While fully customizable WordPress themes are becoming more widely available, Thrive Theme has just come back at the top of the game by joining the club. Today my Thrive Theme Builder review will explain what this is about and how this package can make your online marketing experience easy and flexible. I'm so glad to see it out at last, because I wasn't totally happy with how some items such as footer, widgets, and 404 page were laid out, but as a loyal Thrive Themes member I didn't want to start looking for other premium themes elsewhere. I'm happy to be able to get it all sorted, and I hope you'll love the features too.
Thrive Theme Builder Review
Thrive Theme Builder
WordPress theme builder
Now part of Thrive Suite ($228/year or $90/quarter)
What Is Thrive Theme Builder?
Thrive Theme Builder is a fully customizable WordPress theme. It's equipped with a drag-and-drop visual editor, accessible from your WP-Admin, that allows you to create and edit all the theme items such as menu bar, header/footer, sidebar widgets, social share buttons, etc. You are provided with the default template of which you are free to edit as much or as little as you wish, so it doesn't require any technical or design skills.
It means that Thrive Theme Builder enables you to create a theme that's totally your own design. Something that's not possible with a conventional WordPress theme.
Conventional WordPress Themes
Traditionally when you build a website on WordPress, you first look for a theme that suits your style, then choose one from the templates. You may be simply attracted by the appearance in the first instance, or you may think some particular features will suit your needs.
But each theme has its own default settings and, after installing a theme, you often realize some styles or layouts cannot be changed. You may be able to change them by modifying the scripts, but that's really a developers' job. As a WordPress user, you wouldn't want to do anything more than giving it a little tweak, unless you risk wrecking your site (I've been there!)
You can find some plugins that enable you to change some theme settings. But using a plugin is not an ideal solution because technically, WordPress will still load your original theme first, then it will get the plugin to make a change. It will take extra steps unnecessarily, which can slow down the loading speed.
So you either compromise or go and try another theme. You could end up installing and uninstalling different themes until you find a perfect one for your site, or forever.
It's A Theme, Not A Plugin
So to rephrase it, Thrive Theme Builder is a WordPress theme. It can be installed, activated, and become instantly usable just like any other theme. But it also allows you to rebuild it by dragging and dropping each theme element from the templates. The theme elements such as;
- Header / Footer
- Page layout
- Author box
- Single post / Single page
- Blog page
- Archive pages
- Social sharing
- Related posts
- 404 page
- Content area (not the content itself)
- Post meta
It's A Theme Builder, Not A Page Builder
Also not to be confused with is Thrive Architect, which is a "page builder" plugin that allows you to create page content by dragging and dropping. Items such as a CTA button, table of contents, pricing table, guaranteed box, etc, will be added to space within your post/page, so it will be Thrive Architect's job. Whereas the author box, for example, should appear outside your content, so Thrive Theme Builder will take care of designing it.
How about landing page, can you create it with Thrive Theme Builder?
The short answer is no, because you know that conventional WordPress themes don't come with a landing/sales page template. If you want to have a professional landing page with all the features built for marketing purposes, you need to install a landing page builder plugin. If you already a Thrive Architect user, you know you have access to the big collection of landing page templates within the Architect editor.
Having said that, the new theme has an option to add a CTA button and an opt-in form at the top of the page (every page or selected page).
There are plenty of templates available. For example for a single post;
- Featured image with/without sidebar
- Title banner with/without sidebar
- Split top with/without sidebar
- Full width featured image with/without sidebar
- Featured image full with video post
- Featured image full with audio post
- Boxed post with sidebar
- Featured image narrow content
How To Build Your Theme
You'll be provided with a basic theme ("Shapeshift") and you start customizing it, so the process is easy, but it can be time-consuming. Some say it won't take more than a couple of minutes, but it took me like a day. And a panic. (Because I didn't watch the instruction video properly, i.e. my fault.)
- Site Wizard: Design the site structure and set key elements by following the steps - (1) logo (2) header (3) footer (4) homepage (5) single blog post (6) blog post list (7) page (8) menu.
- Branding: Set your basic theme color, upload Favicon. If you have a dark version & light version of your logo, upload them here. Whenever the background is dark, the light version of your logo will be used automatically, and vice versa.
- Typography: Choose your favorite font style, and change the default size for H1, H2, H3 and so on if you wish.
- Templates: Here, you edit each template per page type, e.g. post, page, archive, 404 page and so on. You can add new or take a copy of the existing template and customize it, so you can have multiple versions, e.g. some posts with sidebar, some posts without.
Of course, you can go back to any of the steps at any time to change it. Also you can switch your editor screen between Thrive Theme Builder and Thrive Architect at a click of a button, so it's easy for you to edit the theme element while you're creating a blog post.
