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What is a WordPress Theme Framework?
The term WordPress theme framework often refers to a code library that is used to facilitate development of a theme. In the old days of WordPress, there were some crucial problems with the way how themes were developed and maintained. There was no good way of upgrading WordPress themes without losing all the custom styling options. There was no way to prevent copying and pasting of the same functionality code in all themes. While these two issues might not seem like a problem to an average user, these can be disastrous for a few reasons. What if you realized that the same code that you had been using in all of your themes had a security exploit. Even more important, what if this theme was something that you publicly released for others to download and customize. Yes, that’s chaos waiting to happen. The core team and community decided to fix the issues mentioned above by introducing the concept of Parent Theme and Child Theme.
WordPress theme frameworks are intended to be used as a parent theme template where all the functionality resides. Developers can then create a child theme to add custom styling while leaving the functionality aspects of it to the framework. This allows for a centralized location where all the functions are hosted. If the core development team decide to deprecate a WordPress function, or there is a bug found in a specific theme framework, then it is extremely easy to push out an update without modifying anything the child theme has. This method allows you to keep the “framework” of your site strong without modifying how it looks.
What type of Theme Frameworks exist?
Well there are Free one and paid ones… Ok seriously, there are a few type of frameworks that exist. There are complete drag & drop frameworks like Headway Themes that empower users to create everything visually without any knowledge of code. Then there are pseduo-drag drop frameworks like Pagelines and Thesis. These frameworks allow users to drag and drop pre-define sections (similar to how WordPress widgets work). Obviously anyone can define custom sections using the available hooks and filters offered by the frameworks. Then there are theme frameworks that are full of options. Themify and most others fall in this category. Lastly, there are the theme frameworks that are built for developers to get a head start without the clutter and bloat like Genesis by StudioPress.
Why do people use WordPress theme frameworks?
The main reason is to speed up their development. Theme frameworks drastically reduce the development time. The development time is improved because all theme frameworks offer a great deal of functionality and customization options, so the user does not have to code everything themselves. These features can range anywhere from (drag-drop functionality, sliders, SEO widgets, and more). Instead of creating a theme from scratch and modifying all the files, creating a child theme can be as simple as creating a new style.css file and customize a few functions using the functions.php file.