Top 10 Free WordPress Theme Frameworks for Developers in 2021
When it comes to building a WordPress theme, there are three ways you can go with:
- Converting a PSD file to a WordPress theme aka PSD to WordPress conversion
- Beginning with the rudimentary code and develop the theme around it
- Using a base/starter WordPress theme or framework
The last one is probably the simplest, quickest, and most efficient way to build a custom WordPress theme. However, with many theme frameworks available, choosing the right one can sometimes be a daunting task. To make the selection process easier, we have researched and gathered the best free WordPress theme frameworks. Let’s start by understanding what exactly a WordPress theme framework is.
- What Is a WordPress Theme Framework?
- The Benefits of Using a WordPress theme Framework
- Top 10 Open-Source WordPress Theme Frameworks
What Is a WordPress Theme Framework?
According to WordPress itself, the term ‘theme framework’ indicates two meanings:
- A “drop-in” code library designed to speed up the theme development process. For instance, Hybrid Core, Vafpress, and Gantry.
- A stand-alone “base/starter” theme intended to be served as a parent theme or forked into a different theme. Examples include
Underscores and Themify Basic.
In a nutshell, a WordPress theme framework is a set of functions, features, and standards that provide developers a flexible foundation for accelerating the theme development process. All you need to create a child theme to house your customizations and leave everything else to the framework.
The Benefits of Using a WordPress theme Framework
Using WordPress theme frameworks benefit you in several ways, including:
#Ease of Development:
Frameworks are created to aid theme development. No matter if you’re a WordPress beginner or expert, building a custom WordPress theme through a framework is super easy.
A WordPress theme framework speeds up the development process manifold. As they come packed with base code, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Just pick the framework of your choice, and you’re good to go!
#More Efficient Upgrades:
As WordPress theme frameworks rely on child themes, they make the upgrading/updating process a lot easier. You only need to update the framework without making any modifications to the child theme. Thus, you never lose your WordPress theme customizations!
#Quality of the Code:
Theme frameworks follow W3C standards strictly. Multiple developers review them, so they follow WordPress development best practices. Consequently, their code is clean and well-documented.
WordPress theme frameworks have built-in widgets and offer functionalities that a general theme doesn’t. You can also further extend the functionality through plugins.
Since frameworks don’t contain any malicious code and heavy graphics, they load faster than standard themes. The high-quality code makes them load faster.
Most theme frameworks have their own communities of like-minded people. This helps you resolve common WordPress issues quickly.
Top 10 Open-Source WordPress Theme Frameworks
Listed below are the top 10 best free WordPress theme frameworks to make your development process easier, faster, and effective than ever. Pick the ones that fit your requirements perfectly.
Gantry is a simple, flexible, and easy-to-use framework that allows you to develop WordPress themes quickly and efficiently. Featuring a powerful and user-friendly drag-n-drop Layout Manager, it makes the entire layout creation process a breeze. With the Visual Menu Editor provided, you can configure and structure your menus’ hierarchy with ease.
Built on top of Grav, a modern flat-file CMS that requires no database, Gantry supports a full-width Mega Menu and provides users with unlimited Undo/Redo capabilities. Best of all, taking advantage of Ajax-powered lightning-fast backend, Gantry saves users a lot of time.
Developed by folks at Template Monster, Cherry Framework is a lightweight and easy to install theme framework for WordPress. It comes with 100+ handy customization options that empower you to adjust your theme’s look to fit your taste. There are 80+ handy shortcodes available to make it easier for you to embed media and other content.
Moreover, you can choose from over three fantastic sliders to incorporate stylish slideshows and galleries into your WordPress themes. Other key features include Theme Customizer, Unlimited Color Options, Custom Widgets, Advanced Typography Options, and Custom Post Types.
Unyson is an extremely user-friendly drag-and-drop WordPress theme framework that helps you build complex themes with ease. Made by ThemeFuse, this intuitive framework comes with many built-in extensions and options that accelerate your theme development process.
