Headway Theme Review: How Does it Stack Up?

by jwietholter on August 13, 2009

Headway Theme Review

You may have heard of this little WordPress theme called Thesis? Well, if you haven’t, you obviously haven’t been reading this blog, so get on board. Thesis finally has some competition in the market in a new WordPress framework/theme called Headway.

Headway is young and has a lot of competition in the premium theme market (Thesis, WooThemes, etc), but there’s already a lot of buzz about the theme and it’s being used by Jay Fleischman, Chris Cree, John Haydon and of course Jason Wietholter (yours truly).

Now, I’m not a WordPress genius like Ben and I’m not an SEO guru either. I know business and I know enough about the web to be dangerous (mostly to myself), which is precisely why Headway (*gasp* its an affiliate link!) has been so incredibly helpful for me.

But instead of continuing to gushing about how it’s the best thing since sliced bread, let me give you my take on the Headway theme.

Design

The “out of the box” layout is strictly text and doesn’t feature any really special features that are offered in the backend. As noted in Ben’s review on Thesis, the same applies to Headway, the title and description are actually text and not an image you have to create, although you do have the option to include an image and it is exceedingly simple.

a default install of the Headway Theme

Flexibility

I’ve not used the Thesis to be able to compare, but Headway’s flexibility is second to none for me. I can redistribute items as I see fit. Create new sidebars and duplicate them across pages. I can even customize the 404 page directly in Headway.

Headway let’s you customize the layout of each page in the Layout Editor. You can add what they title “Leafs” for different types of content, such as: Image Rotator, Featured Post rotator, Widgetized Sidebar, RSS Feed and Content or Text/HTML and a few more. It’s infinitely customizable and each Page or System Page can be customized with a drag and drop layout.

a glimpse of the Headway theme's options

If you move to the Design item in the Appearance tab in the WP Sidebar, you get a plethora of options to re-design everything in your site. There is even the capability to add your own custom.css file or download/share “skins”. However, the Headway community isn’t as big or well-established as Thesis, so you won’t find a lot of shared skins yet.

One more thing. Headway allows you to move the Meta tags for posts and pages around and also has “hooks” for adding content after every post, after the header, before the footer and on and on.

With all the ability you have to customize every single page of your site, Headway makes a gymnast look tight and stiff.

Ease of Use

Headway was extremely easy for me to figure out and use. If you follow the new Headway items in the Appearance tab in the order they appear, you can set up all the options of your site very quickly and easily. Just like with Thesis, you can customize every bit of CSS, but unlike Thesis, there is no PHP to learn unless you really, really want to.

As I stated before, I’m not a SEO or CSS guru, but Headway helped me design a fairly nice site with minimal effort and I got it on the first page of Google in just a few days. While that may not be a big deal for some of you, it is huge for me and I attribute that success directly to Headway’s easy to use SEO options.

Headway features drag and drop simplicity, offers slew of options, and is infinitely customizable. You really get to choose your own level of difficulty, but 90% of the functions are right at your fingertips in the WP Admin pages.

Support

This is hard for me to review as I haven’t had any need to use it. From what I have seen, the documentation is available and there is a forum for users to discuss any issues and share ideas, but I just haven’t needed it. Obviously, with Headway being so young it doesn’t have the same number of users as Thesis, so community support will be lacking in terms of shear size.

Total Rating

I’ve used a lot of themes from designers and theme brokers, but Headway is the first one that really allowed me to get what I wanted out of a theme and I haven’t even scratched the surface of its total capabilities. I mean, take look at my site: jasonwietholter.com. It has no custom.css and I only broke away from the built in options by adding an image as a header (which is arguably, built in) and the image in the sidebar.

In all honesty, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what Headway is capable of and I think you could write a book to cover and thoroughly explain all of the features. I would absolutely recommend the theme.

Note from Ben: We’re going to hold off on giving Headway an official score for now. As Jason mentioned, he’s not used Thesis and despite my best efforts, I haven’t had a chance to really sink my teeth into Headway just yet. So, trying to rate how Headway stacks up against other themes that I have much more experience with (namely Thesis) just wouldn’t be fair at this point.

However, thanks in large part to Jason’s review, I’ve decided to dedicate time in the coming week to getting familiar with Headway. I’ve been wanting to redesign my personal site, Skitzzo.com for a while now and this seems like the perfect opportunity. It certainly sounds like Thesis may have a challenger for the top score on the list so I’ll be sure to let you all know when the final score comes down.

Jason Wietholter is an entrepreneur of multiple businesses online and off, and pretty much as nice a guy as you’d ever want to meet.

You can find him at jasonwietholter.com and lurking around the “internets” on Twitter @jasonwietholter. I’ll vouch for him any day & can promise you won’t be disappointed by the information he provides.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Previous post:

Next post: