I’m a big fan of WordPress, in fact I haven’t built a web platform with anything but WordPress in the last 5 years. Need an e-commerce website? You can do it with WordPress. Need a Craigslist type classifieds website? WordPress is there for you again.
With that being said not all WordPress websites are created equal and that is often because of the theme framework used by the website operator.
WHAT IS A WORDPRESS FRAMEWORK
If you are unfamiliar with WordPress frameworks in the most simply of terms they are barebone themes that are optimized for SEO, page load and other optimization purposes.
Several of the most popular WordPress frameworks include the awesome Genesis Theme and the equally cool Thematic framework.
Users choosing a framework should keep in mind that too many changes to the framework can hurt optimization. I tell clients that they should use the custom.css (or equally similar section) to change the look of their websites output without changing the actual structure of its templates.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FRAMEWORK
A good framework is one that is supported by a developer and constantly updated. For example, the team at Genesis is constantly following WordPress development work and updating the framework and its child themes (themes that go along with a framework) to match best practices.
Understand what it will cost to maintain the theme. Many frameworks come with one-year of full support and upgrades at which time you must pay additional fees to continue receiving updates. I actually encourage these frameworks because it means the developer has good reason to keep updating the themes they create.
I often build websites for clients and then find out at a later time that they are frustrated with the difficulty they are having in changing basic elements. Most often a client wants to change a background color or the width of their header or article body section.
A well thought out WordPress framework makes these changes easy. Oftentimes a devoted area within the WordPress admin section will allow users to input color changes, add new columns and complete other simple template changes with very little effort and zero amount of coding.
While a WordPress framework might not be for everyone they are used by some of the webs largest websites. If nothing else frameworks offer a nice starting point that can allow for the flexibility needed to create something really unique and special without a degree in design.
John Mackenzie is a web designer who offers working tips to improve web design. He specializes in full WordPress theme development and server optimization. You can find more information about proper web designing at Designermag.org.