Theme Frameworks

What’s the next big thing in themes right now? Theme frameworks. Everyone is doing it. WooThemes has their own core framework, StudioPress has Genesis, now MojoThemes has partnered with Themify to use that as their own in-house framework. Plus there’s themes that can be used as frameworks all over the place, from Builder to Justin Tadlock‘s Hybrid to WordPress’ own Twentyten.

What’s the big deal with frameworks?

Frameworks make a theme designer’s job easier — even an armchair one who just wants to recolor the background and add a couple fonts.  They also make it infinitely easier to maintain a bunch of themes.  Think about it: you’re a theme developer and you have written a handful of themes.  Which is easier to maintain?  Six individual themes, or a single theme framework upon which all of those themes are based?  The answer is simple: it’s much easier to deal with a single framework and only have to tweak the individual themes if there’s a specific bug or feature enhancement.  And the WordPress API makes it easy to take a function built into your framework of choice — or even WordPress itself — and change the behavior of it, tweaking it to the particular needs of the theme you’re designing.

This is a concept we’ve been playing around with for a while, trying to figure out how to build a model out of it.  Up to now, all of our themes have been loosely based on the free AP-Blueprint theme framework we built and maintain here.  Each theme starts with that framework and evolves from there.  That gives us  good starting point for coding, but it doesn’t solve the problem with having to maintain half a dozen or more individual themes.  There’s got to be a better way, right?

Here’s the plan…

This is the idea I came up with the other night: we do the theme framework thing.  We build a single theme framework upon which all of our themes will be based.  We adapt all the current themes we have to use this single theme framework as child themes.

Then we make the framework completely free.  Ideally, we get it added to the official WordPress theme repository.

If you want to use our framework to build your own themes, or even start your own business: go for it.  Once we get it added to the repository, you’ll benefit from automatic updates and the knowledge that the framework meets WordPress’ high quality standards.  All of our themes will stay the same, simply enhanced by a core framework that can be regularly updated.  Not only that, but having a single framework and building all of our themes as child themes means that we can design new themes much faster.

Win-win, right?  You may applaud politely now.

So when’s the switch?

I’m currently mulling over a new theme design that will hopefully be ready in the next month or so.  Said new theme design will be the first to be built entirely on the new theme framework.  Once that’s done, I’ll start porting over the other themes to use the framework.  The framework will most likely be a modification of the AP-Blueprint theme but will be able to be used as a standalone theme if you so desire.

I won’t say anything about what the new theme design will be, but I will say this: it rhymes with Mean Crunk.