Sometimes even though you are totally sold on a product or service and use it exclusively you start to wonder if something new has come along in the interim and you’re missing out. What if the next great thing has been discovered and you’re so stuck in your ways that you’re missing out. This was kind of how I was feeling about the Headway theme framework for WordPress.
I’ve created and worked with Headway exclusively for a long time. I’ve been using Headway since it was launched. I. Love. Headway. But… There was that curiosity about what else was out there now. WordPress has changed a lot since I became a Headway convert, so a part of me wondered what other themes might be like since those changes. Recently I was given a chance to find out.
First, several months ago an online technology consulting client had me help make some tweaks to their blog that was built on the Genesis theme framework and the Metro child theme. I don’t have anything bad to say about Genesis. It’s a solid framework. It’s just different than Headway. Instead of working on the front end of the website and being able to see the results of my changes immediately, the changes were made in the WordPress Dashboard. Genesis utilizes the flexibility of its own WordPress widgets to create customizations for the site. Although there was a bit of a learning curve, it wasn’t difficult to learn and I was able to make the customizations for the client without much trouble. It wasn’t nearly as intuitive for me as Headway, but I could see where is could become a favorite theme for other folks.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Again a client asked for some help building a website with a theme other than Headway. This time it was the Credence theme, which seems to make a lot of ‘best WordPress theme’ lists. It comes with the Visual Composer page builder, Essential Grid plugin and a handful of other popular premium plugins. It also boasts 43 of its own custom page builder elements. Reading the demo page, it made it sound pretty comparable to Headway with the ability to set up pages with drag and drop via the Visual Composer. In reality it really doesn’t compare at all. Here are some of the things that drove me crazy about Credence.
- Half the time changes I made in the Visual Composer didn’t show up as I made them. This meant the dreaded, make changes, save, view the page, see issues, go back to the visual composer page. Even after saving, some changes were never visible in the Visual Composer page even when the actual live page showed the changes.
- I became so frustrated with the Visual Composer on page editing that I resorted to using the backend editor where you add elements, save and then view the page to see your changes and additions. This of course eats up a lot of additional time going back and forth.
- Although the theme and it’s elements are billed as responsive, I had issues with several of the Credence elements not resizing well on smaller screens.
- There were some spacing issues that couldn’t be resolved without CSS coding.
- Many of the page building elements were duplicated due to so many plugins being included as part of the theme. This can get confusing trying to remember if you used a Credence title element or one of the other choices for titles and headlines. It took a lot of double checking to be sure the elements used were consistent across the website.
I didn’t find the Visual Composer anywhere near as easy to create in as the Headway visual editor, and making changes and adjustments took a lot longer than making on page changes in Headway. All of that back and forth to view changes felt like a huge time suck after the ease of seeing exactly what I’m doing as I’m doing it in Headway. Headway’s options for responsive elements is far more flexible, allowing me much more control with how and when page elements resize. And the ability to play with margins and padding is far superior in Headway—without CSS coding.
As far as Genesis is concerned, it’s really impossible to compare the two, since they are so different in terms of page building. My own preference is the ease of Headway and it’s wireframe type page creation and on page designing.
My experiences with these two themes taught me that there is a reason I chose to work exclusively with Headway years ago. The fact that the folks at Headway are constantly working on updates and improvements has kept the framework cutting edge and consistent with the changes to WordPress itself. Over the years I’ve found myself needing to rely less and less on premium Headway plugins as they add the most popular elements to the Headway core itself.
My curiosity has been silenced and my opinion is still that Headway is the best WordPress framework out there.