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The Good And The Bad About Working With Theme Frameworks

I’ve been working a lot with WordPress Theme Frameworks lately, most notably Genesis, Thematic and Hybrid, when developing themes. Well, child themes really. There are many reasons why working with child themes is a good way to start developing, but there are also some drawbacks. For me the good weighs out the bad in general, but there are situations where the old straight forward theme development method is just plain faster.

The Good

Building with child themes has a lot of powerful advantages. My favorite are:

  • Development Speed: Having an already working theme as a parent theme, a theme that already has been looked at from a lot of different angels as to what it should be able to do, and already some basic styling in place makes it a lot easier to quickly make some changes via the child theme style sheet.
  • Lots of options: Most Theme Frameworks I know have a lot of options built in. I’m not talking about having a lot of buttons and checkboxes added necessarily, but more-so a robust framework with lots of nifty PHP functions and CSS specificity options to configure.
  • Great communities behind the frameworks Any of the three Theme Frameworks I mentioned earlier make working with their specific Parent Theme so great because there’s is a great community behind it, not afraid to share inventive solutions and best practices.
  • Future Proof Working with a Parent Theme that is in constant state of development also makes it very easy to stay up to date and incorporate all the latest WordPress goodies. For example the stuff that WordPress 3.0 brings to the table.

The Bad

Like I said before, there are some disadvantages on using a Theme Frameworks such as:

  • Bloat: When you’re only creating a small, pretty straight forward site, a lot of the theme functions added by the Parent Theme’s library could be considered bloat en thus not creating a lean and mean theme, which I know you all care about.
  • Forced Direction When creating a child theme you sort of get dictated (and I use that term very loosely) to make heavy use of your functions.php and wrapping your head around filters and hooks can be daunting if diving into PHP isn’t your thing. It may seem redundant to duplicate and and all theme files into your child theme if that’s what you need to do.
  • Learning Curve There is a bit of a learning curve when working with child theme for the first time. Your basic level of PHP and CSS won’t do, you need to step up and start learning.

Why Use Them Anyway?

For me personally, I’m all about options. I love working with a WordPress Theme Framework that allows me to have a very high level of control over how specific I want to be in what I want my theme to output. I don’t mind the learning, in fact I love learning, and when you know your way around the forums you’ll be able to either find what you were looking for or get a working answer of your fellow developers. Plus, having a Parent Theme that is continuously updated is big plus for me.

Have you ever worked with or considered working with child themes when developing on a theme? And if so, do you favor either GenesisWP, Thematic or Hybrid over the other (or any other WordPress Theme Framework for that matter)?