WordPress frameworks are the wave of the future for not only WordPress users but also developers.
What are WordPress frameworks?
Wordpress frameworks provide a structure for developers to build off of containing a ton of great functionality. WordPress frameworks are the definition of not recreating the wheel. The release of WordPress 2.7 beckoned a revolutionary new feature, child themes. Child themes sometimes contain as little as a single style sheet file and build off of a parent theme (duh). The parent theme, or the framework, contains a basic HTML framework, a default plain looking style sheet, and most importantly loads of great functionality: a completey widgetized header, footer, homepage, and sidebar, some great widgets included the frameworks theme function file, and a great configuration page for the template (allowing you to choose primary and secondary navigation menus, choose SEO settings, exclude categories from the blog page, and much, much more) among other things.
Why use a WordPress framework?
As previously stated, why reinvent the wheel? Developers turn their nose at already developed frameworks because they feel they can do it better. I assure you this is not true. The functionality of these frameworks provides a versatility to WordPress that would take a year for any programmer to develop. Also, many parent themes provide a plethora of beautiful child themes to spiced up your site.
Top WordPress Framworks
Genesis: Developed by Studiopress, this is my go to framework and I use it on most of my clients websites. There are enough professional child themes to suite anyones tastes and everything is extremely easy Ito customize. The Genesis widgets are amazing and come preinstalled: add twitter to your menu, featured pages and posts with preview images (that you can define within the page or post!) and more. The SEO capabilities of Genesis make plugins like SEO all in one redundant. Also Genesis is compatible with every 3rd party plugin that I’ve ever tried which is important. This is definitely my favorite WordPress framework and is very affordable.
Thesis: Another great WordPress framework. It has a host of nice child themes to spice up your site. This framework also has a great configuration page with many of the same features as Genesis. It lacks the custom widgets that Genesis has. A means to manage SEO is also included in this framework. Where this framework is lacking is customization from the standpoint of the developer. The code is documented poorly compared to Genesis making it a constant battle to change anything code-wise. Thesis is also a little more expensive.
There are other great frameworks out there such as Thematic, but Genesis is my preference.