WordPress themes define the look and functionality of any WordPress site, and users can choose from thousands of premium and free themes that can be customized in a variety of ways to capture a brand’s unique style. WordPress themes can be built from scratch, although that takes time. But with theme frameworks, users of all skill levels can create multiple custom themes to meet the specific needs of just about any business or personal website.
What is a WordPress Theme Framework?
The WordPress source code – the site building files that can be downloaded and installed for free with any hosting provider – contains all the elements for installing a functioning WordPress website. That’s the first of the three core elements of WordPress. The second of these is the WordPress theme, another set of code that’s overlaid on those original source files to establish things like the site layout, colors, typography, and other elements that define the site’s appearance and contents.
A theme framework is a set of completed code that forms the foundation of a WordPress theme. Because the theme’s essential structure is already defined, choosing the best WordPress framework saves web developers considerable time and effort in building the site. A theme framework is the starting point for customizing all aspects of a site’s appearance without having to create the full theme code from scratch.
Frameworks from reputable developers contain clean, quality code that meets industry standards, making them safe to use for developing personal and client sites. Because a WordPress framework is simply a library of code containing a specific set of functions, it is possible to build multiple sites with different design styles, layouts, and features from a single framework, thanks to the WordPress parent-child theme structure.
Frameworks, Parent and Child Themes
WordPress themes of all kinds come with their own code files that can be updated or modified either by developers rolling out new versions or by users with development experience who can make changes directly to the code in order to customize the theme. But if a user makes significant changes to the theme’s core code, and the theme’s creators issue an updated version, any user-generated customization can be lost when the new version is installed.
To preserve the full functionality of the original theme, and still make specific changes to customize the header, slider, footer, or layout, WordPress users can create a copy of the theme, called a child theme, which can be endlessly modified to suit a site’s specific needs, while leaving the original, or parent, theme’s code intact. Child themes allow for safe changes and updates, since the parent code remains intact, and is always available as a fallback if things don’t turn out as planned.
All WordPress theme frameworks are actually parent themes, capable of providing the structures needed to create multiple child themes with varying levels of customization – but not all parent themes are suitable for serving as theme frameworks. Themes with minimal structure, such as a landing page, or those with a specific functionality, may not be good candidates for use as a framework. For that reason, many theme frameworks are designed to be quality parent themes, with all the elements users need to build as many child themes as they like.
Frameworks can be developed in a number of different ways to accommodate the varying needs of WordPress site builders. Users can select from frameworks designed as parent themes for use as a basis for multiple child themes, or as a standalone theme. Some frameworks are actually WordPress plugins, designed to extend the functionality of an existing theme.
Should You Use a Framework?
Frameworks can save developers a lot of time and offer users many options for customizing themes, but not everyone needs a framework to get the right look for a WordPress site. Small sites with minimal content, such as a blog site, a single page, or landing page site, may not need the level of customization that a framework can offer. For sites like these, a quality free or premium WordPress theme would probably have all the features a user needs. This kind of theme can be customized without coding using the options built into the theme settings.
Frameworks can make it easier and faster to develop a site with multiple parts and complex features that need specific kinds of customization, and working with a framework allows developers to control every aspect of the site’s look and functionality. Although frameworks can make a site developer’s job easier, users without experience in development or coding can also work with frameworks. Some free and premium WordPress frameworks and third-party developers are completely code-free, with drag and drop functionality that lets even new site builders make all the changes they need to get exactly the look they want when it comes to design elements and theme options.
How to Use Frameworks
There is a WordPress framework for just about every price range and need. Frameworks are available from a number of web developers and designers and come with a wide range of functionality and cost. From the stripped-down Genesis framework, popular among seasoned developers, to the virtually code-free versions with drag and drop simplicity, such as Pagelines, users of all levels of experience can find a framework option that is suitable for their requirements.
Frameworks can be purchased for one time fees or by subscription for ongoing support and additional features. Most quality themes from reputable developers also include updates and resources, such as tutorials and access to user communities.
Once you’ve purchased a framework, simply download and install it in the appropriate location in order to access its directories and style sheets, or any tools it contains. From there, you’ll either be able to create a child theme with its own styles and functions or build a theme using the drag and drop functions available with the framework. When all changes are complete, install the theme settings to any WordPress site and activate it.
WordPress frameworks streamline the design process by providing a basic structure built with quality code that users can customize as they choose to get the right look and style for any WordPress website. With options for new users as well as experienced developers, frameworks help site builders of all kinds in creating the ideal WordPress site.