X Theme | A WordPress Theme Review For Photographers

About Reviews

I only put reviews on this site for products I use on a regular basis. I may try out a new product from time to time, but I won’t put a review up unless it makes it to my camera bag or into my daily work routine. I’m also never paid to do these reviews. Certain companies may send me products to try but I never guarantee them a review unless I enjoy the and continue to use the product. I do make the products that I review available for sale and when possible I will use an affiliate link. If you purchase the product I will get a small percentage of the sale. It’s a great way to support this blog and the content in it.

X Theme Review

Before we get started, I highly suggest watching this short video that Envato (the folks who run Themeforest) made where you can actually meet the creators of X and see what they’re all about. Both Kyle and his brother Kory are good friends of mine and the way they run their business is one of the main things that sets them apart from the rest.

x-themeI cannot tell you how many themes I’ve been through on my website. A quick look through my post history shows that my first blog post was back in 2009. That means I’ve been blogging for six years now. Whoa. In that amount of time I’ve redesigned my site from the ground up many times (usually at least once or twice a year). I do that in order to keep things looking fresh, but also to make sure I have access to the latest technologies and trends for my site. So how did I come to find X? Well, interestingly story…

I’ve known Kory and his older brother Kyle (the creators of the X Theme) since I was in high school. I was in youth group with Kory and we became friends literally the first day I visited that church. Kory and Kyle were both at my wedding. I just recently went to Kory’s wedding and his bachelor trip to Colorado. So yes, we go way back 🙂

Kory is one of the best guitar players and musicians I’ve ever known or heard. Because of that, I always figured he would pursue a career in the music industry. So when he called me up around two years ago saying that he had started working for his brother and wanted to meet up to discuss some ideas regarding a WordPress theme, I was certainly intrigued. He told me that he had started down the path of developing WordPress themes and that he was about to start building a theme that they were hoping would be the be all, end all WordPress theme. That’s a pretty tall order, and I will admit that while I wasn’t doubtful they’d be able to do it, I was definitely curious to see how it all unfolded. Over the course of the next year or so, I got to watch this theme get built from scratch. Kory and I meet fairly often at coffee shops around the DFW area to “co-work” so I would see how the theme was coming along. Every now and then I would give him some feedback and ideas on what I would like to see in this “ultimate WordPress theme.”

I told him I’d really like the ability to switch between full page, a sidebar or even two sidebars within the theme. Up until that point, you typically had to buy a “two column” theme or a “three column theme” and so on. I also really wanted the ability to change the widths of the sidebar and the content of the site without having to get into the code and risk messing something up. Next time I met with Kory, he had added both of those things into theme. At that point, I was getting very intrigued.

At one point, I was telling him about how happy I was with the Genesis Framework and the Minimal Child Theme I was using. You really can do so much with the Genesis Framework but you do have to buy all the child themes separately so if you want to drastically change the look of your site; get out you wallet. Kory then told me that X wouldn’t be like that. X would use their own version of child themes (called “Stacks”) and that they would all be included for free when you purchase the theme…forever. At this point, I was hooked and ready to get this thing on my site for testing. Eventually I was able to get my hands on an early copy and started playing around with it. In all honesty, I was excited about the theme but wasn’t sure if I would use it. I loved the features but again; I really was happy with Genesis. There are a lot of things I need to have for my website so I went in with a cautious mindset. Well…after setting the theme up and seeing how everything worked: I was hooked. The rest, as they say, was history. The ease of use with getting X set up is just unparalleled with anything else out there you’ll find. The customizer makes setting up your site actually a fun experience.

Straight To The Top

Since launching on Themeforest.com, X Theme has become the fastest growing theme of all time on this massive site. That is no easy feat considering there are over 6 million items for sale on Themeforest with over 4.2 million customers. X was the fastest theme in Themeforest history to make “Power Elite,” grossing over 1 million in sales. Since that happened several months ago, they are already well over 2 million in sales. This thing has literally exploded in popularity and is showing no signs of stopping. So what makes the X Theme so amazing? Well, let’s count the ways…

Support

Like I said in the beginning of this review; I’ve known Kory and Kyle for years and I know their hearts. Customer service is one of the key factors that sets the X Theme apart. I remember buying themes in the past and having to wait weeks for a response from the creator if I needed help with something. The average response time for help in the X Forum is under an hour. They have an entire team made up of developers from around the world) that get paid to keep questions answered in the support forum. This also means that there is a virtually endless amount of content already in the forum so a quick search can answer just about any question you might have.

Endless Possibilities Through the X Customizer

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.19.19 PMLike Genesis, you really need to think of X as a framework for your website. The stacks are the actual themes that make your site look a certain way. However, these stacks are so versatile that you could have any number of people using the same stack and all their sites would look totally unique and have a look all their own. To get a feel for just how true this is, go to the demo site and start clicking through the different home pages in the dropdown menu. Everyone from the State of Utah to celebrities to, well, ME are using X and none of our sites look the same.

When the X Theme was released, there were only three stacks available. Since then, they’ve added Ethos. There are more on the way, so things are only going to keep growing from here.

So what makes X so easy to make your own? Well, it’s called the Customizer. Sure, other themes have started using customizer as well, but none of theme are this in depth. In the past, you had to set your site up on a dev site so you weren’t making live changes to your site while people were on it. Or, you could download some clunky plugin that allowed you test a theme without having it live on your site. Those plugins however were often full of bugs and you couldn’t get a true sense of how the site would look.

The X Customizer let’s you change virtually every aspect of your website before making the theme live. When you’re ready, you just hit publish and the changes will be reflected live. If you get the itch to change a bunch of stuff in the future, just hop into Customizer and rebuild the site from the ground up or just a tweak a few things here and there. Hit publish again and you’re ready to go. It couldn’t be easier.

Frequent Updates and Integration

Updates for X Theme happen all the time. They are constantly adding new features, taking requests and making the site run faster and more efficiently. One of latest updates included support for bbPress and BuddyPress as well as another one of my requests, the full page search function :-). Go on, click the search icon at the top of this site and try it out for yourself!

The latest, latest update was the release of X 3.0 which was likely the biggest game changer yet. When Kory told me what they were wanting to do I was pretty floored. X 3.0 now comes equipped with 16 completely free, premium, custom built for X plugins. These plugins expand the functionality of X and help it to integrate seamlessly with several crucial programs from Mail Chimp to Google Analytics to custom 404 pages and much more.

Cornerstone | An Absolute Game Changer

cornerstone
I really don’t know if I can explain how big of a deal Cornerstone is. It’s an absolute game changer and you won’t find anything else like it on the market, anywhere. X used to use a program called Visual Composer to create customized pages and posts on your WordPress site. I hated VC, but it was pretty much the only thing on the market. It was clunky, unintuitive and creating custom pages took forever.

Kory and the team designed Cornerstone to replace VC and they built it from the ground up to be a user friendly, intuitive and fun program to use. After seeing how amazing X was, I learned to stop doubting Kory and the X team, so I had high hopes for Cornerstone and saw many versions of it before it was released to the public.

Well, they didn’t let me down. Cornerstone is everything Kory said it would be and more. Cornerstone has moved creating pages for my website from my left brain over to my right brain. Instead of a boring, monotonous task, creating pages has become a creative, fun process. That’s a huge deal, I cannot stress that enough.

X Extensions

404If the X Customizer and Cornerstone weren’t enough, Themeco also released a collection of totally free extensions to use that were built specifically to use with X. Now, let’s clarify something real quick; X Extensions are basically just WordPress Plugins. So you’ll find extensions like Mailchimp, Disqus Comments or Facebook comments, but these aren’t the same plugins that you’ll find in the Plugins section of your WordPress site. These were built to work seamlessly with X.

You’ll also find some really awesome extensions that you probably wouldn’t have even thought of otherwise. I really love the Custom 404 extension. It let’s you create a custom 404 error page for your site for when visitors follow a bad link somewhere on your site. You hope this never happens, but the reality is that sometimes it does.

Conclusion

I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever use something beside X. Why? Because when it comes time to rebuild my site from the ground up, I can still use X and come up with something totally unique. That’s how versatile this thing is.

