WordPress Frameworks: 8 experts, 3 questions

Guys from TemplateMonster have interviewed some world famous WordPress experts to see what they think about WordPress frameworks. As you might know, a WordPress framework is a simple and time-saving solution for WordPress developers, especially if they need to build and customize a lot of WP sites in a short period of time.

Guys from TemplateMonster have interviewed some world famous WordPress experts to see what they think about WordPress frameworks. As you might know, a WordPress framework is a simple and time-saving solution for WordPress developers, especially if they need to build and customize a lot of WP sites in a short period of time. Still, it’s a relatively new solution, and if you have not tried it yet, but want to know if it might be a choice for you, then we suggest that you read experts’ opinions on using frameworks.

So, let’s welcome Aaron D. Campbell, Jason Cosper, Tom McFarlin, Bill Erickson, Tom J. Nowell, Joe Casabona, Dustin Hartzler and Devin Walker and see whether they use WordPress frameworks or not and why.

Aaron D. Campbell

First, I’d like to preface my answers with this “I’m no longer developing sites on WordPress like I used to”. I do, however, still contribute to WordPress regularly and I work on products for it (I work at iThemes).

Now for the questions:

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

Yes I use, and used, frameworks. I made extensive use of Underscores, but have used other for select situations as well.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

The obvious upsides of frameworks are that they both ease and shorten development. I think there are two big drawbacks though. The first is in the code. Not all frameworks hold to the same high coding standards that something like Underscores does. If the code is poor, you often waste more time than you save. The second is that frameworks are often sold as a cure-all and, much like panacea, it’s a great idea but simply doesn’t exist.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

Improvements will vary drastically from framework to framework, but I think they need to focus on the two main issues. Make sure your framework is well planned and coded, and build and market it for a specific purpose, not as a solution to everything.

Jason Cosper

Jason Cosper works as the Developer Advocate for WP Engine. He loves digging into interesting problems and learning new things. In his spare time, Cosper enjoys spending time with his wife Sarah and very tiny dogs, grilling meats, sampling assorted whiskeys, writing cranky tweets about the Lakers and brewing coffee.

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

Not anymore, unfortunately. Between my day job and personal life, the amount of development I can do for other folks has dropped off to almost nothing. That means that I have to lean on more ready-to-wear, off-the-shelf themes if a friend or family member needs a quick website.

And I can’t spend more than an hour or two in a given month overhauling (or even tweaking) my personal site and pet projects.

I was a very heavy Thematic user several years ago, however.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

Theme frameworks have a tendency to be extremely opinionated. But from those opinions – and subsequent constraints – come a freedom. It’s as if someone figured out the “hard stuff” to allow you to dive in and get to work.

For folks who lean heavily on child themes, as I do, every theme can technically be a framework. It’s just a matter of finding what you need from your parent theme and going from there.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

While I get the need for options frameworks, I’ve never found them to be terribly compelling. Once you’ve picked an options framework and rolled it into your theme, you’re kind of married to that version.

That’s not to say that you can’t upgrade your options framework if something new comes down the pipe. You totally can! It’s just nowhere near as easy as upgrading a parent theme is.

So, I guess what I’m saying is it’d be nice (for me at least) if there were less options frameworks and more parent theme frameworks.

Tom McFarlin

Tom runs Pressware where he provides custom WordPress development and services, and Dev Practices – a tumblr about a day in the life of a programmer. You can also find him on Twitter at @tommcfarlin and on his blog at tommcfarlin.com.

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

I do not.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

I don’t particular have a strong case against people building and using WordPress frameworks – I think they certainly have their advantages; however, I also see them as a dependency with which I need to keep up with.

If I base a project on a framework that’s built around a specific version of WordPress, WordPress is updated, and I have to wait for the framework to be updated. This can cause a point of contention with a number of different projects.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

As someone who doesn’t have much experience with using frameworks for WordPress, I don’t have that much to offer. In my opinion, frameworks should help us have easier access to available APIs, should take out some of the more confusing aspects of working with certain APIs (like the Settings API), and then make them easier to understand.

I’m also a big fan of the idea of convention over configuration and having a specific place for everything and everything in its place. I think that if more frameworks were to adopt this mindset, it would help create a more cohesive experience and greater organization among projects that are normally organized in ways that are less than stellar.

