WordPress started as a blog service. It has evolved over the years into a powerful Content Management System that is supported by thousands of web designers and developers around the world.
It is a versatile, low-end CMS (Content Management System) which is often used for weblogs and a variety of types of websites as well.
If you want to design website themes for clients and know how much effort it can be to start from scratch, you will surely be interested in WordPress frameworks.
WordPress Frameworks can reduce your website design time significantly by giving you a functional or near-functional WordPress theme to start with.
WordPress frameworks often provide you one or more starter themes that usually just work as is, plus an infrastructure that allows you to quickly customize the design for yourself or a client.
The infrastructure includes the necessary HTML, CSS and WordPress-specific PHP code, and a specific usage license terms.
Key features that a website theme designer might want:
- CSS framework
- Gallery features
- Drop down menus
- Choice of fixed or fluid layout
- Choice of multiple columns
- Variety of templates
A designer will usually design a custom theme that works, but a website publisher will want certain key features:
- Easy to incorporate conceptually simple changes without consulting the site designer
- Optimized Search Engine
- Support for widgets for easy addition or change of feature blocks on the site
- Speed – web pages must not be hampered by the use of a WordPress framework
Let us discuss about some free WordPress Frameworks.
WordPress frameworks and pseudo-frameworks (range from the gorgeous to the, well, plain) but all provide strong starting points for WordPress theme design, and will help you to save your time.
All are arranged in alphabetical order for easy reference. Some appear with a starter theme or child theme, though a few have communities where others have created additional free/paid child themes.
The basic framework of Ashford is probably one of the more fleshed out freebies. It has ample of features, only a few of which are listed below.
For extra features, broader licensing terms and unlimited tech support, you can purchase the Pro version.
It is absolutely free for both personal and commercial use. Pro version is also available.
- Appearance – Control colors, background, log and other attributes with theme options
- Columns – 2
- CSS – 16 column grid using 960.gs CSS framework
- Gravatar support
- Images – Support for auto-thumbnails, Lightbox, content carousel
- Menus – Multi-level drop-down, with custom link colors
- Related posts, with thumbnails, is automatic
- Templates – over a dozen, to suit different page content needs, including TOC (Table of Contents) and FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).
- Theme options – Minimizes need for code changes
- Support for widgets
- Wireframe support
It is an offshoot of Alex Denning’s redesign of WPShout.com’s redesign. New features are added.
This framework is absolutely free.
- Appearance – Magazine, Tech and Bloggy choices – set in options page
- Footer – three columns; enable or disable from options page
- Images – jQuery slider to feature content; auto-resizing of images on home page
- Layout – Multiple layouts with different widths for main content area
- Menus – Drop-down navigation
- Plug and play
- Styles – Lets you create multiple themes styles: Magazine, Tech blog, etc
- Support for theme options
- Support for widgets
The Buffet framework has ample features for theme designers, as well as easy-to-use options for end users. It is also free framwwork.
- CSS – Choice of 960.gs and Blueprint CSS frameworks, included
- Localization support
- Microformats support – hAtom, hCard, XOXO
- Theme extensions, built from action and filter functions
- Theme options support
The Carrington framework offers community support, a variety of crisp looking base themes — including one for mobile web browsers. One look at the showcase of themes other designers have built shows you Carrington’s versatility. You can even add your own Carrington-based theme to the showcase.
The framework seems to be incredibly versatile. A look at the showcase of sites using Carrington-based themes backs up this claim.
- Child theme support.(Carrington was not originally a parent theme; child theme support was added later)
- Columns – 1, 2 or 3
- Customization – The Carrington framework uses named templates, to reduce the use of conditional code.
- Separating PHP code and styling makes customization easier and quicker designers.
- Customization can be as simple as swapping the templates being used. So different post categories could easily have their own templates. (Of course, you’d have to create custom templates)
- Gallery – Slideshow gallery support
- Support for clean, crisp forms, tables, headings, subheadings and more
- Styles – choice of base themes, including JAM (Just Add Markup), with no CSS style elements — in case you want to start almost from scratch
A glance at the ThemeHybrid site shows a very professional approach for what is essentially a free WP framework that comes with online tutorials. The sample themes are sharp-looking and usuable. The example above is the “Hybrid News” theme.
- Child theme support
- Hooks – Action, filter, shortcode and contextual hooks
- Localization – Hybrid has been translated into over 20 languages
- Plugins – Hybrid-specific plugins.
- More than 15Templates –including one each for Sitemap, Log In, Register functionality, and another for Twitter-style content (called Quick Post)
- Theme options support
- Widgetized – 8 areas
Sandbox is not a WP framework in the same sense as some of the other ones, but it is a good starting point for creating your own themes, each of which can have your GNU GPL license. Sandbox is also a good place to learn WP theme customization, without too many distractions to get in the way of learning.
- Styles – Customizable with just CSS, but works out of the box. Because it’s a very minimalist theme, it’s easier to add design tweaks without having to rip out what’s already there
- Microformats: hAtom, hCard. The description of Sandbox says that it was the first to include full support for these two microformats. If you’re building a Semantic Web application with WordPress, you’ll likely want to use microformats
- XHTML 1.0 validity
- Support for widgets
The OnePress Community theme framework is an integrated website and forum solution for WordPress. It is, simply, a WordPress theme to serve as the foundation and framework for your web site and online community. Leveraging the powerful WordPress and phpBB projects, OnePress provides a set of features focused on helping you build and maintain your site from the inside out. With this set of tools, you can easily run your community and do so with professional presentation.
- Seamless integration with phpBB, complete with unified login and widgets to display forum posts on site
- Widgetized WordPress layout with drag and drop interface to quickly build site
- Professional featured content widgets to display important posts with prominence
- Easy to use backend enhancements for editing OnePress widget content
- Highly optimized page rendering process for optimal performance
- Built with WordPress 2.7 and child themes in mind. Flexible hook system for full theme customization
The WP framework is self-described on its main page as being “A blank” WP theme framework. Well for a blank framework, it has some of the features you’d expect to see in a complete theme. Unlike some of the other projects the documentation for WP framework is very comprehensive, giving you an easy way to find solutions to any problems you may run into.
- WordPress theme framework that you can modify directly
- Starting base for any kind of WordPress theme project
- Entirely well documented from its code base
- Highly flexible, modular, and extensible
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