There are plenty of WordPress theme frameworks available today, and they are becoming increasingly popular with those who want lots of extra easy to use functionality, while still being able to give their site a personalised look by using a supported child theme.
One WordPress framework that has been increasing its profile lately is the Cherry Framework from TemplateMonster. This is actually a free WordPress framework, which you might be surprised to know currently has 364 child themes available for it. This means that by installing the free framework, you can then choose from over 300 themes that have been designed for it.
Cherry Framework Features
There are two main reasons why you might want to install and use a particular WordPress framework:
- You want access to the functionality of the framework
- You want to use one of the themes that has been built using the framework
Both are equally valid reasons, but let’s start off by looking at the features and functionality of the Cherry Framework and see if they are strong enough to persuade you to use it.
Shortcode Issue Resolved
When I’d used this framework in the past, much of the functionality of the theme was delivered using shortcodes. These shortcodes allowed you to easily insert items including:
- Post lists, such as recent posts
- Post elements, such as banners and hero units
- Post and page layouts, including columns and rows
- Elements, such as buttons, labels, icons and progress bars
- Lists and bullet icons
- Tabs, accordions and tables
While shortcodes are easy for users to insert into their posts and pages, they do pose problems when someone wants to change frameworks. As the shortcodes relate to parts of the framework, when the framework is deactivated, the shortcodes no longer work and the site is effectively, to varying degrees, broken for the end user.
However, with the latest version of the Cherry Framework, shortcodes and widgets have been pushed out to a plugin which is auto-installed alongside the framework. This means that should you decide to change frameworks in the future, you aren’t at risk of losing the functionality your site currently makes use of, providing you keep the plugin installed.
This is great news and means that users can now give this framework a try without worrying about being locked in, or facing the prospect of editing all their content upon exit.
To use the shortcodes, simply click on the icon that the plugin adds to the post editor and then choose from the available options. If the shortcodes accept any parameters, a popup lightbox window will ask you for them.
Once installed and activated, the framework adds its own control panel to the admin area of your site which can be accessed via the ‘Cherry Options’ menu item. From here you can customise many aspects of the theme you are using with the framework. These include the general appearance, which relates to things like the background colour and image for the site, text appearance for the different classes such as the body and headers, and you can also set the link behaviours.
With this framework, you get a real sense of control over how your site’s content will be displayed, thanks to the ability to set different fonts, sizes, line heights and colours for each class. This means if you felt it necessary, you could set each header style, H1, H2, etc., to not only be a different colour but also a different font.
As the framework has well-developed portfolio functionality and support, the framework options area has a separate tab for this part of your site. From there you can work with the many settings available to determine exactly how your portfolio will be displayed. These settings include the layout and whether to use rows or a masonry effect and how many items to show depending on how many columns are being used.
If you are starting off with a new site, or just want to import some data into your existing WordPress site, then you will be pleased to know that the framework and its themes comes complete with sample data which can be imported via the theme option’s import sub-page.
During the import process, you can also import a group of widgets for use on the sidebars of your site.
The theme I used for this review was the Consulting Responsive WordPress Theme #47225. After running the import of the included files, the theme was faithfully rebuilt to exactly resemble the demo version of the theme. This is another great aspect of the framework and the service provided, as it makes it very easy to setup a theme to look like the demo version. From there it’s just a case of editing the content to include your information.
The version of Cherry Framework I am reviewing is 3.0, which was released towards the end of 2013. The developers state that the framework is maintained with constant updates. Thankfully they are very easy to manage as a notification is displayed to users via their WordPress dashboard, indicating that an update is available. As the themes are delivered as child themes, your work and changes won’t be overwritten when the framework is updated. This makes it a safe choice for those who want to stay up to date, without the risk of losing their customisations and modifications.
However, for extra peace of mind, the framework comes with a Data Management feature which allows you to back and restore your site including the theme and the framework separately. This can be done at will, including before updating, and gives you peace of mind when embarking on an update or carrying out any major changes to your chosen theme. The backups can be downloaded and stored off-site for maximum protection against any loss or corruption.
Themes for Cherry Framework
No matter how good a framework’s features and user experience are, if it doesn’t have the themes to run on it, then it’s not going to be much use, unless you plan to design your own themes for it.
As mentioned early, there are over 300 themes for the Cherry Framework which is perhaps the most themes for any one particular framework. While the framework itself is free, the themes are not but with the average price listed at $38, they are competitively priced.
There a lot of different categories of WordPress theme available at the TemplateMonster store for this framework, including business, travel, animals, hotels, weddings and security to name but a few. Some of my favourite examples include:
A lot of the themes are built using Bootstrap and are responsive, making them suitable for use on a range of devices from smartphones to desktops, and everything in between. Overall, I was very impressed with the design of the themes and with over 300 to choose from, there should be something there for most projects.
When you purchase a theme, which you can currently do for $38, you also get the option of having it installed for you at an extra charge. There is also the option of a buyout license. This option makes you the last buyer of the template, taking it off the market, as well giving you the ability to use the theme on multiple domains. This is a good option for someone who wants a unique design for their site, although it does come with quite a hefty price tag.
You can also choose from a range of ‘done for you’ theme customisation services, such as implementing your logo and changing the colour scheme. If you want a theme for your business or project, and don’t want to spend your time editing the settings, these optional extras will appeal. Unlike some other frameworks, there are no pricing plans or deals in place to give you a discount for buying multiple themes.
Installation and Setup
If you are new to WordPress frameworks then you will be pleased to know this one is very easy to setup. Simply upload the zip file containing the framework files via the WordPress theme uploader (found at Appearance > Themes > Install Themes). Then either activate and explore the framework, or upload and activate the child theme files, which can be done in the same way.
When you purchase a theme, the Cherry Framework files are included, so everything you need is there in the package, along with the import data and the shortcodes plugin.
You don’t often hear much about this framework, which is strange considering how many great themes there are for it. The themes themselves are the main draw though, as the framework itself, while totally competent, doesn’t really wow you with its features and user experience. It just does what it needs to do, in order to provide an easy to use framework from which to install the many WordPress themes available for it.
Now that the issue with the shortcodes has been resolved, with them having been moved to a plugin, hopefully more of the themes for Cherry Framework will start making it on to WordPress theme list roundups.
Have you used Cherry Framework before, and were you aware it had so many themes available for it?