What’s the difference between a WordPress theme and a WordPress Framework?
They might sound similar, but they couldn’t be more different. And while it’s a common mix up – it’s important to know why they’re different and why you might want to choose a wordpress framework over a wordpress theme.
Here’s the simple breakdown
A WordPress Theme is entirely self contained – the code, the design and everything that makes your site is contained within one theme file. This is convenient, but very difficult to deal with if you ever want to change your site look, feel and functionality down the road.
A WordPress Framework is similar, but quite different. A framework approach to wordpress splits up the duties of a theme. Within a framework, you have the actual framework that takes care of a lot of functionality and code execution part of wordpress. Then, there are “child themes” that lay on top of the framework to handle the look & feel of the site. This is a “layered” approached rather than an all-in-one approach that traditional “themes” take.
How a WordPress Themes Works
WordPress => WordPress Theme
How a WordPress Framework Works
WordPress => WordPress Framework => Framework Child Theme
We like the StuidoPress explanation..
What this does is split out the two functions of WordPress – function and design. Where most themes mush them together – a framework splits these out – so you can modify the framework without changing the design and change the design without editing the framework.
To use an analogy – the framework is the walls of your home. The child theme is the posters, decorations and paint.
For most themes, if you want to change how the walls look, you have to tear down the whole house and build it again from scratch. With a framework, you just have to take down the posters and put up a different one.
Good – you can get started with a framework here.
If not – you can read on for even more awesome benefits of a wordpress framework.
The Benefits of a WordPress Framework
Ever updated your wordpress software and screwed up something in your theme? Something gets changed, overwritten or just straight up messed up.
With a normal theme – you just have to roll with it. If a new version of wordpress overwrites something in your code – you have to go in and manually fix it. Not so with wordpress frameworks.
The best part about using a framework is that it future proofs you. You can update wordpress and the framework will update as well. It puts a “buffer” layer between the software side of wordpress and how your site actually looks & functions.
This is HUUUUUGE because it can save you massive headaches while staying up to date with the latest wordpress software – which is vital both for performance and security (so you don’t get hacked!)
Again, with a theme you found on the internet, you never know hat you’re going to get. While there are some plugins that help with SEO, a good framework will give you the start you need.
If your code isn’t clean & easy to read, Google is gonna say bye-bye to you and your content quick! That means no rankings, no traffic and no readers. Boo 🙁
A good framework means good SEO. Many frameworks (specifically Genesis), come with built in options for submitting your site to google webmaster tools and getting your site indexed more effectively as well as changing post title + descriptions as they show up in Google’s results.
This is a MUST and without a framework to lay the groundwork – you never know what you’re going to get with a wordpress theme off the internet.
Quality Control & Great Child Themes
The cool thing about working with a great framework like Genesis is that you know that you’re getting quality code to layer on top of WordPress.
The genesis framework is rock solid – and even if you’re not using it – each framework (if you choose a different one) has a reputation to live up to. This is WAY better than just picking up some random theme off the internet.
On top of that – each framework creates it’s own child theme ecosystem that live up to those standards. This means that you can find a great look to your site (the theme) while having rock solid code to back it up (the framework).
Many wordpress themes are pretty hard to edit or change. You have to pop into the actual code of the site and you can many times break your site without trying very hard.
Changing Themes Is Simple
If you get a theme from a standard place like Envato or somewhere else, not only do you not know the code quality, but if you decide to change the theme in the future – you might have to change a ton of other stuff too! Analytics, tracking scripts, widget placements, page types & templates. All sorts of stuff.
With frameworks – all of that is handled at the framework level – so you can change the look & feel of your site with child themes all you want, but since the analytics & page templates are mostly handled on the framework side of things – you won’t have to completely overhaul each section of your site each time you change child themes.
So there you go – the difference between themes and frameworks in a nutshell
If you want to get started, we highly recommend the Genesis Framework to get started – along with some of our favorite Genesis child themes.
You can also see our complete list of wordpress frameworks here as well.