Menu Search
Jump to the content X X
Smashing Conf Barcelona 2016

We use ad-blockers as well, you know. We gotta keep those servers running though. Did you know that we publish useful books and run friendly conferences — crafted for pros like yourself? E.g. upcoming SmashingConf Barcelona, dedicated to smart front-end techniques and design patterns.

WordPress Theme Development Frameworks

If you build and develop WordPress themes often, you will probably be fed up of all the repetitive code writing, the constantly checking of your mark-up and all you really want to do is focus on the design and the project-specific features. The answer is a WordPress development framework. A framework is designed to speed up the process of designing and coding a WordPress theme by minimizing your time, and balancing your patience, on WordPress’ back-end code that is repeated within every theme.

This post is not about finding the best framework, it is about finding the right framework that works for you. If you are an experienced developer then you will probably go for the powerful and feature rich Thematic or Carrington, or if you are a novice, you could try the Whiteboard framework or , even easier, download a stripped out and bare bones blank canvas theme, which you will find at the bottom of the post.

Which would you use?

Thematic – WP Framework Link

Wordpress Framework1

Thematic2 is a highly polished WordPress Theme Framework that is built upon the At first glance, its backend may look daunting and complex, but you will soon realise just how well organised it is and easy to use. Its power is based upon its flexibility and its simple customisation, you would be very hard pushed to find a project you couldn’t use the Thematic WP Framework for.

Thematic Features Link

  • Optional 2 or 3 column layouts.
  • Up to 13 widget ready areas.
  • Modular CSS with pre-packaged resets and basic typography.
  • Fully Search-Engine Optimized.
  • Can be used as it is, or as a blank WordPress theme.
  • Dynamic post and body classes make it a hyper-canvas for CSS artists.
  • Options for multi-author blogs.
  • Great support available from the customisation guide and forums.
  • Child Themes are available for upgrading the theme.

Thematic (child) Themes Link

Thematic uses Child Themes, these are essentially stripped down versions of a full WP theme, that needs the Thematic Framework for functionality. Upon download, Thematic comes packaged with a basic child theme, but you can download many more from the Thematic homepage. Download Thematic Child Themes8.

Below, you will find a small selection of themes available for Thematic.

Acamas Child Theme9

Wordpress Framework10

Second to None Child Theme

Wordpress Framework

Gallery Child Theme11

Wordpress Framework12

Boumatic Child Theme13

Wordpress Framework14

Aether for all Child Theme

Wordpress Framework

To activate a new Child Theme, all you have to do is rename and move the entire folder to the root level of wp-content/themes alongside Thematic and activate the new Thematic Child Theme like any other WordPress theme.

Carrington – The CMS Theme Framework Link

Wordpress Framework15

Being by far the most powerful of all WP frameworks, Carrington16 was built with both developers and end-users in mind, it truly is the complete WordPress package. Upon download, the first time user may be put off by its undoubted complexity and its endless features and options, but don’t be put off. You must persevere with this framework, and when you learn all the ins and outs (with help from its in-depth documentation and forums) you will receive your just rewards, you will see how beneficial, rewarding and time saving Carrington can be. As the tagline goes, it may just be the best thing since you the wheel and sliced bread.

Carrington Features Link

  • Flexible and powerful templating system.
  • Rich, semantic markup.
  • Four ready built themes.
  • Stylish typography.
  • Threaded comments.
  • Page and category navigation menus.
  • AJAX loading of posts in archive lists.
  • AJAX loading of comments.

Carrington Official Themes Link

Carrington Blog
Carrington Blog is an elegant blog-style theme with advanced features like AJAX loading of content, customizable colors and header images, easy addition of analytics code, widgetized sidebars, stylish gallery features, and more. It is designed for bloggers looking for an “out of the box” experience.

Wordpress Framework

Carrington Text
Carrington Text embraces simplicity with this elegant design. Text and content is the focus here – let your content take center stage.

Wordpress Framework

Carrington Mobile
Carrington Mobile is an elegant mobile theme with that supports advanced touch browsers (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) and is also backward compatible with older mobile devices.

Wordpress Framework

Carrington Jam
Carrington JAM is a bare-bones theme skeleton. It is intended for developers and designers as a starting point for building a new theme, it is not designed for end-users looking for a blog theme that is ready to go.

Theme Hybrid Link

Wordpress Framework19

Theme Hybrid is WordPress Framework developed by Justin Tadlock. As with all Justin’s’ WordPress themes (the excellent Options theme), you know that you are getting a very powerful and versatile backend, but still very easy to use and develop upon. Theme hybrid truly is built with simplicity and power in mind.

The theme club has two types of membership, free and exclusive. Free members can download and use the themes for free and participate in the forums. For $25 you can join the exclusive club, which gives you access to tutorials and you are able to post questions on the support forums.

Theme Hybrid Features Link

  • Advanced action and filter hooks.
  • Child theme support.
  • Each individual child theme is in its self choc-full of features.
  • Search-Engine Optimized.
  • 14 custom page templates.
  • 9 widget-ready areas.
  • Advanced breadcrumb menu.
  • Support for attachment pages.
  • Of course, it has valid code.
  • Threaded comments.
  • Great support, lots of tutorials and forums.

