My clients are not developers! They are WordPress site owners, which is why I try to keep my definitions and explanations as non-technical as possible, and why the only definition I’ve provided for WordPress frameworks up to this point is this:
Frameworks extend the functionality of WordPress, giving you more power in your site design and page layouts.
It’s true, WordPress frameworks do just that, but recent experiences with clients and potential clients made me realize how important it is for them to actually understand what WordPress frameworks do and how they do it.
I’m going to describe two recent scenarios I’ve had with WordPress website owners to demonstrate why it’s worth your time to really get this. It can help you make decisions about your website that will serve you for a very long time.
Scenario 1: Custom Design + Custom Solutions
Thousands of dollars for a beautiful custom theme not built on a WordPress framework plus custom solutions hard coded into the theme.
So what’s the problem with this scenario?
- Client has a very attractive website but is completely tied to the design company that built her site. Why? Because the custom theme has no public support system. If you have a custom theme built using a commercial WordPress framework, you will always have access to the support they provide (support forums, support tickets, searching Google, etc). Also, a private custom theme built only for you will not provide theme updates to match future WordPress updates. Even if you stay with the design company that built your custom theme, future updates to the theme will probably be quite costly, whereas WordPress framework updates are provided as part of the initial framework purchase.
- Client has custom solutions hard coded into her custom theme. For example, she has a feature slider custom built by design company and hard coded into her theme home page. But what happens when you update to the latest version of WordPress and the custom feature slider no longer works? Same scenario as above: no support for privately built feature slider and you will need to hire someone to edit the code on your home page to remove slider. If a Feature Slider WordPress plugin had been used as opposed to custom private solution, the Feature Slider plugin would release a free update making the Feature Slider compatible with recent WordPress release. And if the theme had been built using a WordPress framework, there would be no need to dive into the actual code of the home page; the feature slider would have been added to the home page via the framework admin panel in WordPress.
In short, this client paid a lot of money for a custom built theme and several custom built solutions (feature slider for example) but has no support or updates for theme or for the custom solutions implemented.
Had her theme been built using a quality WordPress framework like Genesis, she (or her current web designer) would have access to Genesis updates and support. And she would have no custom solutions hard coded into her actual theme files. Any extended functionality that client needed would have been implemented using commercial or free WordPress plugins within the WordPress dashboard and the framework admin panel.
Scenario 2: Design Changes to Custom Theme
Client had a custom theme built for her the old fashioned way, which means creating a static XHTML template and then slicing and dicing it into a WordPress theme. I used to create custom themes like this as well before the advent of high quality WordPress frameworks. It was a timely and costly endeavor!
Anyway, client would now like to make some design changes to her custom built theme. Minor changes can most likely be done simply by making updates in the css file, however, any structural changes to the layout will require — once again — making change to both the XHTML file and the css (style) file (s). And let’s say that client would also like to have different layouts for different pages — she want some pages without a right sidebar (single column) and some pages with a double right sidebar.
Yes, it can be done, but it will most likely require coding and creating two or three new WordPress themes! Each page layout will need to be coded individually and have a different style sheet assigned to it.
Enter a good WordPress framework and you can create different page layouts, assign sidebars, and make other structural changes all from withing the framework admin panel. No coding required!
Much More for the Money
So what does all this mean for you, the WordPress website owner? Although there are numerous advantages to using a WordPress framework when having a custom WordPress theme created, here are the two most important:
- You have much greater flexibility and power in your site design and layout usually at a much lower cost.
- You are not tied to an individual designer, programmer, or web design company.
That’s good news to me. I want my clients to be happy both in terms of quality of service and in terms of price. Frameworks generally lower costs because they:
- Speed up development time, which usually means lower costs for you.
- Provide great support, which makes things a lot easier for your web designer, which usually means lower costs for you.
- Usually offer several child themes, which you may use as a base design to build upon. So you could hire a web designer to customize a child theme. Again, the more work that is already done when you start usually means lower costs for you. Frameworks already have much of the work done in terms of coding and structure; child themes gives you a head start on your site design
- Separate core and extra functionality. Refer to above scenario where client had custom feature slider hard coded into the theme files. Frameworks focus on page structure and facilitate design but leave extra functionality to plugins.
- Are regularly updated. Framework developers often know in advance of upcoming changes in WordPress and upgrade their frameworks to match WordPress updates.
In short, WordPress Frameworks focus on core features and functionality, which allows me to focus on creating beautiful designs.
The Genesis Framework
One final note about WordPress frameworks. I’ve used a few different frameworks in the past before settling on the Genesis Framework.
p.s WordPress Themes are great to use when you find a commercial WordPress theme that you pretty much like “out of the box.” WordPress Frameworks are not themes; they facilitate the design and creation of themes. Read Difference Between Themes and Frameworks to learn the difference between frameworks and themes and to know which one is best for you.