Catalyst WordPress Theme Review: I Like This Theme … Here’s Why

Editor's Rating
Template Selection

Catalyst WordPress ThemeI’ve been an avid WordPress user for a few years now.  During this time I’ve used hundreds of themes experimenting with various styles, designs, and most importantly of all, feature sets.

In my view, a handful of premium WordPress theme developers have risen to the top by offering a superior product.  Catalyst Theme is one such theme provider.  They have truly outdone themselves with the Catalyst Platform.

That said, there are some elements of Catalyst I don’t like, which I set out below.

Catalyst Discount Code:

Get 10% off Catalyst Theme with discount code CATWP10

Overview of the Catalyst Theme

Catalyst is, in my view, a WordPress theme generator in that through a series of backend panels and drop-down menus, you create a custom theme for your website.  The number of customization options is daunting.  It’s a fun platform to use.

When you install the Catalyst theme, you get a blank canvas so-to-speak.

You must also install the Dynamik pack which loads your customization panels.  Don’t worry, everything is made conveniently available to you upon purchase.  Here’s what I received when I purchased Catalyst.

Catalyst Bundle:

Catalyst Zip File

After extracting, you see 3 zip files:

Catalyst Theme Bundle Extracted

First, in the WordPress Appearance panel you upload the “catalyst” Zip file.  Then the “dynamik” zip file.  You’re all done at this point.  The Dynamik-Skins file contains 22 skins (each in their own zip file) you upload through the customization panel.  Note, you don’t have to use a skin.  You can build from scratch.

Catalyst Pros

In a nutshell, Catalyst makes it incredibly easy for anyone (coders and non-coders) to design a WordPress theme.  I’m not talking about just picking colors; I’m talking about creating layouts, widths, footers, backgrounds, different headers on different pages, custom nav menus, etc.  Catalyst is your canvas.

Pros in detail

So many design options, not enough time

Through drop down menus, Catalyst gives you full control over all the design options of your site – including section widths, widget placement, layouts, typography, color scheme, background, padding, margins, footer, etc.

Different headers on different pages/posts

I’ve lost count on the number of theme forums where I’ve read the question “how can I create a different headers for different page/posts in my site?”  I know it’s a feature I’ve wanted before (and actually use in one of my sites).  Catalyst makes it super simple to set out different headers on different pages and posts.

Custom layouts for pages and posts

Using a drop down menu you can choose different layouts such as:

  • Content / sidebar
  • Content / sidebar / sidebar
  • Sidebar / content
  • Sidebar / sidebar / content
  • Sidebar / content / sidebar
  • Full width content

But that’s not all.  You can also add widget sections to custom layouts and specify particular posts/pages to use a particular layout with additional widget sections.  For example, if you want to add a Featured Posts snippet above the content on a particular post, you can do this by adding a widget section above the content.

Easy and quick start options

Frankly, the skins Catalyst offers aren’t very nice.  I don’t use them, and if I did, I’d radically change them.  That said, Catalyst comes with an EZ module with some preloaded layouts (quite a few actually) with which you can quickly create custom layouts.  Check out the EZ panel (only a portion is displayed below to give you an idea how it’s formatted and used):

Catalyst EZ Panel

The above screenshot gives you an idea of all the panels in which you easily customize your theme.  Click here to view many more backend panels.

Create custom layouts that use existing or default sidebars

This is a great feature.  For example, suppose you create a custom layout with some extra widget places.  But, you want to the same content in your sidebar as on other pages.  You can do this in Catalyst.  You simply specify a custom layout that uses a default (or other specified) sidebar.  Likewise, you can also create custom sidebars if that’s your wish.

Create different horizontal nav menus on different pages

Why do this?  There are many reasons.  Perhaps you run a membership site and you wish to display different menus publicly than you do privately.  Catalyst makes it easy to create and display customized horizontal nav menus on particular pages and posts.

Easily create landing, sales, and squeeze pages

I’ve paid for premium plugins to create squeeze pages in the past.  Had I owned and used Catalyst, I could simply have created a landing, squeeze, or sales page as a custom layout and save the premium plugin cost.

No coding knowledge needed

I’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating.  It’s important because when I started out in WordPress, I had my hands full simply figuring out the basics let alone coding.  Catalyst, if you want to get creative and don’t know how to code, could be a dream WordPress theme come true for you.  Simply install and start creating with drop down menus.  You can focus on design rather than learning code.

