Thrive Theme Builder Review: is it worth switching to?

Thrive Theme Builder is the new WordPress theme from Thrive Themes.

You may know Thrive Themes as the company behind Thrive Architect (read a review or see it in action here), a visual page builder plugin, and popular WordPress themes like Pressive, Rise and Squared (see examples here).

Thrive Themes members have been waiting over 2 years for Thrive Theme Builder to get out of beta and finally be released for sale. Yes, you read that correctly: Thrive Theme Builder has been in development for over 2 years! I first wrote about it way back in 2018, when it was known as Thrive Visual Theme Builder.

That’s a long time!

Now it’s finally out, it’s time to dig into how Thrive Theme Builder works, what its features are, how it sizes up to the speed and usability of other themes, and whether it’s worth switching to in 2020.

Let’s dive into it.

What is Thrive Theme Builder?

Thrive Theme Builder

Thrive Theme Builder is a visual theme builder framework for WordPress, which allows you to build, edit and customize your WordPress website using a drag-and-drop interface.

Thrive Theme Builder is essentially a theme framework with the functionality of Thrive Architect’s visual editor baked right into it: instead of making CSS changes to your theme design, simply drag and drop elements.

Thrive Theme Builder works alongside companion themes. Think of it like Genesis or Thesis: Thrive Theme Builder is a framework that you can use to build your own WordPress theme. The first companion layout to launch alongside Thrive Theme Builder is called Shapeshift.

Thrive Theme Builder is a brand new theme, built from the ground up. It’s not an update of any of Thrive’s previous themes, which are now no longer being updated, although they remain available to members.

Why did Thrive Themes stop updating their old themes?

Old Thrive Themes

If you’ve heard of Thrive Themes over the last 6 years or so, you’ll probably be familiar with some of their popular themes, like Pressive or Rise.

A few years ago, Thrive stopped selling individual themes, and only made them available to subscribed members. They also stopped updating all their old themes in 2018.

Why did Thrive stop selling their popular themes? Because they wanted to develop one new super theme instead: Thrive Theme Builder.

In the words of Thrive Themes founder Shane Melaugh:

We stopped selling our previous themes and we stopped updating them… we don’t want to make incremental improvements anymore, we don’t want to slowly build up… We wanted to completely revolutionize this product and that’s what we did and that’s also why it took so long.

How much does Thrive Theme Builder cost?

Thrive Theme Builder Pricing

Thrive Theme Builder is available free to all Thrive Themes Members, or as a stand-alone theme.

For the first 10 days after launch (4th May 2020), you can get Thrive Theme Builder from $67 for a 1-site license, or $97 for a 5-site license.

Usually, Thrive Theme Builder costs $97 for a single site license, or $127 for a 5-site license. For single site users, $97 is definitely at the high end of the theme pricing spectrum, as most premium themes go for around $60. However, Thrive Theme Builder is not your normal theme, so the higher cost makes sense when you consider how adaptable and flexible the theme is.

If you pay $19/month (billed annually) for Thrive Themes membership, you’ll also get access to all of Thrive’s plugins (like Thrive Architect, Thrive Leads and Thrive Headline Optimizer), which is a much better deal.

Can I upgrade from an old Thrive Theme to Thrive Theme Builder?

Yes, anyone can change their WordPress theme to Thrive Theme Builder. The process will require a complete theme change, even if you already use Rise, Squared or Pressive or any of Thrive’s old themes.

The user interface and features in Thrive Theme Builder are completely different to Thrive’s old themes, so bear that in mind if you want to switch over.

There’s a really great video course created by Thrive on how to switch to Thrive Theme Builder.

What can Thrive Theme Builder do?

Everything about your entire WordPress website is now editable the way a page is editable in Thrive Architect.

With Thrive Theme Builder installed on your WordPress site, every single element can be edited using a drag-and-drop visual editor, including:

  • Header
  • Footer
  • Single post
  • Single page
  • Blog page
  • Archive page
  • 404 page
  • Content area
  • Page layout
  • Sidebar
  • Author box
  • Post meta
  • Related posts
  • Social sharing
  • Breadcrumbs

That’s essentially it. Thrive Theme Builder can be easily customized to provide any WordPress website layout you need.

As well as customizing everything about your WordPress theme, Thrive is also developing pre-designed templates for you to edit. There’s only one at the moment (Shapeshift), but more are in the pipeline (watch this space).

How does Thrive Theme Builder work?

Welcome To Thrive Theme Builder

Once you’ve installed and activated Thrive Theme Builder, you can install Thrive’s companion theme as a starting point for your website design.

Shapeshift Theme

The first companion theme is called Shapeshift. There will be more added in the near future, but having just one is not a big deal, since everything about the theme is completely customizable.

How to use Thrive Theme Builder to customize your WordPress website

Thrive Theme Builder Wizard

First up, you’re going to want to go into the Site Wizard setup, which takes you through the basic elements of your site: from logo upload to archive page layout.

Some steps are very simple (like logo upload), while others give you more choices. For example, while in the header editing panel, you can choose from a bunch of pre-designed header layouts. Plus, don’t forget, you can make tweaks to any of the header templates you choose.

