A Complete Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Theme Frameworks

Mar 17,2015
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People often become confused about the difference between a WordPress theme and a theme framework. This is especially true for beginners. They don’t have any idea about what a theme framework is, what it does and why does it matter.

In today’s post, I will try to answer all of these questions along with recommendations for the best WordPress frameworks.

What is a Theme Framework?

A WordPress theme framework is actually a collection of codes, acting as a central code library. This code library is used to facilitate the theme development process. During the early days of WordPress, there was no way to save the customizations when you update the theme. To enable this feature, the WordPress development team decided to introduce the concept of Parent and Child themes.

Theme frameworks are designed to be used as parent themes. While all the basic features and functionalities are included in the parent theme, all the customizations could be done in the child theme. By doing this, it is possible to update the core framework without losing any of the customizations. At the end of the day, you will be able to preserve the basic framework of your website and still get all the latest updates for your theme framework.

Why Theme Frameworks are Used?

The most important purpose of a theme framework is to speed up the theme development process. As the framework offers all the basic functions and provides unlimited customization opportunities, developers won’t have to recreate the same things for every theme. When using a theme framework, you can begin by creating a child theme and get a head start instantly.

Pros and Cons of Theme Frameworks

Like any other thing, WordPress theme frameworks have some pros and cons too. Let’s take a look at them. We will start with the pros first.

Pros

Large Community: A popular theme framework will have a large user base. This will be very helpful in getting helps in times of difficulties.

Top-quality Code: Most of the theme frameworks are the result of a team of veteran WordPress developers. As they check the code of each other, the code quality will be excellent.

Faster Theme Development: As we noted above, using a theme framework will significantly speed up your theme development process.

Regular Updates: All the popular theme frameworks are regularly updated. Their developers follow the latest trends and keep the framework updated with these.

Readymade Features: A big advantage of using theme frameworks is they come with all the common features and functionalities.

Cons

Steep Learning Curve: Each theme framework has its own set of hooks and filters. In order to work with your preferred framework, you need to know how your framework operates, which may include a steep learning curve.

Limitations: Most theme frameworks have some kind of limitations. In order to apply the exact customizations, you may need to override the core files at some point.

Expensive: While there are free theme frameworks, the most popular ones come with a one-time or recurring fee to provide support and timely updates.

Popular Theme Frameworks

Now that you know what theme frameworks are, what they do and why to use them, let’s talk about some popular theme frameworks. Genesis framework by StudioPress (http://my.studiopress.com/themes/genesis/) is arguably the most popular WordPress theme framework. While the framework costs $59.99, you have to purchase the child themes separately.

Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework for WordPress

Thesis (http://diythemes.com/) is another popular theme framework. Thesis offers three pricing packages – Basic for $87, Basic Plus for $164 and Professional for $197. Headway Themes (http://headwaythemes.com/) is another widely used theme framework. This drag and drop framework has three pricing packages too – Personal for $59, Business for $99 and Developer for $199. Other notable theme frameworks include Pagelines’ DMS (http://www.pagelines.com/shop/club/dms/), Elegant Themes (http://www.elegantthemes.com/), Themify (http://themify.me/) etc.

Thesis Framework

Thesis Framework

Pageline DMS

Pageline DMS Framework

Final Thoughts…

I hope this article helped you in getting a clear idea about WordPress theme frameworks. However, if you are still confused about anything discussed here or want to know more, let me know by leaving a comment below. And if you are already using a theme framework, maybe you can share your experience with us.