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Reviewing Popular WordPress Theme Frameworks

During a recent client site build, we realized we weren’t super happy with the base theme we were using. While we quite like Beaver Builder for a page builder, the theme we were wrapping it with just wasn’t quite as powerful as we wanted without additional add-ons.

So we decided to try and recreate some projects we’d completed with the combination of Beaver Builder and Beaver Theme in a few other popular WordPress themes designed to be lightweight, unopinionated, and play nice with most page builders.

Here are the criteria we considered as we reviewed these themes:

  • Available options (header settings, footer settings, archive and post configuration)
  • Simplicity of use
  • Compatibility with popular page builders (Beaver Builder, Elementor and the like)
  • Compatibility, and integration, with big-name plugins in their arena (WooCommerce, The Events Calendar)
  • Compatibility with Gutenberg
  • Forward-thinking – is this theme adopting Full Site Editing?

And the options we reviewed:

Note that we tested only the free versions of these themes, though Beaver Theme is technically not free. We tested it given we have a Beaver Builder subscription already.

Beaver Theme

Beaver Theme does some things well. There are very few bells and whistles, and some sensible defaults. But we do feel that it could do more, especially with plugins with large install bases like WooCommerce and The Events Calendar. Instead, focus seems to be shifted to Beaver Themer, which let’s you build theme parts with Beaver Builder. This kind of functionality is built into plugins like Elementor, but we’d honestly rather keep it within the theme. The advent of full-site editing will change this.

With that shift in focus comes lack of support for this particular product. Over the last couple years we’ve specifically run into small layout quirks with Gutenberg and a dated sticky header implementation that can result in overlapping your content. With nearly zero updates in the last couple years, we’re not optimistic these things get fixed.

Pros

  • Bundled page templates don’t bloat the media library with image uploads
  • Doesn’t stray from familiar WordPress interfaces and usage patterns. Mostly customizer-driven settings.

Cons

  • Limited integration with major plugins like WooCommerce and The Events Calendar
  • Infrequent updates, with focus shifting to Beaver Themer (a paid upgrade)
  • Poor implementation of global colors – lots of repeating yourself
  • Few hooks/filters – expect to fully override theme partials in a child theme

OceanWP

OceanWP suffers from many of the same issues as the Beaver Theme. There are no global color palettes, which is frustrating when it comes to, for instance, setting link and button colors. A nice default can be to set a single color and hover color that gets applied to links across the entire site and button backgrounds. With OceanWP, you must set these colors explicitly everywhere the theme allows you to customize colors.

If you aren’t paying attention, you might miss that OceanWP requires a free plugin to enable a good chunk of its features. We were baffled that a variety of settings weren’t available on a per-page basis until we realized this plugin was missing. So be prepared to keep both the theme and plugin updated.

We couldn’t figure out how to utilize a single page template for OceanWP, as opposed to replacing the entire website with a demo site. It’s possible this just isn’t a feature. While it comes with a few full site demos out of the box, many are paid add-ons.

The latest version underlines links contained within Beaver Builder buttons. That’s weird looking. Would be nice to see that fixed out of the box by one party or the other.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable, site-wide and per-page

Cons:

  • Limited demo content
  • Functionality split between theme and plugin
  • Lack of default color palette settings
  • Less robust header creation settings than some of its competitors

Astra

Getting up and running with Astra was very quick. Their global color palettes are very helpful and wide-reaching, resulting in much less configuration than required with, say, Beaver Theme.

We installed WooCommerce to see how things went there. There are a few customizations available for the catalog, but next to none for the single product template in the free version. The cart and checkout had several options for customization as well, and we expect that only becomes more robust in the Pro version.

The only hiccup we really hit was that the Astra button styles didn’t apply to Beaver Builder buttons. We dropped a support ticket and were informed this was intentional. So perhaps this is really more of an issue with Beaver Builder than the theme – Beaver Builder could really use defaults for certain modules.

Finally, Astra offers quite a few starter templates, many of which have implementations in Elementor, Beaver Builder, Brizy, and Gutenberg, meaning you can use each template regardless of your page builder of choice. That really feels like the extra mile for agencies that work with small businesses where, sometimes, the budget means the minimum viable product is “looks professional”.

Pros

  • Even free version is highly customizable
  • Tons of templates, implemented in many builders

Cons

  • We’ll let you know

Kadence Theme

Coming soon!

GeneratePress

Coming soon!

Page Builder Framework

Coming soon!

Blocksy

Coming soon!

Themes We Didn’t Review

Industry-Specific Themes

Categorically, we didn’t review any themes that advertised themselves as being industry-specific. These themes tend to bundle functionality designed at a particular vertical, so for agency work, it ends up being a uni-tasker instead of a multi-tool.

ThemeForest Themes

ThemeForest’s licensing isn’t well-designed for agencies, and the theme authors on this platform tend to churn out a bunch of industry-specific themes built on the same framework instead of building a single, well-functioning offering. These themes tend to get abandoned. Alternatively, the themes we chose generally have a full agency providing their support, making them field-tested and reliable for the long haul.

Divi

We’ve used Divi a lot, and it’s very powerful, but we’ve generally found that the building interface is slower than many of its competitors. We’ve also encountered issues with how it integrates with the WordPress core upgrader, and support has generally been uninterested in resolving issues that require passing feedback to the dev team. For these reasons, we didn’t bother revisiting it.

Hello

Hello is designed very specifically for Elementor, and does next-to-nothing by itself. This wasn’t what we were looking for.

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