A Guide to WordPress Theme Frameworks (And Why You Should Use Them)

One of the biggest perks of working with WordPress is the sheer amount of customizations you can apply to pretty much every page element on your site. But what if you wanted to take those customizations to the next level? That’s where WordPress frameworks come in.

WordPress theme frameworks enable theme developers to build a customized appearance for their site. In this post, we will cover what WordPress theme frameworks are and why you should them. We’ll also go over the pros and cons of using theme frameworks and wrap up with a roundup of the top three WordPress theme frameworks out there.

An overview of theme frameworks

The simplest way to understand WordPress theme frameworks is to think of them as a library of code. This library contains all the basic functionality of a theme and can be used to create any visual appearance that you want for your site.

The best theme frameworks pack more advanced options than the usual themes you find on the market. From a coding perspective, they act like parent themes that contain all the functionality of your theme allowing you to create any number of child themes to use on your site. In simple English, theme frameworks allow you to put core design elements and functionality into place so that you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you’re building a site.

Why you should use theme frameworks

Whether you should use a theme framework depends entirely on your web development needs. In this section, we’ll cover some key benefits of using theme frameworks to develop your WordPress website. We’ll also cover the drawbacks of using them so that you’re in a better position to make an informed decision based on your level of technical expertise.

Benefits

There are many reasons to opt for a WordPress theme framework – especially if you are looking for the following:

  • If there is one thing that is certain about web design, it’s that the trend will most certainly change with time. WordPress theme frameworks make it easy to adapt to changing design trends with the flexibility they offer.
  • Fast development. Once you’ve picked a theme framework and invested the time in learning it, future development projects are much faster. With the ability to use a single framework to design practically thousands of websites, designers and webmasters can save themselves a lot of time on the development end.
  • Solid coding foundation. A WordPress theme isn’t just what appears to the user. There are, more often than not, numerous plugins and widgets that and enhance the site’s functionality. A solid coding foundation of your framework makes ensuring your theme’s compatibility with other WordPress widgets and plugins a much easier task.
  • Support and Community. If you ever run into problems, you can count on premium support to help you out. Typically, reputable theme frameworks have a large user community that you can turn to if you ever run into any development problems.

Drawbacks

So, if frameworks offer so much more, why doesn’t everyone opt for one?

  • Steep learning curve. Frameworks are not like traditional WordPress themes in that they contain more complex files such as API’s and hooks. It takes time and effort to learn a theme framework – especially for those without prior technical experience.
  • Developer dependency. WordPress is evolving rapidly, which makes it necessary for developers to stay up to date with the best practices. By using a theme framework, you’re dependent on the framework’s developers for keeping it updated and secure.
  • High costs. The work doesn’t stop after the site is built. Now starts the maintenance and support part which will continue for the life of the site. If you aren’t a developer and cannot manage the site yourself then be prepared for the costs that come with hiring a developer. Though you can opt for a free framework, the most used (and highest rated) WordPress theme frameworks are premium solutions.

3 of the best WordPress theme frameworks

After assessing the pros and cons if you feel theme frameworks are best suited to your WordPress development needs then let’s run the rule over what we think are the best WordPress theme frameworks around (both free and paid)…

Gantry

A free theme framework with all the essentials, Gantry can be used simply by installing a WordPress theme and plugin. These give the user access to a variety of tools that can be used to create a customized layout.

The theme framework leverages custom widget placement to deliver a unique design and powerful functionality. Developers can use the page builder tool to create their customized page layout and add third party widgets in addition to the selection that Gantry has to offer.

In addition to all of this, Gantry features live previews, maintenance mode, and a user-friendly layout for designing your site. It also allows custom CSS for changing your layout styles.

Genesis

Genesis, by StudioPress, is a rather advanced framework in terms of usability. It is one of the most widely used frameworks across the board and provides many powerful options including professionally-crafted child themes and advanced hooks.

You will have to use a child theme with Genesis, which you can create yourself or buy from the market. It offers huge features at a relatively low cost – a one-time fee of $59.95 – and is one of the most powerful frameworks available.

With an active developer community and premium support, it’s hard to go wrong with Genesis as your theme framework of choice if you are even the least bit technically inclined.

Thesis 2.0

Thesis 2.0 is a user-friendly framework that provides a variety of visual and functional capabilities right out of the box. This theme framework ships with pre-designed templates for page layouts (called skins) which can be modified with a simple point and click editor. You can also add widgets for various buttons and forms in your page template and optimize your site for Google using site tools.

Thesis 2.0 is known for its focus on SEO and active support staff. It comes in three different pricing plans – Basis $87, Basic Plus $164, and Professional $197.

Conclusion

While we'd argue that these are the best WordPress theme frameworks out there, there are certainly many more solutions you can go for. These frameworks provide flexibility, a solid coding foundation, allow faster development, and have plenty of support in addition to a strong community backing.

Are you ready to switch over to a theme framework? We’d love to hear from you, so let us know in the comments section below!

2 comments on “A Guide to WordPress Theme Frameworks (And Why You Should Use Them)
    • Hi Emma, as I said on Facebook, Template Toaster isn’t really a theme framework, it is rather a software generator that delivers a theme. That might seem like the same thing from an end user point of view, but it isn’t really the same thing from a developer point of view. That said, I totally understand the market and I’m sure it does a great job. I’m curious to try it myself.

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