First thing first – I am no big fan of the Thesis WordPress theme. But that doesn’t mean I reject Thesis as one of the best themes around.

It’s been more than an year since I started using WordPress blog publishing platform and I believe it’s the best thing to have happened for the blogging world. There has been a lot of discussion happening about how ethical it is to have Premium WordPress Themes. But then, it is left to the choice of the individual to either buy the theme or look for a Free alternative.


Here is where I have problems with Thesis. Go to Google and search for ‘Thesis WordPress Theme Review‘ and go through each review article and you will find every review will have the affiliate link embedded multiple times (either cloaked or uncloaked)!

Yes! You get paid for selling Thesis WordPress theme and most of the people who review Thesis use it as a mean to make money.

Few days back Brian Clark, the co-founder of DIYThemes, published a post on his blog – “what’s the big deal about the thesis theme for WordPress anyway?” where he gave the example of all the bloggers that are using this ever so famous theme. He can surely brag about this fact that Thesis has turned out to be one of the most popular WordPress themes ever and is now $2 million business.

Mayank, who is a popular WordPress theme designer has this to say in his recent article

… there are few things that are just over hyped with Thesis theme and then there are two famous names associated with it. Thesis theme is a very good theme, however is it good enough to be called a framework?…

He goes to say –

I recently spoke to one of my friend (I will not mention the name here), who recently purchased Thesis theme and was going bonkers over all of its positives and that how many options it gave to him. Then I showed the options page of Atahualpa theme to him and the very next moment he felt cheated.

It is not just Atahualpa theme, have a look at the options page of ISOTherm News Magazine theme which is incidentally a FREE WordPress magazine based theme.


Again, I would like to clarify that Thesis is a beautifully designed theme with clean code, good SEO and typography and has a HUGE brand value associated with it. This huge brand value is due to the efforts of Chris Pearson and Brian Clark in marketing Thesis in a way no one else had done anytime before.

Thesis might be worth every penny you pay ($87 for single user license and $164 for a developer license), since you can write your own review praising it and cloaking your affiliate links in-between and get back more than what you had paid for!

Update: Just to make it clear – I am not suggesting that the free themes mentioned above to be better than Thesis or as an alternative to Thesis. These free themes do not have everything which Thesis offer, but in individual aspects (like tweaking options, admin panel etc) they match up (or sometime better) Thesis.

Image Credits: Berchman

Must Read: 27 Stunning Yet Free Premium WordPress Magazine & News Themes


Raju is the founder-editor of Technology Personalized. A proud geek and an Internet freak, who is also a social networking enthusiast. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. Mail Raju PP. Follow rajupp


  • Preetam

    Well, I changed my theme only yesterday, no don’t want to change again. Tell me if mine’s good Raju.

  • Ben Barden

    If these themes are so good then it makes me wonder why some of this stuff isn’t in the core.

    You might like to check out Injader, which I developed. It’s a CMS that relies less on plugins (and third-party themes, for that matter) for features that are best placed in the core. Do check it out if you get a chance :)

    • Raju


      @Ben Barden,
      I am sorry if I gave an impression that the free themes mentioned above are as good as Thesis. My point was against those who show the ‘extensive’ admin panel of Thesis and sell it. I will surely check out Injader, sounds really cool!

  • Sanjeev

    A well written post on Thesis (Pros and Cons), keep up the good work Raju.

    Sanjeevs last blog post..Twitter Shifted URL Shortening Service From TinyURL To

  • Ben Barden

    Raju – sorry, I didn’t word my comment too well. What I meant is that if any of the themes you mentioned above, including Thesis, contain features that everybody wants – why aren’t those features in the WordPress core? Kudos to the people who put together the themes, but in my view, WordPress should add things like SEO and caching to the core. That’s why I’m not keen on WP in general.

    Let me know if you have any feedback on Injader, thanks for checking it out!

