One of the great things about WordPress are the wide range of themes from which to choose. You can pick designs appropriate for blogs, digital magazines, e-commerce sites, and portfolios.
Theme frameworks take your design process a step further. They do the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to customize the look, feel, and user experience of your website without needing to know a single line of code.
When you get ready to build your website, should you use a regular WordPress theme or a framework?
In this article, we’ll examine what a framework is and make a few recommendations.
The Basics of a WordPress Theme
All WordPress sites require a theme to control how the website will display on the internet. Each theme provides a different set of stylesheets and code to provide distinctive layouts, functionality and content delivery options.
One of the great things about WordPress is that as your website evolves, you can change your theme and modify your site design at any time. As you do so, all of your content remains intact.
Most themes provide you with a single layout and general design template. You usually can change a few things within the design, such as the color of the background or design elements. However, with a regular theme you may need to dive deeper into the underlying code if you need custom modifications.
What is a WordPress Framework?
Frameworks provide a way for theme creators to build a single core theme while also offering users the choice of many different options for the site’s ultimate look and feel. Frameworks are to WordPress what floor plans are for a new home. You can select and combine a number of layout and design options while retaining the ability to make small, personal customization tweaks.
Frameworks typically consist of a “parent” theme that includes the basic code as well as a selection of sub-themes (“child” themes). These child themes build upon the parent by using additional design and functional elements.
Some frameworks offer a single theme but provide options to adjust many of the design settings (colors, fonts, layout, etc.) within the admin area. These frameworks allow you to change your design on the fly so you can build a totally custom site.
As you can see, for people who don’t want to dig into the custom stylesheets (CSS) and PHP code of WordPress template files, choosing a framework can save a lot of time and effort.
The Genesis Framework
One of the most popular frameworks out there is called Genesis. StudioPress created the Genesis framework in January 2010 as a single powerful theme that underlies a number of entirely different designs. Many website designers choose Genesis as the basis for all of the WordPress websites they build, creating a vibrant cottage industry for Genesis child theme designers. Developers can now create specific themes for specialized businesses like realtors, online travel agencies, writers, and many more.
Genesis encourages collaboration and creation, and StudioPress often features third-party designers on their website and in their newsletter. Visit the StudioPress website to see a live demo of Genesis in action.
If you’re not sold on Genesis, there are a few other frameworks worth checking out. Some are basic and bare-bones, while others have plenty of add-ons and features. Browse them all and see which ones best suit your needs.
Are Frameworks Right for You?
Most people find that frameworks offer all of the design elements they need to build their site. However, for someone new to WordPress and/or website design, frameworks can offer too much of a good thing. Their myriad of choices can be overwhelming. Some frameworks also provide powerful, but complex, options in the admin panel.
If you like the idea of finding a theme that works for your site right “off the shelf,” or don’t want to worry about a lot of customizations, you might find a regular theme to be a better option. You can find a large number of free themes at the WordPress.org theme repository. Also be sure to check out our previous article on how to choose a WordPress theme.
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Chelle Honiker is the executive director of the Texas Freelance Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping independent workers start, grow and manage their freelance and gig work or businesses. She’s also the chief barista for the Revien Group, a caffeinated digital project management consulting firm.
Image credit: wood framing CC BY-SA 3.0 by Jaksmata on Wikipedia