If you have any questions at all regarding X, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’ll answer what I can and I’m sure Kory or Kyle will stop by from time to time as well 🙂

  • I plan to completely redo my very outdated website and was looking at X Theme, which led me to your review.
    One important element is whether it can showcase my photography (which has moved on considerably since I created this site) and potentially sell images through WooCommerce, so I was disappointed to discover when I clicked on your Portfolio that it took me out of the WP theme to a Smugmug site. Did you find that you couldn’t adapt X Theme to provide this function for you?
    Thanks,
    Felicity

    • Felicity – That’s a great question! To be totally honest, I haven’t tried WooCommerce for selling my photos. I was with SMugMug before I found X and haven’t looked into the alternative of having that part of the business here at the site yet.

      One thing I love about SmugMug though is that when I sell prints, I have it set to where the profits just sit in an account there. Since selling prints isn’t even close to the primary focus of my business, I just let the money build up for a bit before using it to either buy a large print for our home or withdraw the money for something else.

    • Hey Felicity,

      I just wanted to chime in and add my two cents if that’s okay. My name is Kory and I’m one of the developers of X. We have some great demos up online to check out our WooCommerce integration if you’d like to run though it, which you can find here. If you happen to have any specific questions about our integration, feel free to ask them here and I’ll work to check back often and see if anything new has come up.

      Thanks!

  • Steve Hadeen

    I’ve been debating whether to start up my own blog as I have a job that does take a bit of time. I don’t want to do a blog if I can’t be consistent with it. Having said that, should I start, was curious about the coding aspect of X. I’m not a coder; I have interest but just not the time to learn at this time though hopefully in the future. Is X easy to use and understand about the coding part of it?

    • Hey Steve. X has a Customizer where you can add custom CSS and/or Javascript so you have access to really customize things if you want to.

    • Hey Steve,

      My name is Kory and I’m one of the developers of X. From the start it has always been immensely important to us that X be something both WordPress beginners and experts can approach and mold to fit their needs. The theme is built on WordPress best practices and utilizes as much native WordPress functionality as possible (such as the Customizer) to keep things clean and up to date. The Customizer itself is a great tool for beginners as it features a live editor where you can see the changes you make to your site live. Check out this short demonstration video we have on the Customizer here to get a feel for how it operates.

      Additionally, if you’re interested in delving deeper into coding and making more advanced customizations on your own, you can also easily accomplish this with X. We have plenty of these types of users as well who find the underlying infrastructure of X to be easily extendible and flexible enough to accomplish their goals. Whether it be simple CSS updates via a child theme or extensive overhauls regarding our markup output, X makes this whole process very approachable.

      If you happen to have any further questions, don’t hesitate to let us know as we love to walk others through the theme!

  • James, I have tried for a couple of years to establish my own website with another company. It doesn’t seem complicated when I am on the phone with them trying to get things to work. But when it comes time to publish, it never looks like what I put into it. Is XTheme easy enough for a senior citizen to understand? I would love to get my website up and running and a place to post a short blog and some of my favorite pictures.

    • Hey Linda. It really just depends on your comfort level with WordPress. If you’ve used it and know how to do the basics, it shouldn’t be too bad. I got Mike to use X and I sent him to oDesk where he found a developer to set up the theme for him. Maybe you can reach out to him and find out who he used?

    • Hey Linda,

      My name is Kory and I’m one of the developers of X. Similarly to what James mentioned, learning a little more about WordPress is always a huge help no matter what type of theme you end up using. 🙂 X is built for beginners and experts alike and our support team is a great resource to take advantage during the learning process. We also have tons of great resources in our Knowledge Base including dozens of high definition videos that go through everything from WordPress basics to how to use more advanced features of the theme. Managing your own website can certainly feel like a daunting task at times, but with the right help…anything is possible!

      If you happen to have any specific questions about the theme itself, don’t hesitate to let us know! I will check back here every so often to see if anything new has popped up for me to comment on.