Theme Hybrid Child Themes Link

For all of these themes to work, you will need Hybrid installed first.

Hybrid is a user-friendly, search-engine optimized theme framework, featuring 14 custom page templates and 9 widget-ready areas.

Wordpress Framework25

Life Collage
A purely blogging theme, it has extra widget sections, drop-down menus, with a sleek design.

Wordpress Framework

Hybrid News
This is a free News/Magazine theme, it has extra widget sections, double navigation menus, drop-down menus and a featured post slider.

Wordpress Framework

This theme is clean and spacious, ideal for large images and large posts.

Wordpress Framework

Old School
Old School is versatile enough to be used as either a blog or a magazine/news site, great design as well.

Wordpress Framework

WP Framework Link

Wordpress Framework

WP Framework is a great starting point when first learning about the WordPresses structure and first stepping into theme development as well as for the experienced user for quick development. Under the hood its foundation it is very solid, and this framework will cut down on your theme development time and allow you to focus directly and from the off on project-specific features. WP Framework is completely extensible, flexible and the starting point for theme authoring and customization.

  • WP Framework Homepage.
  • WP Framework Getting Started Guide.
  • WP Framework Forums.
  • WP Framework Downloads.

WP Framework Features Link

  • Microformats Compatabile.
  • Search Engine Optimized.
  • Modular CSS includes reset.css, base.css and screen.css.
  • Gravatar enabled.
  • Favicon & iPhone webclip placeholder images.
  • jQuery enabled and screen.js.
  • Basic print.css stylesheet ready for direct printing.

Buffet Theme Framework Link

Wordpress Framework26

The Buffet Framework27 is a WordPress theme framework designed not only for the theme developers who will be using the theme actions and filters to create child themes, but also for the end users who would be able to add and remove what they want. Like most WordPress theme frameworks, the Buffet Framework utilises WordPress actions and filters to allow theme developers to add additional content without editing the templates files using the child theme concept.

Buffet Theme Features Link

  • Search Engine Optimised.
  • Support for Microformats.
  • jQuery powered comments form, SuperSleight for IE6, Superfish menus and jBreadcrumbs included.
  • Packaged with 960gs and Blueprint CSS.
  • Action & Filter Hooks
  • Allow end-users to enable/disable features using the extensions feature.
  • Localization – fully localized, ready for translation.

Buffet Theme Demo Link

Buffet Theme31

Wordpress Framework32

Whiteboard – WP Theme Framework Link

Wordpress Framework

Whiteboard will never be as powerful as the Carrington framework or the Buffet framework, it has been developed for simpler development requirements. Simply, it has been designed to speed up the process of designing and coding a WordPress theme by eliminating the time spent on WordPress’ back-end PHP that is repeatedly used in every theme. It is clean, noted, and very small, weighing in at 76kb, its amazingly compact.

  • Whiteboard Theme Homepage.
  • Download Whiteboard Theme.

Thesis Theme Link

Wordpress Framework33

The Thesis Theme is a framework that has been built with great typography, a dynamically resizable layout, intelligent code, airtight optimization, and with lots of flexibility that make it versatile enough for most projects. Have a look at this video review of Thesis 1.5.

The WordPress Starter Theme Project Link

Wordpress Framework37

Similar in idea as the Whiteboard framework, The WordPress Starter Theme Project38 was developed for those who hate repeatedly doing the same actions every time you start a new WordPress project. This is a very easy to use framework, which is ideal for the novice to learn the basics of WordPress structure.

Ashford WP Framework Link

Wordpress Framework

Ashford has been built to be as simple as possible to use, it is also packed with many useful and powerful features. You can create and edit content with Adminbar, Hints and Admin-In-Place, choose from dozens of page layouts (including a content carousel), content can also be customized using widgets and multiple sidebars and of course all code validates and is fully SEO.

Ashford, like most frameworks, uses child themes, making it even easier to develop with. Unfortunately, child themes for Ashford are as yet limited.

  • Ashford Homepage.
  • Ashford Support.
  • Ashford Blog.

Sandbox Link

Wordpress Framework40

The seemigly ageless Sandbox41, is a useful tool for WordPress theme designers and developers, it can be easily developed solely with CSS, so beginners will feel comfortable not having to worry about PHP. Experienced developers and designers can accomplish almost anything with minimal work, thanks to the rich, semantic markup and profusion of classes dynamically generated by the Sandbox.

The main feature of the Sandbox, and the feature that has made it very popular, is its markup. The class-generating functions included with the Sandbox create an extensible and semantic XHTML structure. Please note, the Sandbox has only been tested up to WP 2.6.

OnePress Community Link

Wordpress Framework44

The OnePress framework45 is an integrated website and forum solution. It is, simply, a WordPress theme to serve as the foundation and framework for your web site and online community. Leveraging both WordPress and phpBB projects, OnePress provides a set of features focused on helping you build and maintain your site from the inside out.

PSD Framework for Creating WordPress Themes Link

If you have ever found yourself reusing elements from previous designs when starting up Photoshop to create yet another WordPress theme, then this PSD download50 is just for you.

