Exploring Dynamik

Imagine that you have the power of Genesis, the simple, yet powerful design capabilities of Thesis and some other goodies thrown into the mix. Sounds good? It does to me. And such a theme does exist – it’s called Dynamik.

This isn’t my normal style of blog post. This post is part review / part interview with Eric Hamm the creator of Catalyst Themes (Cobalt Apps) with contributions from Keith Davis, and Bob Dunn who connected us all together. Catalyst Themes have released the Dynamik child theme that sits nicely with Genesis (a WordPress framework) and extends the functionality in terms of  both design and usability.

Genesis owned by StudioPress have the Prose theme which is superb for beginner bloggers who wish to customise their site and still have a powerful framework behind them. Prose is the theme I start my blog coaching clients on. It helps build their confidence quickly and it’s simple to correct any mistakes they make as you can download the settings options prior to any changes.

If you are a web developer or web designer, of course you can really make Prose come alive in your hands, and it will look even more fabulous than it looks with just a few basic tweaks.

What if you haven’t the time to learn web development skills, yet you want a slicker looking website?

In the past you’ve always had two options

  • Hire in a developer
  • Learn how to do it yourself (yup, you can learn CSS, HTML and anything else that is required along the way).
Developers are an unknown quantity to me.  A recent meeting I had with one was interesting, they told me me it would take 3 developers and a designer to export feeds from one site to another. It took 20 minutes. It’s not that I distrust developers, far from it, I just find them hard work and not always truthful. If you don’t know, say you don’t know…
Learn how to do it yourself. I have to confess this option is of limited appeal to me. I have only so much brain capacity. I tend to go to Babs Saul or Simon Brusche when I am looking for a specific work around. Babs is a brilliant coach, and if learning web design is your thing, then go and book onto one of her courses. I’ve been blogging since 2007 and I know more than the normal user, but I’ve reached the point where I say “enough”.

Now you have another option – Use Dynamik.

Dynamik Genesis ThemeDynamik is a child theme that works with the Genesis framework. I refer to it as a “teenager” theme as it’s bigger than a normal child theme. It’s similar to Prose and extends on what Prose has, plus throws a few more features things into the mix.

The options for developing your blog or website are now a whole lot stronger and no longer so complex. There are a lot of theme out there that claim no coding, like Dynamic.

I have to admit one of the things that annoyed me about Thesis was the claim of no-coding, sure no coding but I had to muck around with FTP and files / folders – that really shouldn’t be in the hands of a beginner…

And I always tell my coaching clients that Thesis is cool but not for the faint hearted – there’s a steeper learning curve with Thesis than there is with Prose, and that’s why I use it.

So what are the drawbacks of the Dynamik theme?

Facebook Page Owner: Bloated code.

Sarah: Is the lean, sexy code of Genesis compromised?

Eric: Hey Sarah, regarding the code being “bloated” that’s not the case at all. I think what happens is some WP devs see a bunch of options and assume that means bloated code. The code itself is very clean and efficient while providing you with more no-coding control over Genesis then you’ll find with any other Child Theme. I’ve been developing WP themes for over 3 years now and writing solid code has been an ever increasing priority. I just don’t let that be the only thing I focus on. Providing my community with incredibly powerful and flexible web design tools is priority #2.

Bob Dunn: looks very interesting. Could be a good fit for Genesis users who want that control, or for designers who don’t want to mess much with custom CSS or PHP.

Blogger on Facebook: By it’s not approved by Genesis, so I can’t use it
Eric: With regard to being approved or not being approved by StudioPress, I contacted “the powers that be” several times with regard to having them look at Dynamik and was mostly ignored (I guess they’re just too busy right now), but I honestly had no intention on letting my development on the Dynamik Website Builder hinge on their “approval”. I develop WP software for my end-users, not StudioPress or even WordPress.

I’ve got a long track record of developing useful WP software that addresses areas that others don’t seem to fill, while providing one of the most supportive Theme Support Communities around. So if StudioPress “approves” Dynamik that’s great, but I don’t see where that logically comes into the picture, unless of course I’m seeking to be an “official” StudioPress/Genesis developer, which I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for the guys over at StudioPress, and I’m certainly willing to work with them if that ever helps improve Dynamik or the Genesis/Dynamik user experience, but at this point they’d need to come to me for that as I’ve already extended the gesture myself.

Blogger on Facebook: It comes with a 250 page cheat sheet, wtf?

Sarah: Yeah, I was interested in the answer to this. What theme needs 250 pages to show us how to use it?

