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Anyone who has read our reviews knows that we’ve used and reviewed dozens of WordPress themes, and page builders in the past. We have quite a collection of websites that run these plugins and a couple more to test them on. However, for the most part, we’ve been disappointed with a few exceptions. One of the most significant problems is bloat! We had been hearing about GeneratePress for a while and decided to give it a shot, especially after so many people were recommending it.
So, the question is, how does GeneratePress stack up against more established players like Astra, Divi, and OceanWP? We’ll give you a hint; it does quite well.
GeneratePress WordPress Theme Overview
GenereatePress is the creation of Tom Usborne, a Canadian developer who created it as a customizable and free WordPress theme. As people who run many websites, we are picky about performance, and that’s why most things in the repository of many popular theme builders go unnoticed until we want to do a review for you guys.
GeneratePress boasts over half a million downloads, and well over 200,000 installs, with 950 5-star ratings and counting. Most people install the free version of the theme, but the majority of those who get the free version ended up with the paid or premium version. Why exactly do people upgrade? That’s what we’ll cover in this review. We will, for the most part, review the premium version of the GeneratePress WordPress theme.
GeneratePress does not have a dozen or so features that you’ll not find anywhere else. As a matter of fact, the theme does far less than ones by big developers, primarily because this theme is supported by a solo developer. That said, there are a couple of features that make the GeneratePress theme stand out owing to how well they work.
One of the things we wanted to see is how well GeneratePress even as free WordPress themes go performed well compared to OceanWP, or Astra which, too, are touted for its excellent performance. GeneratePress is lightweight, with absolutely no bloat, which puts it amongst the fastest available today.
We measured the speed of our GeneratePress website to see how well it did to one running OceanWP. To keep things fair, it was installed on a fresh copy of WordPress on a shared hosting environment. We didn’t activate any additional plugins except for using GP Premium, which is part of GeneratePress. The site was tested using Pingdom Tools.
Our GeneratePress website loaded in under a second with just 12 requests. Amazingly the website weighs only 61 KB. We then tested GP Premium with the default Twenty Nineteen theme, and despite performing just 11 requests, it loaded slower because of the larger page size.
What we learned was that running GeneratePress with and without all modules activated made a negligible difference. At best, it loaded around 200ms slower, but the overall page size was the same. OceanWP, on the other hand, was a hair slower. Furthermore, OceanWP required 15 requests.
It is apparent that while both themes can’t be measured pixel for pixel, it appears that GeneratePress is the better performer, and that could be down to smaller page size.
Theme Settings AKA GeneratePress Customizer
Now the customizer is nothing new itself because it uses the same one that’s baked into WordPress by default. The good thing about it despite its limitations is that you don’t have to learn anything new. However, the customizer has just about everything a person would need to customize the look and feel of their website.
The customizer allows you to change important visual settings like widgets, typography, background images, and layout options for almost every element of the website. If you are using the WooCommerce plugin, that too can be customized. You will see a separate customizer appear if you already have WooCommerce installed and later activated. Plus, the WooCommerce module that you get from GeneratePress also needs to be activated.
When you click on the WooCommerce section, it allows you to change how the shop looks, change checkout pages, and products, as well as how everything behaves.
While we appreciate the developer not trying to reinvent the vehicle as far as WordPress theme customization goes, we sure hoped that it would make life easier. Using the WordPress customizer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, because there are many features that are buried beneath sub-menus making them hard to reach. Even as experienced WordPress users, trying to find the right feature to tweak our website’s sidebar for instance, or add a hook was time consuming. All of which makes using GeneratePress premium unnecessarily complex. It is a level of complexity that we wouldn’t expect from a page builder like Elementor of ThriveArchitect.
GeneratePress offers a myriad of typography, color options, and other types of customization. There are so many options that it is almost overwhelming. Perhaps people who are new to WordPress theme customizer may at first feel overwhelmed. However, it is what it is, but it does offer lots of latitude when it comes to customizing a website.
Colors – Let’s start with colors, of which there are 60 options. The colors can be accessed by clicking on the customizer and choosing colors. Then in the Color panel, you should be able to edit the colors for almost every element of the website. Features of the website, like the background, link colors, font colors, and everything else can be easily customized.
The desired color can be chosen using the color picker, or you can enter the hex color code. However, it is just as easy to revert to the default color by clicking on the ‘default’ button next to the hex color input box.
