WordPress theme frameworks present webmasters with the theme’s fundamental functionality and enable them to make modifications to its 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 the theme, any custom code you added would be lost. Webmasters had no option but to keep track of any code modifications and additions they made.
With the advent of WordPress theme frameworks, this tiresome process was no longer relevant. In this article, we’ll run the rule over some of the best WordPress theme frameworks that will lend web developers a helping hand with theme development.
Let’s put this all into context first.
What Are WordPress Theme Frameworks?
WordPress theme frameworks are similar to parent themes that hold the fundamental functionality and let webmasters create custom designs for speedy web development. 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 on 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 the world without theme frameworks. Every time you modified your theme’s code, you’d have to keep track of the modification because when its update came along you’d lose the custom code. If you chose not to update then you’d risk using a buggy website and worse, having your loyal viewership visit your buggy website.
WordPress theme frameworks solved all of the problems associated with theme development and maintenance.
With theme frameworks, you get:
- Speedy web development. Once you have the functionality in place, all that’s left to do is create the design.
- Robustness and flexibility. You can easily go back and make necessary design modifications if the user interface requirements change or 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. Although its versatility and flexibility make it ideal for all sorts of WordPress websites, it provides web developers with all the right tools to create blog websites. 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 forming an incredibly helpful community.
Main Genesis Features
- Search engine optimized. 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 and guarantee that it enhances your site’s visibility on search engines.
- Customizable design. The theme customization options available with Genesis enable users to modify everything from changing color palettes to adding or removing page elements. And if you can’t seem to modify it on your own, you can go for a pre-designed Genesis child theme that fits your design preferences.
- Packed with page elements. The Genesis theme framework is integrated with the fundamental WordPress page elements including page 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 – the Genesis theme framework 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 that comes with everything you could possibly want in a theme framework. The drag and drop Divi builder make it incredibly easy to design intricate web pages in 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 or to 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 powerful and 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 by simply dragging and dropping everything into place.
- Pre-made layouts. The theme framework includes 18 pre-made layouts to speed up the development process. All of the layouts are fully customizable so you can extend their design and use them as a starting point to jumpstart your project.
- Responsive design. Divi remains fully responsive throughout regardless of how you end up designing your website. Its responsive design supports devices with different screen sizes giving your viewership 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 web developers and those who are just starting out 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. The theme framework 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 abundance of advanced theme options gives 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 right out of the box 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. It comes with the Fusion Core plugin which, together with the framework, offer the best value for money.
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 be used as a theme framework to develop sites for just about any niche.
The theme framework saves users a ton of time by providing a one-click demo content import feature that creates 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 ships with a plethora of interactive design elements which collectively 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 come across. You can toggle between the default screen and full-screen option to live preview the design changes you make before publishing the page.
- Easy setup. The developers behind Enfold release an ever growing number of demo content for this theme framework to enable all kinds of users belonging to different niches to be able 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 also comes with free updates and support.
Headway is perhaps the most widely recommended WordPress theme framework for non-developers and designers who aren’t familiar with coding. The framework’s drag and drop functionality empower 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’d like.
Main Headway Features
- Blocks. Blocks are separate modules that extend Headway’s functionality. Core blocks can be added through Headway Base providing powerful features such as e-commerce functionality. Extra blocks can be added 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 CSS code.
- Developer friendly. Headway is great for non-developers but developers can easily modify or extend its code however they’d 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, if you’re the least bit technically minded, you can create your own Headway child themes and Block types. And if your Blocks are well-coded and visually appealing, you can even sell them in the Headway Marketplace!
The Themify theme framework comes with the popular Themify Builder which enables webmasters to create custom page layouts for their WordPress site and add design elements to it 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 templates. 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 enables web developers to preview the changes as they build their WordPress site.
- Pre-installed templates. Themify comes with a wide range of templates, starter themes, and pre-designed page layouts right out of the box 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 framework is fully responsive and optimized for varying device screen sizes.
Themify 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 developers part. Another important thing to note is that Themify is an integrated theme framework which means that you’ll have to use one of Themify’s themes with it to be able to use it.
Canvas is WooThemes’ starter theme framework that reflects a minimalist design and is loaded with powerful functionality. This premium WordPress theme framework gives webmasters the flexibility to modify each design element and style it to fit their business’ brand identity.
The Canvas theme framework’s Theme Options interface lets users tinker with the theme’s layout, fonts, and color palettes. Although the framework can be fully customized with the Theme Options panel, developers can also use it as a parent theme to gain finer control over its functionality and design.
Main Canvas Features
- Templates. The Canvas theme framework comes with pre-integrated templates – corporate, magazine, blog, e-commerce – so that users don’t have to reinvent the wheel when setting up their website.