What I'm Not Too Keen About Thrive Theme Builder
There are a couple of reasons that I wasn't particularly wowed by Thrive Theme Builder when it was initially released. Don't get me wrong, I still like it but to be perfectly honest I wasn't blown away.
#1 Thrive Architect Was Too Good
The first reason may be based on my biased opinion but I'll just say it. I believe without a doubt, Thrive Architect and Thrive Leads are the strongest products that this company offers. Particularly Thrive Architect continuously amazes us with new updates and extra features, so I was also expecting some kind of instant magic from the new Theme Builder.
But Thrive Architect has come a long way. Looking back at a few years ago - then Thrive Content Builder - occasional bugs drove me mad and even copying & pasting paragraphs wasn't straightforward.
When it was initially released only to the annual members, there were quite a few problems - not saving the layout as you wanted it to be and quite a few little bugs. We reported every single problem back to the support team, and Thrive Theme Builder has dramatically improved at an incredible speed since. It is definitely ready to please any WordPress users, in my opinion!
#2 No Other Option
For a Thrive user there is no other option but this is the only way forward - which is good, in a way. The existing 10 themes will no longer have any updates, although the support will be provided for a while. Once you've installed the new Theme Builder, you've gotta set it up. Again, I'm not saying it's bad, I'm not complaining. I can't find a single bad reason enough for any current Thrive member to go and look for another theme elsewhere.
At first, I thought an easy 1-click migrate option would have been good, but with some optional (and very useful) boxes at the top, bottom and sidebar, it probably wouldn't have been possible. It is a theme "builder" after all.
Having said all that, all the Thrive Theme products are meant to be conversion-focused, made for entrepreneurs and small business owners. They're not meant to accommodate the best design features in the market. I know I shouldn't expect wow factors in some fancy buttons or some animated whatsit. At least it looks like the new Thrive Theme delivers better UX such as;
- Call-To-Action and opt-in form incorporated in almost every page template...
- ...as well as other essential elements such as breadcrumbs, social share buttons, list of related posts.
- Loading speed - which I think is questionable right now, unfortunately.
- Page layouts especially made for video and audio respectively.
Help and Support
From my experience as a Thrive annual member, I can't say I'm entirely happy with the support. There are a few, very helpful, skilled support agents there. And if the issue you have is beyond technical for them, they forward your support ticket to the developer team to investigate it further. I have mainly two problems;
One is like any other established companies, their work seems to be so stretched and they only respond the average of twice a day maximum. I often receive irrelevant advice or, not the answer I was looking for in the first place. So I would reply to re-explain my issue, which means I'd have to wait for another 12 hours for the next response.
So my suggestion is when you send a support ticket, you need to make sure you explain the issue clearly. Otherwise 12 hours later, you'll only get a reply asking you to clarify your problem, end up re-explaining the issue only to wait for another 12 hours.
The other problem is that I feel their developers are (I'm sorry to say) incompetent, sometimes. They simply tell me to "check it with my hosting provider and see what can cause the issue"... That's it. Without any valid explanation. If there was logical evidence behind the problem, yes, I'd be happy to pass on the message. But do they seriously expect me to contact my web hosting company and say, "My WordPress theme/plugin is not working. Can you check if something's wrong?"
An issue is clearly with their product which is sold to general WordPress users. Why blame web hosting? I'm not using some cheap, unreliable hosting company. Like any technical issue, the last thing you want is to get caught in the middle of the developers from two different companies blaming each other.
For $228/year or $90/quarter
Thrive Suite Includes:
My Personal Tips
I've already published like 700 pages on this site, and I was a little reckless trying to load a fully customizable theme without barely planning.
If you're building a brand new site - it's perfect. I'd recommend it as I trust products from Thrive Themes. But if you're going to update your existing site and consider using Thrive Theme Builder, here are some tips that I think I can help you.
- When you've chosen all the templates (post, page, archive page, etc), have a quick look at each one and edit-out any parts that are irrelevant, so that they won't confuse your current visitors. For example CTA box and opt-in form box - you can make them invisible by one-click. They can be added back and properly edited later.
- It'll be good if you can create a staging site so that you can have a good look at the templates before you build your main site.
- If you're really stuck, you can always re-activate your old theme while investigating the problem or send a support ticket to Thrive Themes (that's what I've had to do!)
Thrive Theme Builder Pros and Cons
Thrive Theme Builder Review - Conclusion:
As I explained in the post, it was a rocky start back in March 2020, but all the problems seem to have been fixed as far as I'm concerned. Without a doubt Thrive Themes have taken more than a few steps forward from the old themes. If you decide to use the new Thrive Theme Builder, I also recommend you to use it together with the visual page builder, Thrive Architect.