Why it’s best: Well-established community of users and developers and comprehensive knowledge-based
The options screen is intuitive and easy to use.
Main design options are completely free
How We Chose the Best WordPress Frameworks
WordPress Frameworks offer a lot of benefits. The best frameworks have flexible design options and robust code come down to powerful SEO options and a secure code base. On top of that, we chose frameworks that can make your site load faster. With that in mind, if you are building a complex site or are constantly changing the functionality of your website, here are the best WordPress frameworks that are the perfect solution for you.
What Are WordPress Frameworks?
The entire setup and technology of a WordPress hosting provider are customized for a WordPress site. In a nutshell, WordPress frameworks are the foundation for a WordPress theme. Typically, the framework contains the core code which covers the basic features and design elements.
Once a framework is in place, it can be used as a starting point for a new WordPress theme. New features and design elements are added to the framework to create the finished product.
How To Choose a WordPress Framework
The best WordPress framework has additional tools and plugins built specifically for use with that framework. I considered everything from code libraries and the number of child themes to ease of use and cost.
Typically, they also have active communities with users who share ideas and can answer questions you may have — I’ve found them more helpful than traditional support at times.
Robust code: A well-coded framework will adhere to the WordPress coding standards, and it will be compatible with well-written plugins.
Support: Most theme frameworks, whether they are free or paid, include support from the theme developer or a community of users, or in some cases, a combination of both. Before committing to a framework, be sure to check what is covered by support and whether that comes with an extra cost.
Ease of development and updates: Using a framework can significantly reduce the development time and make switching themes easier, as well as eliminate the risk of losing all your styling and code changes when theme updates are pushed out.
Built-in functionality: Theme frameworks usually come with built-in widgets and additional functionality, such as custom layouts which reduce the need for plugins.
Learning curve: WordPress frameworks are more complex than regular themes. More often than not, they have their own set of hooks and filters, and to utilize the full power of the framework, you have to get familiar with their terminology.
Price: While there are some free WordPress frameworks out there, the level of support cannot be compared to a premium framework. With that in mind, the pricing can vary greatly between different frameworks. Some of them have a one-time fee, and some require an annual fee to continue receiving updates and support.
Why it's best: Most widely used WordPress framework that has a good reputation for customer support and is SE0-friendly
Genesis is one of the most popular premium frameworks on the market and with good reason. Genesis is currently used on more than 600,000 websites and takes up 9.1% of the theme market share.
The Genesis framework is lean, secure, SEO friendly, and future-proof, and all of their themes are mobile responsive. It is designed to always be used with a child theme – be it one of the StudioPress child themes or one you’ve created. Genesis also has a very active developer community and many WordPress/Genesis developers have their own blogs where they share helpful tips and tutorials.
While you can pay $360 per year for extra features through Genesis Pro, the base framework is available for free. There’s also a handful of free Genesis child themes from which to choose.
Pros and cons of Genesis Framework
Sleek, professional design
Limited customization features
Slight learning curve
What customers are saying about Genesis Framework:
Genesis Framework is the go-to choice of developers and experienced e-entrepreneurs. Aside from the large community that patronizes the Genesis Framework, its users commend the overall design, customizable features, and useful collection of widgets that make it the best WordPress Framework.
Why it's best: Tons of customization features and design templates
Elegant Themes' Divi theme is an all-in-one solution powering over 1 million websites, a perfect solution for those who want full control over their website’s design without having to learn the code. There are several customization options including 800 layouts and more than 40 design elements. Weekly additions include icons, royalty-free stock images, and illustrations.
It’s a drag-and-drop framework that allows you to control almost every aspect of a theme’s design, such as layout, colors, and fonts, by simply pointing and clicking. To enhance the appearance of your website, it has more design options such as dynamic animations, background videos, color filters, syntax highlighting, and a Divi Library to reuse custom sections or elements.
The advanced code editor is simple to use. Divi has been built with the latest standards in mind and features responsive design. Pricing options include a standard package for $89 per year and a lifetime package for $249 which allows you to use Divi on unlimited sites.
Pros and cons of Divi
Responsive and true visual editing
Built-in split testing and conversion insights
Has few bugs and slower loading time with more pages
No WordPress block editor integration
Limited live chat support
What customers are saying about Divi:
Divi is one of the most recommended WordPress frameworks for beginners. Non-techy users are happy with the beginner-friendly user interface packed with easy-to-use features that help a website standout.