Bill Erickson

Bill Erickson

Bill is a WordPress developer who has been developing with WordPress and contributing to the community since 2006. You can find some of his contributions at his website billerickson.net

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

Yes, I build every website on top of the Genesis theme framework.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

As a developer, I like that all my websites have a shared codebase. I’m able to develop a website much quicker than if I were starting from scratch, and code I build for one project is easily applied to another due to the shared codebase. But this shared codebase leads to the one downside I see – a larger learning curve due to increased code which which you need to be familiar. When building a site from scratch you just need to know WordPress. When building a site using a framework, you also need a good understanding of that framework’s structure and organization so you can modify it as needed.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

The one change I’d like to see (but won’t actually happen) is for the code of Genesis to become leaner and drop unnecessary features. There’s a bunch of features in there now that are only there for backwards compatibility. They are features that were a good idea at one time but are now known to not have been the best way to do it, but we can’t remove it since older sites depend upon it. Obviously I wouldn’t want to break older sites, but if I were starting from scratch I wouldn’t have to deal with the baggage of BC code. My advice to newly developed frameworks is think very carefully about every item you add, because you’ll be stuck supporting it as long as the framework is around.

Tom J. Nowell

Tom is a VIP Wrangler at @automattic, and community moderator at at stackexchange. You can also find him at tomjn.com

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

Generally no, although I have made use of underscores in the past if that counts, and I do take a look at various frameworks via my work with Stack Exchange. If I needed to start a new theme though, I’d use a modified underscores, I like that it doesn’t get in the way of what the theme is going to look like and leaves the major decisions to the author. My only changes would be a personal dislike of PHP alternate syntax if statements, but I can see why they’re used

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

I’m primarily of the opinion that people shouldn’t choose a framework to act as foundations. Instead they should take modules and libraries and glue them together lego style. When I worked at CFTP before the Automattic acquisition we were making use of Composer for dependency management in plugins and themes. It worked well, and we’d figured out the answers for a lot of problems we had.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

I think that frameworks should be more modular. I may not want to use a particular framework but if it implements a feature well, it would be amazing if I could depend on just that part of the framework. The ability to mix and match solid independent and well written pieces of code is powerful, and a good way of attracting adoption.

Joe Casabona

Joe is a Front End Developer at Crowd FavoriteAuthor of Responsive Design with WordPress.

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

I use Underscores (_s). I think it’s got enough to start without being too obtrusive or taking your project in one direction.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

Most: A good framework gives you a starting place.

Repetition is sometimes the mark of coding and anything you can do to reduce repetition makes project go faster and lets you focus on what matters. Least: Bloat. Frameworks can suffer horribly from scope creep and specificity. Like any software project, more people means more feature requests. Those who development frameworks need to remember that they should be a starting point more than anything.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

As long as the Framework users find value in using whatever framework they choose, there’s not much to change. I’m very happy with Underscores. When that changes, I’ll let the developers know. Though actually, if they can find a way to block those annoying lightbox popups that seem to be on every site (including WP Mayor), it would be much appreciated.

Dustin Hartzler

Dustin Hartzler is a Happiness Engineer at Automattic and a weekly podcaster at YourWebsiteEngineer.com. His passion is to teach others how to use WordPress.

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

No I don’t use a WordPress Framework, mainly because I don’t design websites any more.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

I like frameworks so that all the settings and configurations can be the same for every project. The worst is having to learn a new theme at the beginning on a new project. I think it’s a challenge to get started with frameworks and find one that fits each person’s individual needs.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

I’d love to see some sort of questionnaire that a developer could go thru to find the perfect framework based on their coding experience / development style.

Devin Walker

Devin is a Web Developer and Designer. He’s the founder of wordimpress.com

1. Do you use WP Frameworks?

I have used many popular theme frameworks but primarily choose to use the Roots starter theme over a traditional theme framework. Why? We are primarily building themes for clients and commercial release. We want to be in the driver’s seat and not worry about future pivots the framework has taken which could break child theme features and functionality.

2. What do you like most about WP Frameworks/why don’t you love them?

The bloat and lack a design differentiation between child themes. Many theme frameworks include way too much under the hood. Often these features and unnecessary and can get in the way of development and cause unnecessary headaches. As well, many popular frameworks’ child themes aren’t very enough and the savvy enough eye can quickly spot which framework a site is using simply by viewing the frontend.

3. How do you think WP frameworks could be improved?

I would like to see more separation of presentation and functionality between the theme framework and a custom functionality plugin. Many themes have a lot of functionality, like registering post types, taxonomies, and even custom builders, baked right into the theme’s functions.php file. If a client or end user eventually decides to move to another theme in the future it could be a cumbersome and frustrating process.

Alyona Galea
Alyona Galea
Alyona is a WordPress enthusiast, focused on sharing interesting things she comes across during her work with this great CMS. She loves exploring new destinations and maintains a travel blog at www.alyonatravels.com

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4 Responses

  1. Although it was interesting to read the answers from these eight experts, it would have been better, in my opinion, if all eight were current users of a framework.

  2. I like Tom J. Nowell’s idea, to make Frameworks more modular, like lego. And if you ask, no I don’t use a Framework, I have my own starter theme.

  3. Good to know about all the expert advice on theme frameworks. Currently, I’m using this starter theme framework “TemplateToaster”. Best for building SEO friendly responsive themes.

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