Many WordPress developers are trying out their luck with selling themes on places like Themeforest or on their own site. Although it certainly seems like a crowded space, there is a lot of growth potential, in my opinion. Just take a look at one of our recent posts, where we asked which themes are missing from the market. We had quite a varied and interesting response to that question.
The topic of today concerns the development aspect of building and selling themes. A framework can help you build a more homogenous backbone for all your themes, and also helps you speed up things. Most of the frameworks available for WordPress developers take the form of a parent theme, leaving you to create the child theme. One such example is Genesis by StudioPress. When developing sites for clients, I wouldn’t use any other framework, as Genesis is so cleanly written and targeted towards speeding up a developer’s theme creation process.
On the other hand, this approach of parent theme framework doesn’t work too well for themes that are intended for mass distribution. If you create say a Genesis child theme and try to sell it, you will be limiting yourself to the market of Genesis users, as a prospective user would also need to have bought the Genesis parent theme.
Clearly, another solution is needed. That’s where the other type of WordPress frameworks come in. Yes, there are other frameworks, and they work by giving you a collection of files that you include in your theme. This way, your new theme is a parent theme, and just calls the framework. This system also makes it easy to update the framework independently of your theme. Others can also create a child theme off your theme.
The best two such frameworks, in my opinion, are Hybrid Core by Justin Tadlock and WooFramework by WooThemes.
Hybrid Core has been freely available for a number of years now. It is very good and proven by the likes of Justin himself with his ThemeHybrid themes, as well as more recently by DevPress, who use Hybrid Core for all their themes.
The purpose of Hybrid Core is to have a solid PHP code base for theme developers to build from. It is a modular framework that allows the developer to pick and choose commonly-used features in themes.
If building custom themes on top of a true framework interests you, please read the more-detailed explanation of Hybrid Core.
WooFramework is used on all WooThemes themes, and as you can expect is pretty solid and feature-packed. It is less evident that you can grab it and use it in your own themes, but you can do so by downloading any theme from WooThemes and taking the WooFramework from that theme. Two nice free themes I can mention are Swatch and MyStile.
Among the premium themes, there is Canvas which is an excellent bare bones theme you can get inspiration from. You are of course free to modify WooFramework and use it however you deem fit. I’ve used a modified version of WooFramework when using some earlier themes from ThemeZilla.
Skematic is a good theme framework based on parent+child themes and there is also Jumpstart which is worth considering as a starting point. Having mentioned these two, it’s worth noting that Underscores is the most popular (albeit bare bones) starter theme for WordPress.
Are you a theme developer? Which framework do you use? Let us know in the comments section below.
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