It seems like every month there’s a new framework template system for WordPress getting some buzz. There’s a reason people are excited about frameworks with WordPress: they are more than just a theme (themes essentially are just a way to display the basic WordPress functions with a particular “look”). WordPress frameworks add their own set of special functions in separate files alongside the WordPress core functions, and call them from within WordPress using the custom_functions file. This makes framework templates much more flexible for anyone wanting to use WordPress as a CMS rather than a blog only.
These frameworks mostly involve adding new ‘hooks’ that can be used for innovative customisation outside the areas already covered by the default WordPress ‘hooks’. Depending on the framework, you either need to know how to manipulate these hooks directly, or it can be much easier if the development team has included a custom admin interface accessed from the WordPress Dashboard. There are also several framework-specific plugins that help make manipulating the framework hooks much simpler.
I’ve become increasingly interested in how these frameworks operate, and what each of the designers is doing with them. It seemed like the more CSS, XHTML and PHP I learnt, the more I wanted to be able to tweak things, and the problem with tweaking normal themes is that they are often coded so quirkily that it’s easy to break something unexpectedly. These themes based on improved frameworks are meant to be more robust because of the way that the frameworks are coded with customisation hooks built in right from the basement, as it were.
I’ve played around with three of these framework templates recently: