A few years ago, WordPress sprung into life. But it was a baby and imperfection reigned supreme. Many features that we love now were either non-existent or in development phase where they were riddled with errors. One such feature was the WordPress template system, which has come of age and now looks like nothing it was, say, five years ago.
In the past, it was impossible for WordPress users to update their websites without losing custom styling. If you’ve been using WordPress for long, you know how tiring and infuriating this was. Many people were forced to copy all their custom styles to a document before changing themes. Afterwards, they were forced to spend hours on end uploading the custom styles to the new themes.
People were wasting time left, right and center not to mention some websites broke after the new changes. And this was the norm for quite sometime until WordPress theme frameworks were born. The birth of WordPress theme frameworks ushered in a new future for WordPress themes by adding flexibility and changing several other aspects of the WordPress template system.
In today’s post, we will demystify the WordPress theme framework. We will look into:
- What is a WordPress theme framework – the few things you need to know about WordPress theme frameworks
- Advantages of WordPress theme frameworks
- Disadvantages of WordPress theme frameworks
- Examples of WordPress theme frameworks
- Should you choose a WordPress theme framework?
- WordPress theme framework resources
By the end of this post, you will have a crystal clear understanding of WordPress theme frameworks you will be glad you stuck around. Please come with me to the next section.
What is a WordPress Theme Framework
A WordPress theme framework is nothing but a basic albeit well-coded parent theme. The major difference between a framework and a normal theme is you need a child theme to add custom styling with the former, which isn’t necessary with the latter.
If you create a child theme for your parent theme, you have every right to call that particular parent theme a WordPress theme framework. However, you should note that not all parent themes can be good theme frameworks, but all frameworks can be great parent themes. But before I go ahead of myself, let’s us see what WordPress says about theme frameworks.
WordPress Codex provides two meanings for the term “Theme Framework”:
- A “drop-in” code library that is used to facilitate development of a theme – A drop-in code library is not and can never be installed or used as a theme. Instead, a code library is included to a theme using the functions.php file. Examples of frameworks that qualify as code libraries include Hybrid Core, Redux Framework and the Options Framework.
- A stand-alone base/starter theme that is intended to be forked into another theme or else to be used a parent theme template e.g. Thematic. (Our post concentrates on this definition)
In simple words, a WordPress theme framework takes care of functionality and stores the base code, but/and requires a child theme for further styling. A single framework can be used to power many different websites. The Thesis 2.0 framework, which powers over 57,000 WordPress websites, is a case in point.
As a developer, you can easily develop your own WordPress theme framework (since it’s just a basic WordPress theme) and use it to power your own personal projects or serve it to the entire world. Now that WordPress theme frameworks don’t sound like mysterious gifting from Asgard or the twelve (12) gods of Olympus, let’s look at the pros and cons.
Advantages of WordPress Theme Frameworks
- Time efficient – WordPress theme frameworks speed up the process of development since they come prepacked with starter code. This means, as a developer you don’t need to code your theme from scratch. Just pick a framework of your choice and build your designs on it.
- Faster page load speeds – Most WordPress theme frameworks load a lot faster than typical themes. This is because frameworks are generally free from heavy graphics and junk code. The code quality of WordPress theme frameworks is generally good compared to most stand-alone themes.
- Support – All (or most of) WordPress theme frameworks including the free ones come with lifetime support. You will get answers to most of your questions in the support forums or on the developers’ sites.
- High web standards – WordPress theme frameworks are written by diligent WordPress developers following strict web coding standards. Other than that, frameworks are peer reviewed, which means you get the best standards and more awesomeness. Lastly, most developers comment-out their code, which helps you to modify anything with ease.
- Easy to upgrade – On top of getting a lifetime of updates, WordPress theme frameworks rely on child themes, which let you keep all your custom changes when upgrading.
- Community – Popular WordPress theme frameworks have huge communities of like minded people. Having a community by your side as you develop your online business is always a great plus.
- Ease of development – Some frameworks ship with massive code libraries. Some frameworks come with drag and drop interfaces that remove the need for programming knowledge. You don’t need to be a pro developer to craft amazing themes using a WordPress theme framework. As a novice, you can create a professional WordPress site in no time.
- Increased functionality – WordPress theme frameworks come with built-in functionality including widgets, extended functions and so much more. Often, frameworks provide more functionality than normal themes not to mention they (frameworks) are way easy to customize and extend.
- Plenty of design freedom – If you pick the right WordPress theme framework, you can develop any design you set your mind on. You can create simple blogs thro’ to dynamic portals with multiple layouts. Once you understand the workings of your framework, you will be able to achieve so much more than just simple blogs!
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – You cannot ignore the value of SEO in online marketing. Your online business will benefit greatly when you optimize your website for search engines. Most WordPress theme frameworks have built-in options for search engine optimization.
Everything that has pros comes with cons as well. Let’s look at some demerits of WordPress theme frameworks.
Disadvantages of WordPress Theme Frameworks
- Cost – While there are a few free frameworks such as Thematic and Cherry Framework, the majority of WordPress theme frameworks are not free. You either pay a one-time fee or a recurring annual fee. In some cases, you might even be forced to pay extra to receive updates and support. Prepare your budget in advance by doing some comparison shopping but then go for a framework that suits your needs.