Wordpress Framework51

Homepage and PSD Downloads52

Blank WP Themes Link

Blank themes are not a development framework, as such, they are a blank canvas for quickly and painlessly starting a WordPress project. Below you will find the best of them.

Blank WP from Anna Linea
There are six themes within this download package.

Wordpress Framework

Blank WordPress Themes53 from Refueled
There are three themes available, two-column left sidebar, two-column right sidebar and blank three column.

Wordpress Framework54

WordPress Naked Theme from Siftware

Wordpress Framework

Starkers – Blank Canvas WP Theme55 from Elliot Jay Stocks

Wordpress Framework56

You may be interested in the following related posts:

Footnotes Link

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14
  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19
  20. 20
  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
  25. 25
  26. 26
  27. 27
  28. 28
  29. 29
  30. 30
  31. 31
  32. 32
  33. 33
  34. 34
  35. 35
  36. 36
  37. 37
  38. 38
  39. 39
  40. 40
  41. 41
  42. 42
  43. 43
  44. 44
  45. 45
  46. 46
  47. 47
  48. 48
  49. 49
  50. 50
  51. 51
  52. 52
  53. 53
  54. 54
  55. 55
  56. 56
  57. 57
SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf Barcelona, on October 25–26, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.

↑ Back to top Tweet itShare on Facebook


Paul Andrew is a freelance Web designer. He is chief admin for Speckyboy - Design Magazine, a Web design, Web development and graphic design resource blog.

  1. 1

    Amazing that Hybrid framework is missing from that list. It is probably the biggest after Thematic!

  2. 2

    It is still in development, but my free Ashford parent theme framework can be considered.


  3. 3

    Justin Tadlock

    May 27, 2009 9:33 am

    Thanks to the people in the comments that mention my Hybrid theme framework. I’m surprised that it was left out as well.

  4. 4

    You forgot ThemeHibrid. This is what I call poorly done research. #fail

  5. 5

    John Myrstad

    May 27, 2009 10:24 am

    Paul Andrew !!

    I`m surprised that you`re able to list that many frameworks and miss one that should be mentioned on any top 5 framework list.

    Whys isnt Justin Tadlock`s great Hybrid framework included ?

  6. 6

    Lawrence Peddie

    May 27, 2009 6:15 am

    This is great, thanks a lot. I’ve just started doing WordPress themes and have been looking for a framework to help me get through this. This is exactly what I needed!

  7. 7

    abosolutely what i am looking for to improve effectiveness of wp theme design.

  8. 8

    I miss the WordPress Basis Theme from

  9. 9

    These really are great, these frameworks can be a lifesaver when dealing with a client that has really high functionality dreams with a really low budget. Thanks again for the great post.
    Scott Wickberg

  10. 10

    That’s really helpful post for all WP fans,.. thanks for great post, really!

  11. 11

    bit of a whack post smashing. Step your game up.

  12. 12

    Right on time! Developing my first themes. Thanks :D

  13. 13

    Due to my lack of good English speaking, I dont understand what is a “framework”. Is it a kind of program that manages a wordpress stuff, like Dreamweaver with html pages ?

    • 14

      Sumeet Chawla

      June 6, 2010 1:07 pm

      Nope, framework is like a pre-made skeleton of what you are going to make. It just fastens the whole process. For example, if you bake a cake, you would start from the bottom. As in, make the batter, add eggs, baking soda etc. But then again there are ready made cake mixes available out there. With those, all you have to do is, add butter and just bake :) So Ready made cake mixes are like frameworks for Cakes in the similar manner, these are frameworks for baking a wordpress theme ^_^

      *Nice Post Btw*

  14. 15

    Dusan Vlahovic

    May 27, 2009 7:23 am

    Right just when i was about to build my personal theme, thanks!

  15. 16

    Morning Toast

    May 27, 2009 7:27 am

    Thanks for all the resource links, good stuff to try! But this always happens…I spend time tweaking a found theme b/c I don’t want to spend time building my own and *then* I find this article. Back to the drawing board!! ;)

  16. 17

    Helpful summary of the key features of these. Thinking of revisiting Buffet & Carrington, based on their end-user focus.

    I have to concur with #8 (@hd-j) – surprised that Hybrid (as well as Thesis) was conspicuously missing from this list. Also think Alister Cameron’s “vanilla” is worth a mention here as well.

    That said – I still enjoyed the post :-)

  17. 18

    Anton Shevchuk

    May 27, 2009 7:31 am

    Free WordPress Theme/Framework – Constructor –

  18. 19

    Great and very useful. Thanks!

  19. 20

    Juarez P. A. Filho

    May 27, 2009 7:40 am

    Here we go study more WordPress stuffs :) Thanks.

  20. 21

    I have the Carrington Blog on my personal site and it has it’s positives and negatives. First and foremost, it is a great theme. The only part I don’t like is the file structure. It can’t be easily edited in the WP editor so if I want to make changes, I have to go through the process of getting the code, changing it, testing locally, then re-uploading. What a pain.


↑ Back to top