- Editor Rating
- Rated 4.5 stars
- Genesis Extender
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
- Last modified:
- Ease of UseEditor: 80%
- FunctionalityEditor: 90%
- Value for MoneyEditor: 90%
- Documentation and SupportEditor: 75%
Genesis Extender is a plugin from Cobalt Apps, the team who also created the Dynamik Website Builder child theme for Genesis. Both tools allow you to customise WordPress websites that are using the Genesis Framework, without editing any code; or by editing a little code to make even bigger changes to the way your site looks and functions.
While the Dynamik Website Builder is a do-it-yourself child theme for Genesis, the Genesis Extender plugin works alongside any Genesis child theme, allowing you to customise almost any aspect of it. This is done by using the design controls, the built-in PHP and CSS builders, and the front end visual CSS editor.
In this Genesis Extender review we will take an in-depth look at its features, see how easy it to use, and find out whether it really is a tool that both novices and experienced theme developers will find useful.
What Can Genesis Extender Do?
Genesis Extender is a plugin that works with any child theme of the Genesis Framework. This includes not only the child themes released by StudioPress, but any theme built to run on this popular framework.
Once the plugin is installed alongside this framework and one of its many child themes, it gives the user the ability to customise that child theme in a number of ways, all without the need to edit any code. However for those that have a bit of coding knowledge, or at least an understanding of how WordPress and Genesis works, there really is no limit to what this tool can help you achieve.
Features of the Genesis Extender Plugin
Extender really is a feature packed tool. While the front end CSS builder and editor is perhaps its biggest attraction, its other notable features include:
- Compatible with all Genesis child themes (except Dynamik)
- Edit the theme’s style and layout in real time through the front end
- Menu-based CSS and PHP generators and editors
- Build custom static homepages without editing any code
- Create widgetized static homepages with a range of layouts
Extender has all the features required to be a theme developer’s best friend, so let’s take a look and see how easy it is to use.
Using Genesis Extender
Once the Extender plugin has been installed on your website, two new menu items are added to the Genesis sub-menu on the admin dashboard sidebar:
- Extender Settings
- Extender Custom
Through the settings screen of the plugin you will find links to Extender resources and documentation, information about the plugin version, and the opportunity to enter your license key.
The settings also allow you to define how Extender will work on your site, covering which post types it will work on, whether to minify the CSS stylesheet for faster loading times, and whether to enable the advanced static homepage builder or not.
Other notable settings in this part of the plugin include:
- Activate the Genesis Extender Static Homepage
- Remove all page titles (or individual titles by ID)
- Enable plugin for use with custom post types
- Enable combining and minifying the stylesheets
- Set the custom thumbnail image sizes (up to five different sizes)
From the import / export tab you can also import and export the settings and custom options, which is ideal for creating backups and reusable configurations, as well as sharing the settings amongst other sites using Extender.
Creating a Widgetized Static Homepage Layout
If you do activate the Genesis Extender Static Homepage then you will be able to choose a homepage widget structure.
Once you’ve chosen one of the many layouts available, the homepage will be organised using that layout, with each section containing a widgetized area.
Then when you go to the widgets area on your site (Appearance > Widgets) there will be a corresponding widget area matching the layout you chose, which can then be populated with widget content.
This is a powerful feature as there are a large number of layouts to choose from, and thanks to the ability to populate each section of the layout with widgets (including those from other plugins), there really is no limit to the type of content you can add to your homepage.
When working with the plugin, most of the settings and options feature a tooltip icon which when clicked open a new browser tab providing more information about that item in order to help you get a better understanding of how that setting or option works.
Extender Custom Options
After you’ve configured the settings, you can then move onto the custom options. This is where the customisation of the Genesis child theme that is active on your site takes place and is the heart of Extender.
The different types of customisations you can make with Extender are divided into the following areas, and whether you use all or any of them is entirely optional:
- CSS (customise the styling and appearance of the theme)
- Custom functions (which are added to your themes functions.php file)
- Custom template (create page templates and WordPress templates (single, archive, etc.)
- Custom labels (create custom styles and functions for a label, then assign that label to a page or post)
- Conditionals (state where you do and do not want content to display)
- Widget areas (create custom widget areas and define where to display them)
- Hook boxes (create a hook, set its location, then add custom content to it)
- Images (upload images to use in your designs and with the front end CSS builder)
As you can see there is a lot that can be done with Genesis Extender. Most of the above options can be combined together, such as creating a custom template, then applying it to certain pages using custom conditionals.