For instance, where the built-in SEO module eliminates the need to install additional plugins, on the other hand, the breadcrumbs extension lets your visitors navigate your website faster. A couple of custom widgets, like blog tabs and flicker, are also offered to make your theme sidebar more attractive and useful.
Hybrid Core is a next-generation WordPress theme framework built to give developers full control over their theme design. It comes with several developer-friendly features, like breadcrumbs, microdata, translations, and custom post templates, which allow you to create unique and advanced WordPress themes.
Getting started with Hybrid Core is super easy. After installation, you would need to add a PHP code snippet to your theme’s functions.php file. Unlike its modern counterparts, Hybrid Core gives you the full freedom to develop WordPress themes in your own way. If you want to make the most of Hybrid Core, you should be proficient in HTML, CSS, PHP, and JS.
Beans is a flexible, extendable, and blazing fast theme framework for WordPress. Built with UIkit, this robust framework keeps your web pages lightweight so they can load as fast as possible. Themes made with Beans not only look beautiful but also resize content appropriately on all devices.
Since Beans is coded semantically, you can be sure that your site would rank better on search engine results pages. Every single line of code in this SEO-friendly framework is optimized to its maximum. Whether you are a novice or professional WordPress developer, you’ll find Beans easy to learn and simple to use.
Simon is an easy-to-use framework designed to let you create and deploy WordPress themes quickly and efficiently. It has support for widget areas both within the footer and the sidebar. Since Simon is fully responsive, your theme will render correctly on screens and devices of all sizes.
Simon also supports child theme functionality, allowing you to update the framework directly. Thus, you don’t have to worry about losing the customizations that you made to your theme. Additional features include FlexGrid CSS, Breadcrumbs, Form Design, Custom Icon Support, and Various Typography Options.
Built with ZURB’s Foundation, Reverie is a fully responsive, SEO-optimized, and extremely versatile WordPress framework. With numerous awe-inspiring features, this framework is very minimal and offers two custom menus and two widget areas by default.
Whether you’re going to start your new project or develop your own child theme, Reverie is a perfect choice for both. Inheriting all the Foundation framework features, Reverie optimizes your HTML5 and WordPress development experience to the maximum extent possible.
The UpThemes Framework is a powerful and flexible theme options framework designed to work with WordPress seamlessly. Taking advantage of the Theme Customizer and Settings API, this robust framework helps you make your theme options panel extremely lightweight and user-friendly.
While many themes allow you to choose from a specific layout or color scheme, on the contrary, UpThemes Framework gives you the freedom to set custom layouts and color schemes for your website. Even you can easily customize the H+eader and Background image/color to fulfill your branding needs.
Also called _s, underscores is a starter theme designed to facilitate your web development efforts. Having ultra-minimal CSS ensures you’ll get less stuff in your way while creating your awesome theme. It comes with two sample CSS layouts to streamline the process of theme building.
Underscores framework features smartly organized starter CSS that helps you quickly get your design off the ground. There are also custom template tags to keep your templates neat and clean and prevent code duplication. Moreover, a pre-defined 404 template is given to handle HTTP 404 errors.
Thematic is a highly extensible, SEO-friendly WordPress theme framework featuring grid-based layout samples, 13 widget-ready areas, styling for popular plugins, and a vast community behind it. It’s equally useful for newbie and experienced WordPress development professionals.
You can use Thematic as-is or as a blank theme for your project. Thematic is fully compatible with Platinum SEO and All-In-One SEO plugins, and it comes with a sample child theme for rapid development. Other key features include multi-author blogs support, dynamic post and body classes, a wiki-editable guide, and commercially supported child themes.
Whether or not you should use a framework depends entirely on your project requirements. Even though you have to devote a substantial amount of time to learn a framework, it’s highly recommended you use them, especially if you regularly develop WordPress themes or make changes to your site’s code and other elements.
That’s because WordPress theme frameworks save you from writing repetitive code, ensure you follow coding standards and drastically reduce your overall development time. Most importantly, you get support from framework developers and other users in the community. So it’s always a good idea to use a WordPress theme framework to turbo-charge your development process.