Poll – Which WordPress Theme Framework To Use?

So far, my WordPress development work has consisted of writing WordPress plugins and occasionally hacking themes. I’ve always said that I wanted to write a WordPress theme from scratch, but never had time to do so. One of my sites is going to need a redesign shortly, so here’s my big opportunity.

However, with the rise of the WordPress theme framework and the limited time available to me, I’ve started thinking that the sensible thing to do is use a theme framework. But which one?

What Is A Theme Framework?

I’m not going to answer this definitively, because it’s too large a topic!

The short answer is that a WordPress theme framework is a base that can be used to write a WordPress theme on top of. Most of the work is already done for you. There’s generally no need to call WordPress functions. All you need to do is create the style (via CSS) and add any custom functions you might need.

Of course, it’s not really that simple, as many theme frameworks extend WordPress by creating hooks that can be used for advanced customisation and make use of child themes, so you can upgrade the theme framework core without your changes being affected.

What Are The Choices?

There are quite a few WordPress theme frameworks out there, but the most popular ones seem to be:

There are also Premium WordPress Theme Frameworks, such as Chris Pearson’s Thesis, but I’m not going to pay for one when there are so many great free options.

It’s worth acknowledging Scott Wallick’s Sandbox which is the granddaddy of the theme framework concept and which influenced many of the theme frameworks listed above.

Tell Me Which Theme Framework You Would Use!

There’s too much choice! I don’t know the difference between these theme frameworks, so I’m not sure which way to go. They all seem good and are created by WordPress developers with great reputations.

I’m leaning toward Thematic or Hybrid at the moment. For some reason, I have the feeling that Carrington is over the top for what I need, but I may be totally off base here. I’m also tempted by the Sandbox (sometimes I have to fight my instinct to do things the hard way!).

I’m rather short on time, so rather than spend days trying and comparing these frameworks, I thought I’d ask you – which framework would you use? If you have an opinion, please take part in the poll:

Which WordPress Theme Framework Would You Use?

View Results

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Final Thoughts

It’s exciting times for theme developers. WordPress theme frameworks can save us a lot of time. It’s just a little confusing to know which one to use. I hope this poll can help show what the community is thinking at the moment.

69 responses on “Poll – Which WordPress Theme Framework To Use?

  1. Justin Tadlock

    I say use the Hybrid theme, but I am a little biased.

    I love the Thematic and WP Framework themes too. Both Ian and Ptah are solid developers that know what they’re doing. Sandbox is great but doesn’t offer the same level of flexibility with hooks and filters. Carrington is cool, but to me, it just seems like a little much at times.

    1. Stephen Cronin Post author

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Of course you use Hybrid!

      I’ve read your post saying you created it for your own needs. I’ll admit I’m tempted to do the same thing and create a theme framework set up the way I’d do it. I have to tell myself it’s a waste of time. :)

      Thanks also for your perspective on the different frameworks. I guess you’ve confirmed what I was thinking (Carrington a little too much, Sandbox a little limited). Maybe that narrows it down to three.

  2. David@SEM Labs

    I always like to make sites with my own code base. I’ve worked with WordPress quite a few times and the whole thing is an absolute mess. I don’t see how anyone can work with it. There are so many basic web development problems it has such as incorrect data sanitation, insecure templates, terrible security history and they still have not implemented multi-byte escaping on queries, which means anyone using BIG5 or GBK can have their Db demolished.

  3. Mike@Atlanta georgia real estate

    In my short time doing this I have only used Sandbox. From what I have heard it is better for the inexperienced and newbies. If I am wrong please let me know, as I would love to try other frameworks in the future.

  4. Bert@Hectic Capiznon Bloggers 2009

    i can’t vote this time because I wasn’t able to try them yet and I actually don’t know that such exists. I usually use pre-built themes and never used framework but I will try these different framework for my new domain to register using WP. What do you recommend that is very easy for me to start with?

  5. Chelle@Real Estate Marketing

    I like hybrid a good bit out of all the choices. I got a little frustrated in my attempts to hack it apart, since I don’t have a really good knowledge of child themes and how they work, but I like how it looks even straight out of the box.

  6. Tracy@science for kids

    I too have been wanting to design my own wordpress theme. But of course with work taking up so much time and kids too forget about going from scratch.
    I am new to the options of using framework so I would love to ride on your coattails and see how your experience goes.

  7. free puke@Online Games

    A theme framework? Sorry but you try to place a solar house for a single plant lol! When I allready have the XHTML file from the PSD it takes me ~1-2h for making the WordPress Theme… from scratch! It’s not that heavy :o so why do you need a framework for that?

  8. Jeff @Winston Salem Movers

    While it’s true that many of us are able to make our own custom themes in a matter of only a few hours, that is not the case for everyone. The sole popularity of WP themes in general is proof of that. Most people don’t know how to code so these themes and frameworks are very useful. I personally like to take a theme that I think is great, like Hybrid, and customize it to be the way I want. This saves me a lot of time.

  9. reach@fantastic photos

    I use WordPress.com so I’m stuck with a small number of themes – I don’t seem to be able to choose any of these. :(

    I’ll have to move to a self hosted blog.

  10. TJ @ Smart Blog Tips

    One more vote for Hybrid. But then again i am biased with Justin’s themes. I like making new blog designs based on Hybrid framework.

    Regards
    TJ

  11. Womens Air Jordans

    There are so many basic web development problems it has such as incorrect data sanitation, insecure templates, terrible security history and they still have not implemented multi-byte escaping on queries, which means anyone using BIG5 or GBK can have their Db demolished.

    LINK REMOVED: because of failure to use KeywordLuv syntax (name@keywords)

  12. Andrej @ vrtno pohistvo

    I really like the colours combined in Ian Stewart’s Thematic. WP Framework on the other side seems good for the serious stuff, about politics for example.

  13. Mike@Prefabricated Structures

    I think Hybrid is the best framework so far and I am also planning to grab many themes from that. I know it is stupidity to spend money on themes but i have seen some best designs on this planet which are paid but I am not familiar with their framework.

  14. tom@miami web design

    I love the Hibrid framework. Say what you will about the design but it’s got a great functionality and is pretty simple to use.

  15. Tony@Florida Vehicle Inspections

    I love free themes that have some resemblance of SEO.
    I will be trying out Hybrid and Thematic for my next project…thanks!

  16. Valerie@unternehmen

    I have a blog in progress glad I stumbled on this article. Thank you this would be very useful. I chose Justin Tadlock’s Hybrid, It suits my blog very well.

  17. The Frosty @WPCult

    A great deal of good frameworks in there. I’ve used three of theme.
    At present time my favorite is Hybrid, but Thematic is also very good.

    I am working on a child theme for Hybrid, and once finished hopefully plan on doing the same for Thematic, and possibly WP-Framework.

  18. donnie@Custom Home Theater

    I have used WPRemix with good success. I know that it is not free, but has many options. Have a look at that. It allowed my easy customization, but with a solid framework to start with. It may not be a good choice for beginners, but saved me a huge amount of time. I don’t have experience with others at this point.

  19. Anna@Miami Setai

    I know it’s almost 3 months since you posted this, but since the poll is still open … ;)
    I voted for Justin Tadlock’s Hybrid. It’s clean, coherent and simple. And that’s what counts if you want to get your message across.

  20. Charter Communications

    We love free themes that have some resemblance of SEO.
    I will be trying out Hybrid and Thematic for my next project…Many thanks!

  21. Tom@Song Words

    To be honest since I’am discovered Drupal, why should I use a _Wordpress_ Framework anymore :-D. But back2topic, I writed my templates all the time from scratch… didn’t need a Framework anytime. Maybe because I often write templates for smaller websites with only 10-20 pages?

  22. Dara

    I’d go for the Hybrid theme as well. It’s clean, simple and nice. It’s also pretty cool that the designer posted on this thread :)

  23. Terry@ Scrub Tops

    I would go for sandbox….that is if I know what I’m supposed to be doing. But I don’t. LOL

    So I voted for Carrington. I like the fact that it’s clean. As far as working on it to make a unique one for me, I’m not sure I can handle it…just yet.

  24. Mike@PPC Kahuna

    Wow, awesome post. I actually bought Thesis theme and really like it. But I’m going to have to try out some of these free Theme frameworks out and see how they compare.

