Time flies. Wow.
My very first website built on X ended up on a list of WordPress influencers, along with Mercedes Benz, Katy Perry, Bloomberg, NASA and others. Not too bad. :)
The time has come to do a concise but detailed X and Pro theme review. There is a need for such review because most of what we can find on the Internet is outdated. Some reviews that can be found are old even if their (automatic) headlines are saying that they are from 2020.
Disclosure: Themeco had no referral program announced when this article was originally written. With the launch of the new website, they have also created this program. As of May 26. I have added the referral links to the Pro theme, but it doesn’t change a thing about what I have to say. There might also be some referral links to plugins and services I use a lot and am confident into.
For starters, the word “Theme” often used in the name of this product makes it sound somehow cheap. Less experienced people immediately think of some template that imposes its own design, and very often the whole layout. That is far from reality. X and Pro are both powerful site building tools. With them, it is possible to start from the blank canvas and build the website exactly the way we want it.
If you are building a website based on someone’s mockup, you will be able to recreate it 100%. I just hope that the mockup was made by someone who actually knows what they are doing. :) And if you want pre-made templates, sure. They are available in the Themeco’s Design Cloud.
The initial release of the X-theme was on October 24. 2013. We can see the whole update history in their official changelog. Soon after that it got the Visual Composer integration. Very quickly it became the fastest-growing theme on the Envato Market.
On May 28th, 2015, X-theme 4.0. came out and introduced its own page builder—Cornerstone.
On April 10th, 2017, Themeco released its second theme called Pro. The main difference at the time was that unlike X, it had the Header and the Footer builder. Also it was not sold on the Envato market, but directly from Themeco.
Throughout the years, Themeco was adding its own plugins called extensions. For example, there is a Custom 404 page plugin, Smooth scroll, Under construction, white lable, and others.
There is also a very powerful native Schema plugin called “Snippet”. This plugin supports many various schema types, outputted as JSON-LD.
Themeco is basing the X and Pro themes on design sets called Stacks. This may change in the future, but it is actually not a bad concept at all. There are four stacks: Integrity, Renew, Icon and Ethos. Each one has its own character, and they create a nice starting point for those who want quick ready-made designs. Everything in the theme is customizable, so you could end-up not noticing the stacks at all.
The difference between X and Pro theme
The key difference is that X is more simple, and Pro has the advanced Header/Footer Builder, as well as CSS Grid capability. X is available at Envato, and Pro is sold directly by Themeco.
Performance (It is fast. Very fast)
Ember, React, Themeco’s crazy-geek engineers… There are few things that came together that allowed creation of one of the fastest themes on the Internet. The barebone install is able to load in 0.5 seconds. An optimized website such as this one can load anywhere between 0.7 to 2 seconds.
As a digital marketing consultant, I had a chance to work with all major themes on the market, and some less known ones. I can tell you one thing for sure: no theme is fast as X and Pro theme. There are few that are a match on the front end. Oxygen would be one, and there are more. But on the backend… That’s crazy. Let me take a stopwatch and measure the time the Homepage of this website becomes editable in the Cornerstone Page builder:
Ready? Set… Go…………………7 seconds!
Dev time is money. If you have to wait an extra 10 or 20 seconds for every change to take effect, and to be able to edit a page, that sums up to A LOT of money burned for nothing.
Shall we try to measure saving changes on the page? Let’s go: ……..2.5 seconds!
Disclaimer: make sure you have fast Internet speed, and that the site is hosted on a decent Hosting. This one is on Siteground’s GrowBig Plan. Otherwise, the theme is as fast as the narrowest bottleneck.
Ok, let’s take a look at the front-end performance example for a second.
Not too bad at all. That is a Pro theme on Siteground, with their Supercacher enabled and WP Rocket. I use Supercacher and WP Rocket combined, but I avoid duplicating their functionalities. Only one does the front-end optimization, for example. To complete the optimization picture, I do detailed asset management using Asset Cleanup or similar plugins. That website has an image-heavy homepage, but the images are lazy-loaded, so the page weight is under 1MB at loading. The site is not on CDN. Here is a direct link to the report.
Performance Optimization Tolerance
Not all themes work when heavily optimized for performance. With X and Pro, a good thing is that you can go all the way in and combine all of its assets, (CSS, JS), and minify everything, it will still work just perfectly. It doesn’t need minification as a matter of fact, because it is pre-minified. Under HTTP/2, you may test if Concatenation is even needed. That will depend more on your plugins setup.
Also, I have tested WP Rocket’s Lazy Loading for images, and all image elements in the theme support it and work perfectly. There are no issues if Webp file formats are served instead of the original images as well. Siteground does this natively if turned on.
