WordPress theme frameworks present webmasters with fundamental functionality, enabling them to modify their appearance and functionality.
If you have been using WordPress for some time now, you probably already know that customizing a theme wasn’t as easy as it is today. Every time you update a theme, you would lose any custom code you have 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 Theme Frameworks?
A WordPress theme framework is nothing more than an advanced theme with additional features that enable web developers to enhance its functionality and customize it.
Frameworks are for theme developers. They offer a set of standards for theme developers to use in creating their own themes. They’re a set of functions/features created to aid development. – WordPress Codex
Whether you buy the child theme or build it yourself, it’s entirely up to you.
Theme frameworks store a WordPress theme’s functionality and base code and allow web developers to add custom styling to it using a child theme. A single WordPress theme framework can most effectively power 1,000s of WordPress websites.
WordPress theme frameworks are often called massive code libraries used to develop themes without recreating the wheel.
The frameworks hold the basic functionality of the theme and you’re free to design the theme’s appearance however you’d like.
Customizing Sites With Theme Frameworks
A WordPress website running a theme framework is much easier to customize than a site without one.
The different customization options that theme frameworks feature to developers and webmasters include:
- Widgets: Developers can customize the widget areas on the pages and different template files.
- Dashboard: The theme options enable webmasters to customize the appearance of their site without having to code. This includes customizing everything from the page’s layout to the design elements it holds and the content displayed on it.
- Template files: Theme frameworks often comprise of several template files that developers can customize to fit their design requirements.
- APIs: Theme functions and hooks make theme development and maintenance infinitely easier. Theme frameworks leverage the powerful functionality APIs offer and enable webmasters to tweak them if needed.
- Extensions: Some theme frameworks come with various plugins right out of the box and integrate seamlessly with the framework itself. Web developers have access to customize the plugin files to personalize them for their WordPress sites.
These are the most common customization available with theme frameworks. The theme options available to you depend entirely on the theme framework you choose to work with.
Depending on your technical expertise and ability to code (or lack thereof), you can pick a theme framework that offers customizations by simply clicking buttons or allows for more fine customization through coding.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using WordPress Theme Frameworks
Now that you have a pretty good understanding of WordPress theme frameworks, let’s evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using them on WordPress sites. We’ll start with the pros.
There are numerous advantages to using a theme framework (or any framework). Most importantly, it saves you the trouble of reinventing the wheel each time you need to create a theme for your WordPress site.
If you’ve been a web developer for some time now or have used WordPress for a while, you might have noticed that the underlying functionality of some themes is the same.
Why code it all over again every time?
If you’re a web developer who plans to use a theme framework for all of your client’s sites then it’s a pretty good idea to invest your time and effort in learning a robust WordPress theme framework.
The advantage here is that larger theme frameworks tend to be more powerful and flexible than simple parent themes. If you understand the structure it’s built on, the theme framework will become easier for you to extend upon.
On the other hand, if you’re a webmaster who expects to develop one or two of your websites then it’s probably better to employ a parent theme to get the job done.
Though theme frameworks are easy to work with, they come with a learning curve, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Theme frameworks ensure that you’re working with standardized code that is compatible with and adheres to the best practices set by WordPress.
This proves infinitely advantageous when you have to install reputable plugins and extensions – a well-written plugin works seamlessly on a well-written theme!
It’s generally a good idea to use a popular theme framework backed by positive user reviews and ratings. There’s no way to make sure a theme framework is perfect for your site’s needs before testing it out.
The best you can do is ask around the community and talk to people who may have a site similar to the one you’re developing. But we have you covered!
Robustness and Flexibility
If you’ve been a web developer for some time, there’s one thing you are 100% certain about: your clients don’t know what they want.
To conquer the struggle that indubitably comes with working on projects with clients who keep changing the requirements or will, later on, expect you to add a module that wasn’t discussed earlier, web developers need to be prepared ahead of time.
