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Thesis 1.8: More Intuitive SEO but a Missed Opportunity

Thesis theme for WordPressThesis 1.8, released last week, brings some nice new functionality and a missed opportunity.

Affiliate alert: I’m an affiliate for Thesis, which means that if you buy it by clicking one of the links on this site I get a bit of beer money. See my disclosure for more details.

I discussed Thesis in more detail here, but to summarise the reasons I use it exclusively on my WordPress sites:

  1. It’s enabled me to reduce the number of plugins I used on this site by more than 30%
  2. It offers very focused and extensive SEO controls
  3. It’s speeded up my site load times significantly

All premium themes offer the ability to customize the look and feel of your sites extensively (and Thesis is no exception) but Thesis’ differentiator is its SEO effectiveness and exceptional standard of coding.

So What’s That Missed Opportunity?

Let’s get the downsides out of the way first.

One of the new functions in 1.8 is a header image uploader.

That’s great, and Thesis will re-size it to ensure it fits your site dimensions (a definite plus), but there’s no facility to add an alt tag, a title tag or a link.

Alt and title tags are important on-site SEO elements and making a header clickable is just pretty standard – so it’s difficult to see why these weren’t added to the header image uploader function.

As a result, I’ll continue using the Header hook in the custom functions file to display header images, by inserting the link to the header image, the alt and title tags, and the link url.

Another niggle for me: version 1.7 introduced the excellent facility to download your site and design options to your PC and import them to the same or other Thesis installations.

This facility hugely improved the efficiency with which I could install sites for my clients.

But you can’t import site and design options downloaded from your 1.7 version (prior to upgrading) to your 1.8 version. So you have to go through all your options and check/reset them.

Not disastrous, just a bit of a pain after having got used importing my options with the click of a button.

But Here are the Upsides

Here, then, are the new bits of functionality that I really like:

Revised Page Options for Category and Tag pages.

1.7 introduced the ability to create META title, descriptions and keywords for your category and tag archive pages but, to be honest, I didn’t get it.

In 1.8 the fields for creating and inserting these have been moved to the category and tag pages within WordPress – and all of a sudden it made sense (I’m slow but I get there in the end!).

Now, when you set up a new category, you get the option to define those META tags plus the option to add an introductory header and an introductory paragraph.

So when someone clicks on one of your categories, the page that comes up listing the articles is fully SEO’d and you can introduce it nicely.

I’ve used a headline that says (for example) ‘Articles on Internet Marketing’ and an introductory paragraph that says (again, example) ‘Click the headline to read the full article’.

This is more reader-friendly than the standard WordPress statement that says something like ‘Posts from the category internet marketing’.

And if your creative writing skills are half way decent you can come up with headers and introductory paragraphs that are a lot more engaging that mine!

Full Support for the WordPress 3.0 Menu

The new menu functionality that WordPress 3.0 brought with it was pretty special, but Thesis 1.7 didn’t support it without some hacking.

1.8 fully supports the WordPress 3.0 menu functionality and that gives you an exceptional range of options for creating effective, slick menus that are also SEO effective.

Support for Windows Live Writer

I don’t use Windows Live Writer but I know a lot of people do. If you’re one of those you now have the option to enable support for it.

Support for 28 new fonts from the Google Font Library

The range of web-friendly fonts (fonts which render consistently in the widest range of browsers) has been greatly extended through the addition of 28 new fonts recently released in the Google Font Library, to the font selection menu.

Enhanced Security

You may be aware that the DIYThemes site was hacked recently. The team have used the experience from that to strengthen and improve security within Thesis.

You can never say any site is totally secure, but it’s nice to know that the automated bot hackers (that account for the vast majority of WordPress hackings) are being kept at bay.

Favicon Uploader

Favicons (those little branding images that appear at the left end of your browser task bar) have been a pain for many.

This is because you need to add a bit of code to your HEAD section in order to get them to display in all browsers.

New in 1.8 is a Favicon uploader that takes care of all that.

Most professional sites these days make use of Favicons so this is neat, because it’s an easy way to increase the credibility of your site.

OK, those are the goodies in 1.8 that caught my attention, but it’s not an exhaustive list.

I’ve written a series of tutorials on Thesis, which you can find here, and if Thesis sounds interesting there are more details here.

The related articles below include reviews of previous Thesis releases, and 1.8 builds on the functionality offered in those. It’s a good step forward – and would be even better if the ability to add alt and title tags had been included in the header image uploader! 🙂

If you have any questions leave them in a comment – I’ll respond as soon as I can.


Martin Malden

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