Themify is renowned for its user-friendly drag-and-drop website builder, which allows novice or experienced website developers to easily design pages and quickly have a live preview on the front end. All Themify WordPress themes are powered by Themify Builder. It is a low-code solution with an extensive Styling Panel that offers countless design options and a highly visual building experience. It is translatable, enables multi-site networks, and is SEO friendly.
As a result, it is now attracting more novices and DIYers who want more than just a beautiful site: Themify currently powers 117,625+ websites on the internet. Themify is a flexible framework that provides complete control, allowing users to customize the theme with a wide range of elements with more creative options like parallax scrolling, animations, and a flexible, responsive grid system without having to write any code or edit templates.
The builder itself is free but must be used with a Themify theme. You can join the Theme Club to access all themes and plugins for $89 per month or get a single theme for $59 with one year of support. For lifetime access to all themes, addons, plugins, support & updates, Themify Lifetime club costs $249.
Pros and cons of Themify
Free plugins with rich media features
Has post type builder with plugins
Fast loading websites
Basic UI design
Lack of pre-built templates
What customers are saying about Themify:
Customers appreciate the ease of use that Themify provides because it comes with everything they need to create any type of successful website. Accordingly, the theme's versatility is outstanding, and you can simply change everything – most without CSS.
Cherry Framework is a popular free WordPress framework that is easy enough to use and comes with many of the same features as premium frameworks, such as automatic updates, backup and restore functions, responsive design, and plenty of customization options. However, it’s best for developers with solid coding experience.
One of the benefits of using Cherry Framework is that it allows you to use shortcodes to design your themes. Using shortcodes can cut down on the time it takes you to create themes with this free framework. Keep in mind though that if you change frameworks, the shortcodes (and your design) will be lost.
Pros and cons of Cherry
Easy to import and export content
Collection of widgets and extended functions
Challenging UI design
What customers are saying about Cherry Framework:
Cherry Framework users are spoiled with steady updates that constantly improve and incorporate their community suggestions with Bootstrap support. They describe it to be fully responsive with feature-rich design elements.
Why it's best: Well-established community of users and developers and a comprehensive knowledge-base
Gantry is a free framework from RocketTheme, which is available for both WordPress and Joomla. The WordPress version consists of both a plugin and theme and requires both to be installed on your site.
Once that is done, you can access a wide selection of page builder features which include drag-and-drop functionality and widgetized areas, which can use Gantry’s widgets and third-party widgets to add content to your pages.
Gantry features a fully responsive design built using Twitter Bootstrap for maximum compatibility. Other features of Gantry include maintenance mode, adding custom CSS to existing tags to quickly modify the styling of your site, and support for creating multiple templates for all the different views and page layouts on your site. Gantry is free to install and use.
Pros and cons of Gantry
Free and responsive
It supports third-party widgets.
Options screen is intuitive and easy to use
Limited amount of child themes
Steep learning curve
What customers are saying about Gantry:
The latest version, Gantry 5, is considered to be a very good framework and easy to work with, but it’s not advisable for template beginners due to the significant learning curve. Gantry's free plan comes with advanced features, which is a good treat for its customers.
Frequently Asked Questions About WordPress Framework
Are WordPress frameworks free?
Some are free, and some are paid. Still, all of them share the same main objective: to provide website owners with the basic functionality of a theme while giving them the flexibility to design the theme’s appearance however they’d like.
When should I use a WordPress framework?
Not everyone should use a WordPress framework. If all you are creating is a simple website or a splash page, a framework is overkill. For those looking to start or modify a simple blog, it’s best to go with a premium WordPress theme. If you need a powerful framework with lots of custom functionality then a WordPress theme framework is a wise decision.
What are the alternatives for WordPress frameworks?
Some theme clubs refer to their products as frameworks, but this isn’t always correct. If they sell a standalone theme that can be used immediately as is, then it’s not a framework. Purchasing a theme from theme clubs or vendors is a viable option if you need a professional theme with a range of features for just one site build and don’t plan to use it as the basis of several site builds in the future.
What is the difference between parent themes and theme frameworks?
Parent themes and theme frameworks are easily and often confused. The difference is that technically, any theme can be a parent theme with template files, options screens, different add-ons, and its application programming interface (API). A child theme is a copy of the parent theme and therefore adopts all the functionality of its parent theme but not all the files and requires the parent theme to work properly.
What is a starter theme?
A starter theme is usually very bare-bones – it’s meant to include the necessities to speed up the development process, and then you add to it as you create a full-featured theme.
What is a code library?
A code library might give you some framework-like functionality, but it isn’t a framework in and of itself because it won’t work without an existing theme. Code libraries can come in handy if you are coding your framework.