A good WordPress framework is somewhat like a mythical tool of the trade for developers. While the professionals can harness its power to create awesome themes quickly, a lot of beginners are still baffled by what it is or how it works.
A few weeks ago I explained WordPress frameworks to my coding geek nephew and gave him a starter course. This post summarizes most of it: what frameworks do, how they do it, and why WordPress developers work with them.
What is a theme framework?
WordPress theme frameworks are essentially a set of standards/functions that help us create something new. They usually come packed in a single folder and developers use them to create newer, more stylishly-dressed child themes.
They (may) include custom functions, custom-written and callbacks to native WordPress action/filter API, theme options page, dependencies on script libraries and functionality like jQuery (accordions, sliders…) etc. But when it comes right down to it, remember this:
Frameworks are basically feature-packed parent themes.
And as front-end developers who are often at a time crunch, we stand to gain a lot from them.
Quicker, Easier Development
Instead of starting over with a blank slate every time you create a theme, you can use frameworks to assemble a theme and style it every which way you want using bits and pieces that are already there. This means quicker and more efficient theme development.
Frameworks come with pre-built functionalities and theme-options that most theme developers would otherwise spend countless hours perfecting: Interactive JS elements, custom widgets and functions, etc. A lot of basic functions you would want in your functions.php file, are already included, taking a lot of responsibility off your shoulders. Frameworks also take away the necessity of writing more repetitive codes since they already come integrated with major WordPress API hooks.
Despite varying skill-levels and preferences, every developer can find a framework that fits their specific needs and expertise.
For instance, frameworks like Gantry have drag-and-drop type interface which is a real help to designers starting out on WordPress theme development who don’t have a lot of experience in front-end coding. Hybrid Core Framework is more suited to professionals who know WordPress like the back of their hands and just need a reliable structure to build their themes from. Vafpress framework is a beauty for full-stack developers everywhere: it helps you take care of a lot through a single (albeit somewhat intimidating) interface.
Basically, as long as you know your strengths and are willing to put in a few good hours learning the framework itself, you’ll be able to create some fantastic theme work.
There are many popular frameworks distributed as open-source. The collective efforts of developers’ community ensure that the framework is built on (and consistently adheres to) best practices and norms. Even the commercial one like Genesis (currently sold only with StudioPress themes) features responsive and SEO-friendly markup before all the flashy widget and layout options.
Simply put: a good stand-alone WordPress framework will be fast-loading, responsively laid-out, and written with SEO-friendly markup. The additional customization options are just sprinkles/cherries on top. With a nice framework, you get a quality base for your theme.
Community and Support
Come on, this is WordPress we’re talking about. Do you think we would leave any man behind?
Popular frameworks have thousands of loyal developers continuously pushing the limits further and delving deeper to learn all there is about them. And those developers are also generally awesome enough to help out fellow developers on community forums and through blog posts/resources. Commercial frameworks also make it a point to provide steady support to their customers through email, live chat, phone, or other channels.
Basically, if you get stuck, chances are good that you can find someone who has been in the same spot of bother as yourself and can help you out.
Unbreakable on Updates
WordPress frameworks are based-off of the very helpful concept of parent/child themes: something which was rolled into the core specifically to take care of the issue of theme upgrades.
Popular frameworks are upgraded in pace with WordPress own core updates to ensure best possible performance. Since you’re making a style change in what is technically a child theme, the original parent theme (here:
framework) stays clear for upgrades in core and the theme itself, without losing all your hard work and effort, or causing complications.
This way, the websites running on your theme can rule out downtime from theme-breakage on updates.
There isn’t much that a WordPress theme framework has going against it. If you know the necessity of developing themes within top quality and strict time constraints, a theme framework is your saving grace. Whether or not I managed to sell the idea of using a framework to you, it would be a job well done if you came out gaining some clarification about frameworks from this post.