What’s the Best WordPress Theme for Non-Coder Graphic Designers?

GeneratePress - the best WordPress theme for non-coder designers

Short on time?

After months of intensive research and testing, I now whole-heartedly recommend GeneratePress as the very best theme for non-coder graphic designers.

GeneratePress is fast, lightweight, superbly coded, and integrates perfectly with my recommended page builder, Elementor. It’s now at the core of my teaching method.

The search for the perfect WordPress theme for non-coder graphic designers

At Design Build Web I help graphic designers build websites—drag-n-drop, without needing to code.

As a professional web developer, I’ve been informally helping graphic designers (like yourself) build websites for over 14 years now. I know exactly the struggles and pain you experience when developing websites.

What are the options?

‘Pre-designed’ WordPress themes are a big no-no, of course. They’re far too restrictive. You’re a designer, after all!

So you’ve likely been lured into multi-purpose themes like Divi, Avada or X.

Divi, Avada and X themes

I know all about it: I’ve helped cleared up the fallout mess from themes like these more times than I care to count.

These themes certainly seem like attractive solutions for designers—at first. They promise visual builders, unfettered design control and supreme ease of use.

I mean… look at those beautiful demos! Oooooooh!

The broken dreams of multi-purpose themes

The problem: my inbox is full of complaints about themes like these.

  • These themes are heavy, bloated and slooooooooowwwwwww. Pages take 7–10 seconds to load, not 1–2 seconds.
  • They include a ton of settings and features you don’t even need… AND you still end up having to pile on additional plugins to compound the mess.
  • You end up having to write CSS and javascript code anyway (or paying someone else to do so). These themes are NOT as flexible as promised.
  • Your websites all look very similar— these themes still ultimately have limited built-in styling options.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There has to be a better way…

When I decided I wanted to teach more non-coder graphic designers how to build websites easily and quickly, I knew I had to find an answer.

I needed a rock-solid platform that:

  1. I could have confidence in teaching and…
  2. That met my strict criteria (more on that in a moment).

I spent 4 months trialling various combinations of themes and plugins.

In the past I’ve built sites with Avada, X and Divi.

The first 2 were off the table immediately. Urgh.

Divi, I did actually briefly consider. I soon came to my senses.

I’m done with bloated mega-themes.

I soon realised that the answer lay far from do-it-all multi-purpose themes.

In fact: the opposite.

The (counter-intuitive) solution

I realised that actually, the answer was the opposite of the path most graphic designers take.

Here it is:

  1. Use a very simple theme as a solid foundation and…
  2. Pair it with a separate page builder (like the incredible Elementor).

I’ll explain the HUGE advantages of this approach in a future post – sign-up and I’ll let you know.

But for now, just know that I’ve tested it with lots of non-coder graphic designers, as well as on my own projects. It’s working incredibly well.

Think of it like this:

  • The theme is the ‘picture frame’.
  • The page builder is the ‘canvas’.

A framed canvas in a gallery.

The separation of the two allows you to use the best tools for the job.

No comparison

If you’re interested, other themes I tested were:

This post won’t be comparing GeneratePress with the other themes I trialled though. If you’re looking for a feature comparison, you’re out of luck.

GeneratePress is the only theme that met every single one of my criteria, and then some.

It’s now the only theme I use and 100% recommend with confidence. It’s at the core of my teaching method.

What is GeneratePress?

GeneratePress - Simple, Lightweight and Fast

Before we get stuck into my criteria for a theme, let’s cover some basics:

  • It’s a WordPress theme. Dur.
  • Purposefully fast, lightweight and simple—the opposite of heavyweight bloated multi-purpose themes.
  • Made by Tom Usborne, a developer from British Columbia.
  • Price: the basic theme is free. The Premium version adds extra features and styling controls for an extremely reasonable $49.95 for unlimited websites.
  • 30 day money back guarantee.
  • Support and updates for 1 year.

After a year, you can renew your license again (with a 40% discount) to continue to receive support and updates. If you decide not to: no harm. The theme carries on working just fine.

You won’t be charged again after a year, unless you actively pay for a renewed license again.

Yes, you will need the Premium version to follow along with my training. I’m delighted to pay developers like Tom so they can continue making awesome software like GeneratePress.

This review presumes the use of GP Premium. I won’t be comparing the free and Premium versions.

(Aside: While the license fee is for unlimited websites, I personally choose to pay the license fee per-website anyway. I want GeneratePress to be around for a very long time. It’s a trivial price to pay, easily rolled into a client’s quote.)

My 12 criteria for the best WordPress theme for non-coder graphic designers

Let’s dig into what I was looking for in a theme.

You might want to grab your favourite beverage… 🙂

I had 12 criteria.

I didn’t mess around. If a theme I trialled failed to meet even just one of these requirements, it was off the table.

Harsh, but fair.

Not on your radar?

Note: it’s no accident that a lot of the requirements on this list wouldn’t naturally be on the radar of your typical non-coder designer. Most of it is stuff you don’t care about…

And that’s the point. This is all the stuff you don’t even know you need, but will make your life easier in the long run.

1. Lightweight and fast

Speed is massively important, even if you don’t personally care.

The success of your clients’ businesses depend on fast loading websites. Their visitors want a fast experience. And Google reward fast websites with higher rankings.

