Is Acabado theme worth it? There’s a good free alternative (October 2020)

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[Total: 12 Average: 3.3]

First of all, this isn’t a comprehensive review. Far from it, it’s a quick and dirty analysis – but an honest one, not trying to sell you the theme, regardless of it’s good/bad fit. We didn’t even buy the theme to test it – but we did a thorough analysis of all the info that’s available out there, that might save someone else some time or money. Here it goes.

Steps we took to investigate / review the Acabado theme:

  1. studied its features, benefits and settings using their landing page info + this training video (where you see most of its settings)
  2. reviewed 10+ other websites that use the Acabado theme – not just the ones that the authors refer to, but we found many other websites too
  3. speed tested all these sites and compared their design against each other (in other words, we confirmed that they all look the same)
  4. compared the results with other alternative themes that deliver similar results

We’re not saying that Acabado theme isn’t good for a specific purpose. We just spent some time analysing its results and compared it to some free alternatives and found that you don’t really need it. But if you really like what Acabado theme authors Income School are doing, or the theme’s features, then go ahead and purchase the theme. They seem like a good bunch and based on a very thorough review of IncomeSchool (authors of the Acabado theme) by Ebizfacts.com, they know what they are doing.

TLDR; – You can get very similar results by using the free GeneratePress theme or GeneratePress Premium for more features (perhaps at a slight cost of speed). A hidden benefit is that already out of the box, it looks much better than the Acabado theme and has more built-in customisation options. You can see the limited Acabado customisation options here and GeneratePress Free in this video and Premium options in this one.
– also, speed isn’t everything. Great content + ok speed + good marketing features beats average content and 99 on PageSpeed. Focus on content first with a good FREE theme, get some traction and results, confirm your idea has ground to stand on. Then you can optimize the hell out of it by paid themes.

Update 1.10.2020:

A word of caution: since earlier this year, the rules of Acabado affiliates have been changed. Now you can only become an affiliate if you purchase the whole Income School Project 24 membership ($449 per year). If you stop and think about it – what does that say about all the positive reviews of the theme that contain affiliate links? Of course, you would recommend the theme, you already paid quite enough for it – they have vested interest – double if you think about it – by recommending Acabado they can not only earn a referral fee but lower the already paid $449 cost of the Project 24 membership. (Heck, the whole Project 24 is about affiliate marketing, so it makes sense that all members will recommend the Acabado theme).

Therefore, to make sure you’re getting an objective review, I recommend:

  • check if the review you’re reading has Acabado affiliate links – if it does, it might not be the most honest/objective one.
  • check if the review contains more than just repeated benefits of the theme copied from the Acabado sales page. There’s always more to a product than what the sales page tells you, look for reviews that do that.
  • check if the review compares the theme to any other theme out there, or just praises Acabado without giving any other alternatives (which there are always for any product).

For transparency – my Acabado links are not affiliate, but some the other recommended themes are. You might think that of course, I wouldn’t recommend Acabado over the affiliated themes. But – this review was written way before the afore mentioned affiliate rules change – and I was still an affiliate of Acabado too. So all themes I review here were on the same level at the time of writing. If you read thoroughly, I recommend Acabado to a specific type of user too. But as they removed the affiliate option for non Project-24 members, I have removed the links to Acabado. That’s the only change – the content is the same, I use the other recommended themes often + the updates which I clearly highlight.

Use your common sense, think for yourself and decide what’s best for you using information from this review, but also from the plethora of others ;).

[1.10.2020] – There’s a new kid on the block too – Kadencewp.com‘s Kadence theme – pretty fast out of the box!

I just tested it quickly on this website (didn’t leave it on as I need to do some design cleanup after switching themes + portfolio content needs transferring), but the results with the same setup are AWESOME for an authority / blog website sensimism.com:

kadence theme pagespeed ranking mobile

And pretty good for this website you’re viewing now (using Elementor and a bunch of other heavier plugins):

Kadence Theme (Free or Paid) is pretty fast, has many very useful customisation options, is available as FREE or PRO version, it’s Gutenberg ready and compatible with many top visual builders. I’d like to test it against GeneratePress one day :).

