Are you wondering what is a WordPress theme framework and if you should be using one?
WordPress theme frameworks help developers make beautiful child themes more quickly. However, they come with their own advantages and disadvantages that you may want to consider.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly what is a WordPress theme framework. We’ll also explain different types of theme frameworks, go over the pros and cons of using them, and then share our favorite theme frameworks.
What is a WordPress Theme Framework?
A WordPress theme framework contains multiple files used to create a website theme. It includes the core functions of a theme, but not styling and design.
You can think of a theme framework as a parent theme that needs to be installed with a child theme. The child theme then determines how the website looks.
However, instead of actually splitting the theme into multiples such as ‘parent’ and ‘child’, developers simply include all the code in one installation, which is the framework.
Developers like to use theme frameworks because it allows them to reuse a lot of the same code for many different sites. They can easily create many different child themes for sites that need to be styled differently, without having to rewrite a lot of the same functions.
That’s because child themes are created by the framework to inherit all the functionality of the theme framework without the danger of losing customization or functionality.
You see, in the earlier days of WordPress, there were some crucial issues with the way WordPress themes were developed and maintained.
One big issue was that there was no good way to update WordPress themes without losing custom code added to the theme by the users.
Before frameworks existed, the only way developers could re-use the same code was to copy and paste it into all their themes.
This created a WordPress security concern. For instance, if there was a security exploit in a theme, then there was no quick way to apply a patch to all the other themes that were based on the same code.
To address this issue, the WordPress core team and the community came up with parent and child themes.
With frameworks, it is extremely easy to push out an update without modifying anything customized within the child theme. This method allows you to keep the “framework” of your site strong without modifying how it looks.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Theme Frameworks?
There are a few advantages and disadvantages to using a WordPress theme framework on your site. Let’s take a look at both.
- Community – Most popular theme frameworks have huge communities behind them. This makes it much easier to get your support questions answered. For instance, you can view support forums for specific themes on WordPress.org and get your queries resolved.
- Built-in functionality – Theme frameworks often come with built-in widgets, blocks, and other features. You get more control over customization and can easily edit fonts and colors and try different styles. Many frameworks and theme builders like SeedProd also come with pre-built templates and offer a drag-and-drop builder.
- Code Quality – Often theme frameworks are peer-reviewed, so they are much more likely to follow all best practices. This is essential as your website theme will be responsive and lightweight. A fast-loading website will in turn boost your WordPress SEO.
- Upgrades – The ability to upgrade without losing any style customizations is a great plus. This is also helpful when restoring your website backups. Your theme customizations remain intact, and you don’t have to perform them again.
- Unnecessary Code – Frameworks often come with tons of built-in functionality which you may not use. If the framework is well-coded, however, then this shouldn’t affect your site at all.
- Framework Limitations – Often frameworks have limitations. If you want to heavily customize your site, then you might have to override core files by installing a special child theme, even if the framework handles that for you.
- Price – Most theme frameworks are not free or offer limited features in the free version. There is either a one-time fee or an annual fee to receive updates and support. However, if you go for theme builders, then you get more value for money and the starting plans are also not that expensive.
Should You Use a Theme Framework?
If you are a developer learning to create your own WordPress themes, then you can use a theme framework to reduce your development time.
On the other hand, if you are a small business, then you can purchase a theme framework and a child theme to use on your website. Often, purchasing a theme framework gets you access to many different child themes all at once.
For instance, Genesis has excellent child themes for different industries that you can use and easily customize for your own needs.
Another advantage of using a framework for your site is that once you learn how to use it, you can easily switch designs without having to learn a whole new theme or framework.
Our Pick of The Best WordPress Theme Frameworks
There are tons of WordPress theme frameworks that are available. Here are some of the top theme frameworks we recommend for different uses.
Genesis isn’t bloated with a lot of extra features, so you can pick and choose the specific WordPress plugins you need for your website.
There are dozens of child themes available for Genesis which can be easily installed and customized. Plus, if you sign up for WP Engine for your WordPress hosting, then you get access to Genesis and all child themes for free.
StudioPress is now part of WP Engine, the most popular managed WordPress hosting company. You can get this theme and all 35+ other StudioPress themes when you sign up for WP Engine hosting to build your website.
Bonus: WPBeginner users also get an additional 20% OFF. Get started with WP Engine today!
Divi is a popular drag-and-drop WordPress theme. It really is a theme framework, though it doesn’t use actual child themes. Instead, it uses a theme builder and layouts which keeps your customizations safe when the framework is updated.
Using the powerful drag-and-drop page builder, you can easily import custom templates or use hundreds of pre-made layouts to create your own pages and sites as needed.
The best part is that you get over 50 theme template kits, over 80 blocks for customization, drag and drop theme builder, and more. This way, you can create websites for any type of niche.
SeedProd is a complete solution for launching business websites. In each template kit, you get a homepage, landing pages, a contact page, and more. You can simply replace the dummy text and image to get started.
Themify is a drag-and-drop WordPress theme framework with 42+ themes, a powerful page builder, lots of addons and additional templates, and more.
This allows developers and website owners to make a website without writing any code at all. Plus, you get 11 plugins and Photoshop files for all the themes.
Beaver Builder is a popular WordPress page builder that comes with a Beaver Themer addon, which helps it function as a full framework. This allows you to create custom landing pages as well as entire custom WordPress themes without writing any code.
It offers theme templates with different page layouts. You can also create layouts for WooCommerce products, 404 pages, search pages, and more. Besides that, Beaver Builder lets you build different parts like headers, announcement bars, call-to-action buttons, and more.
Astra is one of the most popular WordPress themes on the market. The main theme can be used as a stand-alone theme itself, but with their Starter Sites addon, you can also import complete website designs into your main theme with the functionality of a framework.
Astra is a mix between a code-library-based theme framework like Genesis and a drag-and-drop framework like Divi. It can also be used with any page builder of your choice, which gives users a ton of freedom.
Which Is the Best WordPress Theme Framework?
The best theme framework for you depends on your skill level and how much time and money you are willing to invest.
For developers, we recommend using Genesis. They have been around the longest, and the Genesis theme framework is highly optimized for SEO and performance.
For average users who want to build a website for their business or blog, we recommend using drag-and-drop frameworks like Divi, SeedProd, and Themify. They do not require any coding skills to get started and are super-flexible.
Alternatively, you can just use a standalone WordPress theme with flexible customization options like Astra.
We hope this article helped you learn more about WordPress theme frameworks and their pros and cons. You may also want to see our guide on how much it costs to build a WordPress website and our comparison of the best domain registrars.