And what better way to prepare for unpredictable future development than using a super-flexible framework that’ll help you cope with any builds coming your way.
WordPress theme frameworks offer flexibility – theme options, customizations, function extensibility, and design alterations.
Whether or not you think you’ll be using certain features at this point, it’s always best to go with a more flexible theme framework.
Support and Community
Premium WordPress themes come with a ton of support from the developers so it’s no surprise that theme frameworks also offer the same to webmasters.
For most well-known theme frameworks, you get support from the developers for a limited period which can be extended later (for a fee).
One of the best things about using a popular theme framework is that many others like you have used or are currently using it. The WordPress community is extremely friendly.
When you have many people using the same theme framework, it’s easy to ask for help from web developers on forums and receive invaluable support.
We’ve covered some of the advantages of using WordPress theme frameworks, which are all pretty compelling. Let’s take a quick gander at the disadvantages of using them.
There’s a pretty steep learning curve associated with WordPress theme frameworks. It’s easier to figure out your way around a WordPress theme than a WordPress framework.
For starters, theme frameworks are much larger than themes and comprise of many different files – template files, hooks, APIs, etc.
Another important thing to note is that no two theme frameworks are identical. You can’t learn everything there is to know about Genesis and expect Thesis to be similar.
Once you come to grips with a WordPress theme framework, you’ll have the power to modify and extend it however you’d like.
Although there are some free theme frameworks, the most widely used ones are premium.
Some premium theme frameworks have a one-time cost associated with them, while others are based on a subscription model, meaning you have to pay a fixed amount every year to use the framework.
Aside from the actual theme framework license cost, you’ll also need to pay for updates and support. Updates are immensely important because you want to make sure your site is free of bugs at all times and you want to minimize any potential security threats.
Regarding theme framework support, paying a fee to avail the service is a good idea, especially if you’re not technically savvy and don’t want to access the forums whenever you struggle with something.
We’ve covered the cost associated with WordPress theme frameworks and developer dependency goes hand in hand with that when you search for a framework to get.
Since theme frameworks are huge and there’s quite a learning curve associated with them, it’s fair to assume that once you select the one you’ll be using it for a few years.
You should understand right off the bat that a lot can happen in WordPress theme framework development and maintenance in a few years. Bugs are identified and fixed, security vulnerabilities are minimized, the code is updated to reflect best coding practices and whatnot.
This is why it’s best to go for a premium theme that is up-to-date, releases updates, and comes with support from the developers.
Once you go for a WordPress theme framework, you’ll depend on its developers for as long as the sites you develop use their framework.
If a client’s website faces security threats because the theme framework wasn’t updated, you’ll have to re-do it using another theme framework. We don’t want that, now do we?
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 look at some of the best theme frameworks for WordPress.
Best WordPress Theme Frameworks
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 to create blog websites.
Genesis is built with HTML5, making for an amazingly responsive and lightweight design solution for a contemporary website.
Genesis’ default code follows the industry’s best practices and comes with its documentation. 1,000s of web developers and webmasters use this premium theme framework, forming an incredibly helpful community.
Main Genesis Features
- Search engine optimization. Genesis is search-engine-optimized right out of the box. The developers have considered the latest ranking algorithms while designing this premium theme. They guarantee that it enhances your website’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 can 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 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 custom layout.
Main Divi Features
- Advanced Divi Builder. With the robust Divi Builder, webmasters can build dynamic web pages without getting 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 110+ pre-made layouts speed up the entire development process. They are 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 design your website. This responsive design supports devices with different screen sizes. Your users 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 professional and new web developers to make the most out of this one-of-a-kind framework.
With 900,000+ sales, ThemeFusion’s Avada ranks as the #1 selling theme. It gives its users the power to create any 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
Main Avada Features
- Fusion Builder. It 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 60+ design elements.
- Powerful theme options. Its multiple advanced theme options give webmasters finer control over the theme’s design, styling, and organization without messing with its core theme files.
