So you’re ready to design your own WordPress theme, eh? You’ve got some CSS skills under your belt, and it’s time to put them to good use.
If you’re just starting out, it’s highly advisable that you pick a good theme framework, and build your own child theme on top of it. These are the key advantages that a child theme offers:
- You’re not developing a new theme from scratch, you’re simply expanding on an existing theme that you already know works well
- You can change as much or as little of the parent theme as you want. As your skills develop, you can get more adventurous
- You don’t need to know any PHP – a child theme can be created with nothing more than a stylesheet written in CSS
- All of your tweaks and changes are isolated in the child theme, meaning that the parent theme can be updated and you won’t lose any of your work
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I should note that there’s a bit of confusion out there in the WordPress universe when it comes to describing frameworks, parent themes, child themes and so on. The terms ‘framework’ and ‘parent theme’ are often used interchangeably, although some folk contest that this isn’t accurate. Justin Tadlock has written an interesting article on the subject.
In any case, for the purposes of this article, when we talk about a WordPress theme framework, we’re referring to a theme that:
- Can be installed on your WordPress site and used “out of the box”, without any further development, and . . .
- has been optimized to serve as a foundation for child theme development
Essentially, what you’re looking for in a framework is a solidly-built parent theme with lots of functionality, packaged in a ‘blank canvas’ design that you can add your own CSS to (via your child theme).
Some good quality (and free) themes frameworks worth considering
If you want to part ways with a small chunk of cash (anywhere from $50 to $200+), there are plenty of amazing premium frameworks on the market. But don’t get sucked in by all the hype and assume that these are your only serious option. WordPress always offers you a free alternative. These are six WordPress theme frameworks that you can download right now, 100% GRATIS.
(All of these are available in the WordPress Free Themes Directory, so you can rest assured that they’re legitimate quality.)