WordPress is a free and awesome open source content management system with a special focus on aesthetics, web standards and usability to help you create a beautiful blog or website. To let you express yourself with a distinctive style, WordPress has plenty of options to create customized themes. Building custom themes for WordPress is very intuitive and relatively easy using WordPress API.
If you wish to design your website on your own, you can either start with an HTML template and then add the WordPress code to it or you can even use the basic WordPress code as a base and develop your design around that. However, the most efficient and highly recommended way is to start with a starter theme or framework.
What is a WordPress Theme Framework?
According to the WordPress Codex, Theme Framework is a “drop-in” code library that you can use to facilitate the development of a Theme. It is essentially a stand-alone base or a starter theme that is proposed to be forked into another theme or simply be used as a parent theme template.
Why Should You Use Theme Frameworks?
If you wish to do away with repetitive tasks like code writing and checking your markup frequently, WordPress Theme Frameworks is the perfect solution for you. It will speed up the process of designing and coding the WordPress theme by cutting down the time you spend on Word Press’ back-end code that is recurring in the theme.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using Theme Frameworks
- It saves a lot of time
- It is incredibly easy to use and update for future releases
- It procures highly efficient theme development
- It offers ample support via communities built on the WordPress theme frameworks
- It delivers optimized CSS, HTML, SEO and PHP functions
- The code is written at par with WordPress standards and best practices
- The most critical problem that the users face while working with theme frameworks is that they do not know how to use the new coding language. They will need some time master these frameworks.
- The prices of these frameworks are usually higher than the normal ones.
- Frameworks have certain limitations. It makes a clear distinction between what you can do and what you cannot do and it is not possible for end-users to break these barriers.
What is a Parent Theme?
Unless otherwise specified, every theme in WordPress is a stand-alone parent theme. The parent themes should contain the theme design, functionality and templates essential for a theme to run on WordPress.
What is a Child Theme?
A WordPress Child Theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of the parent theme and allows you to add to or modify the functionality of the parent theme. It is very easy to create a child theme. You just have to make a directory and add a properly formatted style.css file to it and voila, your child theme is ready. You may need a functions.php if you wish to include some of your own custom functions in the child theme.
To help you get your foot in WordPress theme development, we have compiled a list of ten best free and premium frameworks and starter themes below. You can check out the specifics for the framework and pick the one that best suits your project.
The Catalyst is a premium WordPress framework that lets you handcraft your own fully functional website. It is the perfect theme framework for WordPress DIY enthusiasts, business owners and intermediate to advanced level web developers. When you purchase the catalyst framework, you will get a Dynamic Child Theme with more than 800 design options. Besides, you will enjoy a license to build unlimited websites including the client sites. It has a very large user base with a very active support forum. The best thing about Catalyst is that it offers lifetime support and an extremely useful front-end custom CSS builder.
The Whiteboard is a very simple, lightweight and uncluttered, free WordPress theme framework that includes only the core WordPress structure without any unnecessary functions. This open source framework is cross browser compatible and supports several WordPress features such as manageable menus, background and featured images as well as widget areas. Whiteboard has a very strong and flexible div structure and a clean, well-noted code to facilitate an efficient WordPress development. It is built with minimal framework and CSS3 to make an instant responsive website.
Hybrid is a powerful and user-friendly theme framework, which is very simple to use and build upon. It has plenty of built-in features and functions that allow you to create any type of site you dream about. Hybrid presents 14 custom page templates, 9-widget ready areas, post stylesheets and more than 15 plugins supported within the theme. Moreover, it is developed with the child themes in mind that are feature-rich and easily available with a paid membership of the Hybrid Theme Club.
If you are looking for a library of turn-key solutions that allow you to create a powerful and highly customized website, Headway is the ultimate choice for you. With this entirely drag and drop theme builder, you can have total control over every single element in the whole theme including individual posts, pages, post types, archives and taxonomies. Every website built on Headway is automatically responsive and appears beautiful irrespective of the device on which it is being viewed. With the Headway framework, you can easily create landing pages, unlimited navigation areas and unlimited widget areas.
MySiteMyWay is another very popular WordPress framework with a highly advanced and revolutionary skinning system that endows you with limitless flexibility for customization of WordPress themes. They have a massive amount of shortcodes that offer unlimited number of options throughout the site you will have total control over everything. Moreover, the best community-driven feature of this framework is that you can even contribute your own personal design settings to the community’s skin library.
Thematic is a free and open source WordPress theme framework that is perfect for beginners and WordPress development professionals. It is a highly extensible framework with 13 widget-ready areas, styling for popular plugins, grid based layout and a large community. It incorporates a modular CSS with pre-packaged resets and basic typography and options for multi-author blogs. It allows you to make rapid development with its sample WordPress child theme and a wiki-editable guide to thematic customization.
Gantry boasts of a highly efficient HTML+CSS+PHP framework with easy to use controls that let you fine-tune your posts with incredible precision. It has a 960-grid system with a stunning Administrator interface. Gantry offers you a complete RTL language support and a built-in extensible AJAX communication layer. It even has the ability to force blank widget positions to offer a highly advanced customization of the website layout.