When it comes to building WordPress themes and sites, there are several ways to go. You can write the entire code from scratch yourself, customize a ready-made theme or rely on a WordPress theme framework.
What Are WordPress Theme Frameworks?
Some WordPress themes are built from scratch with the developer starting from a base theme and coding everything specific to the WordPress site n question. Other themes are more generic and feature "building blocks" which can then be customised for many different WordPress websites. These are known as WordPress Theme Frameworks.
In general, these frameworks are best described as the foundation for a WordPress theme. Typically, the framework will contain the core code, covering the basic features and design elements. The framework is then used as a starting point when a new theme is created. New features and design elements are added to the framework to create the finished product.
With that said, here is a list of the top 12 free WordPress theme frameworks that power WordPress themes.
Beans is an incredibly powerful and flexible WordPress theme, yet light weight and unbelievably fast. The magic is under the hood!
Whether you want to use Beans as the foundation for your own bespoke WordPress website design or choose from one of the child themes available for this framework, Beans is a flexible option that includes some useful features and properties.
Beans looks beautiful on all devices. Not only does the content resize appropriately, Beans also creates, caches and serves images best suited to the device your website is viewed on.
Search engines love sites that are lightweight, coded semantically and fast loading. Sites built with Beans won't be lonely on page 50's of Googles search results. Write good content and let Beans take your website to the first page on google.
Unyson has been created by the popular ThemeFuse team and is a free plugin that has all the features and components of the best WordPress theme frameworks.
Unyson comes with a full fledged drag & drop page builder for you to use and let your users create countless pages using the content and media shortcodes.
With options you can easy create tabs, boxes and form inputs for admin pages. We've created more than 20 option types for you to use to implementing your Unyson theme.
Unyson also features unlimited sidebars, sliders, mega menus, automatic backups and Advanced SEO Options.
Gantry is a free framework from RocketTheme which is available for both WordPress and Joomla. The WordPress version consists of a both a plugin and theme which must both be installed on your site.
Gantry 5 has a powerful and easy to use Layout Manager that ensures controlling layout is a highly visual experience.
One of the primary goals behind Gantry 5's development has been to make it easier for non-developers to get a lot more done without ever having to open a single code editor or directly alter any files.
Wonderflux allows you to rapidly develop highly sophisticated, custom WordPress themes that adapt to any screen size on any device. Wonderflux is primarily aimed at developers skilled in coding, rather than the drag and drop interface of some of the other WordPress theme frameworks.
Wonderflux supports all the latest and greatest WordPress functionality to deliver unparalleled design opportunities for both new and experienced designers. It's a solid, easy to update, flexible platform you can use for any WordPress website.
Reverie Framework is an extremely versatile HTML5 WordPress framework based on ZURB's Foundation, a powerful tool for building prototypes on any kind of devices.
Reverie Framework inherits all the cool features from Foundation, and packs with several other interesting features to optimize the experience for WordPress and HTML5. Including customized output for WordPress menus, caption and pagination.
Reverie was built with minimalism in mind, staying away from feature bloat. The framework offers two widget ares and two custom menus by default.
Built around the latest in Web Standards, Bones is a rock solid foundation to start any WordPress project. Keep what you need, remove what you don't. It's totally up to you.
Taking the Mobile-First approach is the way to go when building a responsive project. So Bones comes ready to roll with a unique Sass setup that serves minimal resources to smaller screens and scales up depending on your viewport.
Bones has been around the block. Everywhere from Smashing Magazine, Mashable, and the Treehouse Show.
Whiteboard includes only core WordPress structure, which keeps it from being bloated and means that you won't have to start each project by removing half of the code. Features include multi-lingual compatibility, the Less Framework and CSS3, HTML5, and it is lightweight.
PressWork is an HTML5 WordPress theme framework that features a front-end drag and drop editor. You can style any theme without touching any code by using the drag and drop editor. It also includes media queries for responsive themes.
A powerful, lightweight theme options framework that utilizes the Settings API and Theme Customizer.
The last but not least tool featured in our set is Underscores. Some professionals, refer to it as a framework, while others called it a starter theme. Regardless of the name you choose to define Underscores, it will largely facilitate your web development efforts.
Underscores is an ultra-minimal theme with just the bare essentials. It may look sparce at first, but that just means less stuff to get in your way when you're designing your awesome theme.