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Headway Theme Review – This Makes Changing Your Blog Design Easy

By Yaro Starak
53 Comments

This is a review of the Headway WordPress theme, written by Joel Williams from BlogTechGuy.com.

Joel is the person I refer to the most when people need technical changes done to their WordPress blogs. Given Joel’s strong knowledge of the WordPress platform he’s perfect to review this premium theme.

Note this post contains affiliate links, so when you buy the Headway theme after clicking a link in this article, you are passing a commission on to us, so thank you. Joel of course remained as unbiased as possible while writing this review despite the potential to retire young thanks to massive affiliate payouts :-). Over to Joel…

What Is Headway?

Headway is the new kid on the block in the world of premium (aka paid-for) WordPress themes.

It’s different to a lot of other premium themes in that it attempts to do away with themes only being customizable by designers or coders, and provide a theme that can be altered quickly and easily by just about anyone.

Customizing Headway: The Visual Editor Makes It Easy

One of the “wow” factors of Headway is the real visual editor. That means “what you see” is really “what you get”. When you make a change, you see the change live on your page, no waiting to see what it will look like. It’s also drag and drop, so if you want to move something, just pick it up and move it. If you want to style the text differently, just change it there and then, or use the custom CSS if that’s more your thing.

Headway Visual EditorIt works nicely too. When you’re logged into WordPress and visit your site, there is a Visual Editor link in the top right that normal visitors don’t see. Clicking the link loads up the editing tools to the left of your site, right in front of you, with changes shown live on the right hand side of the screen. If you are a developer then there’s no need to worry, the theme has many “hooks” for faster custom coding.

Other Features

Like Thesis, there are some great built-in SEO features that reduce the need to use the All in One SEO plugin. While never a deal-breaker, it’s nice to reduce the number of plugins used and have it all built in. It does add some other nice advanced SEO features, such as controlling noindex and nofollow and separating post/page titles from their headlines which can be a nice SEO tactic.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “How do I change my header image on my blog?“.

You’ll be glad to know this is quick and easy in Headway. Not only that, but you can choose whether the header is fixed width or fluid, you can move the navigation above and below it by simply dragging, and you can change the contents and font color/size/type easily. I’m sure you get the picture, pretty much everything you would like to do is controllable!

They also have introduced the concept of “leafs” – yes, not leaves. According to their site this is correct, they looked it up! A leaf is simply a content box or section that you have on your page. You have almost total control over every leaf, from how many you have to what goes in each, where they go, what size they are, the background color, font type and so on. There are a large number of preset leafs which serve a variety of functions.

Headway Leafs

A particularly nice feature is the ability to allow different users of your WordPress blog different levels of access to various parts of the theme design editor or layout tools. This can be very useful in larger multi-author blogs where you want some users to have a certain amount of power, but not total control.

There are all sorts of neat touches to the theme that makes you think they’ve really taken care to listen to what people want, and need, from a theme.

Support for the theme is offered via an excellent series of tutorial videos, written documentation and a members forum.

Who Would Find Headway Useful?

You can create almost any site you can imagine in WordPress using this theme. Blogs, Corporate homepages, membership sites, landing pages, squeeze pages – they’re all possible in Headway. Not only possible, but easier than ever before, and I really mean that. Even if you still don’t like to do layout work or site design, your freelancer will be able to do things much more quickly than ever before.

Headway in action

There are many “tricks” and techniques that can be used to enhance your blog. Adding drop-down menus is easy, as is re-ordering your navigation. You can have different sidebars on different pages without having to use another plugin. I’m also sure some of my clients could sit for hours tweaking the color combination of their site instantly as they watch (you know who you are!), or arranging the post meta options to be optimal in their eyes.

What Can Be Improved?

I looked long and hard and only have some minor points.

First there is a learning curve. Like with anything new it takes a while to get used to. To begin with I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t move the navigation above the header, but I had to enable that feature and then move it. Not a problem, but perhaps reading the instructions may help! In fact, it’s highly recommended, there are so many features that it can become overwhelming, with so many windows open in the Visual Editor it can be hard to keep track of what you’re supposed to be doing.

I would have liked the Headway menu options in the dashboard to be in its own main menu section on the left. Perhaps because I’m very organized, or I’ve become used to it with other premium themes. However these options are used much less as the Visual Editor makes things simpler.