Typography – Similar to changing the colors, you can also customize the website’s typography as needed. You can easily change the font and styles of every element on the site. For instance, you can change the typography of widgets, the header, footer, sidebar, and menu, etc. You can also choose the font family, in addition to changing the font-weight, customize the size, and apply various transformations. Also, when it comes to font family, you can choose fonts from Google fonts or system fonts.
Layout Settings – Now, there are three ways in which GeneratePress’s layout can be controlled. The first being via the customizer, the other is via individual posts or an individual page, and the third is by using “Layout Elements.” The customizer offers far more customization options compared to page and blog post controls.
Using the customizer allows you to control almost every element of the site. You can control the number of sidebars, sidebar layout, the width of the page, menu layout, padding, etc. The page can also be customized based on the device that’s being used to access it. Furthermore, elements like the navigation, top bar, footer, etc. can also be disabled, but only if you have the ‘Disable Elements’ module.
Built-in Support for Schema
Now to people like us, a WordPress theme that’s able to support Schema out of the box makes search engine optimization a lot easier. Google has often said that Schema is very important for the search engine’s bot to understand the page, and show the contents of the website better when SERPs are presented.
Even though we admit that there is sporadic evidence at best to show that Schema improves SEO on the whole or even makes a significant difference, it does help with SERP prominence. In other words, it makes your website stand out in SERPs. If your website is prominently displayed, it means higher click-through rates, and that always means overall better SEO and conversions.
Our experience using the built-in schema support was a mixed bag. While GeneratePress has certainly baked the feature into their customization options, it was hit or miss. We couldn’t get the schema to work for some types of pages, but worked perfectly for others. In our experience, you should be willing to get down and dirty with a bit of coding to fix the issue if you run into any.
Pre-Built Templates AKA Site Library
GeneratePress’s site library gives users access to literally dozens of templates. The templates offer an excellent way to get started building your own website since all the basic elements are already included. Furthermore, there is a filter that allows you to choose if you want templates that were built using Beaver Builder or Elementor. If you don’t want to use any of these, then choose none!
To our surprise, the pages built without page builders look excellent. Not only are they flashy and fancy without extra bloat, but they are also fast. We love that GeneratePress has an extensive and easily customizable library.
However, before you can use a template, you need to find out what plugins are associated with it. That can easily be done by clicking on the template and viewing its details. You can also choose to import the demo content or just the layout.
We did a bit of digging and found that most of these templates that didn’t use a page builder were built using GeneratePress’ own built-in features coupled with external plugins. So, if you have the time and are creative, it is possible to create your own templates too.
We didn’t think much of the Disable Elements feature until we had some time with it. It is a powerful module that helps you disable elements that you don’t want on a page or post.
Using the feature is easy, just head on over to the ‘layout options’ of a post or page, then choose ‘Disable Elements.’ You should see a list of elements that can be disabled, once disabled, don’t forget to click ‘save’ and that’s it.
In our time using the feature, we didn’t run into bugs. Furthermore, there are many things, including the header, footer, and sidebar, etc. which can easily be disabled. To us, it is a powerful feature because it adds that element of further customization, which can be unique to each page and post.
The ‘Elements’ feature or module, as it is called, is amongst the most powerful. The feature boasts of many tweaks and various ways in which the website can be customized. However, this feature has been built into GeneratePress mainly to satisfy the whims of developers or advanced users who know their way around all various complexities associated with building a WordPress theme.
Users get access to three types of elements the Header, Layout, and Hook.
Header Elements – Using the element, you can add a custom header. It is for people who want to build their header using custom CSS and HTML.
Layout Elements – Using this feature, you can apply the various style and layout elements that are post specific or page-specific. While we did cover ways to customize elements earlier in this review, this is a more advanced way and may require some getting used to.
Hook Elements – This element allows you to add content to any hook on the website. Advanced users can use the feature to customize the output of the website without the need for having a child theme in place. As it turns out, many advanced users like us will find it very useful.
All elements have a display rule associated with it, which can be tweaked or customized. It is mandatory to set the required conditions here so that the elements can be displayed. For instance, you can choose to show the element across the entire site or just specific posts, pages, or categories.
