Until now, I have never been a big fan of so-called “frameworks” in WordPress. In my opinion, they usually make my life as a developer more difficult, because I have to learn a whole new set of CSS classes and do not know where my code will exactly be inserted. Considering that some of them cost well over $100 or limit the number of sites that you can use them on, I have, until now, advised new bloggers against using them.
This is about to change, because this week I’ve been trying out StudioPress which uses a framework called “Genesis”.
From a developer’s point of view, I really like the framework. You never actually touch any code in it, but instead you work on a set of options that are well-described. For example, if you want to put something into the header of the source code, then you put it into a field that says it will be inserted before the </head> tag.
Other options control how the menus are constructed and the general layout of the page such as how many columns and sidebars you want.
But after that all the work takes place in child themes. What I particularly like here is that you work with a lot of known classes and functions. Sorry to get technical, but I just like the fact that the header is still the #header and the footer is still the #footer. In its simplest form, a child theme consists of a style sheet (style.css), a functions file (functions.php), and the main theme document (home.php).
So where other frameworks try to make things like changing colours more user-friendly, here I can just get on with editing the CSS. This may not be for everyone, but I personally find it a lot less frustrating!
StudioPress comes either as just a framework, or with a child theme. I recommend buying it with at least one child theme, so that you have an example to work with. I tried it out with the “agency” theme, which is the sort of thing a company might use if they want a dynamic homepage, without it looking like a blog (see the image at the top of this post).
But that’s not all! If you do purchase a child theme, you get the PSD (Adobe Photoshop) files of the graphics, so that you can easily customise them. And have you ever installed a theme and thought that it didn’t quite look like the demo site? The StudioPress child themes include an XML file of the posts and pages to import into WordPress so that you can re-create the demo on your own site.
However, it is not just the technical side of StudioPress that I like so much, it’s their business model as well.
At the time of writing, the basic framework costs $59.95, and if you are an experienced developer that may be enough for you. But like I said, I would buy at least one child theme to go with that and they vary in price, starting at $24.95. You can even buy all of them in one go for $249.95!
And it’s the pricing, licensing, and the support that I find so fair. You can buy as little or as much as you like, and you get support and updates for the options you have paid for. It’s a one-off payment, so you do not have to keep paying out to keep up with the updates.
If you do decide to upgrade later, then you only pay the difference. So if you buy the framework with a theme to get started, upgrading to the “all themes” pack only costs around $170.
But best of all is that there is no limit on the number of sites you can use the framework on – you can even use it to develop client sites on one condition: the client receives no access to the support area unless they buy their own license. It’s up to you as the developer to provide support to your own clients. That sounds like an ideal method of client retention to me!
So will I be giving up TwentyTen and moving over to StudioPress? Well maybe, and maybe not. I still believe believe that there is a lot of power in TwentyTen and that new bloggers working on a very tight budget may want to stay with it. Since I want to show them how to edit that them, this site may well stay that way as well.
But I am pretty sure that any new sites I develop – whether for clients or for myself – will use the Genesis framework.