WP Framework’s Talk at WordCamp Miami 09

If you’re not up to speed, I went to WordCamp Miami a little while ago to talked about WP Framework. Here’s the orginal blost post about that. Since my presentational skills aren’t as descriptive as my writing, I thought I should rephrase what was said for those that weren’t there.

The State of the Theme.

So, here’s the good news. There are tons of free themes available for WordPress. And with that, they’re are a multitude of sources to get your hands on those theme themes. Here are four ways WordPress users find and download their themes:

  1. WordPress Theme’s directory
  2. Blog announcement post/round ups (e.g. Weblogtoolscollection)
  3. Directly from the theme author’s website
  4. Dedicated theme sites (be it premium or freemium)

And that’s great! Lots of ways to find that one special theme you’re looking for. And that’s not all. Want to demo one of those themes? No problem! It’s extremely easy to demo a potential WordPress Theme and judge whether you’d like to use it or not. And it’s getting even easier with WordPress 2.8 around the corner. You’ll be able to search, preview and install a WordPress theme right from the convenience of your WordPress Dashboard. Now that’s what I call automattic.

All good and dandy. But there’s some bad news associated with that. A lot of WordPress themes (free or premium) aren’t exactly sexy under the hood. I’m sure you’ve encountered many poorly written themes that only contain the bear minimum to make that theme actually work. I’d hate to call anyone out, so just browse around and see for yourself. You’ll see themes with invalid markup, buggy code, and themes that only contain the bear minimum to make that particular theme work. Now when the Codex states that all you need to make a theme work is the index.php and style.css, some people took that way too literally.

With all that said, I’d hate to say it gets worst. In addition to being poorly written, containing buggy code and themes only containing the bear minimum, themes don’t innovate. WordPress provides users with a power widget system that allows you add blocks of content literally anywhere into your WordPress theme. Currently, widgets are only used as sidebar accessories. So much for innovation.

What’s a theme author to do? Raise the standard and create a tool as a guide to how themes should work under the hood. Create a tool to aide in the developing of WordPress themes with no fluff. Make it so that this tool only contains framework level code, architectural stuff that every theme needs or should have. This tool is a theme framework.

What is a theme framework?

I like to give an analogy of a car (cars = themes, bear with me). When building a new car, everything isn’t reinvented. Your not going to find innovation in tires or in a steering wheel from the new Dodge Grand Caravan. Instead, you’d probably find innovation through the features it sports. What results, is a lot of cars using the same parts. So can WordPress themes. It’s all about being more efficient in your craft. Factor out all the essential theme parts and use them as the bases for the framework. In doing this, you’ll dramatically speed up the time it takes to build recurring themes from scratch.

So in essence, I’ve just explained to you why I created WP Framework. I saw that they’re were no standards in theme authoring, everybody was basically doing what the other guy was doing for whatever reason, so I did something about it. After some brainstorming of figuring out how I could best solve these problems, I created WP Framework. What you have is an extremely modular, powerful theme, built with extensibility in mind.

Continuing from the car analogy, you’re not going to drive a car without doors or an exterior. You’re going to personalize it first, adding all those car features you always wanted and finally, drive it. I guess what I’m trying to stress is that it’s important to understand that when you download WP Framework, you’re not getting a fully designed WordPress theme ready to install on your site. Technically you could, but you’ll probably want to customize it first and make it look sexy.

WP Framework’s Goal

Now that you understand what a theme framework is, why I created one and how you can benefit from using one, here’s WP Framework’s goal.

My primary and only goal with WP Framework is to raise the standard for WordPress Themes and dramatically improve the efficiency in creating new themes from scratch.

I see that as a two part goal and will tackle it as such. The road to accomplishment far and burly, so I set some principles so WP Framework will have a clear path towards success.

WP Framework’s Principles

I come from a front-end web development background and I’ve done work both as a designer and developer. So it’s important that this framework is both, designer and developer friendly. How?

For designers, WP Framework will

  • be web standards complaint
  • always output valid, clean semantic HTML/CSS
  • provide dynamic CSS classes based on context
  • provide organization and structure to your themes

and for developers, WP Framework will

  • contain well commented and forward compatible code
  • allow any default behavior to be overwritten or extended
  • provide convention over configuration
  • serve as the bases any WordPress theme project

With these principles in mind, WP Framework is set off on a clear path to reaching it’s goal.