Previous versions insisted you had to have PHP 5 installed on your server, however the latest version now has support for PHP 4 inbuilt. If you’re worried, Headway even provide a free compatibility checker on the purchase page before you buy.

Installing was easy, no changing of file permissions on your web host, or anything like that. I have Headway running on WordPress 2.9 and it integrates with no problems at all.

So what does it cost?

Perhaps uncoincidentally (if that’s a word), Headway’s purchasing options are very similar to those of the Thesis premium theme. The Personal option is $87 for up to two sites that you own or develop (Thesis only allows this on one live server), and the Developer option is $164 that allows unlimited use on your own sites and removal of the footer attribution.

If you wish to develop a site for a client it’s an additional $40 per site (the same as Thesis, though they do offer bulk discounts for this).

Both versions offer free upgrades for life which is a great benefit to have.

Final thoughts

Headway’s visual editor will come as a welcome relief to the countless number of people who want to design their own site but don’t have the coding skills required. While Thesis provides a brilliant framework and I love working with the hooks and controls it gives me, an average WordPress user often struggles customizing it, even adding a header image is challenging.

Though the Thesis forums provide great support on how to do almost anything with the theme, it can often be bewildering to people who have no experience of doing anything like that before. Headway attempts to remove this barrier and while still offering the hooks and customizable features that developers like me love, it provides a visual platform that many WordPress users have been waiting for.

Other well known premium themes, such as Affiliate Theme and Squeeze Theme have specific purposes and requirements in mind, and while they allow you to control certain elements, they do so in a relatively controlled environment.

If you’re looking for a new way of having control over almost every element of your site, take a look at Headway.

Joel Williams

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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53 Comments

  • Thanks for the tip on the theme! I’ve been building a few new sites lately and experimenting with Thesis but I think I’ll give this one a spin as well :)

  • I’m just getting started in this whole blogging world and plan to do a lot with what I call my blog 2.0 project. I am wondering a lot these days if it’s not better to at least know how to code so you’re actually worth more out there or if using these wonderful programs that allow you to design everything without the background knowledge is what is really important.

    I actually enjoy coding for the most part but wordpress and programs that work with it are fun too… And make it much easier to do.

    • Hey Eric,
      Headway isn’t just for non-coders. It has incredible flexibility in terms of allowing those who DO know what they’re doing to really take their website to a whole new level. Technically speaking, it’s a framework. I think that everyone should attempt to learn about how their website works so they can gain a better understanding of their resources. =)

  • SEO

    Hi

    Worthwhile to use, thanks for expression Yaro

  • WordPress is such a great CMS for building all kinds of websites and the development of premium themes like Headway, Thesis and others is raising the bar for those of us who use WordPress exclusively for our projects. The Headway theme adds another great way for those with less coding skills to build really cool websites. For those more skilled at building with WordPress this can be a real time saver after learning how to use the built in tools.

    One question that I didn’t notice answered here. Does this theme allow for an optin page on the root of the domain? We do sites for many projects that need a video optin page.

    We will be giving this a try for an upcoming project for our clients soon. Thanks for the great information.

    Henry

    • Hi Henry,
      You can put an optin form on the homepage no problem. You can use a Text Leaf and add the code there, or create a widget ready sidebar and add the code to a Text Widget. It’s very flexible and lots can be done with that.

      • Thanks for the reply on that Joel.

        So, I assume then that I could configure an optin page without the WP look and no sidebar, nice and clean? If that is so, perhaps I would not use the Squeeze Theme but use the Headway for a site I’m bidding on.

        • Yes, you can design each page differently if you like. Squeeze Theme is good for a specific purpose, I have used Squeeze Theme for my launch and then switched theme, but it is possible to do it all in Headway.

  • Thanks for the insightful, unbiased review, Joel. I’m actually in the market for a theme for a new blog I’m putting together. I was planning on going with one I already use but I just may give Headway a shot!

    I think a major selling point of the Headway theme is the visual editor. My current theme offers a lot of options but visual designing the UI is not one of them.

    Thanks again for the great review!

    Wesley
    The Geek Entrepreneur

    • Thanks Wesley, I appreciate that. It really is what people mean when they refer to a “game changer” in terms of the standard of premium themes.

  • Fantastic review.

    There is no doubt Headway is a game changer when it comes to theme customization. They have defiantly put together an innovative and useful product.

