After awhile of resisting the block builder for full-site design, I finally relented and converted this site to a block-based theme. And that theme was Kadence Theme.
Kadence Theme is one of the leading WordPress themes out there right now which is built for the Gutenberg blocks builder. It is built to work natively with WordPress itself via Gutenberg and the WordPress theme Customizer. Because it works natively to WordPress, it is extremely fast.
I documented in a post the radical performance score increases I saw when I converted from BuddyBoss to Kadence. But, it has since even reflected itself in Google’s Search Console when it comes to my core web vitals. Once I finished the transition, I put in a request for Google to re-check the reported problems with core web vitals. I had to wait a few weeks for it to show up, but then you’ll see the “needs improvement” count went down to nothing and every thing is in the green.
So, in terms of just having the site be efficient, well coded, and presenting it’s best foot forward to Google, Kadence has worked very well.
There’s essentially two components to Kadence:
- Kadence Theme – available for free in the theme library and you can just install it. Has some basic settings and then you can customize things in the Customizer.
- Kadence Blocks – a plugin which adds special blocks to Gutenberg that expand the blocks builder to be able to more easily design great looking landing pages.
Both components have PRO versions as plugins, so I have installed the Kadence Theme Pro and the Kadence Blocks Pro plugins. There’s also a plugin for accessing their Starter Template library, which makes a bunch of pre-designed pages and page elements available for quick import.
In terms of Kadence Theme itself, the main interface for changing your theme look and feel is the WordPress Customizer.
There’s a lot you can do here, but I admit the Customizer takes a lot of clicking to get around with. This is just the way WordPress does things. But, hidden in those settings is options to change most of the design options for your site. I especially like how much control you have over the site header and footer.
I won’t cover every little detail here, but the main thing I appreciate here is that a lot of site components that would be more difficult to implement with other themes (or would have needed custom coding) are just easy to implement with Kadence. Just simple things like modal logins, mega-menus, secondary menus, and more. It is just a time-saver.
Kadence Blocks is where you get all the extra Gutenberg blocks to build individual pages across your site. And you get a number of blocks with Kadence:
Some of the blocks are enhanced versions of default blocks, such as the Advanced Image, Advanced Text and Advanced Buttons. Basically, the Kadence versions just offer much more control and settings than the default version of those.
The Row Layout and Section blocks are the major structural components you’ll use for rows and columns and essentially what you will use for full page design.
The Forms block is basically a full form builder and it has built-in integrations for adding entries to the database, MailerLite, SendinBlue, Mailchimp, FluentCRM (yes!), Active Campaign and sending webhooks. Since I use FluentCRM, I find the forms convenient for opt-in forms where I want more consistent design options for the forms. Fluent Forms is my preferred forms plugin and is quite a bit more capable, to be clear. But, it is more difficult to make Fluent Forms style consistently. The Fluent Forms block for Gutenberg doesn’t have any styling options.
The PRO version of Kadence Theme puts some cool capabilities in there. Among them are:
- Header Addons. If you really want all the bells and whistles for your header, you’ll want that.
- Conditional Headers. Can build different headers and show them in different places across your site.
- Ultimate Menu. Basically, their mega menus setup and other things. I use them in my dropdown menus on this site.
- Hooked Elements. Super handy feature to be able to use the blocks builder to build content blocks of your own and then “hook” them anywhere you need them across your site. Super convenient for placing announcements and calls to action across your site in various places.
So, this review isn’t meant to be a full feature-by-feature breakdown. It is more of a bird’s eye view. And in short…
My Take On Kadence Theme
Kadence Theme and Kadence Blocks is what I am now using for all of my site builds unless the situation (or the client) demands something different. This is now my default theme.
It is super fast. Well coded. Kadence does a great job of considering the needs of marketers, too. There’s not much to dislike about it.
The only difficulty I’ve had using it were due to my learning curve of switching from page builders to Kadence. If you’re used to “normal” themes or page builder themes like Thrive Theme Builder or Elementor, then it is definitely an adjustment to switch over to using something based on Gutenberg.
There’s also some annoyance with the amount of clicks it can take to get to settings. The nested nature of block settings in the sidebar can mean there’s a lot of clicking around to be able to control blocks. Some of this could be improved by Kadence, perhaps. A lot of it has to do with the basic nature of the Gutenberg interface. It just has a learning curve, but once you’re used to it you can get around just as fast as any other platform.
One thing I noticed is that Kadence didn’t seem to have easy access to desktop, tablet and mobile design. It has icons for individual settings to control the style on different kinds of devices, but not full preview of the design on different devices. I had to install Spectra to get that functionality.
All in all, I’m a massive fan of Kadence Theme.
Once you’re adept with it, it is fast to use. I very recently converted a client site from Thrive Theme Builder over to Kadence and I had the job done in about an hour. A full-site theme change… in an hour. It doesn’t have to take long.
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