Last April, I wrote a post titled Taking Stock on WordPress Theme Frameworks. In the meantime I have become quite comfortable working with the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. A couple of my sites is already running on this framework.
In addition, I would like to use a framework that makes it very easy for me to build a custom website from scratch. Just before the weekend, I have published a review about the Ultimatum Theme. And I must say I am pretty much impressed by the possibilities and the ease of use of the Ultimatum Theme.
However, since I am a curious – and may be even a little bit of an adventurous – guy, I like to explore a couple more WordPress Theme Frameworks before settling for one of them. At the moment, there are 41 WordPress frameworks available – talking about choice.
It is not my intention to test all 40+ of them. So how to dial down this number? Since I am not a geek, I am looking for a tool that makes it easy for me to create a website without (much) coding. Based upon my current knowledge and experience, I have come to the following selection:
- Carrington Build
- Dynamik Website Builder
- Ultimatum Theme
- Xtreme One
Still a considerable list. And where to start? To narrow down the list a bit further, I think it is good to consider attributes like price, updates, support, and recurring costs next to the features of the theme framework itself.
Plans & Pricing Comparison of WordPress Frameworks
So, I did a little research and converted my findings into the following table:
It is probably pretty obvious; the first column – titled Framework – lists the names of the eleven selected WordPress Theme Frameworks alphabetically.
Most theme frameworks are available with more than one type of license. Where possible, I have chosen a license type that allows you to run the framework on – and get support for – more than one domain. Preferably including client domains.
All prices are in US dollars. As you can see, the prices range from $45 for a one site, lifetime license (MultiToool) up to $999 for one year of updates and support (Carrington Build). That is quite a variation!
When I buy a theme, and definitely when I purchase a theme framework, I like to be assured of product updates; maintenance updates whenever necessary of course, but also product upgrades.
Support is also a very important topic for me. In first stage, I prefer to explore the possibilities of a theme framework on my own. So I appreciate some kind of product documentation that I can turn to the moment a feature is not quite obvious to me.
It is great when you can submit a support ticket, but I favor a vendor where I can browse and search a forum. Another user will probably have encountered a similar situation already. Utilizing a forum brings another benefit; over time it becomes a great knowledgebase serving the users as well as the producer.
Facilitating a child theme helps you to leap frog the creation of a website, because you do need to start from scratch. Some frameworks are packed with one or more child themes. That number is stated in the child themes column. Please be aware that not all frameworks support child themes as defined in the WordPress Codex.
The own sites column states whether you are allowed to use the framework on all the sites that you own – or those that your organization owns. That is generally the case, except for one; Bloooming’s MultiToool.
There are two exceptions when it comes to the permission of using the WordPress Theme Framework on client sites; MultiToool and Thesis.
Besides the initial investment for the license of the framework, it very important to be aware of any recurring cost.Regarding four of the above mentioned frameworks you will be faced with annual costs; Builder, Carrington Build, Headway, and PageLines.
So when you are using one of these four theme frameworks, and you want to keep your installations up-to-date, or when you want to have access to the support forum beyond the first year, you will have to renew your license.
WordPress Theme Framework Specifics
Backbone by ColorLabs is a relatively new framework. Currently there are seven child themes available for Backbone – all from ColorLabs itself.
ColorLabs offers two more options besides the Developer license. Instead of the Developer Pack for unlimited sites, you also can choose for the $59 Standard Pack that comes with support for one site.
Another possibility with ColorLabs is that you opt for the subscription model, which entitles you to updates and support as long as you are a member.
Unless you prefer the membership above the purchase, there are no recurring costs.
iThemes packs the Builder Developer Pack with all available Builder child themes – 57 to date. Although when you count a theme with two or more color options only once, we are closer to 35 themes. However, that is still a respectable number.
The Builder Foundation license includes just the framework and costs $80 per year. A third alternative with Builder is the $387 All-Access Pass, which adds 80+ classic themes to the Developer Pack.
If you prefer to receive updates and support for the Builder framework beyond the first year, you will have to repurchase a license – regardless the license type you have purchased initially.
The multi-site license of the Carrington Build framework by CrowdFavorite is with $999 per annum by far the most expensive WordPress Theme Framework. There is also a Single Site variant which still costs $299 for one year.
When you would like to receive updates and support for Carrington Build beyond the initial year, you will have to buy a new license for $999 respectively $299.
As of September 2012, Catalyst is available in one edition only – the Catalyst Framework – for a one-time fee of $127.
All Catalyst members enjoy the same benefits: unlimited websites, lifetime updates, access to the Catalyst documentation and the support forum, and free Marketplace Products.
The Dynamik Website Builder is developed by the creators of Catalyst. Simply put, they have created a child theme for the Genesis Framework, and have added the design controls from the Catalyst framework.