Tom has clearly considered maximum speed at every single turn, and he constantly tweaks things to squeeze out further performance.

Take a look at the size of GeneratePress’s code, vs Avada and Divi:

  • Avada: 19.4MB
  • Divi: 26.5MB
  • GeneratePress: 1.9MB

(These figures are the basic theme files, uncompressed, at the time of writing.)

Avada is over 10x the size. Divi nearly 14x the size!

Now, the size of a theme’s codebase aren’t the only consideration, of course.

But also, multi-purpose themes also have so many bells and whistles, they need to include a heap of redundant code to power all those features you likely won’t even use. And they’re typically inefficiently coded too.

It all adds up to slow, slow, slow.

This isn’t an in-depth page speed review or benchmarked comparison. I may do one in future.

But what I can tell you is that, in my experience, websites built with GeneratePress load in 1–2 seconds, while sites built in Divi or Avada load in more like 5–8 seconds.

These are sites with the same caching and speed tweaks applied, and with similar content. It’s like night and day.

GeneratePress is super-fast and light as a feather.

2. Simplicity

I realised early on in my search that the perfect theme needs to know its place and do its job. I needed a theme that was the opposite of the big, bloated, multi-purpose, do-it-all heavyweights.

I needed a theme without an enormous feature list. The perfect ‘picture frame’ to the page builder ‘canvas’.

GeneratePress meets this requirement square on. It’s a simple, rock-solid foundation for you to express your own unique design vision.

Tom wisely adds the Premium features as a separate plugin. And even then, you can turn on only the additional features you need. This keeps things simple and lightweight.

You won’t find a ton of fancy features. This is on purpose. The developer believes—as do I—that specialist features should be provided by plugins, added only as and when you need them, as the project demands.

I found with Divi, for example, that you still usually needed additional plugins to achieve what you wanted. This piled on a further weight of code, much of which you don’t even need.

In GeneratePress, you won’t find mega menus, or testimonials, or related posts, or…

GP keeps functionality that shouldn’t be in a theme, out of the theme.

3. Logical, comprehensive styling controls

With my teaching method, you set your basic styles in the theme.

Just like you might do with InDesign styles: set rules for typography, colours and layout in one central place, then let those rules automatically ‘cascade’ down (like a waterfall) throughout your website.

You wouldn’t believe how messily and inconsistently most themes handle this.

GeneratePress’s styling customisation tools are super logical. They’re in the WordPress Customizer—which is where they belong— not in a theme’s own custom-baked options panel. This makes customisation easy and quick.

Just how logical?

  • Need to tweak a colour? It’s under Colours.
  • Switch a font, or increase the size of text? It’s under Typography.
  • Alter a layout? Yep, it’s under Layout.

And because GP uses the Customizer, you get the benefit of live updates too: see your changes live on your site, before you save.

4. Well-coded to WordPress best practice

As a graphic designer, you quite likely don’t give 2 hoots about code quality. And why should you?


This is exactly why it matters how well coded your theme is. You shouldn’t have to think about it.

The fact is:

Well-coded themes work properly, don’t cause issues, and get out of your way.


Poorly coded themes always come to bite you on the ass eventually… whether you care about the quality of its code or not!

GeneratePress is built with clean, efficient code. It follows WordPress’s own development best practice to the letter.

There are thoughtful development decisions everywhere you look.

Some examples:

  • The Customizer loads only the fonts you need.
  • Premium features are added as a plugin, allowing you turn on only those features you need.
  • A range of hooks and filters are provided to extend functionality quickly and easily.
  • Template HTML and CSS is clean, efficient and well-organised.
  • The theme is fully schema.org microdata integrated, which enhances SEO.

Tom clearly cares about doing it right.

And while you might not appreciate it, or care too much, believe me when I tell you that it does matter and it will make your life easier in the long run.

Update: just after I first published this post, Tom the developer posted on the GeneratePress Facebook group:

“I’ve hired one of the lead WordPress developers/security experts to review every line of GP to harden security even more and make it perform even better :)”

5. Full page builder integration

As I’ve explained, the core of the method I teach relies on separating the theme (i.e. the ‘picture frame’) and the page builder (i.e. the ‘canvas’).

For this to work though, the theme needs to support my favourite WordPress page builder plugin.

What does this mean?

For me, it’s essential that the theme:

  1. Provides a ‘full width’ template: typically you need the full width of the browser window for modern page design.
  2. The ability to hide various page elements (e.g. header, navigation, footer) – perfect for creating unique landing pages.
  3. Various sidebar layouts – including no sidebar at all.

GeneratePress nails this.

The edit screen for each page has simple options panels. These allow you to set things up exactly as you need it, on a per page basis.

Make page full width:

Page builder integeration settings panel
‘Page Builder Integration’ checkbox on each page & post.

Hide various page elements:

Disable Elements settings panel
Optionally disable various parts of the page. Great for custom landing pages.

Custom sidebar layouts:

Sidebar Layout settings panel
Override your default sidebar layout on a per-page/per-post basis.

You can easily set your preferred defaults globally in the Customizer for:

  • Sidebar Layout for pages
  • Sidebar Layout for your blog listing page
  • Sidebar Layout for your individual blog post pages
Setting global defaults for sidebars in the Customizer
Setting global defaults for sidebars in the Customizer.

Want to design a special landing page for your client’s Facebook ads, with a totally custom design?