- Tumblog functionality. WooTumblog functionality including Tumblr is integrated into the framework which allows users to post to your WordPress blog by using an iOS app.
- Supports WooCommerce. Since it’s designed by WooThemes, the Canvas framework supports WooCommerce functionality and integrates seamlessly with the plugin and its extensions.
- Portfolio functionality. The theme supports custom WordPress post types including portfolio style. Users can create project portfolios and product catalogs without having to install another plugin.
Canvas is an incredibly popular choice for both WordPress newbies and professional web developers alike. It’s powerful, feature-rich Theme Options panel lets users fully customize the theme without having to code whereas its amazing support for child themes lets developers get their hands messy with code to create a truly unique theme fit for their business needs.
PageLines offers its design management solution (DMS) that works as a simple drag and drop theme framework enabling webmasters, who aren’t technically savvy, to create eye-catching websites. All you have to do is select the page element you want to add, put it where ever you’d like and then add media or content to it however you see fit.
Front end control over the entire site’s design makes PageLines DMS a favored candidate when it comes to selecting a theme framework. It fully responsive design and a vast array of page templates and layouts give users more than enough design alternatives to pick from.
Main PageLines DMS Features
SEO ready. PageLines DMS theme framework was designed with a focus on search engine optimization to ensure that your site ranks well on search engines.
Drag and drop page builder. The intuitive, drag and drop page builder is built-in the framework and makes it infinitely easier to create professional-looking websites in a jiffy.
WooCommerce compatible. The framework supports the popular WooCommerce plugin which enhances its powerful functionality allowing you to create an e-commerce site using PageLines DMS.
Extensions. The PageLines Store is full of amazing, well-coded extensions that are designed to boost the DMSs’ functionality as per the user’s requirements.
PageLines DMS has some definite plus points like its drag and drop functionality and support for extensions purchased at the PageLines Store. It lets you use the theme framework and extend its functionality as per your requirements. This way you get all the functionality you need without bloating your site!
Being a Twitter Bootstrap theme, the BootStart theme is loaded with impressive functionality and dozens of customization options to get started. The biggest advantage of using BootStart is that it has a gradual learning curve which makes it unbelievably easy to use for non-developers. Built on top of Bootstrap, BootStart leverages the technology’s functionality to the fullest giving you the power to use the amazing features that come with it.
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 pricing table right out of the box!
Unlike your run of the mill theme frameworks, BootStart is designed to be used as a starter theme. Developers and non-developers alike will find that this theme works like a charm fitting their requirements. Pre-built pricing tables and shortcodes make it super easy for webmasters who aren’t programming literate whereas its theme files are well-coded making them easy to modify for web developers.
Seed is the Organic Framework Theme that paves the way for speedy web development and enables users to create exactly what they had hoped to. 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 come across. It’s coded with modern, best coding practices by professional developers. Just like any premium-quality theme framework, Seed has just about everything you need to get started with 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 is optimized for Gravity Forms to look utterly amazing and perform well.
- Templates. Seed comes with pre-designed templates including a portfolio template with basic functionality that you can tweak as per 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.
Though it’s on the pricier end of the scale, you’ll get support from the developers and regular updates. A clean interface and well-documented code paired with incredible customer support give Seed an extra zing.
The Thesis 2.0 theme is an elegant theme framework designed for bloggers and small business owners that 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. The theme framework features 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 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 comes with some essential tools for SEO and site branding right out of the box e.g. Webmaster Tools, Google Authorship, etc.
- 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 comes with a ton of customization options and can easily be used by developers and webmasters alike. However, if you’re looking for a flexible theme framework, Thesis 2.0 isn’t the best option.
iThemes offers over 65 themes and their iThemes Builder is the powerful framework that is designed to be used as a parent theme for them as well as to create custom child themes. The builder uses responsive design to support incoming traffic from devices of different sized screens.
Layout Editors are perhaps the most important aspects of any theme framework and the iThemes Builder takes care to provide everything a web developer would need to build an elegant layout. One of the best things about going for the iThemes Builder is if you’re not a coder you can check out their 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 used to create a menu and add locations or directions for your site.
- Responsive support. The 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, users can leverage its blocks functionality to create 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 over at WPZoom are built. There are many inherent benefits of going with a theme framework that has pre-built theme frameworks. 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 are in abundance with Zoom and personalizing child themes to fit your brand is a breeze. A truly responsive design built on top of a solid, well-coded foundation – it’s hard to go wrong.
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’s 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 Zoom 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 covered some of the most feature-rich, flexible, and robust WordPress theme frameworks in this article and discussed the main features they have on offer. 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!