WordPress powers some of the prettiest websites on the Internet. The platform has matured into a very powerful foundation that allows for setting up a visually pleasing website in almost no time at all.
WordPress offers an overwhelming number of themes that dress up a website in a seemingly infinite number of styles. For any style imaginable, multiple themes add a unique mix of visual and UI/UX elements to the website.
All this is possible because WordPress theme development is dependent upon theme framework(s) that form the core of the theme. In simple terms, a theme framework is a code library that provides basic architecture and extended functionalities to theme development process.
The importance of theme frameworks has increased in the world where responsive design and ecommerce dominate all trends. Almost all major and minor theme frameworks incorporate responsive design and all the best practices for web development.
Here is a long list of WordPress theme frameworks that power WordPress themes.
WordPress Theme Frameworks
Canvas is a renowned framework for WordPress websites. The framework is created and maintained by WooThemes, and powers all the themes offered by the company.
Many developers use Canvas for the development of the parent theme that is then customized into several child themes. The ease of use and the wide set of functionalities available in Canvas means that the framework could be used to create themes for any type of website. In particular, Canvas allows the developers to modify design elements, placement of visual elements, colors, layouts and typography of the theme.
Because of the influence of the parent company, WooCommerce, Canvas is specially optimized for ecommerce website theme development. This means that using Canvas, a developer could easily create a visually stunning theme for an ecommerce store with minimal hassle.
Gantry is the product of Rocket Theme, a well-known theme development agency. Perhaps, the most interesting fact about Gantry is that it could be used for theme development for WordPress, Joomla, and Grav.
The visual menu editor and powerful layout manager ensure that even less-experienced developers could create very impressive themes with little training or experience. The best feature of the layout manager is the unlimited undo that ensure that the developer could work without worrying about breaking things.
When developing themes using Gantry, the developers has the choice of using a number of built-in fields (including color pickers, icon, and font pickers), LESS, CSS, RTL, and a powerful 960 grid system. In addition, the developers have access to 38 different design layouts and 65 widget areas. All this culminates in a powerful theme development framework that forms the foundation of a fully responsive and visually attractive theme.
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Genesis by StudioPress is perhaps the best-known theme development framework for WordPress. Developed and maintained by StudioPress, Genesis powers some of the most popular WordPress themes. The real strength of the framework is its robust and highly optimized code that results in a very clean and error-free theme.
StudioPress has put a lot of emphasis on three important areas of theme development. Security is built into the core of the framework and updates ensure that all vulnerabilities are regularly patched. Responsive design is implemented using the latest HTML5 standards. Finally, Genesis offers a huge number of customization for headers, footers, and widgets. Combined these three factors result in a very powerful and user-friendly theme development framework.
You could either opt for the Genesis framework or build your theme on very stable foundations. Alternatively, you could buy a child theme based on Genesis framework that could be further customized to suit your requirements.
4. Hybrid Core
Hybrid Core is developed by ThemeHybrid and is released under GPL license. This means that the developers could use the framework for free. However, do not equate the cost of the framework to the value it adds to the theme development process.
The best thing about Hybrid Core is its complete freedom of development. There is no “recommended” way of creating themes. The developers could use any combination of HTML, CSS, JS and other supported technologies to create their dream theme. A very important outcome of this approach is that the developers are free to use their own scripts and snippets in theme development process.
Translation into foreign languages is one area where theme development frameworks often fail to deliver. Hybrid Core ensures that translations are loaded smoothly for both parent and children themes.
Developers have the option to use custom layouts for themes that could be coupled with custom post types for maximum flexibility in the design. In addition, the native gallery shortcodes and built-in media grabber greatly streamline the handling of the media.
5. iThemes Builder
iThemes Builder is an option-packed theme development framework that is supported b a very competent team. The framework is ideal for developers who are looking for a hassle-free way of implementing a pre-approved design. The most important aspect of using iThemes Builder is the ease of developing a custom layout for the WordPress website.
The Layout Editor is the first stage of theme development. Layout Editor employs a modular approach that cover header, footer, images, widgets, navigation, sidebars, HTML and content areas.
For non-designers, iThemes Builder provides a Style Manager that takes care of all design related issues.
