Why WordPress Theme Frameworks Suck

This is a teaser for an article we are writing for a highly-visible WordPress blog about why we do not use WordPress theme frameworks anymore.  We want to hear your thoughts before we finish the article.

We have built hundreds of custom WordPress sites over the past five years, many of which have used different theme frameworks (Hybrid, Genesis, and Thesis to name a few).   Overall, our experience with theme frameworks has been poor.

The general gist is that theme frameworks are great for people who know nothing-to-little about code, but they can make life hell for developers.  I am not saying that theme frameworks ALWAYS make life hell for developers – they don’t.  But they don’t help.

The theme frameworks themselves are not necessarily to blame.  Rather it is the inconsistent way that they are coded – example, the hook to edit something in Thesis works differently from the similar hook in Genesis.

If there was a consistent model across frameworks, I wouldn’t be so upset.  But there isn’t.  It’s the wild wild west out there.

We have a hundred other reasons for deciding to forego the use of frameworks that we will be outlining in our forthcoming article.  Until then, I am wondering what you think.

  • Do you use a framework?
  • What is your coding skill level?
  • What are the good things and the bad things about frameworks that you have experienced?
  • What has your overall experience with frameworks been?
Perhaps you will influence our article.  Perhaps not.  🙂


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Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO, expert WordPress consultant, and teacher.

He offers free advice to improve your freelance biz.

He also publishes small droppings every now and then to twitter.com/tobycryns and twitter.com/themightymo

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  1. Rob McGuire on July 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve used Thesis many times as the framework to build a site, and overall I’d say the experience has been OK. I would classify myself as an intermediate coder (always improving, always learning).

    The good things I’ve experienced with using Thesis is that it is a nice foundation to start with as long as the site doesn’t get too complex. The bad things are that Thesis has its own way of doing some things that are different from other themes or frameworks (like you mentioned).

    If I’m building a site that contains a lot of custom features or programming, I usually opt to just build that theme from scratch.

  2. Erica Mauter on July 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Just saw this comment on this very topic:

    “I see the appeal but hate the way these paid themes make information and support private and basically fork WordPress to make it proprietary.”


  3. Erica Mauter on July 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Personally, I’m not a developer by any stretch, but I like to think of myself as a quasi-power-user who’s not afraid to tweak things. So as long as I’m only managing my own sites, a theme framework is actually really helpful. It does a lot of the heavy lifting for me as far as features I want and I have the option and support to tweak further. Frankly, given the amount of time I have in my life, I would never get around to fully implementing some of these features if I had to figure them out myself.

  4. Sarah Kimmel {Tech4Moms} on July 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    YES! I absolutely hate working with frameworks. I do not use them myself, but I work with a lot of clients who do.

    My coding skill level is high

    Good things are all on the end user side. Pretty interface to change stuff and not know a thing about code. Bad things are all on a coders side for exactly the same reasons you state, it’s almost impossible to find the right function to edit to get the results you are looking for.

    So yes, frameworks are a pain for coders, but for end users I see the benefit.

  5. Liz on July 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I was just complaining about this! https://plus.google.com/#111164228693257897305/posts/KSeGEk6xxah

    It’s very annoying that the different framework hooks work differently. My company supports thousands of WordPress users, and are facing this problem.

  6. charles on July 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I have looked at the various WordPress frameworks and have found that it adds a greater layer of abstraction to what I think is already bloated in WordPress itself.

    WordPress, and Joomla, in my opinion is user but not developer friendly. It is not really designed to be modified to any great degree.

    Sometimes I feel like I could build a solution from scratch faster than trying to figure out how and where to hook it in with WordPress.

    One wish would be that there was more developer documentation that focuses on the technical side. Joomla for instance has a class hierarchy tree, and Zend Framework has everything clearly broken down into structured and separate code.

    I am an intermediate programmer with skills first developed in Filemaker, then progressed into Postgres, MySQL, PHP, Joomla, WordPress and the Zend Framework.

    My website is nothing spectacular at the moment but my sandbox test server is beginning to take shape and will be unveiled late August.

    That’s just my two cents worth. Hope it helps.