- Time to learn – Each WordPress theme framework is unique – they are coded differently. Any framework comes with its own unique set of functions, filters and hooks, which means you have to invest time to learn if you’re to take full advantage of the framework. Nonetheless, once you learn the ropes, you will be coding child themes like a pro.
- Framework limitations – WordPress theme frameworks are not flawless. Each framework has its own limitations that might force you to overwrite core files to accommodate your needs. This calls for vigilance on your part during the shopping process.
The merits of WordPress theme frameworks outweigh the demerits by far, which should motivate you to proceed to the next section.
Examples of WordPress Theme Frameworks
Genesis Framework By StudioPress
Genesis is the choice framework for many a business. StudioPress, the developer, declares, “…Genesis is the foundation of any smart WordPress design“, and here is why. The framework boasts only the best search engine optimization, responsive HTML5 design, top of the world security, nearly instant updates, easy to customizations, plently of widgets and multiple layout options, etc.
1stwebdesigner.com gave Genesis an overall rating of B+ in an article seeking to find the best WordPress theme framework. Genesis is suitable for novice and advanced developers alike, and you can get its full power for a one-tome price of $59.95 bucks only.
Thesis 2.0 Framework
Powering over 57,000 WordPress websites across the globe, Thesis is making quite a name for itself. This framework stands out for being simple and straightforward. The best part is for a one-time fee of $197 bucks, you can get the Professional Plan. This includes the Thesis 2.0 framework, host unlimited domains, a lifetime of updates & email support, access to member-only forums, a classic responsive skin, alluring social triggers skins, the pearsonified skin, Mailchimp & AWeber optin boxes, social media sharing boxes, the developer toolbox and more.
You can also opt for the $87 Basic Plan that leaves out some features and supports only one (1) domain. With great landing pages, custom 404 error pages and customizable topography, Thesis is exactly the framework you need to jump start your online business.
For a free WordPress theme framework, Cherry Framework is really impressive. It’s “…the most delicious WordPress framework“, according to CherryFramework.com and I tend to agree because it’s fully responsive, easy to install, has steady updates, the included shortcode functionality makes it easy to extend the framework however you want, it includes Bootstrap support, there are useful widgets, and a ton of other elements. I just downloaded my copy of Cherry Framework and I can’t wait to give it a ride.
Headway WordPress Theme Framework
Headway was built with three people in mind: the Newbie, the Design, and the Developer. To put it another way, Headway was built for the people who want to turn their “uncompromising tastes” in design into a reality regardless of their design skills. With a ton of top of the range features and benefits, this theme framework gives you exactly what you need to build a site that reflects your personality without writing code. That’s right, Headway is all drag and drop.
If that wasn’t enough, the guys over at Headway Themes have thrown in a couple of templates to sweeten the deal and to ensure you don’t start with a blank canvas. Nobody likes starting with a blank canvas. Other than that, the Headway framework is 100% responsive, HTML5 designed, SEO optimized and quite extensible. Give your business the fresh breath of life it needs for only $59.
Total Drag & Drop WordPress Theme Framework
Crafted right here at WPExplorer, the Total theme is a clean and modern WordPress framework designed for multiple purposes. The Total framework can help you to create everything from elegant blogs to news sites and online stores just to mention a few. The framework comes with an intuitive drag an drop builder that allows you to create pages with different layouts. On top of that, Total comes with an extension pack that offers you more customization options.
Features at a glance include a fully responsive layout, modern design that features impeccable CSS3 animations, child theme support (obviously – that’s what makes it an awesome framework), the oh so easy Visual Composer Drag & Drop Page builder, SEO optimization, great support, and more. Checkout more Total features.
This theme framework is literally bursting at the seams with useful features. Total is the best selling WordPress theme around here, and for a small price of $55, you can have a Total solution to your design woes.
There are hundreds, or even thousands, of other theme frameworks on the web. Other renowned WordPress theme frameworks include:
At this point, you can tell what a WordPress theme framework is. You can also pick the right framework for your business. But should you choose a WordPress theme framework over a typical WordPress theme?
Should You Choose a WordPress Theme Framework?
Well, it all depends on your business needs. Your experience with WordPress doesn’t matter for everyone can get a framework that compliment their skill level. If you want to start or modify a simple blog, it’s best to go with a premium WordPress theme. If you need a powerful framework for a big website, you can choose any of the frameworks instead. Additionally, if you change your code and other elements of your website regularly, a framework is your best option.
Take time to understand your specific needs to determine the solution (framework or typical theme) that will suit you best. Overall, WordPress theme frameworks have an upper hand over normal WordPress themes in terms of security, flexibility and functionality.
A WordPress theme framework could be the tool you need to take your business to the next level. You cannot forget the many benefits of using a WordPress theme framework as opposed to a normal theme. At the same time, don’t go investing in a framework when all you really need is a premium WordPress theme. When all is said and done, I would like to call your attention to our very own Total Drag & Drop WordPress Theme Framework.
Other than that, we look forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section below 🙂