WordPress 101: Using Genesis & Why It’s Crucial

I’ve been getting a lot of requests via email and comments for tutorials on creating your own website using the WordPress platform. Honestly, I’ve been a little extremely overwhelmed by the thought of trying to write this out as it took me YEARS to figure out on my own (even though I went to school for web design, most of my WP knowledge has been self-taught). But I do love to help people learn coding so I’m going to do my best. I’ll just start with one small tutorial at a time and teach mainly from the standpoint of the mistakes I made as a WP beginner. Hopefully I can help somebody and save them a lot of time! With all that said, I am officially launching a new weekly tutorial series, starting today with why using the Genesis Framework for building your site is absolutely crucial…

When I first decided to learn WP (way before I was designing for clients), I purchased several premade themes that had the functionality of sites that I wanted to make. I would download the theme and then start to pick apart the css, html, scripts, etc, trying to figure out what it all meant. Well let me tell you, after years of designing websites and blogs, in addition to going to school for web design, I still had no idea what I was even reading! WP was unlike any language I had ever heard of and the more I searched for understanding the more confused I became.

Not being able to figure out how to adjust the functionality, I decided to start by just manipulating the css to get it to at least look the way I wanted. Tip: Download firebug to help find the classes and IDs that you want to call via css. More on that later. Anyways, through MUCH trial and error, I finally designed myself a blog I was proud of. Even if I didn’t understand the way it was built, I had at least figured how to edit the look of it, and that was a great start.

Enter problem #1…

WP issued an update, as they do every month or so, and suddenly my hours upon hours of hard work vanished! My css and html had been replaced with the old coding when the theme was updated. My hard work was lost forever. First HARSH lesson? Backup your files people! Back them up all. the. time. Total newb mistake on my part.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, I went back to coding and redid everything I had done before. This time I backed up my work often and was absolutely sure to avoid updating my theme when WP presented the option.

Enter problem #2…

When you don’t update your WP theme, several parts of your theme may not continue working properly. You also make yourself completely vulnerable to major spam attacks. In this first experience for me, I was lucky enough to have both happen (enter sarcastic face here). Almost all of the scripts in my theme, which let me remind you was not MY theme as all I did was edit some css/html of a premade theme, stopped working and my slideshow was now stuck to the top of my screen with no explanation. My theme files had also been bombarded with sneaky spam bugs that started flagging my site in Google and not allowing visitors. My website that I had spent months on just looked like a jumbled mess of crap.

It was right about here that I almost gave up completely on designing for WP, as I’m sure most people would; but something in me kept nagging to look for a better solution, so I scoured the web world looking for an answer. And then I stumbled upon the biggest golden nugget of my career: the Genesis Framework. Hal-le-freakin-lu-jah!

genesis

Genesis works by giving you a base theme (that is never touched or changed by you) and then allowing you to upload a child theme that sits on top of it. When WP is updated, Genesis gets an update too that keeps your site functioning properly but doesn’t ever touch your child theme of customizations. Even better still, you don’t have to get into digging through tons of messy files to add new site functions. All you need is a functions.php file (along with a stlye.css file) and the options for a custom site are literally endless! Genesis has tons of plugins that make creating your custom theme even easier and Studiopress (the creators of Genesis) gives you access to hundreds of code functions that are as easy as copy/paste. Amazing!!

And even if you aren’t looking to make a custom WP theme, Genesis is still the way to go for WP. There are tons of Genesis child themes that you can use on your site and have complete confidence that you are not going to encounter the 2 major problems that I mentioned above. Then, if you ever do decided that you want to create your own child theme, you can use the one you purchased as a great way to learn and practice making your own changes before diving into creating your own.

All of our Hello Monday websites are created on the basis of the Genesis Framework. It’s the only way we can guarantee our clients that their websites are going to last and continue to function properly as WP grows and changes. We can’t recommend it enough! As you can already see from just the one personal experience I shared, it is absolutely crucial to your site’s long-standing success.

We love comments!

  1. Great post! So uhm, how do I backup my files, and should I be clicking on the “update WordPress” links anytime I see them at the top of my dashboard? I am so terrible at this!

    • Hi Charlene! One perk about being a past client is that I login to your site about twice a month and run all your updates, as well as a security check on your site. You don’t need to worry about it :) But if you ever want to you can feel free to run updates on your own. It won’t effect your design.

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