Easy. Just disable all page elements, make the page full width, and use Elementor to design the entire page.

An example of a landing page created with Elementor + GP with full-width page and all the usual page elements disabled.
An example of a landing page created with Elementor + GeneratePress. Full-width page setting and all the usual page elements disabled.

Want most pages to include a sidebar, but some not?

Simple. Set your preferred default of ‘Content/Sidebar’ in ‘Customizer > Layout > Sidebars’, then set it to ‘Content (no sidebars)’ on the pages that are the exception to the rule.

Easily set default/global sidebar layouts but then override on individual posts/pages.
Easily set default/global sidebar layouts but then override on individual posts/pages.

Want to custom design your own footer with Elementor, and hide the theme’s footer completely?

A doddle.

  1. Disable the footer globally in ‘Customizer > Layout > Footer’.
  2. Create your footer in Elementor.
  3. Then use the Hooks options panel to pop the shortcode for it in all parts of your site.

This is exactly what I do here on Design Build Web, in fact…

6. A great-looking, well-designed blog

While you can technically create a blog with a page builder like Elementor, there are lots of good reasons to let your theme handle your blog posts.

This isn’t the place to go deep into why… something for another post (ask me if you want to know in the meantime).

But just know that, for me, the chosen theme’s blogging functionality and design had to be rock-solid.

GeneratePress’s blog is superb.

The options for controlling blog post functionality, styling and layouts are excellent.

GeneratePress blog customisation controls
Blog styling controls in the Customizer.

The actual posts look top-notch too.

7. ALL the header styles

(What’s the header? It’s the area containing your logo and navigation, at the top of your websites.)

Even the big heavy multi-purpose themes like Divi and Avada only provide relatively limited styling options for headers.

I remember needing to place the nav full width underneath the logo in Divi once and it was a major undertaking. I’ve been developing websites for 14 years and I still had to hire another developer!

GeneratePress has all the possible header layout permutations covered.

You can easily change the options in the Customizer and see the results live on your page.

There are controls for styling dropdown menus, navigation, alignment of the logo and the navigation, plus a useful header widgets area. There isn’t a header layout I haven’t been able to easily achieve.

8. Comprehensive features and functionality

I’ve already argued that a great deal of features and functionality should be handled with plugins, separate to the theme.

This is true… But there are certain features that should be in the theme.

These are the sort of things that could be considered part of the ‘picture frame’—global features that are a key part of every page.

When I was trialling themes, what sort of things did I have in mind?

(A reminder that most of these features require a Premium license.)

Things like:

Transparent page header

Where the logo and navigation are placed over the top of the page header.

I actually do this—subtly—on the Design Build Web home page.

GeneratePress handles this nicely. On a per-page basis you can set the header area to overlay the content underneath it, as well as make the navigation transparent and change the colour of the site title, tagline and navigation links.

And it works just great with page headers created in Elementor too.

Different header for mobile

Often you want a different header area when on mobile, to make better use of the screen real estate.

GeneratePress allows you to have a different header design layout on mobile, optionally with its own custom logo too.

Sticky header and navigation

I’ve yet to see a designer who doesn’t want a sticky header. This is where the header area ‘sticks’ to the top of the screen when you scroll down the page.

GeneratePress provides simple, effective options for sticky headers – on desktop only, mobile only, or both.

You have the choice of a slide-in or fade effect, or no animation effect at all. And again, like the mobile header, you can opt to switch the logo from the usual one to something more appropriate.

Slide-out menu

Where you have a navigation menu better suited to being vertical, but you only want it to slide in when required.

GeneratePress implements this really nicely. You can decide to use it on desktop, mobile, or both. And you have 100% custom control of what appears in this menu.

See these features in action:

A secondary nav

You have the ability to add a second navigation element, with all the same options as the primary navigation.

And you can put it anywhere you like:

  • A top bar above the header (either full width or contained)
  • Below the header
  • To the right of the header
  • In the sidebar
  • Left-aligned, right-aligned, or centred.

See it in action:

Only 2 features spring to mind that aren’t included that have cropped up for me and my students:

  • Top bar: ability to create a custom bar that runs across the top of the site, typically containing its own separate navigation and social media icons. Tom tells me this feature is ready to go in the very next update. It’s also very easy to create in Elementor and place (with the ease of GP’s Hooks feature) at the top of every page.
  • Full screen nav: where the navigation fills the full screen. Check out examples. Apparently on its way too, according to a recent post on the GP Facebook group.

9. Rave reviews

It’s great to know that all my feature requirements were covered. But I also wanted to see what experience others have had with the theme.

I’d already heard plenty of people saying how great they thought GeneratePress was, and how they were finding it ideal for use with page builders like Beaver Builder and Elementor. I also wanted to check out the reviews on WordPress.org.

Well… see for yourself.

At the time of writing there are 433 reviews. 429 of those are 5 stars. Wow.

The reviews are impressive! But what impressed me the most was seeing how Tom (the developer) handles them.

There are only 2 poor reviews, both of which were due to misunderstandings on the reviewer’s part. He replies in a friendly way to try to resolve their concerns, with patience and professionalism.

Not only that, but Tom replies to each and every review to thank the reviewer and personally address the points raised.

Big plus.

10. Stellar support

As with any software, it’s usually not a matter of if you’ll need support, but when.