  • Hi James, thanks for the review and a bit more of a peek into the startup of X. I hadn’t seen much information about them (the people behind it) at all… it was kind of like working with a ghost company. They seem like a great bunch of people, so it would be really nice to get to know a bit more about them. (I have since had an e-mail exchange with Kyle.)

    I agree that it is an excellent product, and I was really excited to hear about your previous experience with Genesis. Before focusing on X, that was the one platform I hadn’t tried. I kept wondering if I should go try that too before going with X (Genesis seemed to be what the ‘pros’ I knew went with). Your review helps me know I made a good choice. 🙂

    • That’s awesome Steve, thanks! Yes, they don’t have much of a social footprint on the interwebs, it just isn’t really their style.

    • Hey Steve,

      Just wanted to jump in here and say, “hey!” My name is Kory and I’m one of the developers of X. We’re so thrilled to know that you’ve decided to utilize X for your projects and are incredibly thankful for your very kind words. James is certainly correct that as a company we tend to be a little quieter than most, but I like to think that’s just because we’re busy being hard at work behind the scenes. 😉 If you happen to need anything specific, you know where to find us in the member center! If you have any general questions that you’d like to ask us here, shoot!

      Thanks!

      • Hi Kory! Thanks for your response. I’d previously bounced a few questions off of Kyle. You folks are VERY responsive, which has been great. My comments were more in regard to the time when I first had heard about you but hadn’t purchased yet. I’m used to knowing a bit more about companies and the people behind them these days… so that was a bit odd to me. But, since being a customer, any of that sort of fears have been forgotten. 🙂

  • Hi James,

    I have been looking for themes for my photoblog and came across your article. I couldn’t find anywhere that X supports masonry type layout for a gallery. But when I look at your portraits portfolio, it arranges the landscape and portrait oriented images neatly. Is this done by the X theme or is this done by Smugmug? Thanks in advance for your response.

    -Anup

    • Anup,

      I use SmugMug for my gallery, simply because it integrates with the print lab I use out in California and is an additional place to backup my full res images. I personally haven’t looked into the gallery features on X yet. I’ll ping Kory and see if he can answer this better.

      • OK. So, the gallery you have on this site is rendered by smugmug. Thanks for clarifying.

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  • Hi,
    I need to get a new theme for my photography website, and I’m wondering if X will be the right one. I need the ability to have my photo gallery rendered at the correct aspect ratio (2:3) and not fitted to a monitor aspect as it is now. I’m also interested in Woo Commerce, as my prints are done by a custom lab. Last, are there patterns that can go over the photos? I currently use a small cross hatch so that it’s just that much less attractive to screen shot and steal. Any resources you can point me to on these topics is much appreciated!
    Cynthia

    • Hey Cynthia,

      Yes, X would work for all of that as far as I know. The only thing I’m not totally sure of is putting a pattern over your images, but I can’t understand why you’d want to do that. Why degrade the experience of viewing your photos to 100% of your audience to prevent the .001% that might try and steal a photo? The math just doesn’t add up to me. I’ve never watermarked my photos for this very reason. Watermarks, patterns, etc just ruin the experience of taking an image in. And yes, there will be a small percentage of people who steal images or use them without permission, but that’s just part of having your stuff online. Go after the big ones, don’t lose any sleep over the small ones.

      • Thank you for your reply James. I agree that the viewing experience is compromised with either visual watermarks, or any pattern, but I struggle with IP issues all the time – and people only steal my better content, of course. I once found a big portion of a section of my site on a Russian Facebook-like site.
        However, I digress…..and you are right, the big ones matter!
        What’s your best online or course resource for creating the X site for photographers from scratch (so to speak)? I have WP experience, but not with X at all. I’m in Boston.
        Thanks again, you’re an inspiration ! :-).

  • Like yourself I’m always fiddling with my site. The one thing that drives me nuts are the constant scrolling demands on typical WP sites. Can you or Kory let us (me) know if there is a non-scrolling home page option?

    Cheers,
    Darren

    • As far as I know, scrolling is just going to be dependent on how much content the site owner puts on a page. To avoid scrolling, it would just have to be very little content. Another problem is the insane variety of screen sizes across all devices these days. What might fit on one screen will require scrolling on another.