- Intuitive tools. Avada comes with the Fusion Core plugin, which includes premium tools and options, giving users tremendous flexibility to develop web pages.
Avada gives aspiring web developers hope to create amazing and complex WordPress websites without learning to code.
Enfold is a flexible corporate theme framework for WordPress that includes portfolio functionality and content blocks.
Although it’s essentially a corporate theme, Enfold can also be used as a theme framework to develop websites 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 website.
This gives webmasters a head start and a solid foundation for developing their custom websites.
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 3rd-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 encounter. 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 gives users from different niches 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. Build your websites fast!
In addition to its blazing fast speed and fully responsive design, the framework’s license comes with free updates and support.
Themify comes with the popular Themify Builder, which helps webmasters create custom page layouts for their WordPress websites.
It is also very useful in adding design elements through an intuitive drag-and-drop panel—galleries, sliders, maps, widgets, etc.
Furthermore, 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 lets web developers preview the changes as they build their WordPress website.
- 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 the Themify shortcodes or 3rd-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 start with. Its live preview functionality makes it simple to use and saves you a lot of time and effort.
Notably, Themify is also an integrated theme framework, so you’ll have to use one of its themes to be able to use the framework.
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 encounter, as its coding is modern.
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 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 website. The Seed framework works with Gravity Forms to look 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. In addition, a clean interface, well-documented code, and incredible customer support give Seed an extra zing.
Underscores is a fantastic and user-friendly framework to help you create your theme. It is a tool that will encourage you to make your next amazing WordPress project without the need to do it all from the ground up.
What’s cool about Underscores is that it keeps things on the lean/lightweight side and follows a very organized structure. Thanks to this, working with Underscores is for beginners and experts.
If you are into simplicity, then Underscores is probably it. After studying many of the most popular WordPress themes on the market, this is the result that will help take your ideas to the next level.
Main Underscores Features
- Simplicity. If you do not want bloat and other unnecessary stuff, this is the framework that you will want to work with.
- Templates. You get various ready-to-use HTML5 templates that will help you save even more time and energy in the process of developing your next WordPress project. Of course, all are following the latest standards to ensure great operation.
- Free. Everyone likes free stuff. Underscores does not come with hidden fees, meaning you can start using it immediately. Also, you will not need to pay for updates and other improvements.
8. Thesis 2.0
Thesis 2.0 is an elegant theme framework 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 website with Thesis 2.0 is a breeze.
This theme framework features drag-and-drop functionality to build stuff without coding.
For the first time, you can control every last detail of your site and design with 3 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 coding.
- Skins. You can create custom designs using skins by dragging and dropping the design elements into place.
- Site tools. Thesis features some essential SEO and site branding tools, 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, MailChimp, and 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 also a robust theme framework for blogging sites and small businesses. It offers many customization options, and developers and webmasters can easily use it.
iThemes offers 100+ themes, and the iThemes Builder is a powerful framework for a parent theme and 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 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 creates a menu and adds locations or directions for your website.
- Responsive support. This theme framework’s responsive design ensures that visitors won’t face any problems viewing your website from different devices.
- Layout Editor. Web designers can insert all kinds of page elements and modules to build their websites. 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.
Although 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. It works for restaurant websites, travel blogs, and online music hubs, and event planning websites.
10. Zoom Framework
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 child themes seamlessly without losing functionality.
The visual set of customization options is abundant with Zoom, and personalizing child themes to fit your brand is a breeze.
This responsive design is built on 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 Options panel makes it easier for web developers to quickly modify typography, colors, and backgrounds.
- Translation ready. The theme framework is localized, meaning 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 want in a theme framework, especially if your website’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 is fair enough to say that there isn’t one best WordPress theme framework.
If you evaluate your website’s requirements, skills, and expertise, selecting a theme framework that’s best for you becomes easier.
We have covered some of the most feature-rich, flexible, and robust WordPress theme frameworks and have presented their main features. We hope this article helps you select 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 below!