It’s very important to me to see at least a decent level of support. I don’t want to be left hanging for hours when a quick, helpful answer would get me on my way.

I’ve only had knock-me-down-impressed online customer support a handful of times online. Take a bow Clook and SiteGround.

I’ve now added GeneratePress to that list.

Customer support is provided via a clean, easy-to-read, searchable support forum.

Other themes I trialled had only one-to-one email support, which means you can’t search for your question that someone else has already had answered.

Tom’s support response time is superb. Replies usually come from Tom himself, or one of his small support team.

Replies are always friendly and helpful. You get the feeling that nothing is too much trouble. He doesn’t make you feel like an idiot, even when you’ve asked a daft question.

And it’s clear he’s actually read and understood what you asked. He takes the trouble to answer your question in detail, step-by-step. He often goes to the trouble to provide a custom solution to solve your own specific requirement.

Tom also goes the extra mile to hang out regularly on several Facebook groups (e.g. GeneratePress, Elementor). It’s common for Tom to chip in and reply to threads, as well as take on board feature requests and ask for people’s opinions on new features—not even on his own group.

The documentation is also clear, detailed and easy to understand.

11. Ongoing development

If I’m going to 100% recommend and use one (and only one) theme for teaching non-coder graphic designers, I need to know that my chosen theme is in active development and around for the long haul. Nothing worse than software that’s not updated, abandoned to become obsolete.

With GeneratePress, I needn’t worry.

Development is clearly ongoing.

As mentioned, Tom is very active on the support forum and Facebook groups, always with an ear open to new feature requests or announcing improvements to the theme.

And he’s most definitely in it for the long haul.

One of the things I love about GeneratePress is that it’s not bloated with features. So, as open as Tom is to feature requests, I also respect that he’s not afraid to say no, when the request doesn’t meet his vision for the direction and quality of the theme.

And, in my opinion, it’s always a good call. He usually suggests a great alternative (for example: using a good quality plugin to achieve the same functionality, that won’t bloat the theme for the majority of users who don’t need it).

12. Developer friendly

Wooaah, hang on… I’m recommending the best theme for non-coder graphic designers… and one of my criteria is how friendly it is for developers?!

It’s important. Trust me.

I agree: you don’t want to get your hands messy with code. No-one wants that.

But if your client asks you to pop a bit of Google Analytics or Facebook advertising tracking code in the right place on their site…

Or you build a beautiful custom footer in Elementor and you need to place the little shortcode for it so it appears on every page of your site…

Other themes that make jobs like this tricky—if not impossible—for non-coders. GeneratePress makes stuff like this very easy.

Every single part of the theme’s built-in templates has a ‘hook’ built in. And in the WordPress control panel, there’s a box corresponding to each one of those hooks.

This means you can add whatever you like to every one of those areas of the site. Without getting your hands dirty.

Just some examples:

  • Before the header
  • After the header
  • Before the main content
  • After the main content
  • Before the footer

Full list of all 32 current hooks here:


GeneratePress also includes a large list of filters. Again, developers will really appreciate these, making future custom development quick and easy.

It’s re-assuring to know the whole architecture of the theme is well thought-out and carefully considered—even if it doesn’t directly affect you as a graphic designer.

Tour of GeneratePress

The install process

Installation couldn’t be easier.

First install the free theme:

  1. In WordPress, navigate to Appearance > Themes.
  2. Search ‘GeneratePress’.
  3. Install. Activate

Then install the Premium plugin:

  1. Download the plugin zip file you purchased at the GeneratePress site.
  2. In WordPress, navigate to Plugins > Add New.
  3. Upload the zip file.
  4. Install. Activate.

The theme options

The basic settings are clear and obvious.

Appearance > GeneratePress

Here you can:

  1. Activate or deactivate premium features.
  2. Add license key for updates.
  3. Import or Export Customizer settings.
The GeneratePress settings screen
The GeneratePress settings screen

Appearance > GP Hooks

This is a screen with a series of blank text boxes. Each box corresponds to a ‘hook’, as I mentioned earlier.

In the screenshot below, see how I’ve copy-pasted the 2 snippets of code provided by Google Tag Manager into 2 separate boxes. Google ask that the 1st one be placed in the <head> of the page, the 2nd just after the opening <body> tag of the page.

Options screen for GP Hooks, showing placement of Google Tag Manager code.
2 bits of Google Tag Manager code, copy-pasted into the exact places of the page Google recommends. Easy.
  • wp_head – this will place this code snippet in the <head> of all pages.
  • Before Header – this will place this code snippet just after the opening <body> tag of all pages.

The GP Hooks settings page makes accomplishing things like this SO easy. I also use it to paste the shortcode for my Elementor-designed footer, so it appears in the footer of all pages too.

Styling options

Styling options are in the WordPress Customizer, which is the right way to do it.

As I mentioned earlier, these are logically organised. You have complete control of all aspects of the theme’s styling, ready for using your favourite page builder.

The Customizer settings are easy to use and logically organised.
The Customizer settings are easy to use and logically organised.

Widget areas

If you don’t know, WordPress widget areas as parts of the theme, provided by the theme developer, that allow you to drag-n-drop bits of functionality into your site.