WP Framework Features

As of version 0.2.2, WP Framework features:

  • Microformats coming in hAtom, hCard and XOXO vereities.
  • Continually Search Engine Optimized
  • Modular CSS includes ( reset.css, base.css, screen.css )
  • Gravatar enabled
  • Favicon & iPhone webclip placeholder images
  • jQuery enabled + screen.js (an empty .js file pre-loaded and ready)
  • Basic print.css Stylesheet ready for printing web documents

WP Framework sports a lot more features like well documented code and behind-the-scenes type stuff that power a theme. WP Framework really strives in the details so go take a peek inside.

The Future of WP Framework

So now we pretty much know what WP Framework is, who it’s for, and all that good stuff. What’s the future look like? Well for one, it’s pretty bright! lol I like to look at the future from two angels: near and… right after that.

Near Future

Currently, WP Framework’s target audience is theme authors who are more specifically, designers and developers. These guys are all technofobes who understand geeky terminology  POSH, or CoC. What I envision for WP Framework is to become the behind-the-scenes tool that everyone uses but doesn’t even know. Well, for the non-technical crowd atleast. I’d love to talk about the specifics, but rather sum things up like this: I want anyone, nontechie and geeks, to be able to visually build their own custom unique layout and have it up on their site moments later.

That’s all I have to say about that. For now, we’ll just call it Theme Builder.

Right after the near future

By then, I hope to have build a community around the project. Through wpframework.com, I hope to truly deliver a framework that’s everything you need and nothing you don’t. Essessntially, I envisioned a section on the site where you could download user genereated content like framework functionality that extend WP Framework itself and things of that nature.

I have a lot to say about the project, but instead of writing about it and trying to understand it, I’d rather produce and make it happen. That’s all I have to say.

Credits and Shoutouts

As always, I like to give credit where credits due. These people come from various walks of life with one thing in common. They’re continually advancing WordPress and for that, I thank them.

  • Kubrick – default theme
  • Nathan Rice – nathanrice.net
  • K2 – Binary Bonsai
  • Cory Miller at iThemes
  • Sandbox – Scott Wallick
  • Chris Jean – WP Roadmap
  • Thematic – Ian Stewart
  • Jeff Chandler – WP Tavern
  • Hybrid – Justin Tadlock
  • Mike – WPCandy
  • Tarski – Ben Eastaugh
  • Thesis – Chris Pearson
  • SP

Q&A: If you have any questions, please feel free. If not, thanks for your time and I hope you get a chance to try out WP Framework in it’s infancy stages and see what it’s all about.

4 Comments

  1. Kevin stanley's Avatar Kevin stanley
    March 16th, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I do really like what you have done and created so far with the WP Framework. I really like what I saw when it was in the phase of 0.2.2, but with the release of 0.3 it seems to be more based upon the PHP that is behind Wordpress which really makes it more complicated for people like me that specialize in CSS.

    I liked what I saw with 0.2.2 because of the basic classes it came with (which yes, some of us actually liked, but I also agree with you when you say that you don’t think that is what should be included with a framework) But yet crosses a little bit of a line when you speak of 0.4 and the bringing in of the widgets… and also in the same speak of making it so user friendly that anyone can use it…. I think that at least something that should be included is the base css with ALL of the included styles… This would in itself save SO much time so we don’t have to dig through thousands of lines of someone elses code to find all of the classes and divs to design from.

    I do also have to be honest and ask why some certain divs were changed to classes in 0.3? I cannot figure out why some things such as the container was changed from #container to .container - as this is something that there will only be one of within the framework, and should have been left as a div…

    I like where you talk of heading with the framework, and thank you very much for what you have done so far.. but unless there is a major security problem with 0.2.2, I will stick with that one… because I think a lot was left out of 0.3 - Anything “framework” should be left as something that anyone can build from on nothing but the basics “Such as CSS” and with a helpful file showing us all what you personally used as classes and divs… instead of guessing or digging, which in any case would be us in turn creating our own framework….

