation menu with long dropdowns of posts like my old blog.
- Bloat – I saw a big improvement after switching from Elementor to Gutenberg. But even then, the old blog used 2 fonts and lots of CSS from NinjaTables, Galleries, and a massive additional CSS file. The new site uses 1 font and lightweight Gutenberg tables/galleries.
- Handholding – Pronaya (my developer) and I are constantly on Google Chat while we build the site. There’s something to be said about finding someone who is not only good with communication, but steers you in the right direction nearly every time. Most of my old developers either had issues with communication or didn’t understand what I want.
2. Starter Templates
The GeneratePress Starter Templates have always been on my radar, but I never saw a template that really caught my attention until they released the “Search” Starter template.
At the same time, I saw Anil Agarwal from BloggersPassion redesign his site which looked like the Search theme. Obviously I didn’t want to copy his but it gave me motivation and inspiration.
Astra Starter Templates with Gutenberg and the Kadence Theme were also on my radar, but I chose GeneratePress after seeing GenerateBlocks which seems to fit my needs perfectly. So I installed the Search Template on a staging site and Pronaya and started with the main design.
Starter Template Instructions
- Buy GeneratePress and download their GP Premium plugin.
- Upload the GP premium plugin to WordPress.
- Go to Appearance → Themes → Add New.
- Search “GeneratePress” and install the theme.
- Go to Appearance → GeneratePress.
- Add your license key and activate the “Site Library” module.
- Once activated, you will see a new “Site Library” tab in your menu.
- Select a starter template, import it, and start customizing your site.
GenerateBlocks was a key part in redesigning my blog (view demos here).
It’s simple, lightweight, and has many elements/layouts that fit my needs. For example, my entire homepage uses an info box template to showcase my popular tutorials. I also used info boxes for my about page (the 50 random and disturbing things about me section). The hover boxes, hero, and call to action templates are also nice. It filled in things GeneratePress lacked.
GenerateBlocks has the following templates:
- Call to action
- Hover boxes
- Info boxes
- Pricing tables
- Social media icons
4. Reducing Plugins With Gutenberg Blocks
NinjaTables and my Gallery plugin added lots of CSS .
Since I’ve been using the Classic Editor, this means I had to convert all tables/galleries (as well as all 220 of my posts) to Gutenberg. I checked out the Bulk Block Converter plugin but it has terrible reviews and doesn’t work for many people. It’s a lot of manual work and I’ll probably do some of this after launch, but it’s something that’ll definitely improve speed. The biggest thing hurting my web vitals is CSS, so I’m looking forward to replacing plugins with Gutenberg blocks.
Maybe if you’re reading this, you know of a tool or plugin that can automatically convert my posts, tables, and galleries to Gutenberg. But for now, I plan on doing all this work manually.
5. Reusable Blocks Are Saving Me Time
You probably already know about reusable blocks if you’ve been working with Gutenberg, but it’s new for me.
I love being able to save blocks and use them elsewhere. I’ve already used this to design info boxes on my homepage and plan on using it to help convert tables/galleries. Classic Editor didn’t have anything like this to my knowledge, and it’s already saved me quite a bit of time.
6. Better Compatibility Than Classic Editor
Call me old school but I loved my Classic Editor.
However, I started running into compatibility issues. Rank Math supports HowTo schema which I use a lot, but they don’t let you rearrange HowTo steps in Classic Editor. Any time I updated a post and the steps got rearranged, I would find myself manually copying/pasting the HowTo schema into the new order. That’s just one example, but this alone was very time consuming. Even if it supported basic things like galleries/tables, customization options were very limited.
I’ve been trying to hang onto the Classic Editor for a lonnnng time and still use it to type most posts, but the lack of support for even basic things are pushing me more towards Gutenberg. Seems like both WordPress and many plugin developers are leaving it in the dust completely.
GeneratePress modules extend the design settings on your site.
Most of these should be enabled but you should deactivate modules you’re not using. All the descriptions of what they do are shown in the image, so you can read through them if you like.
Assigns elements to certain pages while excluding them from others.
For example, my category pages use a 3 column layout with features images (no sidebar) and are different than my other pages/posts. You can do this with headers, layouts, blocks, or hooks.
