What Are WordPress Frameworks?

Frameworks: Building blocks for WordPress

The word “framework” sounds kind of daunting, but it’s really pretty simple. Several developers have created themes so robust and well-coded that other developers and designers use them as a basis for their own themes. Really, that’s it. That’s a WordPress framework: a well-built and popular WordPress theme that others base their themes on.

To be clear, you won’t be developing a completely new theme that just looks and acts like the framework. Instead, you’ll be building a design and additional features On Top Of the frame work. You’ll usually do that be creating a “child theme” of the original theme you’re using as your framework. But we’ll talk more about that later.

Why Would I Want to Use Someone Else’s Theme?

Some people may wonder why they’d want to use someone else’s theme as a base for their own design. Why not create your own complete theme from the ground up, right? Not so fast.

Updates and Reliability

Creating your own theme from the ground up and putting it out into the world is a HUGE responsibility. WordPress themes have to be kept updated to be compatible with each new version of WordPress, major plugins, and security updates. Otherwise, why would anyone want to use your theme … including you? The creators of these major themes are cultivated teams of developers who stay on top of ALL things WordPress and constantly update the framework.

Efficient Work Flow

You may also just want a faster, smoother work flow. You save time because you’ve already got the basic structure of a theme before you even start designing.

More Money

You make more money when you have a faster turn around because you can take on more projects. There are also a lot of high-dollar clients who already have sites on these frameworks and are specifically looking for a designer who is familiar.

Community and Support

With frameworks you won’t spend a lot of time troubleshooting since there are communities, forums, and support to help you when something goes wrong. That’s a lot better than scanning thousands of lines of code you don’t remember writing. And it’s great to be able to get new ideas from others.

Popular WordPress Frameworks

There are several themes that are popular for use as frameworks. Some even advertise themselves as such and offer a different set of files for that purpose. Each developer seems to have their favorite. Here are a few we know and love:

Divi from Elegant Themes

We’ll start here because this is our favorite. It is super easy to use and extremely customizable because it comes with a visual builder. You can use the Divi theme to create a site straight out of the box, or you can use it as the framework for your own custom creation. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable premium options out there, and it offers a lifetime membership.

Genesis from Studio Press

This one is really popular because it’s basically just a blog skeleton. Its creators focused on performance and built-in SEO value, leaving most of the design up to you. It’s a great option if you’re really comfortable with CSS and want a lot of control. It’s best feature is that it supports schema.org microdata, which is huge. You can get just the framework for under $50 (at time of post) and use it on as many sites as you want and get unlimited updates.


Like Divi, Themify has a visual builder and a ton of built in features. What’s great about it is that it has a huge selection of themes already built with the framework that you can get with a very reasonable subscription, which also has a lifetime membership option. You can use any one of the themes as a basis for your own.

Avada by Theme Fusion

Avada is a widely used theme, both by itself and as a framework. Its pricing is different in that you have to purchase a license for each project, rather than having the option of subscribing. It has a visual builder like many of the others, which is called Fusion. In the newest version, you can even white label Fusion.

How to Use a Framework

Most of the time, you’ll just be uploading the theme file to WordPress and creating a child theme with your own design and features added into the files. Creating a child theme is actually really easy. Here are the steps:

1. Create the folder.

Create a folder in your local files (on your computer or your hosting) and name it whatever you want.

You need two main files: style.css & functions.php. Create those and add to the folder. You can also add header.php and footer.php if you want, and it’s good practice to include a screenshot for the theme as an image file labeled screenshot.png.

2. Add the headers and scripts.

In style.css you will need to add the header specific to your parent theme or framework as well as a little info about your theme. Any CSS you want to add goes below the header. Here’s an example:

Theme Name: Twenty Fifteen Child
Theme URI: http://example.com/twenty-fifteen-child/
Description: Twenty Fifteen Child Theme
Author: John Doe
Author URI: http://example.com
Template: twentyfifteen
Version: 1.0.0
License: GNU General Public License v2 or later
License URI: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html
Tags: light, dark, two-columns, right-sidebar, responsive-layout, accessibility-ready
Text Domain: twenty-fifteen-child

In the functions.php file, you will need the php script to enqueue the parent theme’s styles. For example:

function my_theme_enqueue_styles() {

$parent_style = ‘parent-style’; // This is ‘twentyfifteen-style’ for the Twenty Fifteen theme.

wp_enqueue_style( $parent_style, get_template_directory_uri() . ‘/style.css’ );
wp_enqueue_style( ‘child-style’,
get_stylesheet_directory_uri() . ‘/style.css’,
array( $parent_style ),
add_action( ‘wp_enqueue_scripts’, ‘my_theme_enqueue_styles’ );

3. Zip the file and install.

Then you just send the folder to a zipped file and you can upload it to your WordPress themes and Activate it. Remember that you will have to have the parent theme uploaded (but not activated) for it to work.

Final Thoughts on Frameworks

Here at Rainbow WP, we use frameworks for pretty much all of our projects. We really don’t see a need to reinvent the wheel. At this time, our job is to design and develop unique websites, so that is what we focus on. If we ever do decide to build our own theme from the ground up, we’d like to hope we could develop it into something others would want to use as their framework. At that point, our focus would be to continue developing, updating, and improving that framework.

If you’re just getting started with WordPress, using a popular theme as your framework is a great way to learn new things and to improve your process. It’s especially useful if you plan to start your own freelance services or design business. If you’ve been around for a while, you probably already know exactly what I’m talking about.

Watch out for future articles where we discuss how to implement each of these frameworks into your own designs.

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