The Concept of Child Themes

WordPress, by default, supports child themes. Child themes look exactly like their parent themes, unless you make modifications to them. Child themes inherit all the templates, functions, and CSS of parent themes. This compartmentalizes variations so that you can make changes without affecting the integrity of the parent theme.

A child theme is usually contained in a folder having a styles.css (required) and afunctions.php file. functions.php is not mandatory, but you will need it if you want to include some custom functions on top of your parent theme (which, in this scenario, is the WordPress theme framework). Both the child theme and parent theme folders will be in the themes directory of your WordPress installation.

You can override the inherited traits from its parent by modifying its own styles.css andfunctions.php files.

Here is how you declare a child theme (this goes inside styles.css, at the top).

/*  
Theme Name: Child Theme
Theme URI: http://sixrevisions.com
Description: A child theme description.
Author: Saad Bassi
Author URI: http://addictivefonts.com/
Template: My Framework (e.g thematic or Hybrid)
Version: 1.0
Tags: theme
*/

The Template attribute above instructs the WordPress core to inherit all the templates of “My Framework,” which is the name of the parent theme in our hypothetical scenario.

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Why Use a Framework?

In a web developer’s life, a framework helps the speed of production. Much like JavaScript frameworks like MooTools or jQuery, CSS frameworks like the 960 Grid System, or server-side scripting frameworks like Ruby on Rails or CakePHP, WordPress theme frameworks achieve the same sort of efficiency, reduction of errors through cross-browser compatibility, and the provision of useful and common functions.

Let’s draw out the pros and cons of using WordPress theme frameworks.

Pros

  • Time savings
  • Easier development
  • Support via communities built around the WordPress theme frameworks
  • Typically has optimized CSS, HTML, PHP functions, and SEO
  • Typically has code that’s written with WordPress standards and best practices
  • Ease of updating for future releases of WordPress

Cons

A disadvantage of using frameworks is at the beginning, where there is always going to be a learning curve as you adopt new stuff to your development workflow. Though the learning time is relatively short compared to, for example, a new server-side scripting language, you will still have to account for this time when considering the use of WordPress theme frameworks.

However, the best way to look at using any web development framework is that it will be a long-term investment. The time you spend learning the technology at the start pays off in the end in terms of development speed and efficiency.

Another possible disadvantage is that themes built on top of frameworks, depending on the skill of the web developer, could be slower in performance than building themes from scratch, since all frameworks, not just WordPress theme frameworks, provide an additional abstraction layer.

WordPress Framework Features

WordPress functionality has come a long way since the launch of the popular CMS. On top of content, many people want the coding aspects of a site to be more accessible through the WordPress backend. This includes stylesheet modifications, easy ways to change a site background, SEO, CSS3 font replacement, javascript insertion, and more.

A WordPress framework can bring in some advanced features and functionality that can help your website succeed by improving user interactions, providing better customization, and making administration easier.

The first thing I will explain is what a framework is. Instead of being the core WordPress engine (the CMS itself), a framework is everything that the CMS does not include in its fundamental functionality.

A framework works with Child Themes, meaning the themes support the added functionality of the framework. Child themes are super-charged templates with tonnes of features. This can include the dynamic capabilities of choosing where site advertisements will show up, whether or not to output a sidebar for a page, or initializing the 960 grid system. Any theme can be turned into a child theme just by using the functions in the framework.

1) SEO and Tracking Codes

Fine-tune the meta keywords, descriptions, and titles through the backend. There’s also an input box for placing tracking codes (Google Analytics, Woopra, Clicktale, etc) and any custom javascript to be placed in the header.

2) Background changer & text color

A fully featured color select tool along with on-the-fly background image changer.

3) Importable child themes

Import different child themes that you or your friends create, or find different child themes on the internet.

4) Built-in Related Posts detection

The framework detects related posts and outputs links to them to increase page hits and decrease bounce rate.

5) Google Font API Integration

Allows you to take advantage of the Google font API to give you the flexibility of typographic selection.

6) Easy Advertising

Define where you want your advertisements to be placed on the page and what to display.

7)  Title / Logo Switcher

Easily replace the title with a logo of your choice, and choose where to output it.

8) Add icons to Navigation for Social Media, RSS, etc

Add icons of whatever you want to your theme, and easily add or remove more.

9) Bottom Widget Support

Include widgets at the bottom of your pages, change it’s background color, padding, or sharing styles with other site elements.

The features of a framework don’t end. There’s footer text changing, Custom CSS entry, Container width changer, Navigation bar customization, search bar location changer, and more.

7 WordPress Theme Frameworks I work

ThemeHybrid

ThemeHybrid is free, but to get support on its forums, you need to sign up for an Exclusive Membership to their Theme Club, which is $25 per year.

ThemeHybrid has many child themes available for download on its website, which you can use to give your WordPress installation a new look without much coding. ThemeHybrid comes with plenty of WordPress widgets and page templates. While many people say that frameworks are bloated and slow, ThemeHybrid will change their mind as it is lightning fast and optimized for high performance.

By: Justin Tadlock

http://themehybrid.com/

Thematic

Thematic is a theme framework by WordPress theme developer, Ian Stewart. Thematic is completely free; from forums to child themes, everything is free!

Thematic has 13 widget areas that are more than enough for most of your needs. With the WordPress theme framework’s many filters and actions, you can customize your child theme in any way that you want. Its out-of-the-box simple and clean look can even be used without any aesthetical modifications–and it will still look great.

By: Ian Stewart

http://themeshaper.com/

Canvas

Canvas is a premium theme framework from WooThemes. As to be expected with any WooThemes product, it has a huge number of options and customization features.

You can style each element of Canvas differently from its Theme Options panel. The theme framework supports child themes and also has 5 built-in page templates for your home page, including a magazine-style layout and a business site template. Canvas also supports 6 CSS layouts for your blog and even provides you an option for choosing distinctive layouts for each post and page.

By: woothemes

http://www.woothemes.com

Genesis

Genesis is a premium theme framework that was built by StudioPress. Genesis has a child theme marketplace where you can buy all additional child themes.

Genesis has native support for search engine optimization (which it focuses on). You can set all the options in the Genesis backend panel, just like with most good WordPress theme frameworks. Genesis gives you the option to select separate layouts for each post and page. Genesis is intended for developers, as opposed to designers, because you will have to learn its hooks and filters before getting started with it, and thus, will need some coding proficiency.

By: http://www.studiopress.com

http://www.studiopress.com/themes/genesis

Elemental

Elemental is a product of ProThemeDesign.

One of its unique features is that it comes bundled with an admin menu bar that stays on top of your WordPress web pages if you are logged in. The admin menu bar allows you to go to the most common places inside the WordPress admin dashboard. The framework comes with 12 page templates and 7 custom widgets by default.

By: http://prothemedesign.com

http://prothemedesign.com/themes/elemental/

Siwsh

Feature – Community Magazine Theme
Photox – Photography Portfolio
Gridler – Portfolio & Blogging
Converse – News & Magazine
Horizon – Coporate & Business

http://swishthemes.com/

 

Templatic Framework