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WordPress theme frameworks analysis, guide and walkthrough

WordPress is without a doubt one of the most popular Content Management Systems at this time, full of capabilities ready to exploit.

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If you are reading this article means you are interested in developing with WordPress, or even better, you already did and that is great. The question is: Are you doing it the right way? Do you make use of those great things that WordPress has to offer you in the best way? Well, whatever you may be, a developer, a designer or even an end user, this article is going to make your life easier in just a few minutes.

When building a project in WordPress you probably start with a theme and try to customize it in a way that it fits your needs. You alter the code inside its files. This is a very bad habit because you end up with

  • Code repetition – leading to slower development
  • Mixing functionality with design – which hampers readability
  • No updates – when the time comes to upgrade prepare yourself for breathtaking results.

Let’s take a better look at what themes consist of and how you can make the best out of it using a framework.

Parent Theme

Almost every WordPress theme is a Parent Theme. Unless it is specified as a Child Theme (or a Framework) then it is a standalone Parent Theme. Parent Themes should contain the theme design, functionality and templates required for it to run on WordPress.
These themes are intended to be used ‘out of the box’ without any further customization as far as they don’t support Child Themes. That prevents you to develop and design it to fit your needs.

Child Theme

A Child Theme inherits all of its functionality from the Parent Theme but makes it possible for a user to make further customizations without affecting the future “updatability” of their Parent Theme.


Parent Theme Templates, or better Frameworks, are essentially starter themes and they are not meant to be used as themes all by themselves. They are a great starting point for further development using an additional Child Theme.

A properly coded framework is much more feature-rich than a standalone Parent Theme. It almost entirely separates functionality from design, packing all of its extensive functionality into the framework (and additional plugins) and depends almost entirely on a Child Theme for its design. Also you are able to update to the latest version without having to worry about any losses and incompatibilities.

Frameworks – Pros and Cons


  • Easy To Use
  • Time-saving
  • Efficient development
  • Support via communities built around the WordPress theme frameworks
  • Optimized CSS, HTML, PHP functions, and SEO
  • Code that’s written with WordPress standards and best practices
  • Ease of updating for future releases of WordPress


  • Time: learning how to use all this new stuff. Even if the learning process is shorter than getting used to new coding language, you still have to think about the time to master these frameworks.
  • Cost: premium frameworks can cost from 60 to several hundred euros. Companies who build them also offer ready child themes which you can install but their prices are high as well.
  • Limitation: frameworks define what you can and can’t do. You can’t break these barriers. For developers and designers, that limits their skill. Sometimes, it takes more time to make a custom theme from frameworks than build everything from scratch.

You need to choose and install the framework that fits your needs, and then create a child theme that will inherit all of its functionality and design. There are plenty of frameworks to choose from. In my opinion these are the best ones.

Premium WordPress Frameworks

genesis 300 120

by : StudioPress
Price: $59.95 Genesis Framework; $399.95 Pro Plus All-Theme Package

Easily the most popular of the available WordPress theme frameworks

The Genesis framework by itself is very lean and fast with a focus on SEO, speed, security, site “future-proofing” and flexible design options. The best way to use it is to pair it with a Child Theme as it’s a fairly dry theme framework by itself. It is truly designed to be used with other child themes

Features :

  • search engine optimized
  • offers great looking turn-key designs
  • updates your site instantly
  • makes customizing your site incredibly easy
  • custom widgets and layout options
  • unlimited support, updates, and websites
  • integrated, single-click updates to both Genesis and WordPress that are fully tested and supported
  • theme options include font size and choice, default layout, custom fields, header settings, navigation settings, and much more
  • threaded comments support.

You can also combine Genesis with Dynamik Website Builder listed here.

Dynamik Website Builder

Price: $79.95

Dynamik is a visual editor for WordPress and Genesis framework that allows you to change almost every aspect of the appearance of your website, without directly editing any code.

It is actually a theme framework within a theme framework that has child theme support. One great feature about Dynamik is its live CSS editor which lets you see the changes live before you save them.

thesis 300 120

Price: $87 Thesis Basic; $164 Thesis Basic Plus $197 Thesis Professional

One of the most well-known WordPress frameworks. It used to be used mainly for its focus on SEO. It’s all about three features: boxes, skins and site tools.
Boxes: are like widgets in that they allow you to add functionality (email signup forms, social sharing buttons, etc) to your Thesis site. Using the visual template editor, you can drag and drop boxes into your template wherever you want – no coding required.
Skins: are great-looking designs that you can add to Thesis. You can tweak them using the visual template editor.
Site tools: enable you to optimize your site for Google by doing things like adding Google authorship and markup scheme with the click of a button.

woothemes 300 120

Canvas Theme Framework
by: WooThemes
Price: $99 for Unlimited Users | 1 Year of Support

If you like the WooThemes “look” of WordPress themes but want a clean starting point – Canvas is the best option! It provides shortcodes for plenty of things like columns, colored buttons, and highlighted text. If you are not very technical, Canvas will let you use the built-in design control panel to design your own website. It is fully responsive, looks great on mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Android, and has a large selection of Google fonts.

Free WordPress Frameworks

gantry 300 120

Price: Free!

Gantry is probably the most popular free WordPress Framework. It includes extensive documentation that covers a full range of topics from installation to advanced concepts such as custom features.

Features :

  • 960 Grid System.
  • stunning administrator interface
  • XML driven with overrides for unprecedented levels of customization
  • Layouts, colors and features can all be different for any part of your site content
  • create any combination of configuration parameters and save custom presets
  • built-in extensible AJAX communication layer
  • RTL language support
  • flexible grid layout system for unparalleled control over block sizes.
  • 65 base widget positions.
  • ability to force ‘blank’ widget positions for even more advanced layout customization
  • Automatic per-browser-level CSS and JS control
runway 300 120

Price: Free!

What makes Runway stand out in the crowd (except for the price) are some functionalities that no other Framework has.
You can manage your child’s themes in a working development environment, duplicate them or publish them as stand-alone themes! It also gives you the freedom to create your own theme options, manage the WordPress admin and rebrand the themes made with Runway framework to yourself.

foundation 300 120

Foundation for WordPress
Price: Free!

For the Foundation Framework lovers here is a version for WordPress. It is considered to be a theme and not a framework but it supports child themes providing you with all of the great Foundation features!

Features :

  • developer friendly markup
  • foundation shortcodes
  • custom background & header
  • child theme support
  • custom post type support
  • widgetized sidebars
  • multi-level navigation
bootstrap 300 120

Bootstrap for WordPress
Price: Free!

Same as above but for Bootstrap lovers this time. This theme comes packed with child theme compatibility and offers you all the benefits of Bootstrap inside WordPress.

Stavros Kainich
Stavros Kainich Web Developer

The Greek connection. When not skiing you can find him on his Yamaha hog

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