I’ve been using the Headway Premium WordPress theme (disclosure: that’s an affiliate link) for nearly a year.
It has just been upgraded to version 2.0, which has brought a whole heap of new and improved functionality, bug fixes and speed improvements.
What is Headway?
Headway is a premium (paid-for) WordPress theme that has a built in visual editor for you to take control of how your WordPress driven site looks – everything from colour scheme, font styles and sizes to layout (yes, you read that right, drag and drop layout, in the browser!).
What Headway isn’t
Headway isn’t a beautiful but overly designed theme that locks you out of the ability to edit how your site or blog looks. Quite frankly if you have no eye for colour or talent for layout, you might not like Headway at first sight. There are, however, ‘Skins’ for Headway available, some free, some paid for, including one (more to come) from a very skilled WordPress paid-for theme designer. These are installed as a plugin and let you skip the process of designing your site initially yet most give you the ability to use Headway’s powerful layout features when you’re ready.
Why use Headway rather than a free or cheap pre-designed theme?
Sometimes you like some things about a theme but not others. Using Headway you can replicate a theme, with a little bit of time and in some cases some custom CSS (for anyone familiar with CSS, the ability to see a web page change as you type in a CSS command is something wonderful). In fact I’ve just switched this site over to Headway from a free theme called Gear that I have been using for a year or so. Mostly I wanted to see how quickly I could switch whilst retaining the original look and feel. It took me about an hour. I promise I’ll change it around again soon and make it more appealing, now I have the ability to do that!
One of the most common uses I’ve had so far for Headway has been adding a blog to existing websites, whilst maintaining a similar style to the main site. That’s pretty hard to do with anything else but a breeze with Headway. If you know your way round PHP and HTML too, you’ll appreciate Headway’s ‘Hooks’. These are points in the page where you can insert PHP code or HTML. Say you have a top navigational include for a main site – just insert a PHP include command at the relevant hook and you’re done. I’ve just finished working on a much more involved site than a standard blog and Headway’s Visual Editor and Live CSS Editor (it’s a fairly involved design) we invaluable in getting the site looking exactly like the PSD files.
One of the new features that should appeal to a lot of people is the Search Engine results preview – in the WordPress Edit Post page is a panel that shows you what your page will look like when it comes up in the SERPs on Google, encouraging you to write a meaningful title and META description (and Headway’s long standing SEO features include allowing you to set a different title tag to the on-page title.
When you purchase a developer license you have the ability to install it on as many sites as you like (your own, friends, family and clients), forever (it’s a lifetime license). Many of the other premium WordPress themes require you to buy a license for every site you set up that isn’t owned by you/your company. The only thing that people who you set up Headway for in this way don’t get is access to the support forums and future upgrades. For that they’d need their own license. The support forums are superb by the way, with some very helpful people, both those working for Headway Themes and regular users too. Oh and about upgrades? There’s a one-click upgrade function built in now!
Marks out of ten?
With the latest version, a solid 9. There’s always room for improvement, but then the Headway team are continuing to take it forward, and lifetime upgrades means I’ll get to enjoy all the coming enhancements. One thing that I go back and forth on is what functionality should be added in future versions that is already provided by other plugins – should that be in Headway or should I install a plugin to get it? Fortunately Headway’s developers ‘know when they’re beat’, for example Headway’s own breadcrumbs code steps aside if it detects the presence of Yoast’s Breadcrumbs plugin. More compatibility with the big guns in various areas of advanced WordPress usage (multi-lingual, e-commerce) can only be a good thing.