    • Raju

      WordPress is already SEO friendly, but since there are no written guidelines for SEO, it’s tough to include them all in the core. You are right about caching though. I seriously wonder why gzip compression is not included in core, especially when the wp-super-cache plugin author (Donncha) is one of the architects in Automattic!!

  • Hariharakumar

    I have tested Thesis on my blog, it sure gave me lot of options to change the theme, the only thing i didnt like it was Image Options, images are always shrinked to predetermined size, which made them to loose quality. Thought if i write a tutorial with some images this theme isnt going to give any professional look. In my opinion images are the ones that give posts a good look.

    It’s a popular WordPress theme but not suitable for tech bloggers.

  • Harsh Agrawal

    Very nice article Raju and it’s very true that Thesis is popular because of brand involved with it. Another thing why people give a review of the Thesis as best because of two reason
    it does what it is capable of and obviously affiliate money involve with it.

    I bough thesis few days back and it comes out to be good. Design option and everything is good but nothing like being the best kind of. Design and theme options are most common feature of every wordpress theme now a days. Though I preferred Thesis theme for few reasons :
    It was advocated by Darren and obviously being a respectable person in the blogosphere I trust his words. Another thing is typography and SEO.
    We can assume that it might not be the best in case of SEO but atleast it doesn’t have any glitch.

    I could have gone for Neoclassical wordpress theme which has the same typography but could not take chance to play with my SEO in any ways.

    Till not I don’t regret paying for Thesis, if I do sometime I will for sure write a post and give a linkback to you :)

    Harsh Agrawals last blog post..5 WordPress tutorials, 12 wordpress plugins and 3 Premium themes to enhance your WordPress blog

    • Raju

      There is no big deal with SEO offered by thesis. Trust me, I am someone who grew the organic traffic by more than 2000% within 3 months. Having All-in-one-SEO plugin within the theme doesn’t make a theme great. No 2 words about the typography though.
      And yeah, you won’t regret paying for Thesis and I have mentioned why (see the last paragraph) πŸ˜‰

  • Mayank

    Bang on! Briliant stuff Raju. Honestly, I didn’t know about this magazine theme and I’m still wondering that how the hell did I miss this kind of a theme. I can see that both of us actually share the same kind of opinion regarding the thesis theme. Talking about themes, you have a wonderful theme for your blog running too.

    Mayanks last blog post..Brian is the big deal about the thesis theme!

    • Raju

      Thanks a lot :)

  • Harshad

    Great post. I know thesis is popular because of its awesome marketing, but there are certain factors like typography which makes it a perfect theme.
    Someone commented here that it’s not a good theme for tech niche. I’m using thesis from past month on my blog and it has given good results so far. I think we should concentrate on content rather than wasting lots of time in designing.
    Btw, I was also not sure about the thesis theme and wanted Mayank to design a theme for my blog. But he was out on the and then I decided to go for it. πŸ˜€

    Harshads last blog post..How to Add Twitter Field in the Comment Section of Thesis Theme?

    • Raju

      For typography, Harsh has suggested Neoclassical wordpress theme, so it’s no big deal. For me, I am bored of seeing the same ‘big’ fonts everywhere.

  • Ajith Edassery

    I like thesis for its software-piece like codebase for quality. However, you will have to hire Chris himself to customize it πŸ˜† I feel comfortable customizing those simple themes that has one stylesheet and 9 or 10 PHP files, all in one folder :)

    Right now, i am building the lightest possible theme for my blog.

    Ajith Edasserys last blog post..Writing Online: 3 tried & tested ways to Make Money – eBook review

    • Raju

      Ya, as I mentioned in the post, Thesis code is clean and high quality, but it is not the ONLY theme to have that! Thesis hooks make it unique but then I never got hold of it when I used it for 2-3 days! If it was really as simple as they claim to be, people would not have to use a Thesis hook plugin!
      I am looking forward to your theme :)

  • Pavan Kumar

    Well Raju, its a nice article you have made. To be frank, I am never into inside of thesis theme, but as a visitor, I did not like that theme wrt looks. Only good thing I see with thesis (other than affiliate πŸ˜‰ ) is the fast loading which makes it really good. And to be frank, any theme can be coded well for SEO as to the best of my knowledge.

