Interview With WordPress Developers: WordPress Frameworks

framework

It is widely accepted that WordPress Frameworks are a fast and easy way to create and edit WordPress themes and websites, but is it really so?

The TemplateMonster team contacted 9 experienced WordPress developers, asked them to give their opinion on WordPress frameworks, and shared the answers with us.

Please read on if you’d like to know what Alex Vasquez, Justin Tadlock, George Stephanis, Emil Uzelac, Andy Stratton, Joe Dolson, Alex Moss, Tim Nash and Drew Poland think about WP frameworks, if they use any of them while building their own or client’s websites and why.

We believe a personal recommendation is much more powerful than a review. If you agree with this, take a few minutes to read personal opinions and suggestions from people who know WordPress well. The good thing is that most guys who took part in the interview have an experience in using different WordPress Frameworks.

Alex Vasquez

Alex Vasquez

Alex is a WordPress developer who runs a digital creative agency called DigiSavvy. If you’re looking for an in-depth view into WordPress frameworks, make sure to watch his talk at WordCamp Orange County.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

I don’t use Frameworks as much as I used to. I do use them now, if I’m in a pinch for time because a good framework does give developers a great head start. When I use a framework, I still use the Genesis Framework as it’s solidly built and something I’ve invested a lot of time in learning; and it just works. When I’m not using a framework I tend to build from my own starter theme, Some Like it Neat

2) What do you like most/least about WP Frameworks?

I think the thing to keep in mind with any framework is that they’re opinionated; they do certain things in certain ways and you have to be “okay” with that. Some of them do pack too much stuff and functionality that you may never use. I think that, because of that, it’s important to have a solid understanding of building themes from scratch. Knowing how to do that provides one a better understanding of what ought to be included, or what can be omitted.

3. If you could make one change that you feel would improve WP Frameworks, what would it be?

There’s a lot of frameworks; I don’t know that there’s a single thing that I could point the finger at. I will say that, often, with frameworks one has to remove functionality and styling to achieve what is required for function and visual aesthetic. Sometimes that’s because there’s not really a “starter” theme that goes with the framework. I know a lot of devs who will build from a preferred starting point to avoid having to tear-down too much. It’s a fine line really. A framework should really get out of the way and provide functionality that, while it may exist, may not be available right away yet can be easily added.

Justin Tadlock

Justin Tadlock

Justin is the owner and operator of ThemeHybrid and co-reviewer at ThemeReview. He is also a co-author of Professional WordPress Plugin Development. He also runs his personal blog where he writes WordPress tutorials and other cool stuff.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

Yes, I use a theme framework for all themes that I make. My favorite would be Hybrid Core. That’s kind of a given since it’s the framework that I built and maintain. It’s currently in use on millions of Web sites around the world, which is something I’d never thought would’ve happened when I first started building it back in 2008.

2) What do you like most/least about WP Frameworks?

2-most) Fixes for common theme issues with WP core.

2-least) Many that I’ve seen have layers and layers of unnecessary functionality built on top of existing, easy-to-use core APIs.

3. If you could make one change that you feel would improve WP Frameworks, what would it be?

Do less unnecessary stuff. Strive for simplicity.

George Stephanis

George Stephanis

George is the Team Lead for the Jetpack Pit Crew at Automattic. When not working on Jetpack, he spends his time contributing to Core, running the WordPress Lancaster Meetup Group and WordCamp Lancaster PA, and is a regular on the WP Watercooler podcast.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

I do use theme frameworks from time to time — primarily either Underscores as a theme starter framework, or Redux for a theme options framework (which can be dropped into pretty much any theme).

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

I feel that the best frameworks are those that let you extend the existing WordPress apis and functions, rather than others — like Thesis, X Theme, etc — that make you learn a new templating engine. It feels somewhat silly to me to build an entirely new templating engine and framework on top of an already existing, common, stable known quantity like the native WordPress core theme API.

That’s why I like both Underscores and Redux. Redux is an add on that lets you do theme options really easily and tightly integrates into things like the Customizer. It doesn’t tell you what to do or how to do it, it just makes things easier to do. Underscores is just a terrific theme base.

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

I think it would be a tremendous improvement if theme frameworks didn’t need to be used as parent themes for the ‘real’ commercial theme that’s used. This makes it particularly difficult for some customers, as they can’t ‘child theme’ the commercial child theme that they’re using (as WordPress doesn’t support grandchild themes). So their only choice to customize the purchased child theme is to modify it directly — which isn’t really best practice.

Emil Uzelac

Emil Uzelac

Emil is a senior WordPress.org reviewer and an admin since 2010. He has recently launched theme review as a service. And now themereview.co is a place where you can get your WordPress theme or WordPress framework reviewed by Emil Uzelac and his partner Justin Tadlock.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

Yes I do when required by clients and if so, it’s usually Genesis.

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

Frameworks are easy to work with, they extend nicely and for developers they can save time and money.

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

My only recommendation for improvement is to follow WordPress standards and to reduce the code bloat when possible.

Andy Stratton

Andy is a WordPress developer, founder and operations manager of WordPress maintenance service WP Maintainer. He has been building websites for the past 20 years and focuses on simple, elegant web strategy and solutions.

Andy Stratton

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

I use a core set of functionality but do not use any specific Frameworks, but I have worked with Thesis and Genesis in the past, as well as WooThemes’ Canvas.

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

Most frameworks come with a LOT of functionality, but this comes with the price of bloat. This bloat comes in the form of quantity of files, maintainability, learning curve, HTTP requests, site load time, compatibility and more.

They also tend to require a lot more work to customize to look like a design that was created without the framework. Moving between them, they are not the same as a PHP framework, where you have a library of code and standards to help you quickly implement custom code – they tend to have shortcuts for implementing the pieces they implement in their default (or paid/marketplace) themes.

I believe it takes less time to build what you need from scratch (save for general, re-usable code – read: plugins), than to customize a large codebase with pre-existing HTML and CSS to look completely different. I can see where this helps beginner to intermediate programmers, but for an advanced/senior level developer, I often find it takes a bit longer.

At Sizeable, we work on mostly custom work, designed with the client’s needs in mind. WordPress is an afterthought, we try to avoid “solutioneering” (credit D. Keith Robinson): fitting a problem into a solution. We like to make WordPress work with the design, not the design work with WordPress. With the release of the JSON API, this is even more the case.

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

I think seeing them as a more of a library of code to quickly do things (which effectively turns into a plugin) would be nice. There are already actions and filters built into WordPress to extend functionality – and if something is missing for your project, it’s an invitation to contribute back to the WordPress.org project and push to see the action/filter in a later release.

I would love to see Frameworks turn into code bases that can be active as a plugin and give users the ability to rapidly add common functionality with minimal work. Ideally, they would deprecate functionality as it is built into the core code-base, as well.

In the future, I think a lot of support for working with the JSON API would be great. As is, I’d love to see less feature bloat and more thought to organization and code optimization: simpler is better!

Joe Dolson

Joe Dolson

Joe is a WordPress plug-in and theme developer specializing in web site accessibility. He’s a member of the WordPress Accessibility core team and regular contributor to WordPress core.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

No, I don’t use any WP theme frameworks.

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

I’m an accessibility consultant as well as a WordPress developer, and a large percentage of the organizations I work for are non-profit organizations. These organizations frequently receive federal funding, and are mandated to conform to Section 508 requirements for their web sites. As a result, most frameworks are non-starters for me: the amount of remediation required to make them viable is beyond what is reasonable for these clients budgets. The intention behind frameworks is to speed up development and decrease client costs; but working in the environment I work in, this isn’t the case, so they aren’t really a practical option. This is slowly improving, but at this point I’ve built so much custom code to fill the niches I need, that it’s unlikely I’ll be turning back.

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

For me? They need to embrace the basic principles of web accessibility. Obviously frameworks can’t control what the end user does with the framework; but if all the defaults were accessible: keyboard friendly menus, semantic HTML, great hierarchical heading structures, etc., that would go along way towards making them something I could at least recommend, even if I wasn’t using them.

Alex Moss

Alex Moss

Alex is the director at digital marketing agency FireCask. He is also a co-founder of Peadig – a mobile-first WordPress theme framework. He develops WordPress themes and plugins, as well as writes and speaks about all things digital.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

Yes, every day! I have worked with quite a few, but most of them never had everything I needed. 3 years ago I decided to develop my own, Peadig, which now powers most sites we work with.

2) What do you like most/least about WP Frameworks?

From my experience, the more ways I can expand the plugin with ease of code the better. Hooks FTW! I love how I can develop a child theme and, with less than 500 lines of code, can make it look completely different to the canvas I started with.

The main downfall to most other frameworks is lack of performance and optimisation for search engines. I have come from an SEO background and was frustrated with the way most have been contructed. Be modular and use more hooks to place content where it needs to be. Peadig has numerous hooks which makes coding easy and also provides lots of freedom without ripping apart a parent theme file which of course is not future-proof.

3. If you could make one change that you feel would improve WP Frameworks, what would it be?

Improving code 100%. Some frameworks make it easy for the beginner but with that usually comes at the cost of its performance when loaded on the frontend. Don’t bloat, and use options to include/exclude certain functionality from the frontend in order to only show what is needed. Peadig can be broken down to a bare backbone if needed.

Tim Nash

Tim Nash

Tim is a consultant and trainer, best known for his work with WordPress. He is also the current overlord of WordPress Leeds, as well as an active member on ManageWP.org

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

As I’m not a Front End developer or theme designer I’m rarely designing a theme so am normally modifying an existing theme which may be using a Framework rather than starting out with one. So while being exposed to a fair few different theme frameworks, I’ve never actively used one from scratch and seeing how they are used has on the whole

put me off trying any of them. If I have started from scratch I have used starter theme UnderScores as the basis which certainly doesn’t try to brand itself as a framework but certainly is opinionated so maybe could count as one.

