I’ve worked with several most used WordPress Theme Frameworks out there. In the previous article we saw what a theme framework is:
- A “drop-in” code library that is used to facilitate development of a Theme
- A stand-alone base/starter Theme that is intended either to be forked into another Theme
- A Parent Theme template
Let me start with an example of each before I dive into which one I find the best.
- A “drop-in” code library that is used to facilitate development of a Theme: Hybrid Core Framework
- A stand-alone base/starter Theme that is intended either to be forked into another Theme: Underscores
- A Parent Theme template: Genesis Framework
I’ll start with Genesis.
3. Genesis Framework
Genesis is a very functional framework. But seemingly, the primary reason for the popularity of Genesis are mainly the affiliates. Also one big reason is that they have at least one child-theme for almost every use-case.
Genesis Framework is robust and flexible. However when it comes to building child-themes with it, the out-of-the-box styles and layout is something that you have to fine-tune. And there’s a whole lot to be done if you want to start with a well-behaved, vanilla, minimal design that you can build upon.
Ask an affiliate why they really like Genesis and you could cite the same reasons for any other theme framework. I’ve found people get started with Genesis because of affiliate promotions. Then they fall for one of the ready-made child themes and go on looking for CSS and PHP help because they are not really developers, they’ve just been sold by affiliates. And that has ended up building a huge community of people asking “How do I change the logo” kinda questions.
Nevertheless, Genesis is search engine optimized, HTML5, accessible and very flexible. But if you are just using pre-made child-themes then you are not really tapping into Genesis.
Underscores is a great theme. However in the framework sense, it’s not at all modular and flexible. It’s really meant to be hacked into a new parent theme.
Nonetheless it’s a great base to start with and one of the most popular bases to build upon. It has a lot of ports with added functionality like the addition of a CSS UI framework etc. If you want to build custom designs from scratch then Underscores is a great choice.
1. Hybrid Core
Hybrid Core is unique in the traditional framework sense. It’s a drop-in library. It’s coded by Justin Tadlock, a WordPress theme reviewer. And by the virtue of having this kind of developer, it’s a gold standard of WordPress frameworks in a sense.
Did you know it’s free too? There’s no affiliate system though so chances of false promotion.
The Beauty of a Free, Drop-in Framework
Unlike a theme, a drop-in framework is like a library. You just include it and then call the required functions as you like.
There was a time when the default WordPress theme was pretty simple to modify. However today it has become more complex. With so many templates around, it’s really difficult to find your way in before you can get a grip on things. That’s where Hybrid Core comes in. You can begin from scratch with a minimal template system, drop in the Hybrid Core framework and build up things as you go.Hybrid core is the gold standard of WordPress Frameworks!
A drop-in framework gives you the ability to build parent themes. Unlike parent theme frameworks Genesis, for example, you are not dependent on Genesis to have the theme work or are limited to Genesis ecosystem.
And lastly, free means you can use as many copies, sell them or do anything under the GPL umbrella without offending anyone. While GPL is a long debate, forking has always left some bitterness whenever paid software has been forked, copied or been redistributed. Not the case with Hybrid Core.
The Epitome of Standards
When you are building a framework then you have to be very particular about compatibility. There are lots of examples of frameworks around where they sacrificed standards and compatibility. While it doesn’t seem to matter initially. But as your site grows and you come to use more plugins or expand the existing structure, incompatibility becomes a hindrance in the long run. Many frameworks for the sake of being minimal sacrifice standard functionality and compatibility that must come out-of-the-box. For example, you have to install a separate plugin with Genesis to get bbPress working.
With Hybrid Core things are different… or maybe not so different. Things are expected to work and they work naturally without having to install other plugins or fixes to get things working. With a theme built on Hybrid Core and built to standards I found that bbPress works out-of-the-box as does WooCommerce.
A No-Bloat WordPress Theme Framework
You’d be surprised to see that Hybrid Core is very minimal. Instead of pushing in functionality as a part of the framework that is useful to some and useless to many, the developer Justin Tadlock has proactively deprecated features that can be achieved with plugins. This not only helps maintain standards and compatibility but also opens up to the freedom of choice.
Hybrid Core is Blazing Fast
Hybrid Core based themes have consistently performed well against other frameworks in speed tests. Hybrid Core usually outperforms all other frameworks. This is by the virtue of the minimalism of the framework and the best-practices employed in the development.
With so many Hybrid Core based themes in the WordPress repository, it’s easy to take your pick and deploy it on a client site or hack one to suit your purpose.
You can even go a step forward and build your own parent framework that allows you to rapid-develop custom-designs or themes.