I’ll keep this short since it’s a concept to think about more than a how-to. Please keep in mind this is just a point of view, my point of view.
I’ve played with a few frameworks in my hunt for the ultimate development environment. I’ve used Genesis, Headway and Thesis, to name but three, and I’ve had a lot of fun and success using them. You can check out a couple of examples at one of my test sites – www.steves-sandbox.com.
As I was going through the development process I noticed there was still quite a lot of hand coding going on. There were changes to move the navigation, or to add sidebar widgets, or even add a widget to one page, but not another. Technically I wasn’t coding since it was more of a copy/paste process, but I was still playing with code.
So – with that in mind, can working directly with WordPress be that difficult? I took a dive into coding directly with WordPress, and found it isn’t really that difficult. I brought up a test site called www.eharvesthub.info for a pilot start up I’m working with. What better way to start I thought. It was challenging to start with because it was new but, before I knew it I was coding like the best of them, and have a whale of a time doing it. Certainly there is a learning curve, but it does get easier.
Truth be told it was as simple as using a framework, once I got into it. There were similar challenges in making the code work; adding functions, hard coding within some of the php files – in essence it was just as challenging, yet just as rewarding. It’s not a scary beast to be avoided anymore.
I’m currently working with a test site where I’m hard coding sidebars; adding secondary navigation hooks, even creating page templates to group categories on a page and having a lot of fun. I’ll post the end result when I’m done – the point being it wasn’t that difficult.
That being said, what’s the allure of a framework? I mean it has to have its hook to pull you in, and it costs money. In some cases you’ll get the minimum cost, which is the framework itself. Then you’ll get the bundle cost, which is the framework and all the current and future templates created on that framework – the latter can be hundreds of dollars. What I’m not going to say (watch out, double negative coming) is that it’s not worthwhile. Perhaps that’s the simplest and easiest way for you, and that has value. I’ve been there and done that and have had a ton of fun.
Let’s take the typical framework and extrapolate where the differences might be. I’m not trying to tear apart any frameworks by the way, this is just a viewpoint. Most frameworks have value adds that make life easier for the novice, and there is a lot of value in that. Here’s five points that frameworks give value to:
1. Search Engine Optimized – a very nice feature, but there are plugins for that. I know you might want to limit the use of plugins so I wonder what the level of effort would be to achieve the same result with direct coding – and what properties WordPress has within the SEO realm already. Still you can’t knock the extra help.
2. Attractive pre-made templates – this is a great way to learn, starting with a completed design and editing to fruition, albeit within a framework. I find a lot of the fun of coding and designing is fleshing the idea from wireframe to final design, but then that’s just me. Using the framework means less coding
and allows the developer to concentrate on the aesthetics. Perhaps that is a big part of the allure.
3. Unlimited access to designs, plugins, support, articles / how to’s etc – good resources within the framework. You’ll notice a lot of articles are showing you have to add code to the functions.php and adjustments to other pages and code, specifically when you set up the theme to look like the example – that’s kind of what I do with WordPress itself. For me there is the plus side of total immersion and lack of reliance on having to purchase a framework, or your customer needing to own the framework for your theme to work – that limits your customer pool.
4. Security – again, there are plugins for this also. I also believe the WordPress developers do a grand job of staying ahead of the hackers, but I guess added security is never a bad thing.
5. Frameworks make customizing your site easy – that, to me, is the allure, the crux of what a framework is, and I don’t mean that like it’s a bad thing. Frameworks create a way to take more control and make the whole process of design and development simple. That being said, if you learn the code you’ll have that anyway, and there are a ton of plugins out there for all sorts of wonderful functionality. It has its place for those that don’t want to go deeper.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m trampling on frameworks – I’m actually not, specifically since frameworks are where I started to pick up the skills and confidence to code. If that was a frameworks only marketplace then it has its place, and it got me to where I am now. What I’m saying is it is subjective – where do you want to end up – how much control do you want – what reliance will there be on other code? After all, coding to a framework means the prospective customer needs to purchase the framework before your child theme will work.