WordPress theme frameworks are code libraries that have the purpose of easing your process of developing themes. At the dawn of WordPress, developing themes exposed many critical development/maintenance issues, mostly the lack of an upgrading strategy without losing essential styling options.
A single functionality code was copy-pasted on all themes, and while average users had no problem dealing with it, advanced ones find it incredibly disastrous. Their main problem was that codes usually have security exploits attached to them, meaning that a public theme can be both downloaded and misused in many different ways.
In fact, applying the same code is a hazard waiting to happen! Therefore, the WordPress community and The core team worked hard to find a solution for this problem and came up with the concept of Parent and Child themes.
Parent themes are the ones everybody thinks of when WordPress is mentioned. From the technical aspect, parent themes reveal the basics of design, functionality and templates necessary to run a WordPress website.
Child themes, on the other hand, are incomplete themes. They are the inheritors of the parent’s functionality which leave a lot of room for users to customize their themes without affecting the basic design offered by the parent.
Therefore, child themes are ‘light versions’ of parents’ design, still packed with full functionality. One can even do some custom styling layered directly on the parent theme.
Doing things this way sets a clean boundary between framework functionality and design, and establishes a single location for all the necessary functions. Thanks to it, one can push out updates to treat bugs, fix security patches, or solve functionality depreciations. This way, the framework will remain solid, and customization will not affect the basic design.
To estimate the real importance of child themes, you need to know how to update the parent ones.
Certainly, you should first install the theme on your WordPress website, and then start doing your personal modifications.
Meanwhile, the author may release an update to the theme, and in case you decide to click on it, it will replace the theme you already have by highlighting its security. The downside is that it will most probably affect customization too (it may write over all modifications you’ve performed).
That’s why you need child themes – to preserve your customizations.
Types of theme frameworks
The basic division is paid and free ones, which may significantly differ in terms of looks and performance.
You can find the perfect drag-and-drop ones, which don’t require coding skills for visual maneuver. Or you can go for more advanced ones because the framework itself will offer filters and hooks to help you do it.
In the best of all cases, you can pick up a fully enabled theme like The Core that can be fully customized.
The main advantages of theme frameworks
- They save time – Development becomes easy and fast, since there is a starter code, and as a developer you won’t even need to build a theme from scratch. Pick the framework you like, and apply your design ideas on it;
- They give access to a community – Framework users are entitled to participate in large expert communities when they can find the answers to all of their questions;
- They have built-in functionality – All widgets are already there; you don’t have to purchase additional functionality unless you want to;
- They come with the best codes – The fact that they are peer reviewed gives access to many best practices you could use;
- They are upgraded easily – You can upgrade them without the need to worry about affecting their functionality, that’s a very important moment.
The best thing of WordPress frameworks is that all standalone themes have the same framework functionality which makes their skin differences irrelevant when troubleshooting an issue. Fixing custom modifications is a whole new level of easy, especially when you know how to framework its functionality.
The potential challenges of theme frameworks
- They may cost pretty penny – There are free ones (like Unyson), but 90% of WordPress theme frameworks come with a price which most of the times is not worthy. Free frameworks can do a similarly good job and deliver even better results;
- Feeling uncomfortable with extra functionality – Those of you who prefer simple solutions may find the tons of built-in functionality of some WP frameworks to be annoying and unnecessary, and you may wonder why you are paying so much to obtain something that you’re not even using;
- Their learning curve is a big deal – No WordPress theme functions the same, and that’s a result of coding difference. Due to such uniqueness, expect to invest some serious learning time to understand how to make the most of its functions, hooks, or filters.Yet, this is not a bad thing, because once the learning period is done, you’ll be fully enabled to work with the framework;
- It’s not as unlimited as you think it is – Some frameworks are, but most of them are not. Therefore, they may not be suitable for your customization ideas, and you should think of surpassing the core files and finding patch updates to make them work.
Framework themes in reality
At the end of the day, there isn’t that much philosophy about it! Themes are themes, and the only way to find out what they can do is to use them. Some of them are made to be more personal; revealing entire custom panels for you to choose colors, logos, and stuff, and how far you can go depends solely on the code that backs them up. The framework is not their core, and it can be easily updated to help you make more awesome than they are.
As for the frameworks (the good ones in particular), their capability is constantly enforced. It may be a new version of the capability or a modern one you didn’t use before. Since they are frameworks, updates blend inside seamlessly, and they don’t mess up what you’ve done with your custom design so far.
This concept entirely applies to our Unyson framework, too. It was particularly built to satisfy different needs of tinkerers or developers dealing with various sites easy and without any costs.
The timely benefits of having a framework and its integration capacity can be a big plus for those constantly looking to customize and adapt their designs and functionality. Everybody else should keep their eyes open for new options, especially new WordPress themes that are development having in mind all the best practices of easy customization. Having a WordPress framework behind can be a huge plus for themes because it can ensure delivering the best results for its users.