Theme frameworks such as Thesis, Carrington and Frugal have grown in popularity within the last few years. I’ve used Thematic and Theme Hybrid themes for sites of mine in the past and I purchased Headway to help me build mini sites quicker last year too.
Like many WordPress users, it didn’t concern me that the themes I used for my sites were child themes of the Thematic and Theme Hybrid frameworks. The themes were exactly what I was looking for so it didn’t really matter. If the framework helped the designer create the themes then I’m all for it.
However frameworks such as Thesis and Headway are being marketed towards WordPress theme developers and WordPress novices. And I can fully understand why as both of these frameworks allow complete beginners to change many aspects of their design such as the background colour, anchor link colour, website width, tabbed menus and more.
The problem is, it’s very difficult for newbies to customise their blog design beyond these basic modifications, which is why so many novice users end up with a generic theme which you you can spot a mile away. This is in no way criticism of framework themes, I just don’t believe that novices need all the bells and whistles they’re paying for, nor do they understand how to use them wisely.
Advanced users will undoubtedly get great value for their money and save a lot of time by designing themes using frameworks. The question is: are framework themes are a waste of time and/or money for newbies?
I believe that they would be better off using a good free design or purchasing a premium theme which does exactly what they want rather than purchase a a utility which they don’t know how to get the most out of.
One person who shares this view is Nicholas Z. Cardot from SiteSketch101. Nicholas wrote an article a few days ago entitled ‘Is Thesis the right theme for you? I say No‘. In the article Nicholas stated that the Thesis theme was not good value for most bloggers:
I believe that Thesis is not a good value for most bloggers and after having done a lot of research into it, I can’t honestly recommend Thesis to my readers, to my followers, or to my friends and I would strongly encourage you to steer your business away from it as a business model.
Their framework is incredibly bland fresh out of the box. From a design perspective it really doesn’t offer anything that really makes you say, “Wow” when you see it and in my opinion, that is the most important reason to purchase a WordPress theme.
It doesn’t offer a single SEO feature that you can’t get for free from All-In-One SEO Plugin or HeadSpace SEO Plugin and both of those plugins are free.
The article seems to have polarised WordPress users though the general consensus appears to agree with my view. There were many fantastic comments on the article but for me Sushant from Smart Bloggerz summed it up the best:
Well, I suppose Thesis is best for those who can code and make it look good..otherwise for people like me, I will prefer ready-made themes which doesn’t requires too much technical expertise.
Again, I reiterate that many theme developers get great value from frameworks as it can really speed up their design process once they know the framework well. Though novices won’t generally change their design much once it has been setup and they won’t realise the full potential of the framework though, so premium frameworks offer less value to them.
However I’m sure some of you will disagree with me on this so I’d love to hear your view on this, particularly from those who have used framework themes before. So what do you think: Are theme frameworks only suitable for designers?