I've recently started looking for a theme or framework created for an actual developer. I'm not looking for a theme that has hundreds of options designed for the average joe to get the most out of their $50 purchase. Most companies build themes for people who know nothing about code. They sell very well on the various theme stores... but I'm not in that market.

I'm an actual developer who doesn't have 100+ hours to create a good parent theme that I can use for my client builds. Nor do I have time to worry about maintaining a parent theme for my clients. I'm hoping that the community has come across something I haven't. I know many developers would suggest WooTheme's Canvas or StudioPress' Genesis, but Canvas seems a bit bloated for my tastes and Genesis doesn't get along well with WooCommerce. I haven't seen many other popular options -- some niche solutions over the years, but most don’t stick around. I suppose that's why the bloated themes with interface builders and hundreds of options are still here.

Here's a list of what I think a good developer framework would include.


  1. Well maintained and built to current standards
  2. Audited by the developer community or open source
  3. Actively developed - regular updates with good support
  4. Paid or free - if such a thing exists, I'd love to pay for it
  5. Doesn't have hundreds of "options" meant for non-developers
  6. Doesn't include built-in plugins (plugins should be plugins, themes should be themes)


  1. Completely responsive with an intelligent menu system
  2. An array of default page (and post?) templates so I don't have to re-invent the wheel
  3. Breadcrumbs, pagination, schema support, etc.
  4. I like widgets, so a heavily widgetized theme is appealing to me
  5. Simple layout support like columns or blocks would be great (I like shortcodes)
  6. No ridiculous interface builder (bloat is bad)


  1. SEO optimized, I'm currently a Yoast proponent
  2. Cache-ready, it needs to work with W3TC and other caching solutions
  3. Ecommerce compatibility, WooCommerce for example
  4. Compatibility with other standard plugins like BuddyPress, bbPress, etc.
  5. Multisite (Network) compatibility
  6. Full retina image compatibility with something like WP Retina 2x

I'm sure I could come up with more for this list, but most of these are just common sense to me. To me, most of the points in that list are non-negotiable and should be included with every theme. It's really just avoiding the bloat.

  • A popular starter theme you didn't mention is Underscores, have you used that before?
    – Tim Malone
    May 12, 2016 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


Here is mine that I have been working on, with pretty much all of what you have mentioned in mind, probably because I made it for similar reasons to what you are looking for. I originally developed it for my own and clients sites, but it has expanded since then and fairly recently released as public beta, under active development:

BioShip Starter Theme Framework

(and yes I know the home site for it is not great, originally thought to leave it fairly bare intentionally, but generally feedback seems to be it just makes the framework look bad, lol. I tend to agree, but priority is still the theme itself over the homepage looks.)

EDIT as requested a point by point answer to the original question. (please note this a rather selective list and does not reflect the priorities and goals of the project - for that see the website.)


  1. Maintained (and will continue to be as all my sites use it now.) Attempting to improve on current basic 'standards', if with an unconventional approach.
  2. Open source (yet to be audited by other developers.)
  3. Actively under development. Support forum about to open.
  4. Free. (so is Support / Features, but may be optionally accelerated by donations or contributions.)
  5. Sufficient user options without overdoing it. Many more advanced options and overrides are available for developers by using filters and pluggable functions everywhere.
  6. Plugin recommendations for the theme are made available using TGM plugin activation, so they are not required but easy to install.


  1. Responsive grid with easily configurable breakpoints. Mobile menus for smaller screensizes. (I would not say "completely responsive" as that is rather subjective and device display is a tricky arena.) Main menu is a dropdown 'superfish' with submenu support.
  2. Rather than limited 'templates', you set the default layout and sidebar display via the theme options and can configure display overrides for each section on a per post/page basis from an editing screen metabox. Also extensive filters available for more advanced layout conditions.
  3. Breadcrumbs via Hybrid (off by default), Pagination in-built, Schema markup via Hybrid in-built.
  4. Very flexible widgets areas including sidebar and subsidebar layout possibilities (unified or split post/page sidebar option), header widget area, 1-4 footer widget areas. (A content/shortcode/in-post widget plugin will be available as an extension also, but kept separate as it is also usable with other themes.)
  5. The layout is built on a column grid, so column classes can be simply used in the content area by giving those classes directly to DIV elements. (Sidenote: shortcodes are generally plugin not theme territory - to the point they will not pass a theme check for the WordPress.Org repository - as they are generally for content building, similar to a page composer... there are plenty of shortcode plugins around anyways.)
  6. No interface builder as such, though an optional (modified version) of Hybrid Hook for the theme has been included to add content blocks. (I can see room here for a possible optional premium plugin here though.)


  1. Uses schema markup via Hybrid Core for SEO. Works with Yoast or AllInOne.
  2. Cache ready. Recommend W3TC or Wordfence cache (.htaccess caching)
  3. Ecommerce ready. Tested (live sites) with WooCommerce or eStore.
  4. Basic testing with Buddypress and bbpress. (no known issues, some integration layers could be added in future.)
  5. Basic testing of Multisite compatibility. (no known issues)
  6. Specific retina image plugin compatibility untested.

A support forum section will open shortly as part of a larger project launch focussed around releasing some free plugins I have developed. Plus a GitHub repo for direct development contributions also available shortly, probably along with the next update which is almost ready (latest thing I am working on is the Customizer options to work so I can put it on WordPress.Org repository...)

  • Interesting! Looking forward to exploring this once I recover from the scary picture ;)
    – Tim Malone
    May 13, 2016 at 1:27
  • 1
    have just put up the next major version, pretty much everything had had an overhaul, so may be more worth checking it out now than it was before... :-)
    – majick
    Jun 24, 2016 at 7:02

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