Thrive Theme Builder Header Options

Simply carry on through the wizard and choose the layout that suit you. It’s very easy to navigate and select from the available options.

Thrive Theme Builder Homepage Options

Sidenote: sometimes, the hardest thing about designing a website can be to know how you want each website to look. Before you start customizing Thrive Theme Builder, pick a couple of websites you like the look of so you have something to inform your design.

Overall, I really like the editing interface in Thrive Theme Builder. It’s very similar to Thrive Architect, and you can tell that the company has had plenty of years of experience getting things right. It’s clear and simple to use, and the tooltips in the Site Wizard make it easy for beginners to find their way around.

Complete Thrive Theme Builder Setup Tutorial

Thrive Theme Builder Site Wizard Menu

Editing theme elements with Thrive Theme Builder is very similar to editing landing pages in Thrive Architect – you select an element, then make changes using the drag-and-drop options.

thrive theme builder editor

For a complete Thrive Theme Builder tutorial, try this free video and written guide (video is 1 hour long), taught by Thrive creator Shane Melaugh.

The tutorial takes you through basic theme setup, from typography to template page design. It also takes you through some conversion optimization design ideas that are ideal for solopreneur websites.

If you’re switching from an existing WordPress theme, don’t forget to move over any custom code or settings from your old theme. My guide on how to switch to GeneratePress will help you remember what you need, even if you’re switching to Thrive Theme Builder instead.

Thrive Theme Builder Demo and Examples

The best way to get a feel for a new theme and see how it performs is to look at it on a real website.

You can read more in my Thrive Theme Builder examples post.

There is an official demo of the Shapeshift theme for Thrive Theme Builder you can look at.

Shapeshift Theme Demo

Thrive’s founder Shane Melaugh also uses Thrive Theme Builder on his marketing blog, ActiveGrowth.com, so let’s take a look at how it looks and performs on a couple of speed tests.

Thrive Theme Builder Example

Visually, ActiveGrowth.com is good example of a personally branded marketing site, with a large hero image and clear call-to-action for a case study and course. The menu is very clear, and further down the page, there are a few page sections and nice blog archive.

When I first analyzed ActiveGrowth a few months ago, it loaded really slowly, in part due to some unnecessarily massive images on the homepage.

4mb Homepage Image

I’m pleased to report that Shayne has cleaned up his site and he’s fixed the large image problem. He’s also using the full version of Thrive Theme Builder now.

Active Growth New Speed Test

His site still loads at over 3.7 seconds, but has improved its Google PageSpeed scores to 74/100 on desktop and 23/100 on mobile. It’s still not as fast as I’d like, but it’s a lot better.

How fast is Thrive Theme Builder?

I found a nice golf blog called GreenLanternGolf.com that uses Thrive Theme Builder as its WordPress theme.

According to Pingdom, the homepage for GreenLanternGolf.com loads in under a second, with a page size of 1.9MB. That’s fast!

Green Lantern Golf Site Speed

When I test GreenLanternGolf using WebPageTest.org, it scores much worse –

Green Lantern Golf Speed Test

As you can see,the total page load time is 4.884 seconds which, for a 1.7MB page, is very slow.

The large TTFB (time to first byte) score of 2.191 seconds shows that GreenLanternGolf’s hosting (currently on SiteGround) is slowing it down.

Delving further, I only found a single additional request added by Thrive Theme Builder – a minified JavaScript file that was only 3.8KB in size and loaded in 1 millisecond.

Thrive Theme Builder Js Loading

Therefore, I’m confident that Thrive Theme Builder won’t make your website slow on its own.

What’s more, Thrive Theme Builder got an update that added a new Site Speed menu option to the theme.

Thrive Theme Builder Site Speed Feature

Thrive Theme Builder will walk you through basic minification and caching, image optimization and accelerated mobile pages (AMP). This is hugely useful for anyone building their first WordPress website or just learning about site speed optimization.

Takeaway: If you use Thrive Theme Builder, make sure you optimize your website for speed by using caching, image compression (I use ShortPixel) and good hosting. Thrive Theme Builder has some additional features to help you achieve this.

You can read more speed analysis on ActiveGrowth.com and other Thrive Theme Builder examples here.

Thrive Theme Builder FAQs

What is the difference between Thrive Architect and Thrive Theme Builder?

Thrive Architect Vs Thrive Theme Builder

Thrive Architect is a visual page builder plugin that you can use to design individual WordPress pages and posts. Thrive Theme Builder is a WordPress theme that you can use to create layout templates that work across your website.

Both Thrive Architect and Thrive Theme Builder offer drag-and-drop visual design, but Thrive Theme Builder is for creating theme elements (e.g. archive page layout or footer layout), whereas Thrive Architect is for creating individual pages and posts.

Do I still need Thrive Architect if I use Thrive Theme Builder?

No, you don’t need Thrive Architect to use Thrive Theme Builder. However, if you join Thrive Themes as a member, you’ll have access to both.

Is Thrive Theme Builder a plugin?

No, Thrive Theme Builder is not a plugin, it is a theme. You need to use it as your only WordPress theme.