Appearance > Widgets

The available areas are:

  • Right sidebar
  • Left sidebar
  • Header
  • Footer Widgets (5 of these)
  • Footer bar
GeneratePress widget areas.
GeneratePress widget areas.

Is there anything I don’t like?

I’ve mentioned already that GeneratePress 100% met my own criteria, and then some.

I’ve hardly encountered any issues. I’ve noticed people occasionally requesting features that are missing, that I’ve thought would be useful for my audience of non-coder graphic designers. Tom’s usually on with it (for instance, the option for full screen nav menus).

Wrapping it up

I’ve been developing websites for fun since 1998, and professionally since 2003. I’ve been using WordPress since 2010. I haven’t used a WordPress theme that comes close to the quality of GeneratePress, nor one that meets my criteria quite so perfectly.

It’s fast, lightweight, well-coded, flexible, easy-to-use and well-supported by a developer who clearly cares about his product.

It plays perfectly with my favourite page builder: Elementor.

And while the basic version is free, the price of $49.95 for all the features, for unlimited websites, is ridiculous.

I’m delighted, after months of dedicated searching, I’ve found a theme I can confidently recommend to my graphic designer students.

Check out GeneratePress. Give it a whirl. And let me know what you think in the comments below.

(This review includes affiliate links. If you buy, I get a small commission, but you don’t pay any extra. Rest assured, I’d 100% recommend GeneratePress regardless.)

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99 thoughts on “What’s the Best WordPress Theme for Non-Coder Graphic Designers?”

  1. Bummer 🙁

    but so true. after spending so much money on bloated themes I finally realized that speed matters and the Generate Press is the lightweight winner.

    Great article and thanks for sharing.

  2. Dude! Where has this post been all my life ?

    I’ve spent all day playing with GP and Elementor and I’m stoked!

    Takes site building to a whole new level and makes it FUN also.

  3. Hello Dave,

    Thank you for a wonderful review about GeneratePress.

    Actually, I tried to use GP as a free theme and then switched to Divi. But, I wasn’t satisfied about Divi. I already requested for a refund. I switched back to GP free version. And I love the GP premium and tried to research more about GP reviews. I stumbled upon your site. I got to many reviews about this and I love your review the most. I just purchased the GP premium (plugin) through your affiliate link above.

    Thanks again,

    • Wow, thank you Jen! That’s really very very kind of you. I 100% LOVE GeneratePress—there’s simply no other theme for me. I’m pleased I was able to help with your decision. Definitely a good move away from Divi. 🙂

    • Yes, I tested OceanWP thoroughly. It does appeal to some, but personally, I don’t like the approach it takes. Too many bloated ‘features’ that should be left out of a theme, and left to add-ons if you need those features. I’m also not 100% confident in the developer (though I’m not knocking Nicolas’ talent or hard work – I just have supreme confidence in Tom, GP’s developer).

  4. Thank you dave for your feedback. I still testing it, is not bad, except have some microdata problems that are notvresolved yet

  5. Great article!

    1. What are your thoughts about Beaver Builder vs Elementor especially in light of the recent release of Beaver Themer which seems like a game changer.

    2. In light of your attitude for keeping themes light and using plugins are there some good plugins for portfolios that you have used?

    • Hi John. Thank you! I still prefer Elementor, certainly for my audience of designers. I think Elementor appeals far more to designers. Beaver Themer is certainly brilliant, and I think BB is a brilliant page builder. I haven’t used a portfolio plugin so I can’t really comment, I’m sorry.

  6. Dave…this is an amazing piece of work…your analysis and reasoning are first-class. Not only are you a great developer but also really know how to write. Just wow…and thank you.

  7. Hi Dave, persuasive piece, and I’m nearly hooked. But I’m also confused! Why do you need Elementor if you use GP? Isn’t GP Premium basically a page builder?

    • No no. The GP Premium plugin just adds extra functionality to the free theme. I’d say essential functionality, really. I see it just that you’re paying for the complete theme.

      Some of GP Premium adds extra styling and layout options in the Customizer, some of it on-page stuff like sections and page headers. But none of it is remotely in page builder territory. If you want a page builder, you definitely need a separate page builder. 🙂

  8. 1. As a web designer, I enjoy using Genesis with a ready made child theme. I enjoy customizing with css and an occasional hook. What advantage does this method have(GP with Elementor)?
    2. Last time I tried using a page builder, (not with genesis) updates took much longer because the page builder is so heavy. Is that the case with Elementor?

    • 1. GP reminds me of Genesis is many ways, it just has many more options in the Customizer and feels easier to use, especially for non-coders. The GP+Elementor combo is great for designers who want total control over their designs and wouldn’t want to start with a pre-made theme. Lots more creative control for non-coders.

      2. While any page builder will necessarily add a bit of weight, I think Elementor have done a great job keeping things lightweight and lean. Worth giving it a try, it’s free. 🙂

  9. Wow! Why did I not come across your site and this post 4 WordPress websites ago. About the most comprehensive and down-to-earth explanation as to why most WP themes are crap. Your logic and reasoning for GP and Elementor along with your straightforward writing style are a breath of fresh air. I know many struggle to make the right decisions when it comes to WP and the myriad of frameworks, plug-ins and tools out there. Your recommendations are a huge step forward for those lucky enough to find you and your post.

    I’m pointing everyone I know who’s developing in WP to you, and in particular this article. Thanks! ????????