However, even if you only start out with the CSS editor to modify the appearance of your theme, you are still getting access to some powerful tools, while having the ability to experiment with its other features as your confidence grows.
Customising the CSS
As we’ve just seen Extender can do a lot more than just allowing you to customise the styling and appearance of your site by editing the CSS. However, for many Genesis users who want to personalise their theme of choice, this alone will be enough to justify the cost of the plugin.
When it comes to editing the underlying CSS of your child theme, there are two ways of doing so: through the back end custom CSS panel, or by using the front end CSS builder.
Both options give you access to the built-in CSS builder which is used to generate the CSS styling which will be applied to your theme. This covers customisation options such as fonts, colours, layouts, borders, and a whole lot more.
Generating the CSS to modify the appearance of your theme is as simple as selecting the element you want to style such as the body or menu, and then selecting the options from a dropdown menu, such as font type, and then clicking the button to build the CSS.
Then it’s just a case of copying the CSS and pasting it into the back end custom CSS panel.
However, the front end CSS builder and editor is where Extender really comes into its own. By enabling this feature and then switching to the front end of your website, and then clicking the show/hide builder button, you can edit the CSS with a live preview of what effect your customisations will have on your site, as you make them.
You can enable the element selectors option, which allows you to then click on a page element, such as a header, or content area, and then begin adding custom CSS. Again if you don’t know CSS this is not a problem, as you can simply select the font type, border, colour, or any other styling options from the CSS builder. This will also give you a live preview of how your changes will look.
As the above image shows, first select the element, such as post/page title, and then make the customisation which could include the font type. When you are happy with your customisations, click save changes to set them live on your site.
Being able to just click on a page element, or select from the dropdown menu list and then generate the custom CSS by clicking on the relevant buttons is a really powerful feature and will be the highlight of Extender for many users.
Custom PHP Builder
With most of the above customisation options, such as functions, labels, templates, and hook boxes, you can insert your own custom PHP into them. To save you writing your own code, Extender includes a custom PHP builder.
The PHP builder allows you to use a series of dropdown menus to build your PHP. These menus include the type of action and setting their location. Through the PHP builder you can also create your own shortcodes, which can then be inserted into your posts and pages as required.
While you will need WordPress / Genesis PHP knowledge to make use of the builder, for those that don’t have these skills using Extender is a great way to learn them and get started, compared to writing your own PHP from scratch.
Genesis Extender vs. Dynamik Website Builder
As these two tools from Cobalt Apps appear to have lots of overlap with the same features included in both, you might be wondering which one is the best choice.
The main difference between these two tools is that Dynamik allows you to start from scratch with a blank canvas and create your own Genesis child theme, whereas the Extender plugin gives you the ability to customise an existing Genesis child theme.
As well as this main difference, Dynamik has more design options for creating your theme and has been able to do this as it is working from a blank canvas, whereas Extender has less customisation capabilities as it has to accommodate the intricacies of a range of third party Genesis child themes.
As there is a large overlap between these two tools, they won’t work together on the same site in order to avoid conflicts that may arise when trying to use them both simultaneously. However, Dynamik users have nothing to gain by installing Extender, as the former contains all the customisation features of the latter.
In short, if you want the full suite of options and to be able to create your own Genesis child themes from scratch, or by using a Dynamik Skin as a starting template, without the need to edit any code, then Dynamik Website Builder is for you.
However, if the idea of customising existing Genesis child themes, also without the need to edit any code, is your goal then the Genesis Extender plugin is the better match.
It’s worth pointing out that despite these two tools not working together on the same site, it’s not uncommon for developers to have both Dynamik and Extender is their toolbox. This is because together they cover both customisation jobs and new build projects, saving time and helping to get the job done more efficiently. These tools aren’t really competing with each other as they both serve different purposes and appeal to two distinct types of users (theme creators vs. theme customizers).
To get the full picture read our in-depth Dynamik Website Builder review now.
Alternatives to Genesis Extender
The closest competitor to Extender is the Genesis Design Palette Pro plugin which we reviewed here. That plugin was built to allow you to also customise Genesis child themes without editing any code.