This video from Portable Entrepreneur does a great job in explaining how elements work:
9. Theme Customizer
I’m not going to do an entire tutorial on the Theme Customizer, but you’ll use it quite a bit to design your site. Everything from site identity to fonts, colors, menus, and widgets. Just make sure Dynamic CSS Print Method is set to “External File” to faster performance (which it should be by default). I also have several things in my additional CSS, mainly to design the table of contents in my posts. Just don’t add too much additional CSS or you can end up like me and start getting errors in core web vitals. “Remove unused CSS” in cache plugins only do so much.
10. Fast & Lightweight
GeneratePress and Kadence have always been some of the fastest themes. I’ll post a before/after GTmetrix Waterfall chart once I launched, but my homepage is larger yet half the size and I haven’t don’t even have a cache plugin/CDN installed with third-party Google Fonts.
11. GeneratePress Free vs. Premium
You need GeneratePress Premium for:
- Starter Templates
I bought the lifetime license because I plan on sticking with GeneratePress until further notice. $249 is a lot cheaper compared to the lifetime deals offered by Astra ($599) or Kadence ($649).
12. Well-Maintained With Documentation
GeneratePress has been easy to work with and I rarely have to refer to their documentation.
13. Conclusion: I’m Very Happy With My New Blog
I’m looking forward to spending more time on content and less time on fixing random issues like I had on my old blog. And being able to design/change things I wasn’t previously able to.
I could care less about using a custom theme instead of a Starter Template. I just need something that’s fast, easy, and works. I realized people care more about my content (and definitely the speed of the site) rather than any fancy designs. GeneratePress has definitely exceeded my expectations and I was able to dive in and learn the basics in just a few days.
If you’re using Elementor, Divi, or another slow page builder, check out GeneratePress or Kadence. Oxygen Builder is also very popular but definitely requires a bigger learning curve.
p.s. feel free to share any feedback on the new site – I’m all ears.
Hi Tom – Got all hooked up with GenPress and GenBlocksPro. This is like a rocket sled on rails!!! Now, I’m not that experienced in site and page building – yet – but I did dabble with Elementor. It does have some nice features with a whole lot of shortcomings. Then I took a look at Miguel’s recommendation on Greenshift. It’s truly in it’s infancy as a full bore site development toolset, and the documentation – what little there is – is really rough and hard to wade through. Not a lot of video support on YouTube, and nothing on Udemy. If you’re interested in spending a good bit of time figuring stuff out, I’d rank it as okay. There are some really decent features but those can be handled pretty easily in CSS and JS. Their lifetime package is more than GenPress/GenBlocksPro…. Submitting for my Pro refund @ Elementor…
I feel like I’m driving a really well-designed luxury sports car with GenPress. Documentation is exceptional, easy to find – and most of all, easy to access. The inherent dashboard structure within WP is very nicely done. Some folks gave a lot of thought and effort in their design and implementation – it’s truly designed for the developer. I’ve driven a lot of code editors and GUI/UX tools in my time – this is truly a really sweet environment I’ve quickly fallen in love with. The philosophy of using a few blocks and learning them well is part of what generates exceptional performance profiles and solid sites. Now, if I could only get colors, images and artwork…. Alas, that’s why we have a creative talent expert….
GenPress/Blocks did make a recent change – the templates are now referred to as patterns.
Stay out of trouble,
No trouble these days! Haha.
Glad you like it and yes, GeneratePress is user-friendly even for the “common folk” but definitely gives freedom to developers, although it sounds like you’ve got way more experience than me. It’s a nice balance and thanks, I’ll be updating the post soon while mentioning “patterns.”
I had my site redesigned in Elementor Pro before this. Total mistake and wasted a lot of time/money. Good thing you can get your refund.
GeneratePress is currently the Best overall “Classic Theme( Not a FSE theme)”. No doubt about it. And GenerateBlocks is also very good. However, I highly recommend You to complement the GP + GB combo with the new and extraordinary “Greenshift Page Builder”. Greenshift is like GenerateBlocks on STEROIDS. Simply Awesome…!
Thanks for the mention, but I simply hate the fact that I have to install 2 plugins (i.e. Free and premium). Jusr to have paid functionality.