All in all, an already lean and fast X and Pro theme doesn’t mind to be additionally optimized at all. No resistance there.
There is hardly any other theme I’d rely on when it comes to SEO. There are multiple reasons for that, including great architecture, speed and security. A good proof for that is that an X-theme based website is ranking the keyword “Credit cards” at #1 in Croatian language, above all Credit card companies, banks and financial institutions. It also ranks #1 on dozens of top, most expensive financial keywords. This is of course a result of my SEO strategy, but obviously Google had no objection about the theme. :)
There is one more strong reason for my claims. And the most important one: Themeco. I had several SEO related discussions with them on forums and one thing I can tell you is that the dev team is very interested in making sure the Theme is as SEO friendly as possible. They also possess a lot of knowledge in this area.
Other than that, the theme has a Schema powered Breadcrumbs element as well as Ratings and Testimonial elements with Schema. there is also a Snippet addon that can be enabled, allowing setting up Structured data types per each post type.
Cornerstone Page Builder
The real power reveals itself once you fire-up Cornerstone. Also called Content Builder in Pro. Cornerstone is a full front-end Page builder integrated with the X and the Pro theme. It provides the structure based on basic building blocks:
We can nest rows inside columns, which allows more complex layouts. But, that is just the beginning: we can turn-on Flexbox layout on the Columns, and if that is not enough we can activate CSS Grid!
So the layout options are:
- Standard Layout
- Flexbox Layout
- CSS Grid layout
That’s about the structure. When it comes to design, Cornerstone has 40 various elements, many of which are multipurpose.
Some of them would be:
- Breadcrumbs with Schema
- Buttons with advanced interactions
- Flipping cards
- Headline with graphics and subheadings
- Various navigations
- Ratings with Schema
- Various search options (Inline, modal, dropdown)
- Testimonials with Schema…
Fantastic thing about Cornerstone is that everything is fully customizable. Also, the fact that many elements are multi-purpose, creates less clutter and removes bloat. For example, a headline element can have any of the H tags, but it can also get a span tag. So if we turn on the graphic (image or icon), it becomes a simple text item with a graphic. A Button element has also various design options. It can be a clickable element that doesn’t look like a button at all. Like the three boxes below the hero image on the homepage of this website. Nobody could guess that those are actually buttons.
Pro is the first theme on the Market that has CSS Grid Layout integrated, with a native visual editor. It has a native draggable interface like no other.
The power of the CSS Grid is the ability to arrange elements in two dimensions, (unlike one-dimensional Flexbox). By doing that, we can overlap elements if we like, and we can rearrange them by breakpoints. This allows layouts that are beyond the reach of most page-builders.
Some users don’t turn this option ever on. Others cannot live without it. Dynamic Content supports ACF fields, WordPress content or just about anything else. For example, the header of this blog post has the Article title, Published and Last modified dates all dynamic. This makes creating Templates easy as a pie. Paired with the Template Manager, it truly has lots of use cases.
Build an element in one place, and drop it anywhere with a shortcode or the Global Block Element. Then update it in one place and voila — updated everywhere.
With X and Pro, you can turn anything into a template. A whole page, a section, a column with all the elements, any element, anything. Once created, it becomes a Preset element. That means that you can simply drag & drop it anywhere and that’s it.
Post type Layout builder
This one is is still not part of the theme. But the good news is that it will come very soon, with the new major version. It should be somewhere between May and July 2020. At that point, the major advantage of some other themes will be leveled. It will be possible to build Custom Archives and Post type layouts.
Bundled Premium Plugins
X and Pro are coming with over $1000 worth of premium plugins. Those are:
- ACF Pro
- Convert Plus
- Essential Grid
- WP Cost Estimation & Payment Forms Builder
- Layer Slider
- Modern Events Calendar
- Slider Revolution
- Superfly Menus
- The Grid
- Woo Checkout Editor
No, this is not another attempt to drag-drop some pre-made elements into preset positions. This is a whole content builder for the Header and the Footer. You can make it look whatever you like. There is hardly any known website that you couldn’t emulate with Pro.
Please note that you may have run into some reviews on the Internet (old but claiming that are from April 2020). They say that Pro Header has different UX and separate learning curve than with the Content builder. This was true long time ago. Both builders are Flexbox powered and utilize the same controls.
Fear of client ruining the website by clicking what they shouldn’t? No problemos. All individual theme parts, individual elements or user settings can be assigned to specific user roles.
We don’t have to say anything more about this. It works like a charm.
Have you found a cool animation library that hooks into HTML with custom attributes? Would you like to apply it to the X/Pro elements? No problem. Add as many custom attributes to any element. Zoooom zoooom.
