Free WordPress Framework with over 300 Child Themes: Cherry Framework Review
The Cherry Framework for WordPress is available from Template Monster, along with its child themes. If you’ve been part of the online publishing and web design sphere for some time then you should have heard of Template Monster.
They’ve been around since 2002 and claim to have one of the largest libraries of website templates online, with over 20,000 on offer, and a good portion of those being WordPress themes. However, you could be forgiven for not being familiar with them due to them and their WordPress themes rarely being included on top theme list posts.
Is this because of a lack of quality with their products, or something else? Let’s try and find out by doing a review of the Cherry Framework for WordPress from Template Monster.
About the Cherry Framework
The framework itself was released on December 12th 2012 (12/12/12) and is now currently on version 2.3. By installing the free framework you can then use the large and increasing number of WordPress themes from Template Monster that are made for use with the Cherry Framework. The framework is also available from the GitHub code repository.
When using Cherry, it should be considered a parent theme, with the installed themes or templates acting as child themes of the framework. This is handy to have as when updating the framework, any changes that have been made to the individual themes won’t be overwritten as would be the case with a standalone theme.
Once you’ve uploaded the Cherry Framework zip file and activated it, you can then begin purchasing and installing any of the 315 and counting themes for Cherry from Template Monster. Alternatively you can experiment with the framework and check out the options before deciding to purchase any themes for it.
If you are using the popular WordPress SEO plugin then you will see a notification explaining that “your theme contains a meta description, which blocks WordPress SEO from working properly”. The plugin gives you the option to fix this problem by deleting the offending line of code.
Features & Usability
Once installed, the framework options can be accessed via the newly added ‘Cherry Options’ button on the admin sidebar menu. The options are divided up into a seven sub sections.
From here you can change things like the background colour, link appearances, paragraph and heading fonts (from Google Fonts) as well as enter any custom CSS you might want to use. Navigation elements, fade effects and the slider settings can all be defined here. There are plenty of options to work with here, which gives you a good chance of getting the desired look for your site.
As you can see, the framework options are pretty well integrated with the standard WordPress interface. This should hopefully make working with the Cherry Framework as less confusing prospect for many users, especially those getting to grips with frameworks, child themes and advanced options for WordPress.
Custom Post Types
Also as part of the installation, a number of custom post types are created by the framework. While this is a nice idea, having custom post types built into the theme and framework makes changing to another product a much more difficult task than it needs to be, should the occasion arise to do so.
Another menu item under the Cherry Options submenu is the ‘Cherry Store’. From this page you can browse the compatible child themes available at Template Monster, right from within your WordPress admin area.
To safeguard your settings and any changes you make to the child themes, you can use the ‘Data Management’ submenu to create and restore backups. It’s good to see this feature in place, as losing a well setup theme in an update can be a frustrating experience.
There are also some basic SEO related options on the submenu which pertain to the indexation of system files, plugins and themes files. There are also settings covering the sitemap XML and how to generate it. These areas are often covered by plugins for most users. Considering they aren’t as comprehensive as free plugins already available, their inclusion seems a bit redundant.
It should also be pointed out there that the Cherry Framework has been built using Bootstrap. This means that all of the 300+ child themes are responsive and will work well on a range of screen sizes, from desktops to smartphones.
When it comes to creating the posts and pages for your site, most of what can be done with the Cherry Framework is delivered via shortcodes. Their website states that “90% of all content is based on the shortcodes”.
When using the post editor in visual mode, the shortcodes can be inserted into your posts by clicking on the newly created icon and then making a selection from the dropdown menu.
Some of the shortcodes that come with the framework include:
- Links to other posts in list format, grid format and a recent posts list
- Sliders and carousels
- Service boxes to display information blocks
- Hero units to display major website information and promotions
- Columns in a range of configurations including fluid columns
- Buttons, block quotes, icons, alert boxes, tabs and accordions
As you can see, there are lots of exciting and useful items you can insert into your posts and pages, all from the Cherry Framework shortcodes button on the post editor.
While adding the shortcodes and their parameters was easy, some of the options, such as selecting an icon were a little less user friendly. As there was no way to preview an icon, and as neither did they have meaningful names, it came down to picking a number from the dropdown list when making a decision.
However, there is one thing to note with the shortcodes approach: it makes moving to another framework or (parent theme) very difficult and because of this they are working on making the shortcodes part of a plugin in the next version.
Cherry Child Themes
As previously mentioned, there are currently 315 child theme for the Cherry Framework. This is a large number and for that reason you might have expected there to be more coverage for the framework and its themes, at least on the popular WP blogs.
While the themes looked pretty good, and the latest releases seemed to make use of some of the current WordPress theme trends, they barely had any downloads. Even when sorting by highest number of downloads, the most popular theme had only 12 downloads to its name.
For this review I used the White Artist Portfolio WordPress Theme AKA theme 46088.
There is nothing ground-breaking about the Cherry Framework for WordPress, apart from the fact that it gives you access to over 300 WordPress themes, covering a wide range of topics, styles and niches. It does what the developers set out to do, giving you an easy way to manage updates, without losing any settings or changes you’ve made to the child theme in use.
As mentioned in the review, currently as the shortcodes are embedded in the framework, it means deciding to use this framework requires serious consideration with regards to your exit strategy to another framework or parent theme in the future but according to Template Monster, these will be moved to a stand alone plugin in the next version which is great news.
Overall, it’s a free functional framework with 100s of premium child themes that is easy to use so check it out for yourself …