Speeding up our WordPress project with starter themes and frameworks
I like innovation as much as anyone. It is a mark of creativity.
Heck, when I was a kid, I liked creating stuff.
What did you create when you were a kid?
One of the cool things about building WordPress websites is the opportunity to create something.
That is why many of us got into this business, to create.
Not only do we get to play around with design and functions, but we get to create a solution for our customers. It really is the ultimate high, creating a solution our customer can use to create more revenue.
Creating a foundation
Along the way, we found there are some things about a WordPress website that simply doesn’t change.
For example, you have to install the WordPress software. We know that the software is the basis for the CMS, and, because it is Open Source, we can actually extend and customize it for the projects, but it isn’t necessary to do so for a regular website.
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We know that a WordPress website needs to have a theme. WordPress has been providing default themes since it began.
Since 2010, WordPress, the software company has installed default themes in the package. You may know them as 2010, 2012, or 2016. They are named after the years.
The first couple of themes were, let’s say, bland.
Who remembers Kubrick?
We also understand that themes have certain things. The WordPress Codex tells us what things go into a theme.
When it comes to themes, there are basic things they include such as layout, sidebars, template files and so forth.
Rebuilding all of this each time we do a project can be a time drain. This is why many developers speed up development with premade themes.
1. Use a Theme Framework
Theme Frameworks abound. Many theme frameworks are free, but there are also several premium theme frameworks. A theme framework utilizes a parent/child theme relationship.
Often, theme frameworks have several child themes available and include various ways to change layouts. The parent theme often handles the heavy lifting while the child theme handles much of the front end of the theme.
Just like customizing a theme, a theme framework child theme can be customized. Additionally, many theme frameworks include a sample child theme to get started.
The frameworks generally come as either a premium product users can purchase or free, often open source.
The WordPress Codex outlines theme frameworks:
“Frameworks are for theme developers. They offer a set of standards for theme developers to use in creating their own themes. They’re a set of functions/features created to aid development.”
For a little more of a user-friendly explanation, 1st WebDesigner says:
“Theme Frameworks are tools that make the process of creating functions you see in a WordPress theme a lot easier. They are themes that act as a launching pad for development, thus, speeding the process of creating better layouts and designs. Theme Frameworks provide easy support and creation of child themes, making the usability of WordPress extend to vast horizons.”
Commercial Theme Frameworks
Genesis – This is one of the oldest commercial theme frameworks. Originally started by Brian Gardner, StudioPress has become one of the most popular theme shops. The Genesis Framework powers many sites including Copyblogger and WP Beginner.
Thesis – Thesis is the theme of choice for Social Triggers’ Derek Halpern. The theme has been around for almost a decade powering lots of folks. Thesis uses skins to help change the look of the site.
In addition to these frameworks, there are several drag & drop theme builders available such as Divi by Elegant Themes, iBuilder by iThemes, X the Theme, Themify, PageLines, and Headway Themes.
In some cases, the line between builder and framework begins to be blurred. Which is a theme builder and what is a framework? Sometimes they are both.
Free Theme Frameworks
In searching for free or open source frameworks, I came across several. Here are some of the more popular free theme frameworks.
- Cherry Framework
- Thematic by ThemeShaper
More free theme frameworks
2. Use a starter theme
Starter themes have been around for many years. They are intended to be, a starter theme, allowing developers to kick start a project from a base.
Starter themes are usually based on a development foundation such as Bootstrap.
Starter themes do not include the parent/child relationship. All the elements are contained in one theme.
Drew Strojny wrote at ThemeFoundry about three years ago using the car as a metaphor for a starter theme. I like that metaphor for a framework, but is a good metaphor for building a base, a foundation, for a new project.
“Imagine you’re looking to build a brand new car from scratch. Sounds pretty intimidating right? Now imagine that one of the best car companies in the world is giving you a free “starter” car. They’ve built the car using years of practice and experience. It’s a fully functioning car, it just doesn’t have any design or colors applied to it. You need to paint it and make some configuration choices.”
Here are three of the most popular starter themes
Sage by Roots – Sage is one of the most popular Starter Themes for WordPress. According to the Roots website, Sage is “The best WordPress starter theme with a modern front-end development workflow.
Bones – Bones is a starter theme that is built for to be minimal and fast.
There are many, many more starter themes. I have included a few links below containing more starter themes.
Creating your own starter
If you do enough WordPress projects, you create your own starting process at some point. You may go through the process of choosing the theme that closest matches your idea, choose a theme framework, use a starter theme, or create your own.
Some developers create their own starter theme based on an existing starter theme or their favorite framework.
This allows them to add in the functions that they use most often or what is necessary for the industry in which they work.
So, how do you start a new WordPress project? Do you use a starter theme? Do you use a framework?
Have you created your own starter theme?
Let us know in the comments.