WordPress theme frameworks present webmasters with the fundamental functionality and enable them to make modifications to their appearance and functionality.
If you’ve been using WordPress for some time now, you probably already know that customizing a theme wasn’t as easy as it is today. In fact, every time you updated a theme, you would lose any custom code you’ve previously added. Webmasters had no option but to keep track of any code modifications and additions they made. With WordPress theme frameworks, this tiresome process is no longer an issue.
This article lists some of the best WordPress theme frameworks that lend web developers a helping hand with theme development.
Before that, though, let’s put this all into context first.
What are WordPress theme frameworks?
WordPress theme frameworks are similar to parent themes that hold fundamental functionalities. They let webmasters create custom designs for a speedy web development process. The whole idea behind theme frameworks is to have some basic code in place so that web developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every site they build.
Theme frameworks necessitate the use of child themes, and it’s up to you whether you create one yourself or use a pre-built one. Check out our post, Everything You Need to Know About WordPress Theme Frameworks, for more information.
Theme frameworks seem like pretty complex things. Why bother with them?
Why should you use a theme framework?
Imagine a world without theme frameworks. Every time you modify your theme’s code, you’ll have to keep track of the modification because when updates come, you’ll lose the custom code. If you choose not to update, then you’ll risk using a buggy website and, worse, having your loyal viewership visit your buggy website.
WordPress theme frameworks solve all of the problems associated with theme development and maintenance.
With theme frameworks, you get the following:
- Speedy web development. Once you have the functionality in place, all that’s left to do is to create the design.
- Robustness and flexibility. You can easily go back and make necessary design modifications if the user interface requirements change, or if the client decides to add a new page element at the eleventh hour.
- Well-written code. Standardized, commented, and documented code makes it easy to understand the functionality and extend it if necessary.
- Support. You get support around the clock from professional developers in case you encounter any problems along the way.
Now that we have a fair idea of what WordPress theme frameworks are and why it’s a good idea to use them, let’s take a look at some of the best theme frameworks for WordPress.
Genesis is perhaps the most popular WordPress theme framework out there. Its versatility and flexibility make it ideal for all types of WordPress websites. It provides web developers with all the right tools needed to create blog websites, for example. Genesis is built with HTML5, which makes for an amazingly responsive and lightweight design solution for a truly contemporary website.
Genesis’ default code follows the industry’s best practices and comes with its own documentation. This premium theme framework is used by thousands of web developers and webmasters,thus forming an incredibly helpful community.
Main Genesis Features
- Search engine optimization. Genesis is search-engine-optimized right out of the box. The developers have taken the latest ranking algorithms into account while designing this premium theme. They guarantee that it enhances your site’s visibility on search engines.
- Customizable design. The theme customization options enable users to modify everything. Customization can range from changing color palettes to adding or removing page elements. If you can’t seem to modify things on your own, you can go for a pre-designed Genesis child theme that fits your design preferences.
- Packed with page elements. Genesis is integrated with fundamental WordPress page elements, including layouts, headers, templates, backgrounds, and custom widgets.
One of the best qualities of a good theme framework is that it lays a strong foundation for developers to extend upon. Genesis does just that. Web developers have the option to modify the code or add custom code by using Genesis child themes.
Divi is an all-around solution for web developers. It has everything you could possibly want in a theme framework. The drag-and-drop Divi Builder makes it incredibly easy to design intricate web pages in just a few minutes by adding everything, from sidebars to sliders and portfolios to maps, in a few simple clicks.
The pre-packaged layouts are a great way to start things off with Divi. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the powerful theme framework before you build your own custom layout.
Main Divi Features
- Advanced Divi Builder. With the robust Divi Builder, webmasters can build dynamic web pages without having to get their hands dirty with code. The advanced page builder revolutionizes web page development by enabling users to create unique layouts, simply by dragging and dropping everything into place.
- Pre-made layouts. The 18 pre-made layouts speed up the entire development process. They are all fully customizable, so you can extend their designs and use them as starting points to jump-start your project.
- Responsive design. Divi remains fully responsive throughout, regardless of how you end up designing your website. This responsive design supports devices with different screen sizes. Your users, therefore, will get an intuitive browsing experience they won’t forget.
Divi’s strong foundation and wide-ranging practical features give it an edge over other theme frameworks. Its versatility enables both professional and new web developers to make the most out of this one-of-a-kind framework.
With over 200,000 sales, ThemeFusion’s Avada ranks as the #1 selling theme of all time. It gives its users the power to create any kind of design style, even if they shy away from programming.
Avada is the Swiss Army knife of WordPress themes. It does everything! – Collis Ta’eed, CEO of Envato
Whether you want to develop an e-commerce site, a travel blog, or a web presence for your architecture firm, Avada has something in store for you right out of the box.
Main Avada Features
- Fusion Builder. Fusion Builder is an intuitive WYSIWYG page builder that lets users make the most of Avada’s drag-and-drop page building.
- Unlimited designs. Avada is an incredibly powerful framework that enables users to create practically any kind of website, thereby eliminating the need to purchase multiple themes. The framework ships with over 50 design elements.
- Powerful theme options. Its multiple advanced theme options give webmasters finer control over the theme’s design, styling, and organization without having to mess with its core theme files.
- Intuitive tools. Avada comes with the Fusion Core plugin, which includes premium tools and options, giving users a tremendous amount of flexibility to develop web pages.
Avada gives aspiring web developers hope that they, too, can create amazing, complex WordPress websites without having to learn how to code.
Enfold is a flexible corporate theme framework for WordPress that includes portfolio functionality and content blocks from the get-go. Although it’s essentially a corporate theme, Enfold can also be used as a theme framework to develop sites for just about any niche.
This framework saves users a lot of time by providing a one-click demo content import feature, creating a website similar to the demo site. This gives webmasters a head start and a solid foundation on which to start developing their custom sites.
Main Enfold Features
- Wide range of interactive elements. Enfold’s numerous interactive design elements make it easier to design beautiful web pages without having to install third party plugins and extensions. These include galleries, sliders, toggles, tabs, and much more.
- Intuitive layout builder. Enfold’s page layout builder is one of the most flexible drag-and-drop builders you’ll ever come across. You can toggle between the default screen and full-screen options to live-preview the design changes you make before publishing them.
- Easy setup. The developers behind Enfold release an ever-growing number of demos. This enables all kinds of users from different niches to have a solid starting point for their web development project.
- User-friendly. According to the developers, Enfold is the user-friendliest WordPress theme ever made. With this theme framework, web development doesn’t seem like work anymore—it lets the developer have fun.
Enfold is truly a time-saver when it comes to web development. If you’re short on time and need to complete your website fast, then Enfold is definitely the go-to option. In addition to its blazing fast speed and fully responsive design, the framework’s license comes with free updates and support as well.
Headway is perhaps the most widely recommended WordPress theme framework for non-developers and designers who aren’t familiar with coding. Its drag-and-drop functionality empowers users to control each and every design element—typography, page layouts, and color palettes.
With the Headway theme framework, users can create any kind of page layout by simply dragging and dropping everything into place. The built-in design editor lets you select any design element and style it however you like.
Main Headway Features
- Blocks. Blocks are separate modules that extend Headway’s functionalities. Users can add core blocks through Headway Base, providing powerful features, such as e-commerce functionality. Likewise, users can add extra blocks via Headway Extend.
- Headway grid. The Headway grid allows users to create responsive custom page layouts.
- Design editor. The design editor lets users customize everything, from fonts to backgrounds, without having to mess with the CSS code.
- Developer-friendly. Headway is great for non-developers, but developers can easily modify or extend its code however they like through its live CSS editor. They can also create custom blocks and child themes on top of the Headway theme framework.
One of the best things about Headway is that it isn’t just for non-developers. In fact, even if you’re the least bit technical-minded, you can still create your own Headway child themes and block types. If you use well-coded and visually appealing blocks, you can even sell them in the Headway marketplace!
Themify comes with the popular Themify Builder, which helps webmasters create custom page layouts for their WordPress sites. It is also very useful in adding design elements through an intuitive drag-and-drop panel—galleries, sliders, maps, widgets, and much more.
The Themify framework is truly a dream come true for webmasters who shy away from coding. It empowers them to create visually stunning pages without having to code or tweak any page template. Webmasters can build their entire website from the front-end, which lets them see the design changes as they happen.
Main Themify Features
- Live preview. The live preview option allows web developers to preview the changes as they build their WordPress site.