Menu Plus Feature
One of the best times we had with reviewing GeneratePress was playing around with the Menu Plus feature. When the module is activated, you can configure options like the mobile menu, sticky navigation, off-canvas panel, mobile header, etc.
Secondary Navigation – This feature allows you to add a secondary menu location.
Sections – When you activate this section module, you have access to a min page builder. After activation, you can disable and enable various sections of the page or a post. When you activate it, that will replace the default editor with a new panel, which makes it easy to arrange sections as well as remove the sidebars if required. It also allows you to Add Sections by clicking on the ‘Add Section’ button. Every section block can be customized with CSS and HTML. So, any skilled web designer should be able to build bloat-free sections that rival even the best page builders.
We used TinyMCE, which is an advanced plugin and not part of GeneratePress, to further extend the functionality of this feature. It helped us create better-looking blocks with relative ease. Configuring the color, layout, CSS options, etc. is a lot easier. But you can do it without the plugin too while dealing with a little complexity.
The WooCommerce module will come in handy for anyone who wants to run an eCommerce store. Furthermore, the module will only be activated if you have WooCommerce installed and activated. Once done, the module allows you to control aspects of the website, like checkout pages, color, layout typography settings, etc.
Adding products, editing descriptions, and changing how products appear on your website is very simple. While many smaller features help you tweak your e-commerce store, the fact is that going into each is near impossible. However, the good news is that most of it is easy to understand, and like us, most people should be able to find their way around the interface fairly easily with some practice.
Functionality is limited and so if you need the module to do something fancy, like import a list of products and their associated pictures from a text file or a Google Docs file, it will require coding skills. However, we are still not sure how someone would code those features into the module but we’re told by some gurus that it’s possible. Perhaps someone reading this and who may have used the GeneratePress theme may be able to shed some light on it.
GeneratePress offers a number of pros compared to the competition. Below are a couple of the most significant advantages and why it should be considered.
- Easy to Use – Using and customizing GeneratePress is extremely easy, even for someone who is new. However, that’s once they get past wrapping their heads around WordPress’ customizer interface.
- Performance, aka Loading Speed – We tested the theme in many different ways and found it to be excellent.
- Excellent Quality Templates – The free and the paid templates are surprisingly good. Not only are they ready to use out of the box with minimum customization, but look great too.
- Lots of Customization Options – The 14 modules are more than enough to tweak and customize every aspect of the theme to suit your needs.
- Competitively Priced – The core theme is free to use while the premium or premium version is just $49.95. That’s comparatively cheaper than the competition.
- Extensive Support Documentation – The documentation is pretty detailed, and we were able to find answers to 99% of the questions we had. That’s why the documentation should be everyone’s first step if they run into trouble with the theme.
No GeneratePress review will be complete without a rundown of the cons. GeneratePress does not have many cons. To our surprise, we could find very little wrong with it. However, make sure you are OK with the cons below before proceeding.
- A Solo Developer – One of the most significant drawbacks of GeneratePress is the fact that the theme is still maintained by a single developer. So, without the backing of a large company with dedicated customer support, getting a response can be time-consuming. Also, updates are slow compared to competing themes like Astra where answers are near-instantaneous.
- Does Not Support Drag and Drop – Unlike some other page builders, there is no support for drag and drop. While that makes customization a little more complex via WordPress’s customization feature, it still is a time saver. However, we would expect a more polished customization interface with future updates.
- Free version is limited – We wouldn’t advise anyone use the free version because it is limited. That said it should tell you what to expect. However, once you’re into using it and think it will work for your website, not upgrading will mean you’re losing out big time on this WordPress theme’s potential.
GeneratePress is a free theme and, for the most part, can be used to build a reasonably good looking website. However, unlocking all the premium modules requires that you buy a license, also called “GP Premium.” Once you buy the plugin and install it, it has to be activated, and once that’s done, you get access to a pretty sizable Library, which has numerous pre-built templates that help to speed up building your website.
GeneratePress Premium costs a flat fee of $49.95 a year and, once paid, can be used across multiple websites. So, it does not matter if it is a client’s website or your own. Paid users get access to priority support, free updates during the time the license is valid, and support forum.
We were told that people who renew their licenses also get a 40% discount. Furthermore, all purchases are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. So, if you don’t like what you see, or you think it’s not something you want, you have 30 days within which to get a refund.
In a nutshell, the upfront cost is $50 for the first year, and subsequent years cost $30 each year. That is not bad for a product that helps you achieve so much.
