Mai Theme Review- Great for DIYers or Designers
Disclosure: I was offered two months free of Mai Solution and invited to write a review. No conditions were placed on the review and what follows are completely my own opinions on Mai Theme.
Anyone who has ever searched for a WordPress theme knows that it is no easy task. There are thousands of themes out there, that range from good to bad. This doesn’t even include things like page builders or custom themes built for one business.
Mai Themes/Mai Solutions from BizBudding is a newer very promising entry into the theme/plugin space. Mai Theme is a bit different structure wise than a traditional theme in that the theme comes with the Mai Engine plugin which manages the updates and such. The theme and plugin are easy to set up if you are just getting started but also easy to customize and extend out if you are working with someone with more advanced knowledge.
Two Different Products
There are two different products within the ecosystem so I want to clarify before I go any further. Mai Themes are the theme and plugin which you can use on any WordPress install. I find this to be more appropriate for my uses because it gives a finer level of control, which I like because it is what I am used to.
Mai Solution is great for someone starting out that doesn’t have a designer or developer on their team as the tech pieces are all setup for you. The BizBudding platform of Mai Solution comes with WordPress installed and configured right out of the box. You don’t have to worry about hosting, SSL, or DNS changes at all. You can just get to creating content and using the theme within Mai Solution, which is the fun part anyways.
Pricing for Mai Solutions is extremely competitive with companies like Squarespace which are other all in one platforms.
There are lots of great things about Mai and each use case is going to be a bit different, but here are some of my favorite things.
If you are just starting out and don’t have the budget to hire someone, Mai Themes are great because they are beautiful but easy to set up (and you can get expert work at a fraction of the price).
Jennifer Bourn is an expert in the WordPress space and previously only did custom work at the agency level. She is a supremely talented designer, but her designs were not accessible at a lower price point. She met with the team from BizBudding to see the product. After review, she was so impressed she created a theme for them, called Mai Inspire.
Not only is the theme gorgeous (I seriously couldn’t stop looking at it when I saw it), but the demos allow you to see how it can be used in a variety of different industries and color schemes and look amazing in all of them. Mai also allows you to easily import whichever of the demos is the closest to what you are looking for, reducing the setup work.
If Mai Inspire isn’t what you are looking for, they have a ton of different themes from well-known designers like Pretty Darn Cute and SEO Themes, all broken out by industry. You can buy the theme and set it up yourself, but if tech is intimidating, definitely look into Mai Solutions. They take care of everything super techy for you.
Mai Themes are super-fast and SEO focused. This is where so many website building solutions fall short. They are overly bloated or confusing and their page speed is not what you would like it to be. Performance and SEO were top priorities when creating Mai and the results show that. There isn’t much bloat and their load times are impressive. Whether you are just starting out or an experienced business owner, speed and performance are key for any site.
Mai Themes are built on the Genesis Framework. I have been using Genesis for years for theme customizations and custom sites. Genesis is a well-coded framework that is loved among many developers. Mai Themes brings the best of Genesis and the best of Gutenberg into one package that works together seamlessly.
Custom Post Types
I used a Mai Theme (Mai Reach theme to be exact) for a client who needed a fairly simple podcast site. She needed a landing page, a page for each episode and a transcript page for each post. I created a custom post type for her transcripts so she would be able to treat them like posts. I was amazed at how easy it was to hook the Mai settings into the custom post type to give the same settings as posts.
For designers and developers, this is a great feature that makes designing consistent archive pages much easier. This feature is less accessible to the site owner unless you have a developer build it for you, but I love the seamless integration and how well it works. This was a major plus that surprised me.
This is a small thing, but one of the things I loved was the focus on consistency. In the Theme Customizer was the option to set the colors for the site. I figured it would be like most builders, where you set colors and then never seem to see them again. I was so pleased when I went into the Gutenberg editor and the colors I set were all right there. For my client, having the brand colors right there is a huge plus for brand consistency.
Back-End Editing Gutenberg
I am totally on board with Gutenberg and what it is trying to do. That being said, for a lot of us that were really used to theming with the old WordPress editor, it has been a difficult transition. I have tried custom theming with Gutenberg and it has been a major adjustment. Coming from an area where ACF was used for most things, trying to find that happy medium between custom blocks versus still using ACF etc, has been tricky. Plus, getting the editor form of the site to look remotely close to the front end has been difficult.
Mai Engine takes care of all of that for you. They have added some quite useful custom blocks, without sacrificing performance or adding overly excess bloat. The editor looks much closer to the front end of the site which makes building pages so much easier. Additionally for the non-designer and developer, it gives them more control without the overwhelm that Gutenberg can bring.
Great for Blogs with Content
Mai is a great choice for any blog with a lot of content because it integrates so beautifully with Gutenberg. Mai adds some blocks that make total sense, without adding a ton of blocks that you’ll probably never use. As Gutenberg is the future, I encourage website owners to get to know it and feel comfortable with it. I love how the entire Mai ecosystem for the site owner is either in Gutenberg or the customizer. Now, you can certainly add features, CSS etc. if you are a developer, which is necessary. However, for many site owners, Mai out of the box allows a lot of possibilities.
Ease of Changes
One of the things that has always been frustrating as a developer, but even more frustrating as a website owner without development skills is that seemingly simple things require changes to the code base. A change from two columns to three columns would require more work than seemed necessary.
With Mai, changing things like column numbers is easy, with one click everything adjusts seamlessly. Also adjusting things like whether or not the date, author, number of comments etc, show in the blog post list is as easy as a click of a button and you can rearrange via drag and drop. Even though developers know how to make all of those changes, it is still easier with Mai.
Ease of Adding Demo Content
For most people who are creating their own sites, they install a theme expecting to click and have this gorgeous site and are horrified to see a page that looks nothing like they envisioned it or nothing like the demo. Thankfully, Mai Themes makes importing the demo content and information easy. They also allow you to choose what information to bring in. This level of control is nice as it appeals to both a novice user (who will want to bring in everything) as well as a designer (who might just want to bring in some core content).
I’ve only built one full site with Mai Themes, though I have tested and tried some other things, but overall I was very impressed. It is definitely something I will work with more and think it is one of the rarer products that is applicable to both DIYers and designers. I like the more granular control I get from Mai Themes on a fresh WordPress installation, but for a non-techy person, Mai Solution is a beautiful solution giving you the benefits of Mai Themes without having to deal with all of the overwhelm.
My mission is to help business owners grow their digital presence - so they can not only achieve their business goals, but surpass them. Above all, I’m guided by my passion for helping others to take their ideas from concept to reality. As a business owner myself, I take incredible pride in the work I do, and am grateful for the opportunity to help other business owners bring their dreams to life.