When it comes to price, Themeco has covered so many options that I’m sure everybody will be find something for themselves. X can be purchased on Envato for $59 lifetime payment, currently at a discount for $35. But take my advice and don’t buy it. Pro theme license is $79 lifetime payment, and it can be bought from the Themeco’s website directly. But hold on just yet and read on… For the extra $20 in comparison to buying the X theme, you are getting the Header & Footer builder and the CSS Grid element, which are awesome. You are also supporting Themeco directly, and that is important. The license is valid both for the Production and the Staging website, so there is no need to switch licenses constantly.
For a long time, the lifetime single-license was the only choice. But not anymore. Themeco came out with a Lifetime Unlimited License for $399! This license covers as many websites as we can handle, with ongoing support and updates. A simple math says that this is a huge deal for anyone who is planning to build 5 sites or more. Any agency or freelancer should have this powerful weapon in their arsenal. Personally I don’t even know how many licenses I have bought, or had my clients buy in all those years. This option is a no-brainer.
And there’s more. Themeco also has monthly and yearly license options. You can check them out, but there are very rare cases where buying a $69/yr single license is better than buying a $79 lifetime single-license. There is also an unlimited license for $149/yr. If you are on budget and eager to go Pro asap, you can start for as low as $9/mo for a single site, or $19/mo for unlimited sites.
Finally, there is a hosted and managed version, where you can have your website hosted, maintained and the license included, started for 229/yr for up to 50.000 visitors. This can go up with the traffic requirements and number of sites. The monthly hosted version starts at $29/mo.
To recap on the pricing, Themeco really thought this through and offered something for everybody. My personal favorites are ether the Unlimited lifetime Pro license for $399, or a single-site lifetime Pro license for $79. Check ’em both on this direct link. But you might hold on ’till the end of this article. I’ll drop you the link again below. :)
From the day one, Themeco devoted lot of time, energy and love to provide support that is best in business. They go over and beyond, and they respond very quickly. Usually within few hours and sometimes faster.
There was a short period when Themeco was restructuring the support system, and they came out with a huge update that radically changed things. It created a huge pressure on the (new) support team and the quality went a bit down. The theme was actually never unusable or something. But there were several influential individuals creating negative hype around it. Themeco did that bold move to transfer the theme far into the future, beyond the competition. That move paid off tenfold. So if you find traces of that by searching the historic content on the Internet, that’s it. And it is all long gone.
As I have said, the support is absolutely one of the best in the business, and it is lifetime. No yearly time limit or something. The Support Forum is open, but questions can be asked only by registered users with licenses.
If you are not subscribed to WPScan Vulnerability Database already, you should be. Go ahead and check the popular themes on the market. You will find most of them had security breaches. But not X. And not Pro. They have a spotless security record.
The Long-term Sustainability
I am using Themeco’s themes almost from its beginning. One of the most important aspects of deciding to go with them at the time was the human factor. I have felt the passion and devotion of Kyle Wakefield and his team. I knew those treats will lead to great things, and that they will provide long-term security. That was enough for me. If you want to hear the Themeco story, you can watch this video. (50 min).
This article is an overview of the Theme and its functionalities, so I won’t bore you with too much content. Everything important has been said. Here is a list of what we have mentioned already, and few more things:
- Global Colors
- Global or Page-level CSS/JS
- Font Manager
- Template Manager
- Dark/Light Mode
- Dynamic Content
- Header/Footer Builder
- Unlimited Headers and Footers
- Lots of Premium Plugins
- Flexbox and CSS Grid
- Global Elements (Blocks)
- Custom Attributes
- Native Dropdowns, Modals and Fly-ins
- Powered by Ember and super-fast backend/frontend
- Font Awesome Pro V5
- Design Cloud – Offsite repository of ready-made elements
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Right-click contextual menu in the builder
- Elements API for developers
- And more
I am obviously biased. But with a good reason. If there was a reason for me to leave Themeco in the last 7 years, I would do it. Instead, they have become an invaluable partner I can count on. They have provided me with an advanced piece of technology that works flawlessly and that doesn’t stay in between my imagination and the final product.
This technology cuts down the development time significantly. There is no need to build a mockup in Photoshop or other Prototyping tools. Cornerstone builder works almost like those tools. The live prototype instantly becomes the final product.
So there is really no other rating for it than this:
That’s it for now. I will get back to this X and Pro theme review to update it, whenever I feel that I should add more to it, and also when new theme updates will be available. See you soon!
Oh, right… The link to the Themeco’s Pro page: https://theme.co/pro/.