Choosing the Best WordPress Framework

WordPress is famous for its thousands of free and premium themes that allow site builders to add unique functionality and appearance to any WordPress website. WordPress theme frameworks allow users ranging from new site builders and experienced developers to design custom themes for just about every need. From free to premium, code-free to complex, frameworks can be a great addition when building your WordPress site.

Here’s a look at how WordPress frameworks work and a guide to five of the most popular and easy to use frameworks available today.

What Is a WordPress Framework?

A theme framework forms the foundation of a WordPress theme—a set of code that’s layered onto the core code of the WordPress platform itself to govern a website’s appearance and basic functions. Themes can be developed from scratch, of course, but WordPress framework themes provide a structure that already contains key elements for customization, packaged in quality code, that a developer can modify to meet any design demand. Frameworks can be created by theme designers for in-house use or developed for public use at prices ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. 

How do Frameworks Work?

Frameworks provide a starting point for designing new themes, and that makes it possible for theme developers to create the seemingly limitless array of theme options that are available through the WordPress theme directory as well as third-party developers from around the world. To put a WordPress theme framework in place, users either purchase a framework or download it for free. Framework sellers typically offer various options and pricing tiers for use of a framework, with additional features and options such as a complete developer’s bundle for higher-priced plans.

A key feature that contributes to the great flexibility and extensibility of WordPress themes is the Parent-Child theme structure, and WordPress theme frameworks utilize that structure to build in customized features to a theme framework. Because WordPress is free and open source, anyone can modify its code to suit individual circumstances—and that applies to themes as well. However there is a learning curve when it comes to navigating around the code.

But, if a user makes extensive changes to a theme’s core code and then the theme’s developers issue an update, those user-created changes can be lost. Creating a Child theme out of the original, or Parent, the theme allows users to avoid that problem, and the same is true with theme frameworks. Many are sold with accompanying Child themes that allow a developer to endlessly modify a theme’s features while leaving the Parent theme’s code intact.

Frameworks can be designed in several different ways in order to accommodate the varying needs of WordPress website theme designers: as a Parent theme for use with different Child themes, as a standalone theme, or as a plugin that extends the functionality of an existing, compatible WordPress theme.

Do You Need a Framework?

Not all WordPress sites need a framework. Small, simple sites or those consisting of a single page or landing page probably don’t require the added customization options that a framework offers, and a quality WordPress theme supported by key WordPress framework plugins most likely has all the essential features this kind of website would need. Just remember if you are designing a simple website, there are many great WordPress themes to choose from that can help you achieve your website goals without having to use a framework.  

But, if you’re designing a WordPress website with multiple, complex features that need a high level of customization options or if you’re a developer who prefers to control every aspect of a site’s appearance and functions, a framework can offer more flexibility and a wide range of options for managing every aspect of a site’s look and behavior. And you don’t need to be a coding expert to work with frameworks—some are code-free, with drag and drop functionality that allows even beginning site builders to customize sites in a variety of ways. It is important to make sure when building your site to make it mobile responsive as this is an important ranking factor.

With those points in mind, here is an overview of the best WordPress frameworks available today for site builders and developers of all levels of expertise.

5 Best WordPress Frameworks

1. Genesis

Used on more than 270,000 websites, Genesis is a popular commercial framework that anyone can purchase and download. Genesis comes in multiple tiered plans with added features at higher rates, including unlimited websites and around the clock support. Genesis also includes several pre-made Child themes for faster designing.

2. Divi

Divi is a versatile framework and site builder that offers a range of features and functions for creating websites of all kinds. Divi offers drag and drop functionality for users without coding and web development experience as well as a robust set of tools for developers. Users can also purchase several Child themes for Divi. Access to Divi comes through the Elegant Themes WordPress theme club, a subscription site for theme options and theme building.

3. Themify

Themify includes an array of features for customizing layout options and other elements such as galleries, maps, and sliders. Themify includes a styling panel and a visual interface so that no code editing is required. With a responsive website design, Themify is an integrated framework so that doesn’t require child themes. Getting Themify requires joining the Themify WordPress club.

4. Gantry

Designed with non-developers in mind, Gantry features a highly visual layout manager and a wide range of built-in fields for adding custom elements to any website. Gantry is open source and free to download and use at any time.

5. Headway

Headway is another user-friendly WordPress framework that offers drag and drop functionality using a responsive design editor and blocks for adding and positioning content of all kinds. Although Headway is ideal for non-developers, those with more coding experience can also use its live CSS editor to create fully customized sites.

WordPress theme frameworks speed up the design process and extend the functionality of WordPress themes. With tools for new site builders and developers alike, today’s best WordPress theme frameworks give users of all levels of experience the control and flexibility to fully customize WordPress sites of all kinds.

Overall, using WordPress frameworks can be extremely beneficial when designing a WordPress theme. With a wide variety of frameworks and themes to choose from, you can improve your WordPress site in no time! If you have any more questions about WordPress frameworks or how to build a WordPress site, visit Bluehost.com for more information!  

Desiree Johnson is a Content Specialist at Bluehost where she writes helpful guides and articles, teaches webinars and assists with other marketing and WordPress community work.

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