    I am not trying to be one sided on this but since I do hate all PHP with the passion, maybe I am just looking for something different… But a few others I have spoke with agree.. and I do just have to question these few things before deciding to stick with WP Framework, or to keep using the older one, or just create my own or find another. I do on the other hand thank you very much for what you released with version 0.2.2, but that is the version that has stuck with me the best and seems to do the most. I have already seen many bugs with 0.3 from code not being matched while you were changing stuff for 0.3 (Such as the divs and classes mentioned above… like the .nav for example) and a few others..

    Keep up the good work, and I am sure you are heading in your own direction with this which seems great! but as a CSS coder, I would just like to see something that had a good hard backbone, that I could build on with only CSS, and as little PHP as possible… without digging through pages of someones code to find out what his vision is on things…. I still hope to see future work on this, and wish you the best of luck with it. Hopefully working closer to the final will be much more things such as these included.

    Reply
  2. Kevin Stanley's Avatar Kevin Stanley
    March 17th, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I will be using the WPFramework for sure, it by far has been the best for me over every other one I tried (Everything from Thematic, Starkers, Naked, Whiteboard, Sandbox, and a few others) I have even tried to create my own which obviously didn’t work out too well. I am glad that you do see some of my side, and I hope nothing I said was offensive… I think that the work you are doing with the WP Framework is what the Wordpress community needs by far… But for me as a developer / designer… I have grown custom to using mainly the same over the past few years.. CSS, and XHTML. When I set out on my journey to create a Wordpress theme it was way over my head since I myself do not do much of anything with PHP. I take your word for it that it all means something, and serves a greater purpose than what I understand… but even for basic CSS styles to be included are more than helpful. Everyone will obviously be using most of the same elements that are contained within CSS, and I feel personally that they were GREAT with the release of 0.2.2 which is why I will choose that version for now. Maybe I have just not dug too deep into 0.3 after getting use to 0.2.2, but there was way more that was over my head, and would loose a lot of time re-learning it. The main elements of body, head, h1, h2, h3, nav, and so on, along with including all of the styles is what I feel would make your project best suited for those that do know CSS, but do not like PHP. This actually seems to be the case for most all of everything I have read online… and why so many people are wanting a great framework. The elements you have used were commonly named, easy to identify, and usefully added as examples in the base.css of version 0.2.2 which made development easy to start a new theme from. Modifying elements is easier and quicker than hunting them down and then trying to add them, then style. Also, with the complex PHP in place (Which again, I am sure is great for someone that knows how to use it) I feel like I am lost with it, and would prefer to be able to make something visually with simple CSS coding, rather than figuring out PHP to add special functions. I just don’t want you to leave out or forget about the CSS designers, and aim at the PHP gifted… That is what we depend on people like you for :)

    This was one of the major issues for me and the PlainTxt Sandbox framework. There was a lot of php code, and classes and divs used through 25 or so php files, that were not defnied or listed.. and it took too much time to create from and figure out unless you knew PHP fairly well. I believe this is what steers many people away from the sandbox theme. If people understood that much PHP we would make our own framework and not need others….

    I do want to say;

    Thank you very much for your efforts in the WPFramework, and for releasing it for people like me to use and create from… I do hope to see some more simple aspects made out of the final, and I would REALLY love to see a WPFramework 0.2.3 with the above mentioned updates. Include the styles, and let us modify away…. Great work with all of it man, I have been following along since the beginning and will continue to do so. I also plug your project everywhere I speak with anyone about it because I do think it is the best one. I would like to maybe help out in the future if you would like me to at sometime do some themes with just CSS to display the power of the WPFramework, and what can be done with it. I would even contribute an instructional video for people to watch and get started for converting static XHTML sites to WPFRamework, or designing from scratch. I just can’t help much with the PHP part… Thanks again Ptah, and I look forward to updates and future releases (And an updated 0.2.3 *hint hint)

    Reply
  3. Kevin Stanley's Avatar Kevin Stanley
    March 17th, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Forgot to answer the question even after typing that book up above… Yes, I do think that documentation would help out a lot, but please, keep the PHP as optional as possible, and for visual developers easy enough to work around and to be able to do everything needed using CSS.

    Reply

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