  10. Fantastic review – very tempting approach. I’ve been using WP Explorer’s Total them, which on the face of it appears to be similar to either Divi or Elementor. Any thoughts?

    • Thank you Steve. I haven’t heard of the Total theme, but I don’t like themes that try do it all. Better to let a theme do its simple job, and have a separate page builder for the fancy drag-n-drop builder stuff.

    • Hi Steve – I’ve seen Page Builder Framework but not tried it, so unfortunately I’ve no idea. GP is so well-coded and supported, way beyond any other comparable theme (except maybe Genesis), that I’m reluctant to trial others. I prefer to pick a tool and stick to it, otherwise endless ‘shiny new thing’ syndrome. 🙂

      If you give it a try, would love to know what you think.

    • For many projects, no. I just use the Simple CSS plugin and the Code Snippets plugin. They both cover most of the tasks I’d need a child theme for. A video on this is on my list.

  11. Dave, Thanks!
    GP is awesome! I gave Divi a try in the last days and it was a nightmare, despite what they advertise. I lost hours to have a leaky and heavy framework. Then, a gave GP a try and in a couple of hours (purchase included) I had my site FULLY customized.
    Finally, my search for a WordPress solution is successfully archived.

  12. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for this article.
    When I started using WordPress, I started with Divi. I was impressed by what it can do and I can make any design I want. But I start to doubt because it is heavy and takes a lot of effort to get a loading time below 2 seconds.
    So, I’m looking for a simpler, more lightweighted solution and found your article. Now I will definitely try out GP and Elementor!

    • Excellent – GP + Elementor is such a great combination. Lightweight but very powerful, and way more flexible than Divi. I used Divi for a few projects and hated the experience.

    • Hi Sandra – I use both. The free version is incredible anyway, and then I also install the paid Pro version for the additional features. I personally think it’s well worth it.

  13. Hi Dave,

    Does this combo of GP + Elementor give you a way to create custom post types? I am a designer with a decent coding background, but no PHP. I work on some websites where having distinct post types is very useful. I’ve used Beaver Themer with ACF or Pods to achieve this.

      • Sorry, I wasn’t totally clear. What I meant to ask was if the GP + Elementor combo could make use of CPTs, such as assigning specific fields to headline, text blocks, etc. Beaver Builder doesn’t give you the ability to create CPTs either, but Themer lets you “hook” into specific fields, which is very useful.

        Thanks for all you valuable insights. My interest in GP and Elementor are definitely piqued.

        • Ah I see. 🙂 You can’t use custom fields directly in either GP or Elementor, without a plugin. And yes, the closest you’ll get to the Themer experience is the AnyWhere Elementor Pro plugin I mentioned. Allows you to make single post templates, archive templates, etc with Elementor, and use custom fields within those templates. So you can basically give your clients access to add posts within the standard WP interface, but the output is an Elementor template you’ve designed.

  14. Dave, a hearty thank-you for this. I recently passed the time, none too pleasantly, reading the cries of agony and despair from Woothemes Canvas users contemplating the huge effort required to convert sites (some designers manage 200+) now that Canvas is no longer being developed and will be incompatible with the forthcoming Gutenberg Project changes in WordPress. An opportunity for GeneratePress + Elementor? Hey, I’m just a non-coder and wouldn’t really know. But for me, as a former Canvas users looking to convert “just” 11 sites, it seems the answer to a prayer. I looked at Genesis child themes, but lost some tooth enamel when I found that simple things like changing header background image dimensions required tweaking CSS and PHP (and sorting out old code for the purpose). Elementor Pro is a bit pricey for my purposes, but my sites are simple and I’ll probably just use Pootle Page Builder Free, as I’ve had an excellent experience with Pootle products. At any rate, I’ve subscribed to your emails and look forward to exploring GP.

  15. Dave,
    Thanks for your comprehensive review of the GeneratePress theme. As a non-coder with some, but limited CSS and HTML skills, and after finding their Freelancer theme on wordpress, I googled around for some reviews and found yours. As a Divi refugee who was mesmerized by their sleek hipster videos and from a recommendation from a site I enjoy, I paid the $89 and downloaded the theme. It was like going into the Bermuda Triangle. I spent an embarrassing almost two days on the header section alone and still couldn’t get it to display just the name of my website. I made my own logo to try and get around that issue, but their tiny sizing and the lack of flexibility in getting it to a fairly visible size was also nightmare. I finally threw in the towel! They were good about refunding my money, no questions asked. They must do it on a regular basis!

    I was going to settle for a free WordPress theme and cam across GeneratePress’s Freelancer theme. It was up there in popularity, so I didn’t have to search long. I was going to just try out the free theme, make a few tweaks to get something up there and call it a day. But when I clicked over to the Premium version just to have a look around, I was pleasantly surprised to find all the options that I wanted to tweak in the theme available and simple to read and use.

    After reading your review, I clicked on your affiliate link for GeneratePress and bought the Premium version, less than half the price of Divi and everything I was looking for. I think I can accomplish everything I need just through their premium version, but it’s good to know that something like Elementor exists for an extra option, just in case. And for $40.00, it’s a great deal! Well worth the price! Their support also looks like they provide very fast response times to enquiries. Another good sign. Thanks again!

