This is a sponsored guest contribution from Helen Bailey of TemplateMonster.com.
WordPress users on the whole are fairly used to developing their themes by adding, subtracting and altering code. It’s part of the game. You’ve got to tweak in order to stand out from the crowd. The only problem is writing and adjusting your own code can be a frustrating and time consuming experience—especially if you don’t have an abundance of development experience.
Enter theme frameworks.
A theme framework is a code library that isn’t used as a theme itself. Instead, it provides the support for “child themes” which can be used as website templates. A theme framework can be used to support many child themes and to power many websites. They are distinct from standalone themes, in which any changes you make actually overwrite the original theme.
The main difference is that a framework builds template infrastructure rather than frontend styling options. So what’s the major benefit of this arrangement? Most of the code you’d normally have to write from scratch is already taken care of. Plus, if you’re running more than one website you only have to update the framework, and not the individual themes themselves.
She’s My Cherry Pie
One of the more popular frameworks among WP users is Cherry. The Cherry Framework for WordPress is an absolutely free framework that’s available at websites like CherryFramework.com, and in the GitHub code repository. Originally released in December of 2012, Cherry is currently compatible with more than 300 different child themes. Additionally, it powers close to a thousand distinct WP templates, all of which are available at TemplateMonster.
Overall, the purpose of Cherry is to meet the latest web standards while simultaneously providing users with a simple, intuitive, and usable theme management solution. And it really delivers on that goal.
Cherry framework is easy to setup, only requiring 3 clicks. And once it’s integrated it looks and feels almost exactly like your regular WP dashboard, so you won’t be overwhelmed with an unfamiliar interface. It also comes with most of the WP features you’re used to such as:
- Basic SEO options
- XML sitemap generation
- Easy import/export data procedures
- Excellent support structure
- Custom Post creation (i.e. Our Team, FAQs, Services, Testimonials, etc.)
- And so on
The fun, however, doesn’t stop there. Cherry is chock full of extra features. You can create and restore backups using data management, as well as update these backups whenever a new version of the framework becomes available. Because it was built with the RWD-savvy Bootstrap toolkit, Cherry adapts well to multiple viewports. In other words, it allows for high resolution viewing even on mobile devices.
Additionally, 90% of post and page types that you might want to include in your domain are already available using shortcodes, which make it easy to insert modules wherever you desire within the visual editor. This completely supplants the need to create the custom stuff on your own, so you can concentrate on delivering content rather than worrying over your styling options.
You can insert your shortcodes by clicking on the shortcode icon and selecting the area from a dropdown menu, including links to other posts, banners, carousels, sliders, service boxes, hero units (for site information and promotions), columns, alert boxes, buttons, and so on.
There are even widgets available to display photo streams, custom post cycles, social icons, ads (up to 4 separate 125×125 pixel ads), recent comments, recent posts, and vCards. Sliders come stock as well. There are two types: the standard horizontal and the accordion type; both one come with an image, caption and URL for each slide; and of course, their appearances are customizable.
For example, many complain that the reliance on shortcodes makes it difficult for users to migrate their templates to another parent framework. I would reply that you’ve got to really know which framework you want to work with before you start building multiple child themes on top of it, but the migratory wanderlust does occasionally force us from our comfort zones. That and/or other migrating mitigating circumstances. Along the same lines, custom post types in Cherry could make switching to another theme much more difficult, and recreating them under a new framework might indeed be irritating.
Fortunately, all Cherry templates available on TemplateMonster are already compatible with the latest version of Cherry and the associated plugin responsible for short codes. So if you follow any of the links in this article, you should be in the clear. Even so, issues do occasionally arise, so there’s a responsive support team available to field any complaints.
Everything is Sunshine and Roses
Well, nothing’s perfect, and it’d be downright dishonest of me not to mention the following:
Though Cherry child themes can look great, they’re often not spectacular. Despite this, cost for the child themes is fairly consistent. While the framework is always free, downloading custom WP templates built with Cherry can set you back a buck. Many child themes range from $75 to $115, although you do have to option to bundle with other services for an additional fee. You also have the option to buyout a child theme. Buyouts cost much more, but you do get exclusive use for the extra cheddar.
In summation, I’d say that the big benefits to the Cherry framework are ease of use and customization. There isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking about Cherry, but it does exactly what’s required by 99.9% of WP users. Last time I checked, usability and broad appeal are exactly the areas in which WordPress really excels, and it’s exactly why they currently dominate the CMS market.
What do you think about Cherry? Are you impressed with the framework? Let us know in the comments.