    @ Ajith,

    Even I am looking forward to see your theme :)

    Pavan Kumars last blog post..Chat With Strangers Online – Talk to Strangers to Pass Time

    • Raju

      Great to know we share the same thoughts about Thesis! Even I do not like the looks, it’s same, it’s big everywhere and it’s boring with too much of white spaces. Fast loading is because of minimalistic design (no background images) and some good coding as well.

  • Harsh Agrawal

    Raju I will wait for your post on how you grew your organic traffic to this extent. That will be very helpful for me and other blogger as well :)

    Harsh Agrawals last blog post..Shoutmeloud Invite Guest author and Adsense revenue sharing system

  • Preetam


    Absolutely!!!!! Please, one post like that!

    Preetams last blog post..Optimize your Couputer: The SMART Way

  • Sire

    The thing that gets me about all the people plugging Thesis is that a lot of them don’t even use it. I do use Thesis and it is a good theme but I also feel cheated. The reason being that I was lead to believe that it was a marvel that would do all I wanted straight out of the box. Guess what it didn’t, and I apart from having to know CSS and PHP I now had to lears something completely new called HOOKS!

    Sorry, I haven’t the time for all that crap, so while I use Thesis on my Load of BS site, I went and purchased another one that actually does work straight out of the box. Yes Thesis is good, but it isn’t the best.

    Sires last blog post..Securing Your WordPress Blog Against Hackers

  • Nihar


    looks like you have made lot of research and come up with this post.

    Will check the themes that you mentioned on the post. As you know i am also on the lookout for a theme to dress my blog as is the case with Ajith.

    I was thinking of going for thesis. But, i don’t like the looks.

    Nihars last blog post..How to Find Broken Links, Missing Titles, Image alt text with Xenu’s Link Sleuth tool

  • Shanker Bakshi

    There you are crtizing a theme which you haven’t tested yet on your blog.

    We are expert in doing it. We can write pros and cons of living on moon.

    A good theme never means it has to have more tweaking options.

    Brian is a esteem blogger, let him sell his stuff.

    forgive me for sounding bad.

    Shanker Bakshis last blog post..Money Does Grow On Trees

    • Raju

      No harm in opposing views. You are most welcome and I would love to have a constructive discussion. I have tested out the theme and I have also mentioned about it in my post. As per more tweaking options, the theme is marketed like that, read any review (with those cloaked affiliate links) and they mention about the admin panel of Thesis.
      As for Brian, I have appreciated his marketing skills along with the coding part.

  • Nikhil George

    Good post. I remember the heavy marketing done when Thesis was released by some big names.
    But now when Thesis 1.5 is released I can say that it’s better than the 2 themes you mentioned. But they are FREE, that’s great.
    One great feature of Thesis is the custom css feature. Any one with little knowledge about css can play a lot with it without getting messed up.
    Another feature is that you can specify the size for sidebar and main contents without touching any code part.
    Then thesis Open hooks, you can just customize the way you want.
    The official and unofficial resources for customization.
    There is lots more than mere marketing.

    Nikhil Georges last blog post..John Buchanan’s new idea

    • Raju

      I have clarified my view regarding those free themes in the post (look for Updated part). I have not seen 1.5, so I can’t comment about how different and good it is.
      Custom css is no big deal, with little CSS knowledge, which you are asking for, you can customize ANY theme, the way you want, my blog is an example for that, and again size of the sidebar is controlled by CSS in other themes, but in Thesis its a configurable parameter, which is good.
      Thesis open hooks are like magic box. Everyone talks about it, everyone praises it, only some use it, just a few understand it and write tutorials about it. If its so simple to implement, what was the need to so many tutorials and plugins for hooks alone? If you see Thesis official and unofficial forums, it will be filled with posts on hooks. With that much of inputs and knowledge one might write his own theme may be πŸ˜‰
      There is lots more than marketing, but without marketing Thesis would have been just another good theme!