Does Thrive Theme Builder work with WooCommerce?

No, at the moment Thrive Theme Builder is not compatible with WooCommerce. However, Thrive have said they are working on adding WooCommerce features in a future update to the theme.

Can I buy Thrive Theme Builder as a stand-alone theme?

No, currently Thrive Theme Builder is only available to Thrive Themes Members. This is because Thrive wants to keep the theme roll-out slow in order to stay on top of support requests and potential bugs. They anticipate releasing the theme as a stand-alone product in the next few months (from June 2020), but have not announced an official release date yet.

Can I still use an old Thrive Theme?

Yes, the full set of previous Thrive Themes (Rise, Squared, Luxe, Storied, Performag, FocusBlog, Pressive, Minus) are still available with Thrive Themes Membership. However, they are no longer receiving updates.

Do I need to use a child theme with Thrive Theme Builder?

No, Thrive Theme Builder does not require child themes. You can design your layout using Thrive Theme Builder from scratch, or start with a pre-designed template (supplied by Thrive), like Shapeshift.

Are there any Thrive Theme Builder coupons or discounts?

To their credit, Thrive Themes is one of the few WordPress development companies that do not use coupon codes or offers to increase sales. Even during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Thrive Themes donate to Kiva.org instead of discounting products.

The cheapest way to get Thrive Theme Builder is to sign up for the annual Thrive Themes Membership plan, which works out at $19/month ($228 paid upfront).

If you sign up for the quarterly plan (every 3 months), it works out at $30/month ($90 per quarter, paid upfront).

If you cancel your Thrive Themes Membership at any time, you will still keep access to all their plugins and themes (including Thrive Theme Builder) and you will continue to receive updates for all products you’ve already installed.

Will Thrive Theme Builder slow down my website?

Can Thrive Theme Builder be used on a fast WordPress website? Yes, it appears so.

GreenLanternGolf.com uses Thrive Theme Builder and a Pingdom speed test shows the homepage loading in under 1 second. That said, using Thrive Theme Builder doesn’t guarantee your website will be fast: your theme is not the only factor when it comes to WordPress speed!

Thrive Theme Builder has a Site Speed feature that walks you through basic minification and caching, image optimization and accelerated mobile pages (AMP), which could help your website load quicker.

That said, if you drive most of your website traffic through SEO, I think you should use the fastest WordPress theme possible.

Fast WordPress Speed

In my 2020 report, GeneratePress out-performed the other top-selling WordPress themes on the market in terms of speed. That’s why I use GeneratePress Premium on this site, and that’s why my site gets 97/100 on mobile and 100/100 on desktop on cheap $10/month Cloudways hosting.

Check the score for yourself.

In response to a comment on their blog, Hanne from Thrive Themes also stated that Thrive Theme Builder is best-suited to users looking for easy design control, not barebones speed:

If all you need is a basic but blazingly fast website, Thrive Theme Builder is probably not your best pick (we’ll never beat a handcoded website). If on the other hand, you want full drag-and-drop customizability, conversion focused design and a fast loading site we’re confident that Thrive Theme Builder is what you’re looking for.

Got to respect that honesty.

There will always be a trade-off between site speed and features, so you need to decide which one is most important for your website and what you’re hoping to achieve with it.

Final Verdict: Is Thrive Theme Builder worth it?

Pros:

  • ✅ Drag-and-drop editing
  • ✅ WYSIWYG editor
  • ✅ Unlimited layout options
  • ✅ Responsive design
  • ✅ Works great with other Thrive plugins
  • ✅ Good tutorials and documentation
  • ✅ Cheaper than other themes if you’re already using other Thrive plugins
  • ✅ Site speed feature

Cons:

  • ❌ Slow loading times compared to faster WordPress themes
  • ❌ No SEO features
  • ❌ Does not work with Woocommerce
  • ❌ More expensive than other themes

So is Thrive Theme Builder worth switching to in 2020? The short answer is: maybe.

I’ve been using WordPress for a while now, so I admit that I’m no beginner when it comes to making code tweaks to CSS and PHP files to get WordPress to perform, which means I’m not the target market for Thrive Theme Builder. Coding your own WordPress theme will always make it faster than an off-the-shelf theme.

But what if you don’t want to learn how to be a WordPress developer? Then Thrive Theme Builder gives you the ability to act like a developer with none of the knowledge, and that’s pretty powerful.

Thrive Theme Builder is very easy to use: simply drag-and-drop and build theme templates with no coding knowledge. Almost anyone can design a conversion optimized website with little to no help (Thrive does have support in place if you get stuck).

Thrive Theme Builder is a worthy standalone WordPress theme that offers even more value to Thrive Themes members. There are no other alternatives on the market that offer as much flexibility and easy customization as TTB, so if you can take the speed trade-off, then Thrive Theme Builder could be exactly what you need from your next WordPress theme.

Read this post on “is Thrive Theme Builder is right for you?” on Thrive’s official blog.

I highly recommend checking out Thrive’s guide to building a conversion optimized website from scratch. It takes you through a step-by-step process using Thrive Theme Builder and it’s a great way for you to figure out if it’s the right theme for you