When it comes to designing and developing a WordPress theme, there are several ways you can start. Many designers start by creating an HTML template and then build their WordPress code around it, which can prove to bevery time-consuming and stressful. Others start with the rudimentary WordPress code and design their theme around that, which is relatively easier process.
But there are some folks who start with a base/starter theme or framework, which is possibly the most efficient way to build a WordPress theme. In this article, we’ll talk about WordPress Theme Frameworks. We’ll take a detailed look at:
- What is a WordPress theme framework?
- Its Advantages and disadvantages.
- Some popular WordPress theme frameworks.
- Should you use them or not?
Let's get started!
What is a WordPress Theme Framework?
According to the WordPress Codex, currently there are two meanings of the term “Theme Framework”:
- A "drop-in" code library that you can use to accelerate the WordPress theme development process. Some examples of frameworks that can be considered as code libraries are: Gantry, Vafpress and Hybrid Core.
- A stand-alone "base/starter" Theme that is intended either to be forked into a different Theme, or else to be served as a robust Parent Theme for Child Themes. Examples of frameworks that qualify as base/starter Theme include Thematic and WP Canvas.
In a nutshell, a WordPress theme framework is nothing but a stand-alone starter Theme that can be used as a flexible foundation for the faster development of your WordPress themes. All you need is to create child themes to add custom styling and leave everything - from storing base code to powering functionality - to the WordPress theme framework.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Like other things, WordPress theme frameworks also have some advantages and disadvantages. Let’s have a look at both.
- Time Saving: WordPress theme frameworks are designed to speed up your development process. As they come pre-packaged with base code, you don’t need to code everything from scratch. Just pick your favorite framework and start building your themes on it.
Most of the theme frameworks have their own communities of like-minded users and developers. This makes it much easier for you to get information on how to do something.
- More Efficient Upgrades:
The upgrading/updating process is much easier with frameworks, as they rely on child themes. You only require simply updating the framework, without making any changes to the child theme. So there is no chance of losing any styling/functionality.
- Quality of the Code:
Theme frameworks are written by expert developers, following W3C standards strictly. In addition, they are often peer reviewed, so chances are they follow all best practices of WordPress theme development.
- Enhanced Functionality:
WordPress theme frameworks have built-in widgets, extra functionalities and much more. Though they provide almost all the functionalities which a normal theme doesn’t, but you can further add some more functionality with the help of a plug-in.
Most of the theme frameworks – whether it is free or premium – come with lifetime support. This way, you can get most of your questions answered via support forums or developers’ site.
- Loads Faster:
Frameworks have faster page load speed than normal themes. This is because they are free from malicious code and heavy graphics.As we’ve already mentioned above, frameworks have better code quality than typical themes, which make them load faster.
- Ease of Development:
There are some drag-n-drop frameworks that empower you to create everything visually without any programming knowledge. No matter whether you’re a WordPress beginner or expert, developing a professional WordPress theme using framework is quite easy.
- Cost: Most WordPress theme frameworks are not free. You’re asked to either pay a one-time fee or a recurring annual fee. Even, sometimes you’re required to pay some extra money to get regular updates and support. Apart from this, their prices are higher than typical themes.
- Framework Limitations:
Every framework has some limitations that you can’t break. Sometimes you might have to override core files to achieve your customizations. In some exceptional cases, building a custom theme with frameworks takes more time than coding everything from scratch.
- Requires Time to Learn:
Each WordPress theme framework has its own unique set of functions, hooks and filters. To take full advantage of a framework, you need to invest your time to learn how to use all the new stuff.Though the learning process is short, you still have to think about devoting your time to familiarize yourself with a particular framework.
Some Popular WordPress Theme Frameworks
Here are some popular frameworks that are being used by WordPress theme designers. Pick the one that fits perfectly to your requirements.
Thematic is an extremely popular, fully search-engine optimized, and highly extensible WordPress theme framework, featuring 960.gs grid-based layout samples, 13 widget-ready areas, drop-down menus, styling for popular plug-ins, shortcodes for your footer, plug-in integration, and a whole lot more. It's equally suitable for novice bloggers and professional WordPress developers.
Thematic framework has been downloaded more than 700,000 times and has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating in the WordPress Theme Directory. So it is not only of high quality, but also has a massive community behind it. Best of all, it comes with a sample child theme for rapid development and wiki-editable guide for customization.
Hybrid Core is extremely useful if you’re interested in building a WordPress theme for the entire world. To use this framework, you’re required to be familiar with HTML, CS, PHP, and WordPress theme development. Key features include translation-friendly, drop-down menus, multiple theme layouts, and loop pagination.
Simon WP Framework
Simon is a simple to understand, easy to use, and flexible framework designed to help developers rapidly create and deploy WordPress driven websites. This Framework is 100% widget ready both within the sidebar and the footer. The best thing is its responsiveness, means it can adapt to screens of all sizes.
Using Simon, you’ll be able to activate post formats (text/image/audio/video) in your theme. Other main features include starter child theme, typography options, FlexGrid CSS, form design, breadcrumbs, clean code, drop-down menus, and custom icons.
Genesis, built by StudioPress, is one of the most popular, responsive and highly recommended framework that empowers you to rapidly build stunning WordPress websites. Whether you're a beginner or pro developer, Genesis provides you a secure, well-coded, and search-engine-friendly foundation for theme development. What make it different from the other frameworks are highly customizable elements, which are not so expensive.
In addition to this, StudioPress also offers a wide range of child themes that you can use with Genesis. Though Genesis does not offer all of the drag-and-drop facility like some of the other frameworks, but it does offer responsive HTML5 design, multiple layout options, custom backgrounds, headers and menus, plenty of widgets, and nearly instant updates.
PageLines is an extremely user-friendly drag-and-drop responsive framework for WordPress that lets developers build professional mobile-friendly websites better, easier, and faster than ever before. What’s unique about PageLines is that it also has support for WooCommerce, the most popular WordPress eCommerce plug-in, using which you can transform your normal website into a powerful online shop.
With PageLines, you’ll have complete control over creating unlimited page layouts, using unlimited colors, typography, and animations. A marketplace is also available from where you can buy add-ons and extensions to supercharge your website. As a developer, you can also sell your own extensions there.
Should You Use a WordPress Theme Framework?
Whether you want to use a framework or not, it totally depends on your business requirements. Even though frameworks are costly and require time to learn, we personally recommend you to use them, especially if you develop WordPress themes frequently or change your website’s code and other elements on a regular basis.
After all, they drastically reduce your development time; make you follow web coding standards, and save you from writing repetitive WordPress’ back-end code. Most importantly, you get excellent support from the developing team as well as other users in the community. In case, if you want to create or modify a simple blog, it’s better to go with a free or premium WordPress theme.
About The Author
Ajeet is a professional web developer, associated with WordpressIntegration, a reputed web development company that provides high quality Photoshop to WordPress theme/template conversion service. Follow @Wordpress_INT to get latest updates via Twitter.