Cheat Sheet is not a wholly accurate description. Dave Pritchard (a member of the 4,000 strong Catalyst community) has created the “Dynamik cheat sheet guide” and the first few chapters are around mindset, productivity and internet marketing. He’s added in sections on how to install WordPress for complete beginners and he tackles installing and customising Genesis.

It’s a good strong support to first time users of Dynamik, and Dave is open about his use of affiliate links and what he recommends and why he recommends a tool. If you are totally new to blogging / website development then you will find this guide useful.

New to Dynamik? Yes, this will help you run through the options and how to take advantage of this powerful theme straight from the box. Don’t let 250 pages put your off, I doubt it’s been designed for you to read from cover to cover. Choose what you need.

Keith Davis: Pricing looks very reasonable, does that include Genesis framework?

Sarah: Doesn’t include Genesis Keith, but it’s needed to activate the theme.

Eric: Sarah’s right about Dynamik not including Genesis, but requiring it. But it doesn’t just require it to activate, but it still utilizes all the goodness that comes with the Genesis Framework, just like other Genesis Child Themes, it just adds a bunch of other goodies of its own. :)

Bob Dunn:yes, this is one of the things that attracts me to try Dynamik… the fact that it does run on Genesis… so you get all that Genesis goodness : )

Sounds good so far.

So I’ve loaded Dynamik up on the Arrow Light Haulage website, and I’ve taken a look at the extensive options. So far I’m not alone in liking the Home Page Builder Resource, Keith likes it too – check out his review here. I’m still playing around with it, but it has a really clean feel and I’m starting to customise using the home page options.

What I don’t like – some of my hyperlinks are struck through. I’ll have to see if there is a global default setting for that or why it is happening. It happened on Thesis for a while too, I just don’t recall how to correct it.

One of the most annoying things about any theme is trying to change the layout. Some Child Themes give you instructions like – add this code to the function file and then add this itty bitty of code to this .php file… and it’s an inconvenience and if your blogging client is still learning the basics, this will just freak them out. Dynamik makes the site layout options more flexible and easier to manipulate.

First impressions – wow, how cool is this?

  • Mobile responsive
  • Check box to remove page titles
  • Floating “save” button
  • 49 different options for your homepage
  • 49 different options for your homepage, so good I’ve said it twice :)
  • Sections for Favicons and avatars – one less plugin (or an hour faffing with the .ico generator)
  • Google fonts installed
  • Typography geeks will love this….
  • Beautiful integration with Genesis

I like the clean feel of Dynamik so much that I’ve activated it on a client site and we’re walking through their front page options with ease.  I will be moving to it this site as well (am currently Adorable with no customisation), I’m busy faffing with Arrow right now :)

The options and choices are laid out in an easy to use manner and I think this theme will become a firm favourite with both beginners and web designers through it’s ease of use. You can purchase Dynamik here at $77 it’s a little more expensive than the usual child theme but it’s worth every penny, and a very worthwhile investment.

Thank you Eric, Bob and Keith for your responses.

Over to you – what do you think? Do you use Dynamik already? What are your concerns? What do you like the look of?


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Sarah Arrow

Blogging an issue for you? Social media not quite working how it should be?That's okay I understand. I started blogging back in 2006 and grew into a kick-ass blog coach as well as creator of Birds on the Blog (listed 3 times by Forbes as a top 100 website for women), I'm frequently listed as both a top content marketing expert and as an influential marketer.
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  1. Hi Sarah
    Great post and oh so inventive in your approach.
    What can I say… I looked at the Dynamik videos and was blown away by the amount of functionality in there and the ease of use.
    This “theme” is by the guys who develop Catalyst so they are old hands when it comes to WordPress websites.
    With a piece of kit like Dynamik that does so much, it would be easy to get overwhelmed, but Eric Hamm has laid out the settings in a very logical and orderly manner.
    The ability to style various elements using Dynamik is very similar to the Genesis Prose theme, but Dynamic takes customisation way beyond Prose.
    Dynamik allows you to change the layout of your home page with just a few mouse clicks and… to make your site mobikle responsive with a single click!
    Having played with Dynamik over on your test site, I’m convinced that this little lady is going to prove very popular in the Genesis community.

    •  @wmwebdes I think so to Keith, thank you for the introductions and the conversations around Dynamik. 
      I’m really liking the ease of use at the moment. It’s something that I’ve found most “no-coding” themes lack, what’s logical for a coder isn’t always for a non-techie person. I *really* love all the customisation options. 
      I just wish I had the time to move this site this month. I am also filled with ideas on how this can improve Birds on the Blog. There is some functionality that we wanted that Genesis didn’t have (or we didn’t have the budget for) and that meant a move to Gabfire themes. What we lost in some areas, we picked up in others. 
      I suppose Linda Mattacks  and Suzan St Maur  will have something to say about the new look, and then me and my dear friend Babs Saul  can look at implementing it. I think Babs will truly love this and it will make her life a lot easier.
      Heck I think it will make any developers life much easier.