Do I need to show you more? :D. I have their (KadenceWP) Ascend theme installed (yes, haven’t had the time to migrate to a faster theme as I’m using their portfolio custom posts and it will take more time). But, as we know, speed isn’t everything:

Update 18.8.2020 – it’s more about the content & marketing tricks than speed:

The authors of Acabado have released a video, where they show how they tripled the sales of an affiliate site (nice job!). But, there’s another take-away there – in the technical optimisation, they installed Acabado, but as they admit themselves – most of the improvement came from turning off plugins, rather than from Acabado. And still, the improvement wasn’t that great (see 7:40; they say it’s because the site has 13 plugins still active. Well, show me one sales or affiliate site that doesn’t at least have this number of plugins nowadays). I also find strange that they never actually show or mention the new PageSpeed result, they only show “3.5x” improvement at the end. That would mean 49/100, which isn’t bad, but yeah, sounds less impressive than 3.5x improvement I guess. Overall – what they did is awesome – from 450 USD to 1650 USD monthly revenue with the same traffic. But it’s much less likely due to Acabado and much more likely due to all the other tweaks they did. Which brings me to the point of this review – why paying for Acabado if you can get GeneratePress for free (or up your game and look even better with GeneratePress Premium).

Acabado theme (short) analysis

First, we checked other websites that use the Acabado theme (not only the ones featured on their pages) and can confirm that the theme is fast. These sites were getting above 80/100 on Google PageSpeed insights. And that’s without us knowing how many other plugins they have installed. So far so good.

Then, we looked at about 10 different sites using it. Just looked at their homepage. They all look the same and fairly ugly. Guess that’s because there’s not much customisation options and the target audience isn’t the CSS and HTML savvy one. You can click to a better design using GeneratePress Free theme, or if you prefer even more options, GeneratePress Premium. Acabado theme is so focused on speed, that it had to let go of certain design features – what they call clean, I call bare. Again, great from a speed perspective, not so much if you want your site to also look nice.

The good about Acabado’s bare design is that it’s mobile-first and therefore very fast. All the bells & whistles have been stripped, less CSS and javascript mean the theme is very fast on mobile too.

If you don’t mind having an ugly site and all you focus on is content + speed, then Acabado might give you the edge. If you want similar results, but also want to have a fast website, there’s better and FREE alternatives, read on.

We have found the websites just by a quick Google search for “themes/acabado” – see for yourself.

Conclusion

If the aim is to have a theme that is fast and doesn’t require much setting up and you don’t care much about how it looks (or you don’t know CSS), then Acabado theme is a good enough option. Basically install it, fill in some basic settings and you’re set up – just fill it in with content. Acabado theme best fit: pure affiliate websites that are primarily about content and don’t care about custom / distinguishing design.

But… if you want a FREE theme that is also fast, doesn’t require much setting up AND looks good (and lets you customise itself to some extent), then the free GeneratePress theme is your best call. And of course, it’s premium version will boost all these benefits further (although the general rule is that the more addons you activate, the slower any site will get).

There’s also the new kid on the block – Kadence Theme (FREE or paid), that’s amazingly fast + tons of options, Gutenberg integration, header and footer builder – so you don’t even need any heavyer visual builders. I say this is one to watch! (or buy…)

It’s possible to have a fast site without sacrificing too many features – here’s a website we built using GeneratePress FREE that scores 84/100 on Google Pagespeed mobile and 98/100 on desktop** (if our hosting isn’t playing up and TTFB jumps up sometimes). You don’t need more than that – 80/100 on mobile and great content = great Google rank for free!