GeneratePress Free vs. Premium Edition
As mentioned earlier, GeneratePress has a free and paid or pro version. The free version should be enough for anyone who is happily creating their website within limitations, i.e., minimal customization. Furthermore, the only way to customize GeneratePress’ free version in any significant way is via CSS code aka custom code.
Activating the Pro version requires using the GP Premium plugin. Once the plugin is installed, enter your license, and the premium modules are activated.
The free version includes mobile responsiveness, basic customization like to the font family, logo, font size, related posts, etc. However, you don’t have access to around 14 modules, which allows you to customize the theme beyond what is possible with the free version.
The Pro version also allows you to import as well as export all aspects of the module’s settings. While we didn’t see any real use for it, we could envision it being useful for designers who want to reuse elements across different websites. The pro version also allows you to customize just about every aspect of the theme without knowing a shred of code. That’s in addition to having a custom CSS option.
You also get access to those 14 essential customization modules. In our experience, if there is one reason to upgrade, it is bound to be these modules. Whether you are going to use the theme on a single website or intend on going commercial with it, upgrading from the free theme is going to be your best bet. Even if you can code upgrading the theme will help you save a great deal of time customizing various facets of the website.
If you think that the premium modules are of no use to you, then there is no real reason to upgrade. We’ll go into who should upgrade in the next section.
Should You Upgrade to GeneratePress Premium?
While GeneratePress does not force users to upgrade, many choose to do so because it makes life easier. Sure! GeneratePress is touted as a freemium theme, and there is a lot you can do with it for free if you are comfortable coding in CSS and HTML, but most people reading this probably aren’t.
The free version is very limited in terms of how it can be customized. Most customization is limited to your knowledge of CSS, which can be frustrating for people who may be looking for a quick and easy solution.
Anyone who does not want to code in CSS should upgrade to GeneratePress premium. As a matter of fact, we upgraded to premium for this review because the free version was severely limited. It didn’t allow us to do exactly what we wanted, and while we are comfortable with CSS, coding most of the customization we needed would be extremely time-consuming. So, in the grand scheme of things, the $50 for the Pro version is cheaper in the interest of time.
We found that the 14 modules make customization a cinch. Furthermore, the Pro version allows a single theme to be used across a multitude of websites freely. Unlike other themes, you don’t have to buy the so-called ‘Agency package to sell a customized version of the theme to clients.
Our verdict is to upgrade to the Pro version!
GeneratePress Theme Review: Conclusion
A GeneratePress site is by far one of the best highly customizable WordPress themes we’ve had the pleasure of working with and reviewing. What started as a pleasant surprise to find that a freemium WordPress theme offered so much led to us being curious about how important those 14 ‘Pro’ modules were in the grand scheme of creating a website. That led us and many before us to upgrade. Furthermore, upgrading isn’t difficult; there are no hidden costs, and no additional modules to download except for the ‘Pro’ module that costs $49.99. The price is a steal all things considered, especially since there is a 40% discount upon renewal the next year.
While we enjoyed using the free version, and most people on a budget may find it good enough, it does not offer the level of customization most people will need to stand out. The ‘Premium’ or ‘Pro’ version is the way to go if you are not a coder and are serious about customizing your website.
As people who do a bit of coding ourselves, we found that GeneratePress’ coding is highly optimized. It is worth every dollar because of the speed advantages it offers websites. Furthermore, a single purchase can be used across multiple websites, which makes it cheaper for commercial users with clients to offer them their services without worrying about paying extra each time.
While GeneratePress does have its fair share of drawbacks, as noted earlier in this review, it isn’t a deal-breaker. Many of the drawbacks are limitations with GeneratePress and the WordPress customizer in particular. It is because of these drawbacks that we can’t call GeneratePress a full blown page builder. It isn’t a page builder but instead a highly customizable, lightweight WordPress theme but which can be used in conjunction with a page builder like Elementor perhaps. It should in our experience extend the ways in which the theme can be easily customized with drag and drop functionality. At the end of the day it only matters if you have the budget to afford two premium plugins and most people without it will probably just feel their way through the existing customization interface which isn’t too bad considering the money saved!
In our experience, the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks, which is why our overall GeneratePress review is favorable. We give the Pro version of GeneratePress a solid thumbs up!