  16. Hey Dave,

    I love Elementor and use it routinely with Genesis, but not so much with GeneratePress. I have been playing with GP recently and wondering if there’s anyway to override the generate press name showing up in theme detectors like WPSniffer. In Genesis when I create a custom child theme, WPSniffer picks up the new theme name, instead of Genesis. Any ideas on this??


  17. Yes.. I found it to be a wonderfully fast. But what if I have to develop portals like job portal, property portal, used cars portal,etc. Also is it buddypres and bb press comnpatible ?
    Whether I should go for other theme developers e.g. buddyboss , who make only buddypress websites ?
    Or do you have any other solution to this ?

    • Well the beauty of GP is its simplicity. So if you want to also use it with a plugin for a portal, then those things usually slot in easily and really well. Unlike other themes that often force you to have pages looking a certain way.

  18. Why do you choose GP over Astra? Is it just because you chose GP as the theme you will focus on? Or are there actual abilities or technical factors that cause you to prefer GO?

  19. Excellent read. The most frustrating thing about the theme I use for a football website (Sporty from ThemeForest) is the sheer hassle of the help section, nothing seems to be explained in a clear and simple way . Think this might work along with Elementor on next project. I’d like to know more about what hooks are?

    • Hooks are basically a set of places in the theme templates that the developer allows you to place your own shortcodes, etc. So if you want to add an Elementor template under your blog posts, then there’s an ‘under posts’ hook that you can put it in. It just makes wrangling your theme that much easier.

  20. I think that you forgot to mention one of the coolest features – the pre-built demo sites.
    I personally find this very useful.
    Thanks for the awesome review. I purchased the theme and I guess that I am all in! 😉

    • Hi Rob. I still love GP and still use it a lot. I also use Astra sometimes too. I think they’re both great themes. Astra wasn’t around when I wrote this review.

      They both have their strengths, and it comes down to personal preference.

      • Thanks for the quick response. I like the way that content can be added in Astra using Hooks. It appears that you can be very granular in terms of which pages/categories etc the hooked content appears by selecting from a series of options in the custom layouts section of the theme. It looks like this can be done with GeneratePress also but would require a little PHP to specify the page id’s in which to show the custom content. Is this correct?

        • That’s right. Astra’s Custom Layouts feature is like a WYSIWYG for hooks, whereas with GP you need a bit of PHP. It’s never anything complicated, but sometimes it’s easier for sure.

          • Thanks for confirming. I am not a coder but have dabbled with PHP before so it wouldn’t scare me but the Astra way seems easier just as long as it is not restrictive in any way. Seems like I want it all – simplicity with infinite freedom!

  21. Just wanted to add: In addition to providing a wonderful solution to all my WordPress woes(!), I read all the comments here and your replies, and I really appreciate how kind and respectful you are towards other products. Lots of reviews I’ve read have felt unbalanced or like pushing a particular side, but this feels like “Do what works; here’s what worked for me!”. More of the internet should be like you. 🙂

  22. I personally prefer Generate Press Over all themes as previously I was fan of Genesis Framework (Still Fan as I started from Genesis Only). Thanks for the truth.

    Surendra Soni

  23. What a great post. Dave, would you put “Enfold” in the multi-purpose theme category? I’m really wanting to make a case for my company to move away from Enfold and use a combination of Elementor and Astra. Thanks!

    • Thanks Teddy. I don’t have any experience of Enfold, but it certainly looks like it to me. I know a lot of people email me to tell me they switched from Enfold to Elementor. Combined with Astra, it’s a brilliant platform!

  24. I really enjoy your posts and advice, excuse my general ignorance

    I understand GP being a theme and Elementor is a Page Builder and Genesis being a Framework

    Can you install (obviously WordPress first) – Genesis + GP + Elementor or is there a conflict / issue with this?

    Sorry one other thing, as SEO plugins go would you recommend Yoast or something else?

    Thank you

    • Hey Adrian – well, both GP and Genesis are both themes. Genesis calls itself a framework cos (at the time) it did a little more than standard themes. But GP and Genesis are very very similar (except GP is friendlier to non-developers).

      So it’s a case of WP + GP + Elementor.


      WP + Genesis + Elementor.

      I’d highly recommend the GP route.

      SEO plugins – I love The SEO Framework. Super simple and very effective. I find Yoast very bloated these days.

  25. Hi Dave, as mentioned many times above, great post and very informative. I know you mentioned Astra wasn’t available when you wrote this originally but now you’ve used it for a while I was wondering what your recommendation would be for someone just starting out and wanting a single theme to math up with Elementor and build multiple sites with (including WooCommerce sites)? Astra or Generatepress? I realise they probably both have their strengths and weaknesses, but on balance?

    I’m trying to choose between GP, Astra and Ocean. And have read every bit of info I can find. Pretty much ruled out Ocean but struggling between GP and Astra.

    I’ve downloaded both but with very little experience with WordPress it’s difficult to evaluate them.


    • Hi Jon – it’s seriously impossible to recommend either, it’s totally subjective. However, if you’re going to be building WooCom sites then maybe Astra has the slight edge. It has some specific style controls in there for WooCom sites. But then, if you have Elementor Pro, it can also create WooCommerce templates so you have a ton of control over your page styles from the Elementor side anyway. 🙂

      Honestly, both are superb. I hope that helps at least a little anyway.

