If you are evaluating technology platforms and content management systems (CMS) for your business website you may have come across WordPress, WordPress Themes and WordPress Website Framework. For non-technical people this can be confusing, so I hope this article provides some clarification about options and alternatives.
Very briefly, a WordPress Theme is the essentially a pre-built layout and design for a website. There are many thousands of designs to choose from – some free and some you can buy. Since they are pre-built you can compare different layouts and colour schemes and choose one you like. Having done that you may have some options to make changes, but these may be limited.
When looking for a Theme you may find that you have the option to choose a Framework as a search parameter, or in the Theme comments it mentions the Framework it’s built on.
A WordPress website framework provides more options to change the website layout and design in a way that doesn’t require coding. This can be a real advantage for business owners who don’t want to write code but who do want some flexibility to update and extend their website without the need to keep going back to a website designer for minor changes.
When I started using WordPress and built the Wurlwind website initially in 2010 it took me a while to understand the options, my requirements and the different approaches.
I’ve been reviewing options and advising a client who needs a new website today. Having done the research I wanted to share what is essentially a list of resources and links, plus some brief comment. I hope you find this a useful resource and that it saves you some time.
WordPress Website Framework Alternatives
I’ll declare my hand up-front and say I chose WooThemes in 2011 and the Inspire Theme. I then moved the website across to the Canvas Theme in 2012. This review essentially confirms that this was a good choice, and it is the direction I’m steering my client towards.
Disclaimer: the following is a very brief summary and not a recommendation per se. Do your own research and decide what your requirements are and what option best meets your needs.
Their headline is “Premium Themes, Plugins & ECommerce for WordPress”. This accurately reflects that they provide not just Themes, and an underlying framework, but also a range of Plug-ins and a market leading ecommerce application.
WooThemes offer 100+ premium themes plus some free ones, so there are lots of designs to choose from. Underlying them is the Woo Framework – you get access to it, you don’t buy it separately.
Canvas is the Flagship Theme from WooThemes so you get a powerful and flexible design and a great underlying platform. The current cost is $99
Woo offers two substantial applications that provide great functionality.
Woo Commerce – this is a market-leading (10.8% market share) e-commerce application. It is not restricted to Woo Themes, and can be downloaded and used as a ‘Plug-in’ by other WordPress installations. It is available for Free!
- Commerce Extensions – there is an extensive range of additional functionality, integrations etc. to compliment the Woo Commerce application and make it much quicker to create and extend an e-commerce website.
Sensei – Learning Management System – if you offer online training courses this is an awesome plug-in application through which to deliver your courses. It’s a premium plug-in, currently priced at $129
In addition WooThemes offer a range of Tools and extras such as:
- DoJo – Tool Kit – Free – mostly
- Slider – Ultimate Slideshow $49
- Sidebars – Free
- Features – Free
- Testimonials – Free
Assessment of WooThemes
- Extensive Commercial Apps Footprint – Woo Commerce and Sensei
- Excellent support – they’ve gone above and beyond for me several times
- Size – critical mass of team – which should provide security and developments
- Community – you can find developer partners on the WooThemes site
- Some reported slowness of support – some reported issues mid 2013 – may have been growth pains
- Cumbersome support community – access, documentation etc – but it’s a vast product portfolio
- Technical specialists may consider it has heavy-weight, bloated code due to the many extensions and functions
Looking beyond this summary, I have asked WooThemes about plans to become stronger in support of marketing and sales. Key additional areas I’m looking for are Membership, Landing Pages, Event Management. Their response has been neutral. However there are an increasing range of WordPress plug-ins available to cover these areas.
Their headline is “Drag and Drop Website Builder”. This lets you design your own site.
Pricing: Personal = $59, Business = $99, Developer = $199
- Self-built platform
- Nice document library
- Sucuri Safe Theme
- Maybe less Out-of-the-box function than other framework/theme combinations
- You need to build it yourself
Billed as “the ultimate design and template manager for wordpress”
- Skins – claims to make templates and themes easier than having parent & child theme relationships
- Boxes – widgets
- Site Tools –
- Design focus – if that’s what you want
Pricing: Basic = $87, Basic + = $164, Pro = $197
This is created and available from StudioPress, a division of Copyblogger.
This is essentially geared for Content Publishing – so if you and your business are Content Focused and post blog entries frequently this could be good for you.
They claim 96k users
This is positioned as a Design Management System – DMS – with a strong Design focus
Comments have been made that is is a heavy-weight page design system.
Pricing: 3 levels at $8, $16, $24 /month
This is a light-weight page design system
It is Free, as far as I can see
It has had over 1m downloads
NB. Other Frameworks are available….
There is an aspect of ‘you get what you pay for’. A Theme may save you time, but then restrict your options. A framework may give you more flexibility but need a bit more set-up and carry some coding overhead. The other option is a bespoke design, which will almost certainly carry a much high price-tag and less flexibility.
If you’d like some guidance, beyond a question or two, we provide a Website Review and Action Plan service, especially for lead generation focused websites.