** at the time of testing. The website is a live thing, new plugins, functionality might impact this over time.

acabado theme review - and free alternative

Other themes we looked at

  • Hello theme from Elementor – it’s a very stripped-down theme that’s very fast, but also doesn’t look very good (it’s meant to be used together with Elementor page builder which itself is a great addition, you can build the entire website, including headers and footers very quickly and it’s fast enough too (but it does add additional .js and .css files, so your Google PageSpeed performance will be worse, make sure you use it in combination with a very fast and reliable theme).
  • OceanWP theme – it has more customisation options, is still quite fast, but not as fast as GeneratePress. It achieved 73/100 compared to 97/100 of GeneratePress. But it looks much better and with 73/100, might be a winner if you need better design options without a builder.
  • The New Kadence theme from KadenceWP – we’ve been working with their Ascend theme or KadenceWP’s other themes for years now, they are pretty flexible, reliable and have good support. Kadence theme seems pretty fast too, is available as FREE or PRO and has plenty of great customisation features. It all depends on how many features you turn on or off – even OceanWP, theme can get slow if you use all add-ons.

23 Responses

  • So generatepress is one of the best SEO free themes. What are some others that are really good at ranking on Google that are free?

    • perhaps the ones I mentioned in this post ;). Those are the ones we tested. Also have good experience with Ascend Premium theme from kadencewp.com.

  • I understand where you’re coming from. However I believe that their foundation is on content. They never once have ever mentioned what a site should look like, only the functionality. That’s their whole point: speed and content. People looking for information usually care about if they’re getting an answer. The goal is to build an income site and leave it alone lol. Plus the theme is set up for a person to ONLY be focused on content. It even saves you from yourself by only letting you post the right pictures by the right dimensions to optimize speed. I honestly don’t think the sites are ugly. As a web designer who’s job is to make things look pretty, it’s nice to be able to focus on substance, not style. I’m playing devil’s advocate here, there’s nothing wrong w/ providing alternatives..hell, I was looking too because I do my do diligence. I believe it depends on where you’re at in understanding web design and online marketing. This gets someone new right into the door w/o them having to waste time learning or worrying about stuff they don’t know yet. Install and PRODUCE CONTENT immediately is their goal. Great article :)

    • Hi CG, thanks for your comment! You raise a good point – install and produce content immediately. If you don’t mind that your site will look like presumably thousands of others, (not to mention the dated, early 2010’s design), no distinguishing features (except the content), then Acabado is a good choice. But… you could just use Twenty-twenty theme or Free Generate press without making any changes – just fill in the site name, start writing posts and you’re good too, without having to pay the 50 or 100 USD. Not sure if the added features are worth it compared to other free options.

      Guess the only way to tell is to set up a comparison with the same content (on the same domain) and leave it several months with GeneratePress, then switch to Acabado and monitor the change in metrics.

    • Precisely. Content, and slowly ranking, are the primary motivators behind the creators of Acabado. An unlimited site usage license for 99 bucks is insane when everyone else wants about 50 per site. Back in the day I was a subscriber for elegant themes long before they released Divi. The overarching problem with them was that while they were launched by a designer who was very good at making themes that looked good they ignored the practicality aspect. It drove me nuts! The trap that designers lay for the unsuspecting end user is one of too many options when all they really need is something that “works” and gets the job done. A slow loading beautiful site that has meaningless content is a waste of time and resources

      • Hi David,

        thanks for the comment! Exactly as you write, although I would decouple the theme from the content, as the theme isn’t in any way relevant or responsible for the content. I’ve seen many “slow loading beautiful sites” with good content that rank well. And of course, if you’re not slow loading but fast enough and still well designed, with good content, then perfect. Acabado theme is just about speed and content which can put some people off (and is detrimental to the perceived authority of the site by the user – “content is ok, but can’t they spent a bit more time to make their site nicer?”).

        There’s always a good compromise between beauty and speed and I think Acabado is too far down one end, whilst GeneratePress or OceanWP meet both better, hence my recommendation.

        As for the price, yeah, it’s not a bad deal. And for badly designed themes – yep, one has to search and test for a while to find some reliable and well built ones – like ones I recommend here.

    • Hey JPS,

      nope, not kidding, the review says it in the beginning that I didn’t buy it and it’s based on data available online and from reviewing the video tutorial (where you see all the settings like you would if you purchased it).