  26. Hi Dave,
    I’ve been using Genesis for a while and you’ve sold me on trying GeneratePress for my next site. While Genesis is very flexible, I spend far too much time searching for how to make changes to the code for simple layout changes. Thanks for the detailed writeup.

    I have a (possibly unrelated) question – in articles such as this one, how do you go about adding shaded text boxes? The readability of this article is great with the combination of text boxes, blockquotes, and varied font sizes.

    • Thanks Brian. GP has the simplicity of Genesis but far easier to use. As you say, you can be searching a whole day just to find out the magic code to achieve simple things, if you’re not naturally a developer.

      For the shaded boxes, I actually used a bit of custom CSS.

      For example: I wrapped some text in this div:

      <div class=”box”>

      And then this CSS:

      .box {
      background-color: #eee;
      margin-bottom: 1em;
      padding: 20px;

      So any block of text wrapped in a div with a class of ‘box’ has that style applied.

  27. Hi Dave,
    I am an artist (generally creating clean, minimalist imagery) but have zero coding or actual graphic design training, so find the whole website construction challenge quite daunting. Years ago (before iPhones were a given!) I built some basic WordPress sites after doing a course, but have forgotten pretty much everything, and I know technology will have moved on massively since then. As a lone social entrepreneur and animal lover, I am in the process of creating a non profit for animal shelters, featuring guided philanthropic tours. I will need to feature quite a few videos and images on the site, as well as various pages featuring individual shelters. I may also sell artist cards or similar, so will need an e-commerce page. Currently, I have free hosting available for additional sites on Hostgator, which I use for my pretty outdated artist site. I’m not keen to increase my hosting budget as I have very few $$$. If it’s not too much trouble, ca you please recommend the best way for me to go in order to build my non profit site (Astro? GP?) when at this stage I don’t even understand words like ‘hook’. (Talk about feeling ignorant!) To save money and to have autonomy from a designer, I am keen on building the site myself, adding to it as I refine my business strategy, and would need it to have Google analytics (I also need to learn this side of things). Help, please…advice needed! Will follow the steps you suggest, including any small investment, in order to do this correctly, right from the start. (By the way, I, too, love your balanced and fair feedback to others, which is why I’ve plucked up the courage to write to you.)

  28. In the early 1970’s I found a government contractor with two unused 4K Data General Computers using the WD-16 five chip set who offered them to start a commercial project. Took several of the best companies running IBM 360 and IBM 370 computers to calculate and print tax returns and with a couple people learned and designed assembly language programs to code the WD-16 chip set to calculate tax returns. No room for fat, all code had to run into 4K (later in 8K) and when each calculation was done, you stored it and each subsequent calculation was done until the return was completed. Even had a form to depreciate each asset, calculate depreciation, recover any accelerated depreciation when sold and to complete all the required forms. We ran it against two competitors IBM mainframes and generated more returns per twenty-four hour period than they did.

    Delighted to see Tom has taken that theory of least input to do the job.

    Have researched and found Siteground or Kinsta, GeneratePress, GeneratePress Pro, Cache Enabler or WP Super Cache and KeyCDN all contribute well to performance. Also found replacing PHP with static content is useful when content becomes static and ceases to change. What I didn’t look for and find was your recommendation to use Elementor.

    Thanks for that suggestion.

    • Hey Dave, Your article was a few years ago now. I’m curious to know do you still recommend the GP + Elementor combo for a non-coder creating sites?

  29. Thank you for this.
    I needed this, to finally make the switch to Elementor.
    GeneratePress looks extremely promising – thanks for the review as well.

    I was wondering what are your thoughts on Elementor’s Layers theme?

  30. Cheers Dave for the information given, very helpful.
    I’m looking to use Elementor and maybe with Jupiter X Pro as they have a great selection of templates. Can you give any advise if Jupiter X Pro is any good? Cheers.

  31. Great article Dave, I would love to start with GP and Elementor.
    I use WP and Divi, and I can make many designs, but very heavy and long loading time.
    After your article, I’ll probably try out GP and Elementor.
    Thank you very much!

  32. Sorry if you answered this. Astra vs Generate Press in 2020 For non coders. Adam Preiser goes with Astra, at least I’m down to two choices!

  33. Epic article — really well done, and potentially a major game-changer for me — very much appreciated. I have a big redesign on-deck right now. They’re site’s already using Divi, but of course it’s a total mess on the back end. I’ve been using Enfold almost exclusively for many years and, while I actually think it’s very “smart” in many really key ways, I know it’s also lacking in others, and I’m uncomfortable recommending it to this big client. So I was pretty excited about the potential for GP + Elementor., but in testing it out, I was disappointed with Elementor. And, while I can see it’s potential benefits of GP, it does have a sort of bare-bones look/feel on the front-end (no smooth, subtle transitions of nav elements, for example). The speed factor was still enticing, though. But, in testing Divi without a bunch of extra plugins or a big, heavy page — just loading a basic page from a site using Divi (eg http://rfusstaging.wpengine.com/test/) — I’m getting As and Bs on GTmetrix. So my questions are a) am I missing something about the speed, or is it possible to do alright with Divi, as long as you don’t get too many heavy plugins going, a bunch of extra code, heavy images, etc.); and b) Have you tested — or would you ever consider using — GP + Divi’s page builder? Thanks so much, again, for your contribution with this article.


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