  25. Aluminum Fencing

    You can take the content from your existing portfolio page and create a wordpress page with the same content. When you click “Write” inside the wordpress admin dashboard, it defaults to a new post.

  26. Marcy @ Wedding Favors

    I voted for carrington of Colbert Report. Aside from it’s free, I like the red and blue combination. And we’re one Stephen with the choice of getting free rather than paying, besides it’s the content that is giving you coolest points and the theme will serve as added machine to make your piece attractive.

  27. One Source Talent

    Ian Stewart the creator of the Thematic theme framework is currently in the process of putting together a series which explains how to cut theme development time, easier theme modifications, and the power of child themes.

  28. Matteo@Matteo Stagi - Web Architect

    I’m using Thematic for my blog since it’s the only framework used by other bloggers in Italy. So it’s easier to get and to share documentation in my own language. But, as web developer I would like to explore more frameworks when they will get more local diffusion.

  29. Artful Dodger @ Tech Blogger

    I’d go with Themeatic because it’s very easy to change fonts of posts and stuff and it has clean code like valid XHTML etc.

  30. John Turner

    I like Thematic, it’s very clean and well coded, which the others are as well, but I like less options on the “Theme Option” , in fact I’d like to see that page go away all together in Thematic and do every thing programmatically. I will also say the only two I have investigated are Hybrid and Thematic.

  31. dental implants Southampton

    I have not fully explored the other ones but I really like Thematic… It is just me… Totally sophisticated but at the same time simple and clean looking… Just the way I like it I supposed… Though I have to explore the other ones…

  32. Mathew Packer

    Previously I would write it all from scratch as that way I knew exactly which bits of code were in the theme, however lately I’ve been using the Thesis Framework and am finding it really awesome to work with.

    You have to really understand how hooks work, but once you get that straight in your head it’s pretty rock solid….and it’s SEO is golden!

  33. brian@comment

    I like Thematic, it’s very clean and well coded, which the others are as well, but I like less options on the “Theme Option” , in fact I’d like to see that page go away all together in Thematic and do every thing programmatically.

  34. Wilbert

    I use wordpress themes that are based on Hybrid just because they are search-engine optimized. The results are great in terms of SEO even though the themes don’t look that snazzy. Nevertheless, overall great results.

  35. Matthew

    I’ve like Justin’s themes but find them a moving target as they are deprecated with new versions. I’ve currently opted to use Artisteer but that involved a lot of time–still less than to create from scratch–and still requires more editing to get just right.

    In big picture, I find the current crop of themes to be incomplete in handling basic page content. When I look at a theme, two initial checks I make are (1) how unordered and ordered lists display (e.g., alignment), also how parent-child lists are handled (e.g., 1, 1.a.), and (2) look at how tables are handled (e.g., borders),

  36. Allen

    Emm, I use premium wordpress theme framework, the headway theme and thesis theme, and sutidopress will release a new theme, the free one is hard to use, at least for me .

  37. Convert PSD to WordPress

    Most theme frameworks are good, especially Thesis, but trying to set them up can be a pain. I have a set framework that I created from scratch that works pretty well and thats what I use for personal sites as well as conversions.

    This way I know exactly where everything is and editing is easy. Trying to figure out what someone else did or how they did it or where I need to go to edit is a waste of time IMHO.

  38. Dave

    Probably the most ironic thing about your post is that your tag line is “Hire me – I’m expensive, but I’m very good!” And yet you write “but I’m not going to pay for one when there are so many great free options.”

    Would love to hear you explain that one.

    1. Stephen Cronin Post author

      Hi Dave,

      You certainly get bonus points for paying attention to the site!

      There is a time lag between the two (this post was written before the tag line), but it probably still holds up.

      The people who hire me generally want a custom WordPress plugin and at that point they have usually checked out the free options and there is nothing that does quite what they want, so they are willing to pay. I’ve never reached that point with a theme framework – although most of my work is plugin based rather than site development, so I generally don’t need a theme.

  39. Gajanan

    Being a developer, I prefer a theme with standard codes and something which reduces the development time.

    I am using rtPanel since 3 months now. Amazing framework I must say. Its just perfect, they have offered couple of useful hooks and filters and moreover they offer FREE technical support.

    I would recommend you all to try rtPanel once.

    Cheers!!

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