Revolution vs. Thesis: The Premium Theme Cage Match

Now that WordPress 2.6 has been released and you’ve got yourself upgraded (you have upgraded right?), you might as well take some time to spruce up that old dingy theme of yours and replace it with something attractive and practical.

If you can afford your own custom theme development, then by all means, do it. Nothing says professional like a completely unique theme that has been professionally designed with not only appearance, but functionality and practicality.

However, maybe you can’t afford a $3500 theme or maybe there is something that, out of the box does what you need.

While I won’t get into the merits of “premium themes” and if themes should ever be mass marketed AND paid products, I would like to do a compare and contrast on two separate premium themes by two very competent designers.

Revolution Theme

If you believe your WordPress powered blog is more than a blog, you probably want to check out Revolution Theme. Revolution currently has ten different variations designed with the intentions of various industries in mind. If you’re using WordPress more as a content management system and your business is in real estate, pro media, tourism, online magazine, sports, tech news or other corporate variety – Revolution might be the theme for you.

Brian Gardner, the creator of the Revolution Theme commented to me that he “developed the Revolution themes in order to take WordPress to a higher level ““ to stretch the capabilities, and to show that it can be used for so much more than a blogging platform.”

Indeed, we used the Revolution Pro Media theme over at The District of Corruption and found it to be very suitable for displaying all our content in a sexy way.

Revolution was not without its problems though.

For instance, the out of the box CSS is not compatible with Firefox 3 which handles the

1
float

property incorrectly. We were able to hack the CSS with a different solution. In addition, the video box on this particular theme assumes that video content is going to come from YouTube which is an incorrect assumption, in our opinion, with all the video formats available.

Also a problem with our use of the theme was the requirement for every post to have images attached to them via custom fields. We had to hack the theme files to not display images when no images are available.

Revolution Pro (which again is only one variant) offers few options for power users. It does offer a WordPress administrative page but jumps to vast conclusions that are probably not relevant to bigger publishers.

Picture 6.png

Revolution Theme is an incredible sexy and well designed theme from the code point of view. Semantics are paid attention to and the use of the WordPress API ensures that the theme will be compatible with WordPress for, likely, years to come. I would recommend that Brian does not rely on plugins to accomplish tasks. Include that code in the theme’s functions.php if the code is GPL and use an

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if( function_exixsts() )

check to find out if the extra code is needed.

The Revolution theme is available for as little as $79.95.

Thesis Theme

Unlike Revolution, Thesis comes in one variety. It is a good variety though. The brainchild behind the Thesis theme is Chris Pearson. Chris is never content just building a theme but making the theme as braindead simple for anyone to use in a wide variety of situations.

To that end, Thesis is mainly configurable directly from WordPress admin and I have yet to have to significantly modify the out of the box code base. Granted, I have not had the length of time with Thesis as I have with Revolution.

One of the things I get to do is maintain my church’s website, which was in desperate need of overhaul and maintenance. I did not want to spend tons of time on it as, let’s face it, I’m not paid to do so. ;-) Thesis allowed me to stand up new content, new organization and a completely different look and feel in less than an hour. There’s still work to be done, but Chris has done most of the work for me.

The key to this ease is the amazing configurability directly from WordPress admin. With the interface, I have granular control of my navigation elements, formatting of posts, ad and analytics software, etc.

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Thesis does not allow me to modify some of the basic layout rendering to my heart’s content, however. Fortunately, I could write little plugins to do little things like apply different CSS to elements but, as robust as it is, more could be done.

The Thesis theme only comes with one variety and it is available for $89.95.

Comparison Chart

Revolution Thesis Winner
Ease of Deployment (1-10) 6 8 Thesis
Variations 10 1 Revolution
Plugin Dependencies Yes No Thesis
Price $79.95 $89.95 Revolution
Support Forum Blog + Forum Thesis
CSS Firefox 3 Incompat Support for custom CSS Thesis
CMS-Friendly Yes Kinda Revolution

Winner: Thesis 4-3.

Both are great and Chris and Brian should be commended for providing great resources.

Added: I forgot to mention one thing that I really wish theme authors would do more of. The Thesis theme has some of this but it could use more. Hooks, people! Add hooks everywhere in a theme.

The main reason for this is that people who want to modify the behavior of a theme can do so without editing the theme at all if there are hooks built into the theme.

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