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Why theme frameworks can save your sanity and time

If your library is running on a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal, changing the appearance of your site has gotten increasingly easy over the past few years. Your entire site’s appearance can change by installing a new theme. There are numerous free themes that you can download and use, or you can build your own theme using one of the many guides available online.

As easy as installing a new theme is, have you ever found yourself in one of these scenarios:

  • You download a theme, customize it to match your library’s branding, and install it on your site. Unfortunately, the next time you install an update for your theme, all of your customizations disappear.
  • You build your theme from scratch and install it on your site. Everything is fine until there is a major update to WordPress or Drupal. Suddenly, either your site is missing the new functionality of the update, or worse, your theme no longer works.
  • You’ve never run into the scenarios above because you test every update on a development server. However, you’ve decided you’d like to spend more time improving the functionality of your site rather than tweak the theme functionality.

Fortunately, there is a solution for all three of the scenarios listed above: theme frameworks. A theme framework is anything from a code library to a starter theme complete with a basic layout and design. The framework is called the ‘parent’ theme, and you make all of your changes in what is called a ‘child’ theme. The child theme inherits all of the functionality of the ‘parent’ theme, while all of your design changes go in the child theme. Anytime there is an update for the parent theme, your child theme inherits the new functionality but keeps the design you created. Time saved!

To use a theme framework for WordPress or Drupal, download one of the recommended frameworks listed below. You then create what is known as a ‘child’ or ‘sub’ theme, or edit the child theme packaged with the framework.

WordPress Frameworks:

  • Any of the themes based on the Hybrid framework:  http://themehybrid.com/themes.  (Child themes are available for each theme at the bottom of the theme page.)
  • Thematic:  http://thematictheme.com/

Drupal Frameworks:

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