The day Thrive Theme Builder was released, I came out with my hands-on, “first look” review of the Theme Builder platform.
Shortly after, I did a look at the process of converting this very site to Theme Builder. Yet, the project was not completed because I ran into a snag in converting pages that were built using a Thrive landing page template to the new theme.
In that post, I said I would update once the job is done.
This post is that update. 🙂 As of a few days ago, this entire site is now running on Thrive Theme Builder.
Let me give you a look at how it went and share a few little “tricks” with you if you are contemplating switching your own site to this platform.
One of those “tricks” is seriously powerful for conversions and something that is impossible with most other themes without some hacking…
It Wasn’t Broke. So, Why Did I “Fix” It?
So, this site was working just fine before Thrive Theme Builder. And I know how to hand-code my own themes. So, why did I bother?
Actually, it comes down to 2 reasons:
Reason #1: It Makes My Life Easier
Even though I know how to make my own themes (and the previous theme was built by me), it DID mean that there was additional headache with doing things manually.
If I wanted to make some fairly simple change to the theme, I would need to bust out my code editor and my CSS editor. I would need to create the design change – by hand. Then, I would need to craft the CSS to make it look good. This process is something I’m very used to, but it could be time consuming depending on what I was doing.
Even though I know how to do it – and I frankly kind of enjoy it cuz I’m a huge nerd 😉 – it was not the best use of my time. I have a business to run. My time is not best spent messing around with my theme.
Thrive Theme Builder radically speeds up my workflow. I can make changes much, MUCH faster than I could doing things the old way.
Reason #2: It Was Important That I Be Congruent With My Own Recommendations
Look, I’m not going to toot my own horn here. It isn’t my style. But, know this…
My integrity is quite important to me. I will ONLY recommend to YOU what I either personally use or have spent time personally using.
Not everything I recommend to my readers is something I use now. But, you better believe I have used it quite extensively at some point. If I am recommending something to my readers, I need to be able to stand behind it.
I was excited about Thrive Theme Builder the moment I heard about it. And once I started playing with it, I decided this was going to be my official theme recommendation for ALL of my readers who ask me. That’s because you can use one solution and mold it into whatever you want – without any coding or geekery necessary.
As somebody in my position, this solves a big problem. I always hated having to send people into “tech hell” when it came to their theme. Now, I can point to ONE solution – AND support them.
But, to be fully congruent with my own recommendations, I felt I needed to be using the platform myself. If I am recommending Theme Builder but saying it isn’t good enough for my own needs, that’s not right.
So, not only am I now personally using it and this blog is now running on top of Theme Builder, but…
I can tell you that it IS good enough for my needs. I turned the default ShapeShift theme into what you see here on this blog right now. It works great.
My Overall Impressions Now That The Job Is Done
I really like Thrive Theme Builder. It is a fast platform to work with and I can make my site look pretty nice and do so quickly.
Things I really like:
- You can create multiple templates for different purposes (more on that in a minute) and give yourself a LOT of flexibility
- It reduces the number of plugins you might need to use since some of that functionality is built right into the platform. For instance, I could get rid of my related-posts plugin because Theme Builder does it on it’s own. I could get rid of a plugin I was using for mobile-responsive menus… because Theme Builder does all that automatically.
- The default templates that come with ShapeShift are actually pretty good and, in some cases, I ended up using aspects of that design because I honestly thought it was better than what I was doing previously.
- The speed of workflow is FAST. I mean, comparing this to what it would take me to make it manually and it is a whole new world here. Even for techie people, this is a major time-saver.
As with all things, there are some areas that are rough around the edges and I hope it will be addressed in future updates.
Things I didn’t like:
- It seems I could create different List templates (for archive pages, etc.), but I can’t for the life of me see how to USE any of them aside from the default. I can modify the default, of course. But, what’s the point of being able to make additional list templates if there’s no way to use them. Not sure if I missed something.
- One basic function of themes is the ability to list sub-pages. To visit a parent page and the content of that page is to display child pages in a nicely formatted way. Apparently, this functionality is currently missing in Theme Builder. I found a workaround, but it is annoying it wasn’t built in yet.
- As covered in my other post, there is no way to insert a post excerpt into a single post template. That option needs to be added as a dynamic text option.
I accepted a few compromises in the process of making this transition. There was a few things from my old theme that I could not duplicate with Theme Builder because of platform limitations.
On the whole, however, I believe the benefits far outweigh the few minor annoyances. And I think they will probably plug those holes in future updates.
A Few “Tricks” I Realized About Using Thrive Theme Builder
OK, I’m not sure if these are really “tricks” or not, but perhaps some advice on actually putting the capabilities of Theme Builder to use in a real, live environment.
#1 – Create A Copy Of ShapeShift And Customize That
When you get started, you will be working with a default version of ShapeShift. In the future, you will have other options in addition to ShapeShift.