- Pre-installed templates. Themify offers a wide range of templates, starter themes, and pre-designed page layouts for developers to use as they are, or extend upon.
- Shortcode integration. Web developers can leverage any of the Themify shortcodes or third party shortcodes to extend the theme’s functionality or add design elements to the pages.
- Fully responsive design. Themify boasts a fully responsive and optimized design for varying device screen sizes.
The Themify framework is one of the easiest WordPress theme frameworks to get started with. Its live preview functionality makes it easy to use and saves a lot of time and effort on the web developer’s part. Notably, Themify is an integrated theme framework, which means that you’ll have to use one of its themes to be able to use the framework.
Canvas is WooThemes’ starter framework that reflects a minimalist design and is loaded with powerful functionalities. This premium WordPress theme framework allows flexibility in modifying each design element and in styling it to fit a business’ brand.
This framework’s Theme Options interface lets users tinker with the theme’s layout, fonts, and color palettes. Although developers can fully customize the framework using the Theme Options panel, they can also use it as a parent theme to gain further control over its functionality and design.
Main Canvas Features
- Templates. With Canvas’ pre-integrated templates—corporate, magazine, blog, and e-commerce—users won’t have to reinvent the wheel when setting up their websites.
- Tumblog functionality. The WooTumblog functionality, including Tumblr, is integrated into the framework, allowing users to post on your WordPress blog through an iOS app.
- WooCommerce. Canvas supports WooCommerce functionality and integrates seamlessly with the plugin and its extensions.
- Portfolio functionality. This theme supports custom WordPress post types, including portfolio styles. Users can create project portfolios and product catalogs without installing another plugin.
Canvas is an incredibly popular choice for both WordPress newbies and professional web developers alike. Its feature-rich Theme Options panel lets users fully customize the theme without having to code. On the other hand, its amazing support for child themes allows developers to get into coding to create a truly unique theme — one that is fit for their business needs.
Being a Bootstrap theme, BootStart has impressive functionalities and dozens of customization options. Its biggest advantage is that it has a gradual learning curve, which makes it great for non-developers. Built on top of Bootstrap, BootStart leverages the technology’s functionality to the fullest, giving you the power to use its amazing features.
Main BootStart Features
- Built with Bootstrap. BootStart leverages Bootstrap’s powerful functionality and takes things to the next level with this intentionally minimalist theme.
- Shortcode integration. The starter theme comes with a ton of shortcodes to assist in designing.
- Support for Font Awesome. BootStart comes with Font Awesome right out of the box, empowering webmasters to use Retina-ready icons to create custom designs that fit their site’s brand.
- Pricing tables. With this theme framework, you won’t have to purchase a third-party pricing table. You get a responsive one right away!
Unlike your run-of-the mill theme frameworks, BootStart is the best starter theme. Developers and non-developers alike will find that this theme works like a charm. Pre-built pricing tables and shortcodes make it super easy to use for webmasters who aren’t programming-literate. Furthermore, its well-coded theme files make the framework easy to modify for web developers.
Seed is the Organic Framework Theme that paves the way for a speedy web development process, and enables users to create exactly what they need. According to the developers,
One theme to rule them all. Seed is our framework theme; designed, developed and maintained for perfection. – Organic Themes
The Seed theme framework is one of the most organized themes you’ll ever come across, as its coding is modern. Just like any premium-quality theme framework, Seed has just about everything you need to get started, including popular plugins like WooCommerce and Gravity Forms.
Main Seed Features
- Customization options. Seed’s customization options will let you personalize just about every design element through the built-in Theme Options. With a little CSS, there’s no limit to what you can do!
- Gravity Forms integration. Gravity Forms are one of the most popular plugins for adding forms to your site. The Seed framework works with Gravity Forms to look utterly amazing and perform well.
- Templates. Seed’s pre-designed templates include a portfolio template with basic functionalities that you can tweak according to your preference.
- WooCommerce-compatible. This premium theme framework is WooCommerce-compatible, so you won’t have any trouble setting up an e-commerce store on top of it.
Although Seed is on the pricier end of the scale, you’ll get support and regular updates from the developers. A clean interface, well-documented code, and incredible customer support give Seed an extra zing.