    Shannon

  • Great write up, I was thinking of jumping to Thesis, but now Headway is looking real good.

  • Another amazing wordpress theme to choose. A good one if anybody want to have a new look for their blog in the new year.

  • This sounds like a very powerful theme. Seeing all of these great themes and countless plugins, it makes me want to get into blogging again. I would be able to do a lot more than I could back in the days when blogspot was actually more popular than wordpress.

  • Very amusing way to comply with the new FTC regulations. Good job.

  • so many blog review Thesis theme but after reading Headway review i go for it

  • I have also been using Joel to help me along the way with technical issues with a variety of blogs. I’m about to get back into the blogging realm and Joel is certainly someone you can count on. He’s organized, up front honest and reliable.

    PS – I’m all for supporting the cause of retiring sooner than later!

    Much success to everyone here!

  • Good review, walk through, and highlights … especially good focus on benefits over features.

  • Thanks Joel for the great review. I’m building my new blog and have been struggling with finding a good wordpress theme and software. Headway might be the answer but after looking at its portfolio, it wasn’t that impressive, the results were close to what Thesis produced. I afraid it cannot create visually appealing blog unless someone can show me more good examples.

    I’m also concern how easy can Headway manage the ad banners, does it needs additional plugins? Does Headway tested all major browsers?

    I wish Headway can let the users test drive before purchase, at least we can get most of the answers before purchase. Nevertheless, it is a great software I’ve seen so far.

    • It’s difficult to let people test drive the theme before hand, I know they’re thinking of ways to do it.
      Banner ads can be done manually or by using a plugin, the same as on Thesis or most other themes.
      It’s a pretty new theme while Thesis has been around a while. So in the future I’m sure there will be more examples. Also search for the #headwaywp hash tag on Twitter and see some more sites built with the theme.

  • Thanks for the tip on the theme! I’ve been building a few new sites lately and experimenting with Thesis but I think I’ll give this one a spin as well

  • This is the first review of this new theme I’ve come across, and it definitely looks like it is very simple to set up and use. You can get other themes for cheaper, but I think the ultimate functionality and ease of use of Headway is unparallelled.

  • Joel,

    Does Headway allow you to have different headers on different pages? and different sidebars on different pages?

    So Headway can do more than Squeeze theme?

    • In the Visual Editor you can edit both individual pages and system pages – so you can change the look or all pages or just individual pages. I haven’t used that feature much myself, but I think it can have completely different layouts on different pages, including headers and sidebars.
      Squeeze theme is for a specific purpose, while Headway can be used for lots of different purposes.

  • I’m a bit of a dunce when it comes to modifying themes, so something like Headway sounds like a godsend for people like me. Thanks Joel for the review.

  • Awesome.. was just thinking of change my theme today… this looks ideal, thanks

  • This is very appropriate information for me. I’ve been working mostly on Type pad themes for folks and haven’t in actuality delved deeply into customizing WordPress because of the learning curve. After reviewed your blog, I am going to use and also I will try headway theme. Anyway thanks for update information.

  • Joel, can one add a bottom-bar (if that’s the right word) to the bottom of ones blog like Yaro’s below, or even several bottom bars.

    Is it easy to put adverts between posts etc with this theme.

    I know my questions are quite specific, but would appreciate an answer.

    Thanks!

  • @Haba, @ Entrepreneurs Blog and @Chris and all the comments before, you’re welcome!

    • @ Joel

      I’m just looking for a theme with great design/layout options, easy to use, because I’m not very skilled in coding and have to adapt an onsite-blog (subfolder) to an already existing site.

      Yes, simple to use options in thesis are limited, but with custom.css, custom-functions.php and hooks, you can manage almost everything. Yes, many design and layout items are easy to handle in headway (more than thesis offers), but what doing, when big options of headway are not big enough?
      An example: I need a horizontal navigation, containing TWO rows, not just one (2×6 links). Additionally with CSS-dropdown. As it is an onsite blog, the links must lead to pages outside the blog (within the site).
      I guess headway doesn’t make this possible just by drag and drop or clicking. How to solve such bigger things with headway

  • Joel,

    I was just about to purchase Squeeze Theme the other day and stumbled across Headway and stopped in my tracks. Now that I’m about to purchase Headway because it’s just the obvious choice, I’m faced with another hard choice.