2) What do you like most/least about WP Frameworks?

By their very nature frameworks make choices for you and are opinionated in how they do things. This both a good and a bad thing, if they make choices you agree with then they can aid getting job done a lot faster. If they don’t then you will end up struggling and fighting the framework which can both be demoralizing, additional workload and result in something of a compromise.

3) If you could make one change that you feel would improve WP Frameworks, what would it be?

I’m not sure that you can make just one change, the spectrum of frameworks out there is vast each will have pros and cons I guess going back to the idea that Frameworks reflect choices being made, perhaps larger open ended frameworks could do with making more choices if people don’t like those choices they have a plethora of other frameworks to choose.

Drew Poland

Drew Poland

Drew is a front-end developer, WordPress developer and entrepreneur from Baltimore, MD. With more than three years of freelance experience, Drew consults clients around the world about enhancing performance of their websites. To give back to the community Drew regularly attends and speaks at WordCamp events and helps organize the Baltimore WordPress meetup.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

Depends on the project and if a framework makes sense. Often I find custom design truly needs custom development rather than the bloat of most frameworks behind it. It’s often faster (for me) to start with a small base theme I’ve built that has my normal functions and utility code ready to go.

For smaller projects like theme modifications where were using a child theme and customizing it, I always default to Genesis. The support and community around the Genesis framework is outstanding.

I find Genesis is great for DIYers as well considering how easy it is to use.

2) What do you like most/least about WP Frameworks?

I like most that there is a large support community around most frameworks. This generally means the community is giving back to the framework and improving on it, which not only keeps projects alive but helps them grow and build out larger feature sets. Staying relevant is key if a developer decides to invest in the time to work exclusively with a framework.

My least favorite thing about frameworks is they can be bloated, especially if the direction is to try and be everything to everyone.

3. If you could make one change that you feel would improve WP Frameworks, what would it be?

Great question but a deep one. I’m not sure I’ve used enough variety to blanket comment about weak points every framework has.

In general I would just say that the most successful of frameworks appeal to one or two types of users and stay the course, only adding features that can benefit every user. Stay lean basically.

Andy Stratton

Andy Stratton is a WordPress developer, founder and operations manager of WordPress maintenance service WP Maintainer. He has been building websites for the past 20 years and focuses on simple, elegant web strategy and solutions.

1) Do you use WP theme frameworks? (if yes, than which one do you prefer?)

I use a core set of functionality but do not use any specific Frameworks, but I have worked with Thesis and Genesis in the past, as well as WooThemes’ Canvas.

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

Most frameworks come with a LOT of functionality, but this comes with the price of bloat. This bloat comes in the form of quantity of files, maintainability, learning curve, HTTP requests, site load time, compatibility and more.

They also tend to require a lot more work to customize to look like a design that was created without the framework. Moving between them, they are not the same as a PHP framework, where you have a library of code and standards to help you quickly implement custom code – they tend to have shortcuts for implementing the pieces they implement in their default (or paid/marketplace) themes.

I believe it takes less time to build what you need from scratch (save for general, re-usable code – read: plugins), than to customize a large codebase with pre-existing HTML and CSS to look completely different. I can see where this helps beginner to intermediate programmers, but for an advanced/senior level developer, I often find it takes a bit longer.

At Sizeable, we work on mostly custom work, designed with the client’s needs in mind. WordPress is an afterthought, we try to avoid “solutioneering” (credit D. Keith Robinson): fitting a problem into a solution. We like to make WordPress work with the design, not the design work with WordPress. With the release of the JSON API, this is even more the case.

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

I think seeing them as a more of a library of code to quickly do things (which effectively turns into a plugin) would be nice. There are already actions and filters built into WordPress to extend functionality – and if something is missing for your project, it’s an invitation to contribute back to the WordPress.org project and push to see the action/filter in a later release.

I would love to see Frameworks turn into code bases that can be active as a plugin and give users the ability to rapidly add common functionality with minimal work. Ideally, they would deprecate functionality as it is built into the core code-base, as well.

In the future, I think a lot of support for working with the JSON API would be great. As is, I’d love to see less feature bloat and more thought to organization and code optimization: simpler is better!

We hope you enjoyed the answers you’ve just read and they will help you develop a better understanding of WordPress Frameworks, their pros and cons.

By the way, it’s the third interview on this topic. Check out the previous interviews on WPMayor and TemplateMonster. The more opinions you hear, the more informed your decision will be.

Nemanja Aleksic

Head of Growth at ManageWP. Marketing Manager at GoDaddy. WordCamp Belgrade organizer. But first and foremost, a father, a husband and a puck stopper.

1 Comment

  1. Mushroomali

    You are very lucky, thank you…

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Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!



Have questions? Get in touch!

Over 40,000 WordPress professionals are already using ManageWP

Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!



Have questions? Get in touch!

Over 40,000 WordPress professionals are already using ManageWP

Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!



Have questions? Get in touch!