Blocks add another layer of functionality by providing ready-made content containers that greatly enhances the functionality of the website. Blocks are often used on contact pages and schedulers.
The basic Foundation Pack of the framework is available for USD 80. This is followed by Developer Pack for USD 150 and an All Access Pass for USD 197.
PageLines dubs itself as “the easiest ways of design and customizes WordPress websites”.
The most important feature of PageLines theme development framework is the huge number of plugins that add or extend functionality to the theme. The best thing about these plugins is that they integrate seamlessly without breaking the code. PageLines is specially optimized for WordPress and the themes developed using the framework features a very clean code that is optimized out-of-the-box. The framework supports responsive design and a huge library of fonts, backgrounds and third-party script integration.
While the free version of the framework is adequate for most themes and websites, the paid versions offer important upgrades in the form of pro extensions and support forums.
Roots offer an end-to-end product lineup that takes care of everything about WordPress development. Adopting a very broad and a unique approach, Roots offers three distinct but inter-related products.
WordPress development could be tricky and some of the more elusive errors actually originate in the development environment rather than the code itself. Realizing this, Roots offers Trellis, a self-contained WordPress development environment complete with a virtual machine and a WordPress server.
Once you have the server ready, Roots provide a WordPress boilerplate that forms the basis of a streamlined and hassle-free development. Known as Bedrock, this boilerplate takes care of all dependencies via Composer and integrates security from the beginning by limiting access to non-web files and secure passwords.
The best news about Roots is that all these components are available free of cost. However, if you require support or need more help in using Roots for your project, you could buy support.
Thesis prides itself on being accessible to everyone, regardless of the style and complexity of the website. The theme development frameworks are well-known for three features that ensure that every theme and website built using Thesis is both functional and attractive.
The first feature is the Skins, the design control component of the framework. The theme is responsive right out-of-the-box without any alterations. Skins go beyond the traditional parent-child architecture of the WordPress themes and provide more comprehensive control over the design process.
The next feature is Boxes that integrate various functionalities into the website seamlessly and without any major issues. This means that instead of installing a plugin that could break the website, a designer could just drag-and-drop a Box to add that functionality to the website.
Finally, Thesis takes care of all performance and optimization related issues through its complement of web tools. These web tools add SEO and branding tools flawlessly within the overall design of the theme and the website.
Thesis is available in three price packages that start from a USD 87 Basic version, followed by Basic Plus (USD 164) and Professional (USD 197).
WordPress theme development could not get more authentic than Underscores, a starter theme that is built and maintained by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.
Underscores is designed to be lean enough to make sure that the development process is not hindered by bloated code that breaks up frequently. This is why it is not recommended to use Underscores as a parent theme. Instead, use the various components and scripts to build your own theme.
The entire code of the framework is available on GitHub, making the development process a breeze.
Headway has been around since 2009 and is now considered a pioneer in drag-and-drop layout design process for WordPress. If you are considering Headway for your next project, know that Headway is currently facing financial difficulties and might not be able to provide full service.
In essence, Headway is a parent theme that you purchase and then customize for your particular requirements. This means that anyone from experienced developer to a novice developer could easily translate ideas into the functional design.
Headway people understand that mistakes are an unavoidable part of the theme development process. The native rollback system saves snapshots periodically that users could be reverted to in a single click.
- 500 Framework
- Backbone Framework by Colorlabs
- Cherry Framework
- Elemental By Pro Theme Design
- HTML5 Reset
- HTML5 Blank
- K9 Canvas
- Momtaz Framework
- My Site My Way Framework
- NOUVEAU Framework
- Options Framework
- Required+ (ZURB Foundation Framework)
- Simon WP Framework
- Smooth Themes Framework
- StartBox Framework
- The Buffet Framework
- Ultimatum Theme
- Up Themes Framework
- Vafpress Framework
- Venda Themebuilder Theme
- Warp Framework
- Wonder Flux
- Woo Framework
A theme development framework greatly eases the theme development process and ensures that the final product is stable and highly functional for the broadest combination of WordPress core and plugins.
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This is not an exhaustive list and I am sure that I might have missed out your favorite framework. If this is the case, or you would like to discuss a framework mentioned above, please leave a comment.
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