    I haven’t seen anyone comment on the new kid on the block due to be available next week from iThemes.com. They are coming out with what they are calling the Builder Theme and it looks very interesting. I does not exactly have a visual editor like Headway but it has what they refer to as the Layout Engine that allows you to create and customize each individual page.

    They created a video showing some of it at http://ithemes.com/ but it’s not as good as it could be. However, with it you can make regular blog pages, squeeze pages, landing pages, RSS type feed pages (which is very interesting to me) and anything else you can think of.

    Joel, if you can check this out and let me know what you think I would greatly appreciate it. I have to pick between Headway and Builder pretty quickly and they both look pretty awesome right now. Give us you take on it if you will. Thanks in advance.

    Kelmo

    • Hi Kelmo, I’ve never seen this theme before to be honest, and missed the webinar you mentioned. It seems to have some great inbuilt templates and flexibility, though it is a lot less visual and more backend in style, bu I guess it would be whatever you prefer.

  • Joel,

    I forgot to mention that tomorrow at 12noon EST iThemes is having a walk through of the theme via a webinar. All the info is on their site. I will be there with bells on learning all I can so I can make the best comparison possible.

    It would be good if we could get your input and comparison after you check it out.
    Thanks again!

  • Just in time! I have several blogs I need to create and need something different and fast. Sounds much easier than going in and changing code. Thanks so much. I’m headed there now..

  • I’m currently using Swift Theme which is great for my current blog. However, I’ll definitely look into Headway for my other blog I plan to launch soon.

    That’s what reviews are about. Be honest. Highlight the benefits and the drawbacks

    Good job Yaro and Joel.

  • Headway is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thanks for the find and sharing.

  • Having so many wordpress themes to play with makes my webmastering life more confusing. however, whenever a nice new theme comes to my attention, i can’t help but to give it a try. nice find on this one!

  • Hmm.. I’m currently looking for a new them for one of my blogs. Maybe I’ll try this one. Thanks for sharing

  • There is no doubt Headway is a game changer when it comes to theme customization. They have defiantly put together an innovative and useful product.

  • Worthwhile to use, thanks for expression Yaro

  • [...] Review of Headway WordPress theme – get a new theme you’ve designed yourself for Christmas! Free Income Blogging Guide Blueprint – more details on this coming soon! You can also grab the guide by signing up for my newsletter on this blog, over there on the right sidebar. [...]

  • great review but i not have many money to buy it…heheheheheheh :)

  • Joel,

    Thanks for this analysis!

    It is information overload right now for this newbie (me), but I am loving every minute of it!

    To your success in 2010 and beyond!!!

    Regards,
    Neil.

    • Thanks Neil! All the best to you too.

  • Being a professional web designer I’m finding that clients like to go the route of buying a pre-made blogs as it cuts down on costs for them and gives them a real polished website fast. So thank you for this post, this is a great template.

  • [...] Review of Headway WordPress theme – get a new theme you’ve designed yourself for Christmas! Free Income Blogging Guide Blueprint – more details on this coming soon! You can also grab the guide by signing up for my newsletter on this blog, over there on the right sidebar. [...]

  • I wish I had the money to get this because it seems really neat. For now I just edit everything manually in the php files… boring.

  • Looks good. But currently not within my budget. Need to make some more income and then I can used premium themes.

  • As I write this I am in the process of selecting a new theme for one of my clients. I like the look and feel of Headway, not to mention the simplicity of WordPress. Before I spend any money, though, I would like to read a review of someone who has utilized it for several months…anyone ???

  • Rod

    Hi
    I have it and although it is a great system, there are still many bugs with it
    It does not like many of the wp plugins
    When and if they get it right it could be one of the best
    I got tired of it not saving and breaking sites and prefer the Atahualpa theme, you can do almost anything with it and its free

  • seo

    expensive, but doing business:)

  • Your MessageHeadway, clearly not all that, once you pay for the Headways theme and get your account details, then you get hit with extra hidden option fees, , not clear on the sales pitch at all. When you contact sales, the give you a BS story, after trying the Headway for 10 days its clear its not really drop and drag ,nor easy to build a website as advertised. When you ask for a refund , they state no refund.
    This is not sour grapes, this is junk at best and a total waste of money.
    DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY
    Buyer beware

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