But, what I would really recommend is to take advantage of Thrive Theme Builder’s built-in ability to manage themes.
- Go into “Manage” panel for themes in Theme Builder
- For the ShapeShift theme, click “Duplicate”. It will then create a copy.
- Rename the copy to something that reflects the name of your site.
Then from there, you can make edits to your theme – or even delete templates you’ll never use – and it won’t impact ShapeShift. This will give you a lot of flexibility and better organization moving forward.
#2 – Rename Templates To Fit YOU
Some of the template names that come built into this are wordy and not very descriptive. As you make templates fit your own needs, it helps to rename them to something that makes sense for you.
The names for your templates will show up in dropdowns later when you go to choose that template. So, make it make sense. This is YOUR site and you don’t need to accept the names Thrive Themes uses.
#3 – Create Templates For Different Purposes – And Calls To Actions
It is pretty easy to have one default template for all blog posts. All posts just look the same.
But, one of the powers of Thrive Theme Builder is to be able to have multiple templates available for any page or post… and you get to choose the one that is most fitting.
Most themes don’t even come with the ability to have different templates for different blog posts. Most people never even do that. But, this is a powerful capability of Theme Builder. And here’s a strong use case for it…
You can create different blog post templates that are optimized for different audience segments.
In my post where I talked about moving 100% to ConvertBox instead of Thrive Leads, I shared a strategy for managing calls to action using blog categories. Now that I am on Theme Builder, that same strategy still works to control ConvertBox, but it does not work for the top/bottom CTAs. I hand-coded some PHP code into my theme to do that and that’s not possible with Theme Builder right now.
The way I handled this was to use different post templates optimized around different lead magnets. At the top and bottom of this post, you’re going to see CTAs for lead magnets. Those are part of my theme now.
I have a different post template – built with Theme Builder – for each of my primary lead magnets. And then my default post template contains the CTA for The Online Business Roadmap.
Once you get your default post template the way you like it, you just Duplicate it. Then, make the relevant changes to the copy.
This new setup actually provides way more flexibility that I may use later. Since this is now a full post template optimized for certain interests and not only optins, I could take it further by putting in CTAs for relevant courses inside THE LAB, or customizing a CTA for the LAB itself but hitting the most relevant topic as the “in”. For instance, I could advertise THE LAB by talking about the membership site training… on all blog posts which talk about membership sites.
The on-blog marketing capability of these templates gives a lot of power.
#4 – Delete ShapeShift Templates You’ll Never Use
ShapeShift comes with a lot of available templates. As you customize things to your own liking, you’ll find that a lot of those default templates will just never be used.
So, delete them. Clear up the space. Get them out of your template dropdowns so that your editing interface only shows templates relevant to your own site.
This is yet another reason why it is nice to clone ShapeShift before you go making edits. Make this theme your own.
#5 – Take The Opportunity To Optimize Different Content Types
With Theme Builder, you can now choose formats for your blog posts. It can be a standard blog post, a video post, an audio post, or an image post.
Personally, I never use image posts. But, I do use videos sometimes. And all of my old, archived podcast posts are now audio posts. And Theme Builder comes with templates for those post types that you can optimize accordingly.
For instance, I took the time to go back to all of my old, podcast episodes and turn them all into audio posts in Theme Builder. This, of course, brings in the template that I created specifically for audio posts and I used that template to optimize specifically for the podcast. Those posts now look different from regular posts on this blog.
Same with video posts. This post has a video at the top, so I am making this into a video post. And it has different formatting specific to displaying the video.
I think this is a powerful capability. Most people who have a video post just embed the video into the written portion of the post. With Theme Builder, you can take it up a notch and optimize.
Final Words On This Transition
I had to accept a few compromises as I switch to Thrive Theme Builder – only because I was originally trying to fully duplicate my original setup. And that was difficult to do.
Yet, the compromises were minor. I doubt anybody will even notice except for me. And…
The improvements that I DO get are lightyears better than my original theme.
I feel like the site is running better than it was. It feels cleaner to me… but probably just because I know some of the behind-the-scenes difficulties are no longer there.
The flexibility I now I have with the different templates gives a lot of power for blog-based marketing. I’m not even fully utilizing the options there – yet. 🙂
There are a few things I hope they will add to the platform in future updates, but none of them are deal killers. Not even remotely.
And get this…
The site you see here right now… I didn’t TOUCH a single line of code to do that. The ONLY code I migrated from the original theme was some custom CSS to make the table of contents look a certain way. I realized I could add that custom CSS to Thrive Theme Builder using the customizer:
Overall, I’m very happy with Thrive Theme Builder and can’t wait to see how it develops further.
So, there it is…
This site is now fully powered by Thrive Theme Builder.
And yes, this platform is now my official theme recommendation for anybody who asks. And I’m happy to help support you as you make the transition – if you choose to do so.