      •  @SarahArrow
        Two things:
        Eric may struggle with “I’m busy faffing with Arrow right now ”
        and more importantly… where is Bob?
        Come on down Bob.. the price is right.

        • @wmwebdes COme on down Bob the price is right … You’ve been saving that one up :) lol

          Done a bit more faffing as I like to call it and I’ll take it offline next weekend and do some of the things that I really want :)

        •  @SarahArrow  @wmwebdes My ears were burning when I work up this AM : )
           @SarahArrow when you gave me the peek inside, that is what piqued my interest. Having delved into Prose, this was certainly an option that would take customization a step further. And as I mentioned in the FB thread, this has its place. I can see certain people wanting to use this, especially, as noted, designers who don’t was to mess with the learning curve of CSS and PHP.
          And yep, the price it right. But here’s the deal. I don’t design anymore, I teach and consult. With that comes recommendations to clients regarding themes, etc. When I was designing, I learned a lot of themes, the good, bad and ugly. But for the new one’s, as many as I would like to try, this could amount to a small fortune. So I leave it up to the developers to share their goods with me, which many have. In a nutshell, I get the benefit of really reviewing a theme hands-on, the secure feeling that I can recommend it, and, of course, the developer gets the sales.
          Then everyone is happy!

        •  @bobWP Ahem, perhaps I’ll get a comment posted this time ;) Locking oneself from ones blog really just isn’t cricket…
          I prefer to buy what I use, and use for client purposes. My clients know this and I have the benefit of going through the same procedure as my clients. I only review things that I use myself so if there’s no review.. you’ll know what I thought of it!
          An example of this is OptimizePress. I purchased a copy on Dec 26th and the download didnt work. They were using their own system and I now know that the system isn’t 100%. It may be 99.9… but there was an incident where it didn’t do it’s job. If that had happened to a client, then it might take an hour of probing to establish they had done nothing wrong – in some cases it might dent their confidence. You don’t find me recommending OptimizePress based on my own experience.  They were brilliant and came through in the end *but* I’ve never had that problem with Wishlist, Amember, DAP or FastMember.
          Iif I had had a review / demo copy I might feel obligated to review and my review might be (and I say might, you’ve known me long enough Bob to know that I say what I think, and revise my opinions accordingly) influenced by the fact that it only cost me time.
          Developers are just like bloggers, graphic designers, artists and musicians – they all have to eat and I prefer not to be “obligated”, but I totally understand where you are coming from, it does get expensive.

        •  @SarahArrow Agreed. Yes, if I’m going to use it for myself or a client project (which are far and few between) I will buy it, no doubt. But not to just see what it’s like and experience it’s features, to possible recommend to coaching clients. In fact, I encourage most clients, past and present, to get their own license with a premium theme or plugin..instead of depending upon me and my developers license : )
          When someone ask if I will review a product, if I sense it’s a piece of crap to begin with, I refuse. But if there is the slightest feeling that it’s worth the review, I will do it and be very honest. That’s the risk the owner takes in asking me and I never feel obligated to do it. And to be honest, most of my reviews are themes and plugins I have used personally.
          And I agree, we all need to eat. In fact, with as many premium themes and plugins I have recommended, I imagine I have put some food in some developers mouths : )
          BTW, don’t get me started on Wishlist. 

  2. Hey Sarah,
    Top notch review! Very in depth and informative. I love how you were able to share so many perspectives, something I’m sure your readers will appreciate.
    It sounds Dynamik may be a good fit for some of your future projects so I can’t wait to see what you come up with! :)

    •  @EricHamm Does it work OK with the Genesis > BuddyPress plugin Genesis Connect from StudioPress? 

      •  @shakingtree We’ve tested it with many of the Genesis Plugins with great success, but haven’t gotten to the BuddyPress one yet. So at this time I can’t say for sure.

        •  @EricHamm OK, thanks, clear! But you do expect it to work well? If so, I’ll take the plunge. :)

        •  @shakingtree Width software I’ve learned to never expect anything until it has been tested. :) So I really can’t say until we’ve had a chance to test that combo out.
          But note that we do provide a 30 day money back guarantee if you run into any deal breakers for you.