Genesis Design Palette Pro does allow you to customise Genesis child themes, and even includes additional support for some specific StudioPress child themes. The customisation takes place on the back end, but you do get a live view through a preview panel as you make changes.
The changes are made by clicking on the section of the page you wish to edit, and then selecting from the available options such as font type, colour, etc. You can also add your own custom CSS to further personalise the customizations.
However, it doesn’t include any of the advanced features of Extender, such as the CSS and PHP builders, the ability to create homepage layouts, working with hooks and templates and all those other features.
While Genesis Design Palette Pro is probably more user friendly for new users than Extender, if you want a more powerful tool that will only become more useful as your knowledge and experience grows, then Extender is the best choice, despite its slightly steeper learning curve.
There are also a large number of page builder plugins that have been released recently that allow you to build your layouts through a drag and drop interface. While there is some overlap with those types of tools and Extender, if you want more control over your designs, plus lots more developer-style features, then again you are better off going with Extender.
But for those that do want to quickly put together professional looking page layouts, then a tool like Zoom Builder is definitely worth investigating.
Support and Documentation
Over at the Cobalt Apps website you will find the Genesis Extender Knowledge Base which contains a few FAQ entries, one tutorial, and the tooltip entries that are linked to from the plugin pages on your site. Some of the tooltip entries contain helpful walkthrough videos which do a good job of demonstrating the features of Extender.
There is also the discussion forum where users of Genesis Extender and Dynamik Website Builder can congregate and share ideas and support each other.
Support tickets can be submitted via the contact forms in the account section of the website.
Genesis Extender is available on three pricing plans:
- Single site: $39
- Up to 3 sites: $69
- Unlimited sites: $149
These prices include one year of support and upgrades, after which time you can either continue using the plugin but unsupported, or renew your license for 50% of the original purchase price.
Don’t forget you need to have the Genesis Framework installed on your WordPress site in order to use this plugin.
If you are looking for a powerful tool for extending Genesis and its child themes and either modifying them slightly, or building your own custom creations, then the Genesis Extender plugin comes highly recommended.
If you have ambitions of becoming a Genesis developer but don’t yet have the necessary coding skills or knowledge of WordPress or Genesis, or you want to speed up the current development tasks you are already carrying out, then you fall into the target audience of Extender and will find this tool very useful.
The documentation is a bit lacking considering the scope and wide number of possible uses for this plugin. There is a tutorial covering how to install the plugin, but when it comes to what to do next it does feel a bit like you are left to your own devices. It would be nice to see a systematic walkthrough or guide covering all the main features to help users get up and running a bit faster.
However, if you are prepared to get stuck in on your own and show a bit of initiative you should be able to get to grips Genesis Extender fairly quickly. Most features and settings do have a tooltip icon, which links to a support page with more information, and sometimes a helpful walkthrough video. This makes it easier to work out what can be done with each feature of the tool.
At its most basic Extender gives you access to a powerful front end CSS editor, which also has the ability to generate the CSS you want to apply to your theme. However, this plugin doesn’t stop there and allows you to create custom PHP functions using the PHP builder, hook them into your theme, and really customise the way it works in many ways.
If you want to get the most out of Extender, and go beyond just using it to edit the underlying CSS of your theme you will need to learn a bit about how PHP works, get a grasp of custom conditionals, and understand the way WordPress and Genesis use hooks.
However, Extender gives non-developers a massive head start on becoming proficient theme customizers. It will allow them to start doing things to their theme they probably wouldn’t have had a clue where to even start looking for a way to implement.
Genesis Extender also has lots of timesaving features experienced developers will appreciate, making it a great tool for coders and non-coders alike.
If you want to change the basic visual elements of your chosen Genesis child theme, plus have the ability to do a whole lot more with a lot less effort, then Genesis Extender is the tool for you.
- Customise any Genesis child theme
- Includes a front end CSS editor
- Very versatile
- Great time saving abilities
- Documentation could be more useful
- Bit of a steep learning curve
Summary: Genesis Extender is a plugin which allows you to customise any child theme for the Genesis Framework. It includes CSS and PHP builders to help generate the code you need to get the look and functionality you required, with a front end CSS editor included.
Rated 4.5 stars