Canvas vs Genesis – both great options
If you've never used either Canvas (by the folks at WooThemes) or Genesis (by the folks at StudioPress) for a WordPress theme – let me just tell you that you've been missing out. They're both great options – useful by different folks for different reasons. That's why I like this comparison.
Let's start with beginners that have no help
If you know virtually nothing about WordPress, themes or plugins, and you have no development help, you might think that a nice looking website is beyond you. But that's not necessarily the case.
Canvas, like most WooThemes, was designed for you in mind. It doesn't require many plugins (beyond WordPress SEO by Yoast), and has an easy integration with social media. It comes with everything you would need to get started.
You “configure” more than anything else when you get started with Canvas. So you don't have to worry about CSS or HTML or any other code.
Comfortable with Plugins?
Genesis, on the other hand, doesn't come with everything. And that's a good thing. See, if you're comfortable with the idea of plugins (little bits of code that you can download and install on your site to add functionality), no theme framework has more written for them than Genesis.
What does that mean?
It means two things actually. The first thing it means is that you have a lot of plugins that can adjust the behavior of your site already created so that you can still get a site launched without writing any code. The second thing it means is that Genesis is solid enough (really solid), and well-respected enough, and popular enough to warrant developers writing Genesis-specific plugins.
You can get started with the Genesis Framework and a simple child theme in no time. Download a few plugins and your site can be live relatively quickly.
Selling a couple of simple downloads?
If you're thinking about having a tiny bit of e-commerce on your site, you should know that Canvas was written by the same guys who wrote WooCommerce – a free e-commerce plugin.
That means that your theme is pre-crafted to work with the plugin – making it easy and quick to put a few things online to sell. Digital downloads are supported out of the box.
Canvas and WooCommerce is a combination that is hard to beat. So this may be right for you.
Want a refined or custom look?
Unless you're a developer yourself, getting a nicer look than what comes out of the box with Canvas will take some work. Unless you use Genesis and one of its child themes.
A child theme, in case you've not heard of it, is one that takes all the functionality of its parent, while having it's own look and feel. Genesis has several fantastic looking child themes just waiting for you: http://studiopress.com/themes/
And if that's not enough, know this – there are tons of fantastic folks that work with Genesis to help you create your own custom look. See, Genesis was designed for this kind of thing. It's very developer friendly. So several designers out there leverage it to help their customers out.
One of them is my friend CodyL. If you're looking for a custom design, you may want to chat with him.
Want a “responsive” (or mobile ready) site?
Now before I tell you about Canvas here, you should know that several child themes from StudioPress – the folks that create and support Genesis – are responsive. But not all.
Canvas, on the other hand, is responsive all the time.
Want amazing on-page SEO and lightning speeds?
Genesis 2.0 was recently released and one of the things it supports is schema support. If you don't know what schema microdata is, in plain English, here's my quick rendition for you. Schema tells search engines what your content means, so that it doesn't have to deduce it on its own.
But saying that Genesis 2.0 supports it is only the beginning. They also have plugins created to help you change/adjust it.
And W3 Total Cache Pro was just announced to support fragment caching to make Genesis sites even faster to load.
I've consistently said that the tools you use are always dependent on the job you're trying to do. It's why most of my answers are always “it depends.”
Hopefully this quick comparison has helped you determine which solution is right for you.