My favorite theme framework for WordPress is the Genesis theme Framework. A framework is basically functionality that makes it easier to create or modify a theme. To use the Genesis framework you actually install two themes. First you install Genesis, and then you install the “Child” theme that you want to use. The benefit comes that you can make updates to the underlying framework without having to change your child theme that sits on top of it.
Benefits of using a framework
There are a bunch of reasons to use a framework but one main benefit is the security of having your WordPress theme up to date all the time. Genesis allows you to easily update the framework without the worry of your theme being messed up. I’ve had instances when I wasn’t using a framework and I updated a theme that had been customized and the whole thing blew up and needed to be fixed again (in this case it is always good to do a backup before you update a website.) Because your site is up to date if there are any security holes that are found they can be updated in the framework without harming your theme.
Another benefit is that often times plugins can be created that allow you to more easily modify a website. Instead of needing to make changes to the footer across themes (if you change themes) many of those changes stay because they were either in widgets, or plugins that are still active.
The last thing I love about the Genesis theme framework is that it has built in SEO functionality. This allows you to set SEO settings across the website and also on each post or page. You can then specify a custom meta description or title that will show up in the search engine results.
OK, Now what?
Well now that you understand what a framework is and the benefits of using one, I’d suggest two options. The first is to check out this guide that Stuido Press put together for their Genesis Framework. It talks about how to do all the cool things that I’ve mentioned as well as a bunch of other stuff.
Next, I’d recommend that you check out both the standard Genesis themes listings and the 3rd party marketplace for a whole bunch of awesome themes. If you don’t find one you like you can always get one built for you but that will cost a bit more.