The WordPress Framework Discussion is Everywhere
You can't spend a lot of time in the WordPress community without getting into a debate, well – maybe a discussion, about WordPress frameworks. Some folks will tell you they like to roll their own – going without frameworks.
Others just buy a theme from Themforest.net – without a thought of what WordPress Framework might be powering it. And still others want to get into the debate? Is Genesis better than Thesis? (Spoiler: Yes.) And with every discussion comes several answers that take you in different directions. What if you're not an expert? What do you do?
The Developer's Perspective
I know you're not a theme developer, but to understand why frameworks exist at all, you need to put yourself in their shoes for a quick second. Developers (& I once, long ago, used to write some code myself) are lazy creatures – in the best sense of the word. They have no interest doing the same thing over and over again.
So they started creating code (a lot of rich code) that would then give them short-cuts. Easy ways to make things happen. Often this comes after having created several themes and they start noticing they always do a few things for every theme. That becomes part of their framework.
So in essence, a framework enables greater consistency and speed for developers, which could translate to lower costs to develop, which could translate to lower costs for end users. I'm not saying it always does – but the chance exists.
There's another reason why developers code frameworks and that is that it allows them to focus on core features and functionality and let others create beautiful designs. This is particularly useful for developers who aren't designers.
Enough about them…let's talk about why you, as an end user, should care – 5 reasons, in no particular order.
The Five Reasons Why You Should Care about WordPress Frameworks
1. Frameworks speed up development – You saw me reference this above. Whether they're using a “starter” or “option” framework is immaterial to you. What's important is that they're starting with part of the work already done. And that they're likely using the same set of tools (including a theme framework) each time – which will improve their productivity. That's great news for you if you don't want to wait weeks or months.
2. Frameworks are supported – I know you look on themeforest, find a template, and tell your developer to use it – all because you like the look. But here's the challenge. If they find a problem with the code, they may or may not be able to get quick support from a themeforest developer. Some are great. Others, not so much. But frameworks are often well supported, making things a lot easier for your developer.
3. Frameworks are good about splitting core & extra functionality – some developers that create custom themes pack a lot of features into them, which is great. But when you want to change a theme, you end up losing a lot of that functionality. Thankfully, some custom developers know better and create a plugin for those features. Frameworks help them by often focusing on the basics and leaving plugins to do the rest.
4. Frameworks often offer several pre-made child themes – when you look at many of the frameworks that are available, you'll find that some come with pre-designed child themes. Depending on your needs, this may get you going right away without the need for a developer or designer at all. That's pretty awesome (and might have been #1 if this list was in a specific kind of order).
5. Frameworks are regularly updated – you know how sometimes WordPress itself gets updated to a new version, with new features? You often expect your site will make use of those features right away, right? But they don't always do that. Framework developers, on the other hand, are pretty aware of upcoming changes and work to upgrade their frameworks in time. This is often great news for your site.
Five Frameworks to Check Out / Ask your Developer About
First, these are in no particular order. Second, there are over 30 (by my last count) frameworks out there. These are ones I'm suggesting. I'm sure others have their favorites and I hope they chime in below in the comments section.
2. The one run by my favorite WordPress CEO – Builder by iThemes. You'll often hear me say “speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Enough said.
4. The one I use here on chrislema.com – Catalyst. It's like I get the power of Genesis with the options panels of a WooTheme. Powerful.
5. The visual editor framework – Headway. It's drag & drop meets design-your-own-layout and that's just pure awesome. Check it out!