Dynamik is available with a one-time fee license for only $77. Please note that in order to use the Dynamik Website Builder, you need the Genesis Framework too. The Genesis Framework – that comes with a blank child theme – has a one- time fee of $59.95.
The Dynamik license entitles you to lifetime access to updates, the support forum, and you can use it on unlimited domains – your own, as well as your clients. There are no recurring costs.
The Genesis Framework from StudioPress comes with unlimited everything: “Unlimited support. Unlimited updates. Unlimited websites. There’s no ‘Developer Option’ here. One low price entitles you to support, updates, and domains.” Hence, there are no recurring costs.
When you are not sure yet whether the StudioPress Pro Plus All-Theme Package for $349.95 is the right choice for you, you can always start with just the Genesis Framework or the Genesis Framework with one of the StudioPress Child Themes.
Genesis customers willing to purchase another child theme, or ready to opt for the Pro Plus membership, will find a coupon in the support forum reducing the regular price with 25%. This is the way I ended up being a satisfied StudioPress Pro Plus member.
At the moment, StudioPress offers 47 child themes for its Genesis Framework. In addition there are also Community Themes, themes created by experienced Genesis developers and available at StudioPress. And last, but not least, there are also Genesis child themes available from Genesis specialized companies like Themedy.
Headway offers two kinds of licenses. Next to the Developer option for $174, there is also a Base license with a price tag of $87 for just the Headway framework.
Renewals for the Headway Developer and Base license are 75% of the initial license price.
The MultiToool WordPress Theme Framework by Bloooming is available at ThemeForest. The license policy and pricing plan regarding MultiToool are quite simple; you need to purchase a $45 license for every single domain. Regardless whether it is your own site or your client’s. The support forum and documentation are accessible from the MultiToool panel.
PageLines offers a $197 Personal Edition and a $397 Developer Edition of its framework. Both entitle you to updates and support for one year only. The major difference between the two licenses is that the first one allows you to use the framework on an unlimited number of domains as long as you own these yourself. The latter allows you to use the PageLines Framework on client sites too.
Because of the introduction of PageLines Version 2.2, PageLines has started a special sale reducing prices with 50%! The Personal Edition now costs only $97 and the Developer Edition only $197.
At the same time, PageLines has introduced a Plus membership that includes live support, monthly extensions, and access to all PageLines products and updates. The Personal Plus membership comes at $14 per month. The Plus membership for the Developer Edition has a price of $19 per month.
Please note that when you do not want a Plus membership, you might have to repurchase a license when PageLines releases a critical update for its framework.
The Personal Edition allows you to run the framework on one live (production) website and on one local host for development purposes. The Developer Option allows you to run the Thesis framework on all the domains that you own.
Customers of the Developer Option that want to run the framework on a client sites, need to purchase Client Site Options. The price of a single Client Site Option ranges from $40 to $32. This price depends on the number of client licenses you purchase at once. There are no recurring costs.
The already mentioned Themedy creates not only child themes for the Genesis Framework, but also for the Thesis Theme Framework. When you purchase a theme from Themedy, you will get two versions; one for the Genesis Framework and one for Thesis Theme.
As stated in the review of the Ultimatum Theme , this drag-and-drop framework is available in three flavors: a $65 Starter License, a Developer’s License at $125 and a Designer’s License for $170. All three licenses will deliver you lifetime updates. There are no recurring costs with the Ultimatum Theme.
The Starter license comes with support for one site. The Developer’s and Designer’s License entitle you to support for an unlimited number of sites, multisite support, and the ability to export templates. The Designer’s License also gives you the ability to sell your templates at the Ultimatum Template Market.
At the moment, the Ultimatum Developer License is available at Mighty Deals for only $57 and the Start License for only $37. Definitely worth the money in my opinion.
Xtreme One from the Xtreme Theme is a framework available with only one kind of license for just $79.95. You will get lifetime updates, access to (video) tutorials, the support forum, and the knowledgebase. These are no recurring fees. Xtreme One comes with one blank child theme. Additional child themes can be purchased for $19.95 each.
What’s in the Box?
My initial intention with the research and findings described above was to help me identify which WordPress Theme Frameworks I might want to consider myself. It is very tempting to the compare only the oh-so-obvious price tags.
Especially when you plan to use a theme framework not just for one project, but for a longer period of time, it is very important to consider all product attributes. Not just the product features, but updates, support and recurring costs too.
What frameworks are you considering?
Version history of this post
- 2012-06-25 initial publication
- 2012-06-30 first update because of the launch and inclusion of the Dynamik Website Builder
- 2012-09-10 updated the Catalyst entry to reflect the company’s new pricing policy