Thesis 2.0 is an elegant theme framework designed for bloggers and small business owners. It comes with social media and email subscription services right out of the box. If you’re new to WordPress or not particularly technically-minded, then you’ll find that setting up a site with Thesis 2.0 is a breeze. This theme framework features the drag-and-drop functionality, which enables users to design their site’s pages without having to code.
For the first time, you can control every last detail of your site and design with three revolutionary features you won’t find in any other WordPress theme: boxes, skins, and site tools.
Main Thesis Features
- Boxes. Boxes are a Thesis-specific functionality that enables users to point and click add-on functionality without having to code.
- Skins. By using skins, you can create custom designs by simply dragging and dropping the design elements into place.
- Site tools. Thesis features some essential tools for SEO and site branding, e.g., Webmaster Tools and Google Authorship.
- Designed for bloggers and small business owners. This theme framework is a popular choice for bloggers and small business owners as it comes with email subscription services like AWeber and MailChimp, in addition to social media services for promotions.
- Developer friendly. Developers can use the special built-in code editor to get into the nitty-gritty design details, giving them finer control over the theme’s design.
Thesis 2.0 is a robust theme framework for blogging sites and small businesses. It offers many customization options, and developers and webmasters alike can use it easily.
iThemes offers over 65 themes, and the iThemes Builder is a powerful framework for a parent theme, as well as for creating custom child themes. The builder uses a responsive design to support incoming traffic from devices of various screen sizes.
Layout editors are perhaps the most important aspects of any theme framework. The iThemes Builder, in particular, provides everything a web developer needs to build an elegant layout. Besides, even if you’re not a coder, you can check out the exclusive iThemes Training session to learn just about everything you’ll need to know to get started.
Main iThemes Builder Features
- Blocks. Blocks are add-ons that provide additional functionality to support specific content types. For instance, a restaurant block is for creating a menu and for adding locations or directions for your site.
- Responsive support. This theme framework’s responsive design ensures that your site’s visitors won’t face any problems viewing your site from different devices.
- Layout Editor. Web designers can insert all kinds of page elements and modules to build their site. The layout editor offers complete flexibility without code.
- Style Manager. The iThemes Builder’s Style Manager plugin helps you experiment with different color palettes and backgrounds to create a design that not only looks good, but performs well, too.
Albeit iThemes Builder is most commonly used as the parent theme of iThemes’ theme collection, web developers can leverage its blocks functionality to build all kinds of niche-specific websites, for instance, restaurant sites, travel blogs, online music hubs, and event planning sites.
Zoom is the underlying framework on which all of the wonderful themes and templates at WPZoom are built. There are many inherent benefits of going with a theme framework. For instance, you can easily switch between any of the child themes seamlessly without having to worry about losing functionality.
The visual set of customization options is in abundance with Zoom, and personalizing child themes to fit your brand is a breeze. This is truly a responsive design built on top of a solid, well-coded foundation—it’s hard to go wrong with it.
Main Zoom Features
- Shortcodes. Shortcodes make life easy, and with Zoom, you’ll get a whole bunch of them to create page layouts and insert design elements to spice up an otherwise bland page.
- Framework updates. You know a theme framework is good when the developers are constantly striving to make it even better. Zoom constantly evolves, and you’re given the option to automatically update it with a single click.
- Easy customization. Zoom’s Theme Option panel makes it infinitely easy for web developers to quickly modify typography, colors, and backgrounds.
- Translation ready. The theme framework is localized, which means that you can translate it into multiple languages to cater to a multilingual audience.
WPZoom’s theme framework offers great value for money. It comes with some of the most useful features you could possibly want in a theme framework, especially if your site’s viewership is spread out all over the globe. Best of all, you’ll also get excellent customer support from professionals.
Wrapping It Up
It’s fair enough to say that there isn’t one best WordPress theme framework. That said, if you evaluate your site’s requirements and your own skills and expertise, selecting a theme framework that’s best for you becomes a whole lot easier.
We have covered some of the most feature-rich, flexible, and robust WordPress theme frameworks and have presented their main features. We hope that this article helps you make an informed decision in selecting a powerful theme framework for your next project.
Which WordPress theme frameworks have you used? Which features appeal to you the most in a WordPress theme framework? We’d love to hear from you, so let us know in the comments section below!