  • Nirmal

    I would also voice my opinions here. First time I say Thesis on a blog, I never thought it was a paid theme, it didnt look like one. Thesis does not boast of any particular SEO concepts, it can be done with the All in one SEO plugin.
    I can list out “n” number of themes which are better than Thesis, its all about the marketing, nothing else.
    Frankly I wouldnt use any theme just because a successful Mr X is using it.

    Nirmals last blog post..Aero Peak in Windows 7

    • Raju

      I am really glad you share my opinion here. You are bang on with your views! I have said it before and will reiterate again – I Love the NirmalTV theme!!

  • Vikas SN

    Nice Post Raju. Amazing Research has gone behind this post I guess πŸ˜‰
    BTW I also feel that Thesis is not as great theme as it is publicized to be. You get a lot of better options in other free themes as well.
    But One thing is there, that it has been marketed very well by Brian and people who dont know much about wordpress themes, will definitely go for that theme itself just because all of this hype and publicity.

    Vikas SNs last blog post..Post By Email to blog

  • Blogsdna

    Didnt know till today thesis theme is paid one. Looking at so many bloggers using thesis theme i thought its free one. Anyways if its paid one then i must say its not upto mark what you can get get by appointing professional wordpress theme developer at same cost.

    I myself have released two wordpress themes and i know how much little work is involved in designing themes.

    WordPress Theme Directory has many good themes & one is already mentioned in above post. i will advice to all those blogger planning to buy thesis theme, have a look at WordPress Theme Directory first !!!

    Nice Post Raju.

  • luca

    The success of Thesis is made of a very robust and very well designed CMS. Thesis is not a WP theme, it is a CMS. As soon as you try it, you quickly realize that you are not in front of a theme, but a very (very!) powerful and flexible CMS that lets you build and design your website very easily.

    That said, bloggers who write articles about Thesis (like me) are really enthusiast about it, it’s not just to make some money to re-pay it and, maybe, the hosting fees. If I wasn’t enthusiast, I would have never written about it.

    lucas last blog post..Testing WordPress Editor on Google Chrome for Mac (Pre-Build)

  • Tech @ InkAPoint

    Hmm. Good one.

  • Raju

    Thesis is a CMS (Content Management System)? Is it because of the admin panel options it gives? and what you mean by flexibility? Are you referring to hooks? and are you saying they are “easy” to work with?

  • Gagan

    Truely speaking, I do not like Thesis at all. It will be good in terms of SEO but we should see other factors also that is “LOOK”.

    Lookwise “thesis” sux

    Gagans last blog post..Vista84 : My First WordPress Template

  • Kim Woodbridge

    Great article Raju – My biggest issue with the theme is that it is difficult to customize so sites using Thesis all start to look the same. I have to say though that they do have excellent marketing.

    Kim Woodbridges last blog post..7 Unique WordPress Themes

  • Dan

    Thesis is a lot of hype for a decent theme, but not a great theme. Anyone who pays for this is falling for all the marketing hype. You can download the Thematic theme for free and it’s a lot better framework and a lot better to use straight out-of-the-box. But people fall for fads and false marketing all the time… sad!

    • Raju

      You hit the nail on the head Dan!

  • Michael Aulia

    I’m still considering to buy Thesis (I guess because of the hype). The only think I like is the font styling/typography (can we replicate this on another theme??) and the SEO tweak (although I don’t understand what’s so special in Thesis)

    But again, after reading this post, I really hesitate and think twice on why I really want to buy Thesis

    Michael Aulias last blog post..Reduce WordPress CPU Usage #2: Uninstalling a WordPress plug-in completely

  • Business Computers

    Thanks for this neutral review of the theme. It is no good when people make reviews appear neutral meanwhile, they are affiliates of the product. I don’t have anything against the theme either. But those over-praising its usefulness should give us a break.

    Business Computerss last blog post..How To Choose The Right Computer For Your Business

  • Ray

    Hey Sire,

    Interesting comment, can you please tell me which of the themes you finally settled on, the one that came straight out of the box.

    I’m currently looking at Thematic over Thesis after doing days and days of research it keeps on coming up though ‘those in the know’.

    Anyone got any other tips? I really really like some of the ones at Theme Forrest and Wooh Theme for aesthetics, but I don’t know if their SEO capabilities are as good as Thematic.

  • Ray

    Those people that have chosen not to use Thesis, please give me the names of the themes you think that can compete for Thesis 1.5 – even if they have the All-in-one SEO pluggin added, I don’t care if it needs a little work as long as the code is good to start with.

  • Sire

    @ Ray – If you follow the link in my url it will take you to the post that tells you about the Theme I’m using. It also links to my other blogs that use it so you can see how versatile it is.

  • Raju

    SEO capabilities of Thesis are over-hyped. WordPress by itself provides good enough SEO capabilities. Any betterment of the default, can be easily done manually. Paying for a theme just for the SEO is senseless.

  • Hafiz

    Very Nice Site With fast time loading and very informative provided

  • Lisa Russell

    I’ve been a long time fan/user of Atahualpa, in fact I have it on over 14 websites currently. I was excited to see the magazine one that you mentioned, because I’m not very happy with the mag theme I’m using on other sites. Thanks so much for sharing this, I wondered what they hype was and I suspected as .much. have a great day

  • Jaypee

    Hi Raju, I know this is kinda late but I’d like to thank you for including my review for the Isotherm theme. Appreciate the link love as well. More power to you and your blog! :)

  • Ian

    I’ve been looking at Thesis for some time now and debating about whether or not to purchase a license. I’m happy to hear there are other sites out there that are comparable in terms of features. Like many of the others here, I’d love to hear, and see, examples of other themes.

    I am not considering Thesis because of all the SEO hype though…because, the fact of the matter is, SEO isn’t a turn-key “feature”. You need to know “how to SEO” in order for SEO to work…if that makes sense. Basically, you need to know what keywords people are searching on (among other factors) to make your site search friendly.

  • Sire

    Ian, I seriously suggest that you look at flexsqueeze. I use it on 8 out of 9 of my blogs, the other one uses Thesis. Because of the theme’s flexibility and ease of use, every blog has a unique appearance.

  • Andreas Duess

    I tried purchasing Thesis and had a total nightmare. Payment didn’t get processed, there were no support email addresses published, getting anybody to respond took days.

    In the end I purchased Headway and am glad I did. Between Headway (look, no affiliate link) and Atahualpa I can do everything I need to do.

  • Robinana

    You are completely off base about Thesis. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s not just the panel that is great about Thesis. It is a professionally made theme that continually strives for excellence and can effectively bring you to page one rankings even if you are just a beginner in SEO and keywords. I have 2 sites that have free themes and 10 that are thesis. All of my thesis themes enjoy excellent traffic and page rankings for certain keyword phrases.

    • Raju

      You are completely free to disagree with me but SEO aspect of Thesis is way too much hyped. With a bare minimum knowledge about Title and header structures ANYONE can convert their theme to be SEO friendly. My current theme is not Thesis and it is as much SEO friendly as Thesis (if not more) :)

  • Paritosh

    I too was, in fact, am still planning to buy Thesis Theme. And frankly speaking my decision to buy is solely based on the reviews i have read. However, personally speaking lately my thought, of buying it, have started to wander. The reason being
    1. Cost (I consider it to be too high)
    2. No trial
    Also, as Raju said above in the comments, wordpress is itself search engine optimized. I dont think spending 80 $ ( approx. 3200 Rs. ) is a good decision !

  • TheFlyOnTheWall

    I purchased thesis theme recently and I am very happy with it. As well, the MAIN selling point is man the customer service is awesome. Every question I have had has been answered very quickly. I still have a new blog and I am still learning things but I will get there and with help :)

  • Pritush

    I havenot used thesis theme , while browsing a found a theme called themematic and like thesis it is also a frame work does this 2 theme have any similarity ?

