What Is a Theme Framework in WordPress?

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WordPress offers a plethora of frameworks, but what is a theme framework in WordPress—exactly? This guide answer that question in a way that everyone can understand. The WP Codex refers to a framework as a drop-in code library, but there’s more.

Here are the three ways a developer currently creates custom WordPress websites:

  1. Add WordPress code to an HTML page template
  2. Design a new site around basic WordPress code
  3. Develop a new site using an existing theme framework

Most theme developers find the third option to be the best and most efficient.

What Are Theme Frameworks?

Site designers who build WordPress themes from scratch do a lot of repetitive tasks. That means writing the same bog-standard code along with checking and rechecking markup. The main attraction of a parent theme framework is that it contains all the base or core code.

Theme development frameworks are foundation templates with all the tedious work completed. There are thousands available in simple to complex arrangements, both free and paid.

Just another WordPress theme?

Theme frameworks sound technical, but they’re only WordPress themes. You install and activate them in the usual way. The difference is no or minimal styling, with most offering little more than a blank canvas. Developers have lots of freedom and options. They can create custom themes without needing to work around existing elements and styling.

Users start by creating a child theme based on the parent template. The purpose of the child theme is to house all the new customisations.

Advantages of WordPress Frameworks

The best WordPress theme frameworks offer developers the following benefits:

  • You don’t need to be an accomplished coder to work with frameworks
  • Much faster than building themes from scratch
  • Freedom to design elegant custom websites
  • Friendly support communities for popular products
  • Easy to optimise for SEO, HTML, PHP functions, and CSS
  • Code is written to WP standards and best practices
  • Easy to update/upgrade when WordPress rolls out new releases

Not every theme creator wants to study code, and nor do they have to. There are frameworks with drag-and-drop building tools such as Themify and Headway.

Disadvantages of WP Frameworks

WordPress development theme frameworks seem like a no-brainer for developers. They’re the perfect solution for many site builders, but not everyone’s a fan. There are free options, but the better products come with a price tag, especially the child themes. That could be a one-off fee or a recurring, annual cost. Some makers may even charge extra for support and updates.

Not all Frameworks Are Equal

No two theme frameworks are the same. They use unique coding, functions, hooks, and filters. Developers need time to get accustomed to frameworks they’re unfamiliar with. Time investment can be considerable with more complex products. Lastly, there are potential limitations to some frameworks. Always make sure it offers everything you need—plus some—before committing.

Theme Vs. Theme Framework?

Ready-made themes are convenient and simple to use, but they’re not unique. A website or blog built using the right theme framework is exclusive. You get unlimited potential on how your site looks and functions. You also know its core code is on a par with industry standards, and that’s good for SEO. There’s also plenty of support behind themes framework should you need it.

WordPress site developers know that theme frameworks cost more than building from scratch. However, the time saved creating custom websites means they get much paid sooner.

3 Examples of WP Theme Frameworks

Here are 3 examples of excellent theme frameworks for WordPress websites.

#1 Genesis framework

The Genesis package is a premium and highly popular WordPress theme framework. It’s is a versatile product suitable for both novice and advanced developers. Genesis is famed for easy customisation, responsive HTML5 design, and search engine optimisation (SEO). Other standout features are its airtight security, the plethora of layout options, and lots of available widgets.

Major con: Advanced customisations and tweaks are hard for novice developers to grasp.

#2 Cherry framework (open source)

Developers can use the regularly updated Cherry Framework for themes and plugins. The versatile framework is open-source and therefore free to use. It’s also super-easy for novice theme builders, thanks in part to the Cherry shortcodes. This product has lots of unlimited customisation potential for creative designers.

Major con: Less experienced users are sure to find the Slideshow feature a challenge.

#3 Gantry framework

Gantry by RocketTheme is a popular responsive HTML5 base WordPress theme framework. Its intuitive admin interface is easy to navigate and use at any level. The product comes with over 35 layout combinations, 60+base widget positions, and a 4-column main body. There are also impressive built-in features for creative designers to experiment with.

Major con: Minimal support compared to other frameworks. Limited choice of child themes.

Closing Comments

Theme frameworks have their pros and cons, and not all WordPress developers use them. Those who do, though, tend not to look back for the reasons mentioned in this piece. It takes less time and effort for skilled users to build custom sites using WP frameworks. However, some of the more complex, feature-rich options can have a steep learning curve for novice developers.

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