Wordpress & Web Development

3 Free WordPress Frameworks When Themes Just Aren’t Enough

Joel Lee 12-06-2012

free wordpress frameworksDo you know how many WordPress-based sites there are on the Internet? According to WordPress Stats, the answer is 74.2 million as of May 2012 – and that includes blogs hosted on WordPress.com as well as self-hosted sites. Just as impressive a statistic is that WordPress.com alone produces approximately 500,000 new posts and 400,000 new comments per day.


All that to say that WordPress is extremely pervasive and all kinds of people know about it and use it. Why? Because it’s easy to set up, easy to use, and easy to customize based on your own personal preferences. Specifically, I’m talking about themes, which are almost one-click installations and can completely change the look of your WordPress site.

But what if themes aren’t enough? Frameworks act as great starting points when you want to fiddle around and create your own designs and themes. However, even if you aren’t a designer, frameworks will still help you -because frameworks are more than themes. They can add different features, make maintenance easier, and even optimize WordPress in certain ways.


free wordpress frameworks

Back in 2010, MakeUseOf posted an article covering the Thematic WordPress Framework. Since then, there have a whole slew of new features added, many bugs fixed, tons of optimizations made – it’s just better. And not to mention that Thematic remains one of the most popular free WordPress frameworks. That says something.

What can you expect from Thematic?

  • Thematic is fully optimized for search engine optimization, so you’ll have the tools necessary to rank your blog posts as highly as possible on search engines.
  • Supports different layout styles, including 2- and 3-columns.
  • Use it as a starting point for developing new themes, or use one of the many themes already available, or re-skin existing themes using the child themes system.
  • Lots of widget areas. Basic WordPress themes only have a sidebar and maybe a header bar, but Thematic has 13 widget areas that can be enabled or disabled according to your needs.
  • Supports blogs with multiple authors.


best free wordpress frameworks

Hybrid is one of my favorite WordPress frameworks, all because it’s so easy to use. On one of my personal blogs, I had it up and running in less than 5 minutes. It’s very user-friendly and has enough customization to satisfy most users.

Hybrid works by having an actual framework called Hybrid Core, and then having separate themes built on top of that Core. Theme developers can pick and choose which features of Core they want to include in their themes.

What can you expect from Hybrid?

  • Multiple layout options and styles, including 1-, 2-, and 3-columns.
  • Built-in jQuery scripts that provide additional functionality, like drop-drown menus in the header.
  • Built-in support for easy translation. Hybrid Core was built with translation in mind.
  • Miscellaneous blog features that theme developers can use, including breadcrumb trails, a polished image gallery, pagination, and templates for different post types.


free wordpress frameworks

The Reverie website can describe its own product better than I ever could:

Reverie Framework is an extremely versatile HTML5 WordPress framework based on ZURB’s Foundation. Reverie follows the HTML5 Boilerplate standard and … is optimized for Search Engine while at the same time improving readability.

It is extremely easy to create your blog, CMS, brochure and any other kind of sites with Reverie.

The best thing about Reverie is that it is a responsive WordPress framework. That means that the framework will adapt to the current user’s device – it will stretch to fit the screen if the user is on a computer, or it will present a more fitting layout if the user is on a mobile device. Reverie is especially optimized for iPhones and iPads.

If you’re using bbPress 2.0 or BuddyPress 1.5 on your WordPress site, then you’ll be glad to know that Reverie works seamlessly with them.



Have you ever used any of these frameworks? If so, tell us about your experiences in the comments. Also, if you know of any other free WordPress frameworks, share those, too! I’d love to know if I’ve missed anything.

Image Credit: Website Magnifier Image Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Web Design, Web Development, Wordpress Themes.

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  1. GoWebBaby
    August 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    There are so many free WordPress Theme Framework available in the market:
    HTML5 Reset
    Hybrid Core
    UpThemes Framework
    HTML5 WordPress Shell
    Simon WP Framework

    • MacPieter
      August 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Wauw! A lot. But what is the best choice?
      And what are the advantages/disadvantages?
      That would be interesting...

      Great discussion Joel.


  2. Jammie King Morey
    July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I would have never guessed there were that many wordpress blogs! I started on blogger, and switched to wordpress, finding good themes can be tough. I want to learn how to build my own theme from a framework.

  3. Vee
    July 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Thanks Joel for the nice article.

    • Joel Lee
      July 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      You're welcome! :D

  4. Jamie VanRaalte
    June 26, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I have never heard of Reverie but I would recommend Headway Themes. Build all my stuff on it!

    • Joel Lee
      June 26, 2012 at 4:58 am

      Unfortunately, Headway is NOT free. :(

      • Jamie VanRaalte
        June 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

        I know it's not free. But it is 100% worth the money!

  5. Le Mon
    June 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    joel, can you explain me what actually frameworks are used for ?? im confused with it

    • Joel Lee
      June 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      Think of a framework as the skeleton of a creature, while the theme is the skin that you would stretch over the skeleton.

      The framework can be configured in different ways (you may not need arms, so you take those off, but you need 6 legs, so you add more). The different frameworks are designed in different ways to achieve different goals, such as ease of back-end configuration, or ease of theme development, or optimized code speed, etc.

      A framework can have multiple themes.

      The downside is that it takes a little longer to setup and it's a tiny bit more involved. If you're running a simple little blog, you may just want to install a theme and be done with it. If you want a more powerful website, frameworks might be your thing.

      • Le Mon
        June 23, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        It gave me a fine idea. Thanks for your explanation :)

  6. Steve Kansa
    June 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Very helpful Joel! I found this article because I was looking for more diverse ways of using WordPress, such as having a WP powered site, but without every single page looking the same and how use it to build pages instead of posts. Would be great to see this thought process carried out a bit more in this direction since VERY few articles really improve or follow up on themselves.