22 skins included with theme purchase

I suppose the skins might save you some design time, but I have to admit they aren’t that great.  You might like them for the time-saving element, but they aren’t terrific stand-alone designs.

Skin export feature

If you create a design you think you might use for other projects, Catalyst makes it very easy to export the skin so you can easily upload it in Catalyst for another project.  You don’t find this feature very often.  In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen it.  For developers or anyone who publishes multiple sites, this is a very convenient feature.

Free updates for life

I have no problem paying for a theme (I prefer premium themes over free themes), but I don’t like having to pay twice.  I love premium theme providers that offer free updates for life.  Catalyst is such a theme (at least at the time this review was written).  When you buy Catalyst, you’re set for life.  No membership model required.

Unlimited domains

Another important feature I look for in a premium theme is that I can use it on as many domains as I want any time I want.  For example, if I want to build 14 websites with Catalyst, I don’t need to buy additional licenses.

Forum support

Catalyst offers forum support with purchase.  Forum support is my preferred support method because I generally get my questions answered either immediately through searching existing threads or quickly by a senior moderator.

Catalyst Dislikes

In my experience, no WordPress theme is perfect.  Catalyst is not an exception.  As good as Catalyst is, there are some flaws.

My Catalyst dislikes in detail

Advanced features requires some coding knowledge

You can get away with doing a great deal of customization without knowing any coding, but some of the advanced customization require some HTML knowledge.  It’s not hard to learn, but it could be necessary.  That said, I’ve yet to encounter a theme that doesn’t require some coding knowledge for advanced customization.

Skins are not pretty

This is probably Catalyst’s biggest weakness.  The skins are not that great and I wouldn’t use any of them as a stand-alone website unless I didn’t care about the design (which is rare).

Custom layout builder is a little clumsy

There are many reasons I like Catalyst more than Builder theme, but in my view the layout customization in Catalyst is more clumsy than in Builder.  A few more steps are involved and must be executed in more than one panel.  Builder’s layout customization module is second-to-none.  That said, Catalyst does have features that, in my view, outperform Builder in some respects.

Who should use Catalyst?

If you want customized layouts and the ability to create a design from scratch without knowing any code, then take a good look at Catalyst.  If you’ve tried free or other premium themes that require far more coding knowledge than you care to learn in order to customize a website, then Catalyst is for you.

Catalyst is much like the Builder theme by iThemes – you can read my Builder Theme vs. Catalyst Theme article here to compare the two.

If you’re looking for a pre-designed theme, then Catalyst is NOT for you.  The skins, in my view, aren’t that good.  They certainly are not of the quality of Genesis child themes, WooThemes, Templatic theme, iThemes stand alone themes, or any theme by ElegantThemes.  But that’s not really the point of Catalyst.  Catalyst is a canvas on which you build your own theme.  That’s not to say you can’t customize Genesis child themes, Woo Themes, and ElegantThemes.  Catalyst simply makes customizing easier.

Catalyst is an outstanding theme for WordPress developers to own because creating a custom site for clients is easy and relatively fast.

Click here to buy Catalyst Theme

Catalyst Discount Code:

Get 10% off Catalyst Theme with discount code CATWP10

Catalyst WordPress Theme Review: I Like This Theme … Here’s Why4.57142857143Jon2011-04-08 15:00:56
Editor's Rating
Template Selection

I’ve been an avid WordPress user for a few years now.  During this time I’ve used hundreds of themes experimenting with various styles…
Catalyst,Top ReviewsCatalyst WordPress Theme Review: I Like This Theme … Here’s Why
Editor's Rating
Template Selection

I’ve been an avid WordPress user for a few years now.  During this time I’ve used hundreds of themes experimenting with various styles…


  1. Sergio Felix

    I was very close to buy Catalyst just a couple of days ago but I didn’t like the UI.

    I needed some sort of Drag And Drop UI and even though Catalyst looks like it has a TON of features, I just can’t deal with drop downs, it takes a lot of time.

    I understand that this for some may work but not my cup of tea. I bought Headway Themes, so far it’s very intuitive to layout sites but it’s still too soon to speak about it.

    I’m interested in your Builder review, so I’ll check that out, thanks!

    Sergio Felix recently posted..How Social Media Can Help You Stop Credit Card FraudMy Profile

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge