Comparisons Between Most Popular Theme Frameworks

This is a guest post from Dan Cole, who is currently developing his own theme called the Parallel Theme

Developing a WordPress theme from the ground up is a big task. Sure it might not take long to throw up the basics, but there are a lot of small details that can go into a site. Frameworks are a tool to make developing a theme easier and quicker. Their not something that everyone needs to use, but it’s an option for people. However, getting going in this field can be confusing. The theme development community has some issues to get through and it really messes up some ideas about what is what.

Lets start out with the general terms and move inward. Themes are a part of WordPress that make displaying content possible. Through themes, all information is formatted, styled, and structured into a website design. But because of all the features that can go into these themes, two types of master themes were created. The first type are called frameworks and like its name, are designed to be a starting point for theme developers. The second type should be called base themes, but instead are also referred to as frameworks. These base themes are designed to be parent themes for other themes and allow for easily modifying the visual look of a site. Or from the other side, allow core code to be updated without messing around with the details about what makes a website unique. However, to be technical, it’s not this black and white. Frameworks and base themes could be regular themes or vise versa.

I would like to compare and contrast some of the most popular WordPress Frameworks and Base Themes. I believe it’s something that people picking between different themes would like to see and that it needs to show the answers to important questions in a simple way. However, this comparison is going to over simplify things and hide the reasoning behind the choices made by these developers. Theme Frameworks and Base Themes are not a case of right and wrong, good and bad, or even rich and lacking, but a choice in opinion. I’m hoping this comparison points people that are considering a framework to the developer and to the project that has similar goals in terms of what should be in a WordPress Theme. I would also hope that this comparison points out how much more thought goes into these themes, then the majority of other themes out there. This comparison doesn’t look at the style of the design or arrangement of sidebars, because the answer to those questions would be “How ever you want“. Instead, I want to look at the initial and little details. These are the themes that every theme should be based off, because they aren’t a quick project, but a collection of every detail, that a theme should include. These themes are also developed continuously, not just patched up so they work on the current version of WordPress.

For people developing themes or interested, I would suggest thinking of themes like computers. No one company makes the whole package. The Processor, Operating System, Programs, and assembly is all made or done by different companies.

QuestionThematicHybridCarrington
Type 1 ClassificationTheme FrameworkTheme FrameworkBlank Theme
Type 2 ClassificationBase ThemeBase ThemeTheme Framework
Author:Ian StewartJustin TadlockAlex King (Crowd Favorite)
Site URL:Themeshaper.comThemeHybrid.comCarringtonTheme.com
Is it licensed under the GPL?YesYesYes
Last Version release date:
(As of April 1st, 2009)
March 1st, 2009March 29th, 2009March 24th, 2009
Unzipped file size:518 KB (Is this right or is it me?)708 KB529 KB (Is this right or is it me?)
How well is the code documented?Section Titles & Inline comments in the tricky parts.Section Tiles & version code was added.Read Me files for each directory
Number of Custom Hooks:183123
Number of Custom Filters:3940-506
Visual aid of widget area locations?YesYesN/A
Type of aid for hook and filter locations?VisualDocumentationN/A
Number of Publicly available Child Themes? (linked to by main site)164N/A
Number of (Default) widget areas:1392
Is a CSS Reset done?Yes (with @import)Yes Yes (… N/A)
What plugins will auto insert if installed and activated?
  • WP-PageNavi
  • Subscribe To Comments
  • All-In-One SEO Pack
  • Comment License
  • Headspace 2
  • Clean Archives
  • Cleaner WordPress Gallery Plugin
  • Configurable Tag Cloud Widget
  • Easy Contact
  • Hot Friends
  • No Widget Category Cloud
  • Smart 404
  • Smart Archives
  • Smarter Archives
  • Subscribe To Comments
  • WP Pagenavi
None
What CSS grid system is used?Custom (based on Blueprint, Tripoli and 960gs)NoneN/A
How is the footer content modified?
  • Options page
  • Filterable
  • Options page
  • Filterable
  • Widgetized
  • Options page
Body tag classes:
  • CMS (WordPress)
  • Year visitor is viewing
  • Month visitor is viewing
  • Day visitor is viewing
  • Hour visitor is viewing
  • Year published
  • Month published
  • Day published
  • Hour published
  • Page slug
  • Page ID
  • Page Author
  • Page Template
  • Has a parent template
  • Operating System
  • Browser
  • Browser Version
  • Categories
  • Tags
    • WordPress logged in/out status
    • Page ID
    • Page Author
    • Page Template
    • Type of template
    • Operating System
    • Browser
    • Browser Version
    • Categories
    • Tags
    • Left-To-Right Content
    • Non-empty Widget Area Names
    Supposedly has some
    Has or uses IE hacks?No (with the exception of one minor superscript/subscript fix)No No
    Valid HTMLYesYesYes
    Compatible with WordPress versions:2.7+2.6+2.3 (Maybe)
    Uses Microformats?YesYesYes
    Language Support (For non-English sites)YesYesYes
    Gravator enables?YesYesYes
    Is there a print CSS file?NoYesNo
    Is there a default layout?YesYesYes
    Modular Comment Section ( Can trackbacks and pings be seperated?):YesNoYes
    Custom Comment code or taken from Kubrick?Custom (based on Sandbox)CustomCustom
    Default Templates:
    • tag.php
    • single.php
    • search.php
    • page.php
    • links.php
    • index.php
    • archive.php
    • 404.php
    • category.php
    • archives.php
    • author.php
    • attachment.php
    • 404.php
    • application.php
    • archive.php
    • archives.php
    • attachment.php
    • audio.php
    • author.php
    • authors.php
    • biography.php
    • blog.php
    • bookmarks.php
    • category.php
    • categories.php
    • comments.php
    • comments-popup.php
    • date.php
    • home.php
    • image.php
    • index.php
    • logged-in.php
    • log-in.php
    • no-widgets.php
    • page.php
    • profile.php
    • register.php
    • search.php
    • single.php
    • sitemap.php
    • tag.php
    • tags.php
    • text.php
    • video.php
    • widgets.php
    • 404.php
    • archive.php
    • archives.php
    • author.php
    • category.php
    • image.php
    • links.php
    • page.php
    • single.php
    • search.php
    • tag.php
    What are the backend options?
    • Position of widget-ready area on index page.
    • Include mirco-formatted vCard with bio on the author pages.
    • Content in footer.
    • Basic Theme Settings
    • Title, meta, indexing settings
    • Comment and Avatars
    • Footer Settings
    • Customizable Colors
    • Header Image
    • Load comments and posts via AJAX
    • Use lightbox
    • “About” text area
    • Analytics area
    Resource to find out all hooks and filters:Guide to customizing ThematicHooks (members only)Included Readme
    HTML doc type:XHTML 1.0 TransitionalXHTML 1.0 StrictXHTML 1.0 Transitional
    Number of years the lead author has done PHP?2 years3 years10 years
    Number of years the lead author has done HTML & CSS?3 years6 years12 years

    Hopefully this has answered most of your questions. My needs and wants likely differ from the majority, so I tried my best to be well rounded. Maybe this will get the ball rolling in terms of discussion. I really feel that showing the cards like this does take the work away of figuring it out for yourself and that it will show developers what everyone else is up to.

    Some theme frameworks were left out. I wish I could have included them all. Blame Jeffro if you will, he made the page too narrow and I didn’t want to write small. So now I’ll hand it off to everyone else, what other interesting facts should we look at?

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