WP Engine Launches Genesis Pro Add-On for Customers, More Features in the Works

Managed web hosting company WP Engine launched the new Genesis Pro add-on for customers of its hosting service today. The add-on brings additional block editor features for users who are using a Genesis-based WordPress theme.

Genesis is a parent theme developed by StudioPress. WP Engine acquired the theme development company in 2018. Later that year, the company took the first steps toward adding compatibility with the block editor for Genesis customers, becoming an early adopter of the new editing experience.

“Beyond just being ‘compatible,’ Genesis will play a big role in being Gutenberg-First,” Jason Cohen, CTO of WP Engine, said of future plans nearly two years ago. “That means not only supporting the software and ideals of Gutenberg but using them for new features. In doing so, it’s our intention to light the way for the countless agencies and developers who use WordPress to fuel incredible digital experiences that are made even easier with Gutenberg.”

Today’s Genesis Pro launch is another step on that journey. WP Engine is currently rolling out the add-on as part of its managed hosting service. The cost is $30/month ($360/year) for an unlimited number of sites.

The current plan is to also make the Genesis Pro plugin available via the StudioPress website in the early summer. The company is not formally committing to that timeframe yet, but users not on WP Engine’s hosting service should expect it this year. The price for Genesis Pro will be available for $360/year, which is at the same rate as the hosting add-on.

The reason behind the early launch for web hosting clients seems to be twofold based on the announcement post. David Vogelpohl, VP of Web Strategy for WP Engine, said the company could launch the product faster and increment with the launch for its hosting customers. They are also able to make sure the payment system scales, which StudioPress now uses.

“Genesis Pro’s capabilities are expressed in a single plugin today, but may be provided in multiple plugins, WP adjacent services, or other means in the future based on architectural decisions of any particular feature,” said Vogelpohl.

Watch a quick video on Genesis Pro:

Genesis Pro Features

Screenshot of a image and text layout from Genesis Pro.
Example layout from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on includes a robust set of options that are primarily aimed at helping users build their webpages with custom blocks and designs. The following features are the foundation of the add-on:

  • Block Library: Includes 17 custom blocks, such as a testimonial and pricing block.
  • Page Layouts: Offers 22 full layouts for product, portfolio, team, and other pages.
  • Content Sections: Adds 38 customizable content sections.
  • Permissions System: Allows admins to set editing permissions on a per-block basis.
  • Customization: Users can create and share custom sections and layouts with content creators.

Most of the options seem to be under a pop-up modal on the post-editing screen that should allow users to insert blocks directly into their post or page content. More blocks, sections, layouts, and other content-creation tools are currently in the works.

Screenshot of the Genesis Pro block editor modal.
Layout selector from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on features are mostly standard fare in comparison to many of the block libraries and suites available throughout the WordPress ecosystem. Of course, these will have the StudioPress spin on them and likely be of high quality based if past work is any indication. With the launch out of the way and the foundation in place, it should be much easier for the team to churn out more customization options for end-users.

The most unique feature is probably around the block permissions system, which few companies have truly tackled. For site administrators who work with multiple creators, setting up editing permissions for individual blocks can be useful. If the user experience for this system works well, it will be a huge selling point for some site owners.

Screenshot of the block permissions settings for Genesis Pro.
Block permissions settings for Genesis Pro.

Genesis X

Vogelpohl teased another project the team has been working on titled “Genesis X,” which is separate from the Genesis Pro project. It is an experimental plugin version of Genesis that will be available to StudioPress customers at no additional charge. The work thus far has centered on what Genesis will look like in a world where full-site editing is available through WordPress itself.

“The current version of Genesis X focuses on helping site creators easily manage global styles across their site, customize and manage blocks, as well as other capabilities to help users win with full-site editing in WordPress core,” said Vogelpohl. “Genesis X is being built core-adjacent and is not a replacement for the block editor. It is designed to work with the block editor.”

Vogelpohl said the first objective of the project is to provide analogs for features in Genesis that would not work in a parent theme structure within the full-site editing context. “After achieving that parity in ways that make sense, we will be focused on the advanced block capabilities as well as other features currently on our roadmap,” he said.

The company is putting a lot of weight and resources behind the transition from pre-block WordPress and the upcoming features that WordPress will offer via the block system. Right now, they have a team of 15 employees working on solutions with Genesis.

“The overarching theme is that Genesis X is being architected not to just help the Genesis community adapt to full-site editing in core, but for any user of WordPress to adopt full-site editing in a way that sets them up for the best chance of success,” said Vogelpohl.


17 responses to “WP Engine Launches Genesis Pro Add-On for Customers, More Features in the Works”

  1. Interesting … I saw the announcement from WPEngine but didn’t understand the implications until I read your article.

    I think this is good that WPEngine is leading the way developing the block editor. Despite the naysayers in your article last week, the block editor is the future.

        • Oops, perhaps I shouldn’t have skimmed. Thank you, Justin.

          The price does make sense for an agency on WP Engine. A lot of agencies pay per site with only a modest discount for things like Yoast SEO and ManageWP. A flat $30/month for unlimited sites would be a bargain.

          I don’t see how the average single site owner using Genesis would be interested in paying $360/year for it. A lower tier would make sense for that segment, methinks. I’m sure WP Engine knows what they’re doing.

    • I imagine the price won’t be an issue for freelancers and agencies running potentially dozens of WordPress installs. The cost for 10 clients goes down to $3/client each month. Not a bad deal in that scenario.

      For Regular Joe with his one personal website, it’s probably a bit much. It’d be nice to see some different tiers to cater to different user bases.

  2. I am hesitant but excited for these changes. Genesis has always had two customer bases, its developers, and the DIY child theme buyers. I think this holds promise for both. For the DIY buyers, in particular, it brings the true flexibility the child theme buyers have been looking for because of the block editor. Genesis has always attempted not to be too opinionated in how it built out the editing options in its child themes which have always been a limitation. A good one but one that was limiting.

    As a developer, I hope we will be able to use a tool like this and strip out all the premade templates and customize it for custom theme building and are restricted to the templates, sections, and blocks that are best suited for the experience I am trying to deliver.

  3. Does the price tag include fully managed support? I mean, it comes under the managed hosting, but are there going to be people allocated to help customers with their design-related issues?

    Then again, StudioPress was always an upper-end brand, to begin with.

  4. I guess this perfectly relates to your previous article when Brian Gardner stated, “My biggest regret was not starting with (or switching to) a recurring business model, I think I left a lot of money on the table by not doing that…”

    Is this WP Engine’s attempt to rectify Brian’s regret?

    Unfortunately, Genesis Pro misses the mark in so many ways. Charging $360/year is laughably uncompetitive as they seem to be selling you, in part, what’s already included in their own free Atomic Blocks collection.

    Many of the free blocks collections on WordPress.org, such as CoBlocks and Ultimate Addons, have more than the 17 custom blocks offered in Genesis Pro.

    Also, comparing what Genesis Pro gives you at $360/year vs. what something like Themeum’s Qubely does at $99/year and, again, Genesis Pro falls terribly short.

    Quite frankly, this is a bad move. If Genesis Pro was included with the Pro Plus All-Theme Package, it would have made it much more attractive to new customers and encouraged current customers to stick with Genesis.

    My agency has long abandoned Genesis but still supports dozens of Genesis sites that will eventually be transitioned to other themes. Genesis X or Genesis Pro at $360/year isn’t going to change. However, including these plugins and other value-adds at no additional cost might have certainly made a difference and convinced me to stick with Genesis.

    • I definitely understand the pricing concern. A little more context might make you feel better, though, so let me try to fill in some blanks.

      Genesis Pro, in its current state, might seem light on tools/features, and we understand that. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we chose to start. It’ll be too much $ to ask for from some people, and perfectly reasonable to others. We’re OK with that, for now.

      But as time goes on, and we continue to finish up the projects on our roadmap, we think the price becomes a lot more reasonable to a lot more people.

      It’s also worth noting that Genesis Pro is our “Pro-level subscription”, but we are fully invested in also providing TONS of value in our FREE tools as well.

      As David Vogelpohl mentioned, we’re currently working on a no-cost plugin that aims to solve many of the common problems surrounding building full sites in Gutenberg, including the site structure, content, styles, performance, SEO, etc.

      To reiterate, that will ALL be FREE … as in speech and as in beer. No cost, hosted on WordPress.org … FREE.

      And if something in our Genesis Pro package feels valuable to you (and we hope it will), then we’ll also be offering a the $360/yr Genesis Pro subscription that gets you access to all the extras, including professional support.

      Hopefully our commitment to making sure WordPress users in all economic conditions are taken care of is evident in our product strategy. We love this community … Genesis AND WordPress!

      • Nathan,

        While I appreciate your reply and with all due respect, it’s clear that charging $360/year is tone deaf, at best, especially in the face of a world-wide pandemic that has shutdown businesses around the world. We have yet to understand the full economic implications.

        Your pricing strategy has nothing to do with your love for the community. It’s about all the money StudioPress left on the table and a way to recapture it. Yes, it’s not for everyone, just the Genesis whales out there.

        Maybe that’s the real strategy: let’s create something for the whales!

        Like I said mentioned in my reply to Brian’s story, the big regret for StudioPress should be that you let Genesis slip into irrelevance.

        It’s funny how operations smaller than StudioPress and much less funded created themes that blow Genesis out of the water, such as Astra, Blocksy, GeneratePress, Kadence WP, OceanWP, Oxygen Builder, etc.

        Maybe I’m wrong. Ultimately, the marketplace will decide.

        • I get where you’re coming from, but I wouldn’t say it’s just for the whales … it’s for anyone who finds $360/yr in value for what the product offers. And, sure, that definitely won’t be an enormous group to right now. But as we add to the subscription, our intent is to make the value of the subscription worth the price for a larger and larger group of people.

          But I want to stress that we absolutely do not ever expect this to be some sort of universally appealing offering. It is called Genesis PRO for a reason. If you’re a professional web developer invested in WordPress, we want to help save you time when building sites for yourself and your clients.

          For people who aren’t necessarily professional web developers, or who don’t have the budget for our subscription, I want to reiterate that we are dedicating significant resources to building out FREE, no cost, totally gratis tools that do what our current flagship commercial product does, AND MORE! If someone never buys Genesis Pro, our Genesis products will still be available to them.

          I can tell you don’t like Genesis. I’m cool with that … to each his own. But we really are trying to position our product strategy so that we’re able to offer as much as we can for free. I mean, Genesis has always been a commercial product, and the StudioPress Pro Plus package is $500 currently, and still sells really well. The strategy of getting Genesis-quality tools in the hands of even more people for free seems like a good thing. ¯¯_(ツ)_/¯

          As you say, though, the market will decide.

            • It is a separate cost David. I asked them the same questions a few days ago and they wrote this back to me.

              Hi Liz,

              Any existing Pro Plus purchases will remain completely unaffected by the launch of Genesis Pro. Existing Pro Plus customers will still continue to benefit from theme support should they need it and new StudioPress theme releases, just as before. But they will not get Genesis Pro for free. The key takeaway is that Pro Plus will simply be unavailable for purchase after June 10th, with Genesis Pro taking its place.

              Let me know if you have any other questions.



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