      This post gives you all the info, pros and cons, alternatives and yes an affiliate link to Acabado, should you still decide to purchase it instead of the recommended alternatives.

      You don’t have to click on any links if you don’t like this.

      Lukas

  • GeneratorPress theme is freemium (meaning free with a premium version upgrade). You didn’t mention your affiliate link means you get paid when someone upgrades. I dare you to print this.

    • Hi Randall, yep, it’s freemium that packs plenty of features, a good alternative to Acabado as I explained.
      The affiliate link is there in case this review has helped people choose the right theme for them – I get a small reward, they don’t lose anything.

      Printed :)

  • Great article Thank you I am just starting in the web world, and looking for advise for a theme that’s fast and low maintenance.

    Quick question. What does your nimble site use for your cooker banner?

  • Hey, just a quick response on your statement “They all look the same and fairly ugly”.

    You need to take into account that most the bloggers using this theme are beginners and typically don’t know how to build a website that looks attractive. In addition to that, most of them don’t even know how to customise with CSS or don’t even know what it is.

    My own Acabado website looked ugly as well. But in the past year (10 months actually), I’ve picked up a few skills and my site looks much better than it did when I first started. Maybe my site isn’t the best looking, but I think it’s exceptional for a small website.

    This is what a site could look like running on Acabado: https://twomotion.net/

    For my blog, I use Acabado because it’s fast, simple and I think it looks good. For my product site, I use Hestia because it’s free, looks super good and it doesn’t really matter if it’s slow because it’s just a ‘clickthrough’ addition to my site via a subdomain.

    • Hi there, thanks for your input. Your website looks nice, what a little tweaking can do :) Think you nailed it nicely – use Acabado to drive traffic to another sales page that can be a separate theme / page builder and look much nicer.

      Good job!

    • forgot to say – that’s my point in this review – with Acabado, you get speed, but need to learn some CSS to make it look better. With GeneratePress, you don’t need any CSS skills to tweak it to a high extent + it’s still pretty fast itself.

  • Thank you for the honest review. The Acabado theme may be an option for those people who are new to WordPress. But GeneratePress free version. One of the best themes/theme builders I use for my customers who have very little experience is Kadence Theme by Kadence WP. Which is also very simple but have a lot of premium features for free.

    • Hi Sanj, agreed, also have built plenty of websites with Kadence themes, especially Ascend, but in terms of speed, GeneratePress beats it. But Ascend does have more bells and whistles, shortcodes and built-in functionality, so there’s always a compromise to consider.

  • Hi, thanks for this review. Last year I bought a theme to build a sports website but it had way too many features that made it receive horrible scores on pagespeed insights.

    I’m rebuilding the site with a new theme and I’m currently stuck choosing between Divi, Astra pro, or GeneratePress.

    I’m looking to make a site which will be solely for the purpose of pushing tons of seo content so need the theme to be fast. Which one should I buy? I’m leaning towards Astra but your thoughts about GeneratePress got me confused again!

    • Hi Dev,

      it really depends whether you will use any of the advanced Astra features. Have a look at all the GeneratePress features (you can install the free version to test) and see if they will work for you. Astra is good, but it caters for a wider range of advanced features, like sticky header, specific header sections, white label etc, which might not be needed. Or if you’re using a page builder, it can probably do most of these.

      Overall, GeneratePress is leaner from my experience (worked with both), I use Elementor Pro, so create my own headers, footers and gimmicks anyway.

      • Hi Lukas, thank you for your fast response. My only gripe with Generatepress is its yearly renewal fees while in Astra I can buy it one time and use it forever. Also, what are your thoughts on DIVI theme?

        • Hi Dev,

          I work with Divi on some of my clients websites – it’s OK and you can achieve a lot + it can be fast enough, but I find Elementor much better anyway + there’s no shortcode lock in, as with Divi. I find Elementor is better to navigate, has more widgets out of the box + more options with say the form widget, dynamic fields integration (ACF, Pods atd) and you can combine it with many good themes (Divi is a theme itself).

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