  • WordPresser

    Awesomeness, I was about to buy Thesis utlil I read your post and knew about Atahualpa. Amazing it is!

    Thank you :)

  • Shahab khan

    Pretty nice article Raju. ISOTherm News Magazine theme you mentioned above is simply awesome. In fact i would say that it is the best free WordPress theme i’ve ever seen.

  • Mad Geek @beingPC

    I was just planning to buy thesis but your post changed my mind. CAn you tell me one thing is Obox-Designer Press theme is SEO Optimized as Thesis.

  • pip

    From a wordpress theme developers point of view, thesis isnt that great, but from a client point of view its a godsend.

  • Jean-Baptiste Jung

    I admit, I used to say Thesis is great to sell it. I made something like $500 selling this theme.
    But the truth is that Thesis is not bad, but it have nothing wonderful. The Thematic theme is free and similar to Thesis.

    People definitely says Thesis is great mostly for the affiliate program.

  • Sam Freedom

    Can’t thank you enough for a post like this. I’m constantly scouring the web for beautiful, functional themes – as a marketer, not a designer – and I’ve always wondered about the marketing hype surrounding Thesis. I, too, realize that it is very good in many ways but I want the steak, not the sizzle.

    It’d be much appreciated, Raju, if you could update your latest recommenations. For example, ISOTherm News IS great, and their latest PAY themes seem incredible, but I’m wondering what your latest thoughts are.

    Thanks again,

    • Raju

      I am glad to see your comment, now my post/views carries much more weight :)

      I would love to have a relook, but it’s been a while since I analyzed WordPress themes, would do that soon

  • Ginger Mudd

    Thanks for your info about other themes that may be as feature rich as Thesis. I’m going to try the two you mentioned.

    My experience with many of the free themes is this: ultimately you run into some problem or if you want to tweak it you find there is little or no documentation and it is difficult find help or support. You really have to be a hacker (I’m not) to tweak wordpress and/or the themes. If a theme is not regular updated, it eventually breaks and with these free themes…the publishers often quit…and then you’re stuck…unless you are a geek.

    I like free but free usually has its own price.

    With Thesis, I’ve found there is a large community of users and it is easy to get answers to questions, how to’s or problems. There is ever more documentation and the product gets regularly updated.

  • Rahul

    For those who can afford and can not afford thesis, there is a free alternative theme ( SWIFT ) for thesis.It’s actually better than thesis

  • Pradeep

    Completely agree with the article, I have been using the theme Atahualpa and it has so many customization options ( Roughly around 250) , after I started using the Atahualpa theme , I have seen huge boost in my traffic from search engines.

  • ken

    well isotherm might be great. I dont know since their site is so slow I grew old and died before I could find out.


  • Election Result

    Thanks for this but i personally like thesis theme a lot and recently bought the latest version of this theme and i’m currently happy with the performance of this theme :)

  • HOnza

    Why don’t you have a Thesis affiliate link in your article? I think you would still make money through it πŸ˜‰

    I have just made my decision which theme to use and since I want others to make their decisions freely I am not going to tell you what I have decided to get. But I will tell you what helped me to decide.

    I have checked several sites with the W3C’s CSS validator ( If you believe that clean code will help you with compatibility, performance, and SEO, then I suggest you do the same test.

  • Kuldeep

    I am never gonna spend money on premium themes when you have hell lot of themes available for free which any given day beat the layout and features of a premium themes.

  • Chris

    Great post, I was curious about some of the features of thesis and this pretty much answers all my questions. The amount of comments reenforces your article which is awesome. Going to be checking out Atahualpa and Thematic now. Thanks.

  • nikki

    I was infact planning to buy a thesis theme for my site Raju, but Atahualpa looks promising :)

  • John M

    It’s refreshing to read an honest review. Thanks for posting it!