To begin, you will need to understand what is meant by WordPress Theme Framework. Technically (according to the WordPress Codex) any stand-alone Theme can act as a Framework. This is in the sense that any stand-alone Theme that allows you to make alterations to it, can be used as a framework.
What is a WordPress Framework?
There is a bit of confusion when it comes to the term WordPress Theme Framework. While the concept is that a Theme Framework is a bare bones, well-designed WordPress Theme for a developer or designer to build many client sites upon, some people think that a WordPress Theme Framework is an ultra-basic theme that has next to no formatting. When someone refers to WordPress Framework they may also be referring to the archive of code used to create Parent Themes.
The basic template and code files are designed to be used in conjunction with a Theme to build on top of the Theme by “bootstrapping” it into the Themes function .php file.
A WordPress Theme Framework doesn’t involve just “pick a Theme and strip it and start over.” Definitely not. That would be a drastic understatement. I would say that to make the fullest use a WordPress Theme Framework you should have an understanding how to incorporate code properly.
You may find the need to use a Theme framework if you are web-developer or develop WordPress themes regularly; you will no-doubt get tired of all the repetitive tasks that go into writing code and needing to check your mark-up habitually. So, in order to avoid that whole headache you can simply use a WordPress Theme Framework, this would drastically speed up your website development time.
Ahhhh… a Framework, but which one?
Once you have decided that you need a WordPress Theme Framework, and made an honest estimate of your level of code competency, it is time to select a Theme and get started customizing it. There are two ways of going about doing this; you can develop an entire theme of your own using a true framework like Underscores, which is not recommended to use as a parent theme but exclusively as the foundation of a Child Theme.
To start, you will need to know what features that are offered you wish to build upon with your WordPress Theme Framework. The features are typically the ones that meet the most requested needs of the client.
From the library of Theme Frameworks there are some that focus on being designed for a mobile interface like Bones, and even some that offer their own custom built-in widgets like the powerful Gantry, and the modular Hybrid. By knowing which elements of a Framework you will rely on most you will be able to make an informed decision in deciding which Framework to use for developing your own Theme.
For people like me, who are not wizards with code or are completely code-illiterate, there are options if you really want to create your own WordPress Theme. These users would want to choose from the wide of drag & drop type of frameworks such as iFeature, Snapshot and Eclipse, these give average users the ability to create the whole shebang in a visual way with no working knowledge of code. These drag-&-drop Frameworks give users this ability with predefined segments in the same way widgets work.
Additionally, there are some theme Frameworks that are designed for developers to get a solid foundation on which to build their very own Theme without all of the unnecessary characteristics and cluttering extras that are part of the more loaded Frameworks, a very popular one is Whiteboard. Whiteboard has been a solid Framework since 2008. Although designed to be built upon, many of this kind of Framework will still have a high level of functionality built in and most will work well with many of the available widgets and plug-ins.
For those who aren’t so concerned with all of the so called clutter, there are also theme frameworks that come loaded with a full set of features. Thematic and a few other themes come in under this classification. Themaic is intended to give the user a great deal of control.
There is a plethora of different Frameworks out there, ones you can get free and ones you have to pay for. I have only referred to the free ones here, because there is such a huge selection of free Theme Frameworks, that you should be able to get all of your needs met without the need to pay for (nearly) anything. So don’t feel pressured and make a hasty choice, just remember all of the Frameworks mentioned here (and many many more) are available at no charge, so download to your hearts content and tap and click away.