  3. Hi Sarah.
    I really enjoyed your review, then, being someone who has used Catalyst literally since day one, I would say that! LOL
    What Eric has released here in Dynamik for Genesis is really the core design option engine from Catalyst theme. In that, what’s here is the culmination of the years that have gone into Catalyst and what came before it (anone remember Frugal?).
    I think, that’s why it’s got such a wow-factor right from the first install. People read a review like this and probably think your exaggerating a little. Then they load up the theme and go WOW this really does as much as they say. All that functionality, refinement, polish, usability, the great menus, and even the floating save button that so captivates people has quite literally been years in the making. 
    For me, it’s really great to see the techniques and experience I’ve developed using Catalyst transfer so well over to Genesis.
    (I’ve probably developed around 30 client sites in Catalyst since launch.) All of a sudden, I’ve gone from a “Catalyst Only” WP developer to a Catalyst and Genesis developer. It’ll be great to be able to give my clients the option.
    And as Genesis users get to know and love Dynamik, it’ll be great to see some of them get curious and come over and apply their experience to Catalyst.
    Finally, I must say, it’s so nice to read a review like this that is so personal. Like your reviewing a product you’ve actually used and care about! (Making fun if the plethora of slap dash affil reviewers, here not you btw.) I really like your style and will make this a blog I regularly follow.
    WIll be great to see what you come up with in Dynamik. As I tell a lot of my clients – when designing what you want for your Catalyst / Dynamik site, try to forget about WP, Themes, Dynamik, all of it. Just design what will resonate best with the end user. Then apply the theme to that. Chances are what-ever you come up with will be able to be built in Dynamik anyway.

    •  @BenPyman Hello and thanks for stopping by Ben, it’s great to read through your experiences with the theme as its developed. I recall checking it out when it was Frugal, but I decided to go elsewhere. 
      When I saw the Genesis compatibility I thought wow, I can’t put this off any longer I need to look. Any site that offers 49 front page layouts has my attention!  lol.
      All my reviews are personal, if my reader doesn’t understand how/why I use a certain tool a certain way then how can they benefit?
      The floating button is awesome, there’s nothing more that can be said about that ;)

  4. Hi,
    I’m in the process of building a site… we had played with the free wordpress themes and now are ready to dig in. I’m deciding between Dynamik and Prose. I am new to building a wordpress site but happy to get my hands dirty.

    1. We’d like to get something up and running with basic pages in the next 3 weeks. Is it too much to take on Dynamik in that timeframe? I do have another job so this will be on the side.

    2. If we start with Prose can we migrate later to Dynamik? How much work is that?


    • Hi Audrey,
      3 weeks is plenty of time to get your site looking fab with Dynamik.
      If you spend a morning reading through the “cheatsheet” you’ll see how easy it is to use.

      This weekend I set up a site on Dynamik and it took 3 hours from start to almost finished… I am awaiting content and header from the client, so I have things saying “video here” in places.
      You can see it here – http://www.teacoassociates.co.uk/ it’s fairly basic in the look (which was the clients brief), and the 49 different home page combinations were put through their paces before we settled on the current one.

      3 weeks will give you plenty of time to put the content in place, tweak and adjust the settings etc.

      Prose from scratch will take about the same amount of time.

      • Hi,

        Thanks Sarah!

        One other question – we liked the idea of the landing pages that come as a template with Prose. I dont see that with Dynamik… is it possible to add a landing page with no navigation to direct a user to specific areas in our site with Dynamik?


      • Sorry if you get this twice… bad connection and not sure it went through.


        Is it possible to create a landing page like the prose concept?


        • Hi Audrey,
          Yes you can create very similar pages but setting up a custom page (you can do this in almost every theme) or if you don’t like doing that you can use Premise (one of my favourite plugins) to create the landing page. the benefits of using Premise – 1100+ graphics included along with seminars and copywriting advice. You can also do “pay with a Tweet” promotions, so I tend to use that rather than create a custom page. Hope that helps.

          • Thanks, you’ve been really helpful! :)

  5. Thought I’d revisit this one Sarah.
    Dynamik and the Genesis Extender plugin are two fabulous pieces of kit.

    I know that you love Dynamik and I use the Extender on all my sites and client sites.

    I did a comparison recently, which your readers may find interesting.

    • A comparison is always interesting :) thanks for sharing it with us :)

  6. Hey Sarah,

    For me, Dynamik is great and had always been a part of my Genesis collection. However, I feel that it really need a good mindset to make the best out of it.

    What I really love about Dynamik is the great drop down function. It makes newbie look good too which many developers hate that.


    Thanks for sharing and just my 2 cents!


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