We've used WordPress for more than 15 years, long before Lanna Digital was established. Finding a good framework has been a challenge. There are several factors that are important (and not necessarily obvious) when selecting a framework (a theme framework, a theme builder, or any combination).
SEO Support in a WordPress Theme
SEO requires support in a number of ways by a WordPress Theme. For the most part, things such as Meta Title and Meta Description are obvious or handled by plugins or themes that can build with their own hooks (such as GeneratePress). However, the clean management of Headers (H1, H2, H3, H4) is something that poorly thought-out themes (and plugins) can break (or that poor developers can implement).
Mobile first indexing and Google PageSpeed and specifically Core Web Vitals are becoming more and more important for ranking SERPS. This means a site theme needs to be mobile-first, and rank 90+ on mobile PageSpeed.
However, to invest in a particular theme, one needs signals of longevity and sustainability. SEO is ongoing and a fast theme is more important than ever, so we need a theme for the long-haul.
Sustainability of a WordPress Theme Framework
The first is longevity. How long with this theme framework stick around, and be maintained? This is important because WordPress is under ongoing development and themes and plugins must also be maintained.
WordPress Theme Framework Support for SEO
Support is important. For paid themes / frameworks and even for free ones, the support of the developers is something one really needs, or otherwise will have to spend more time and expense searching for help and hiring it.
Of course paid development is different from simple support issues that a theme developer would answer. We don't expect theme developers to do full custom work, but the ability to get an answer when something doesn't work as expected, is an important factor when selecting a theme or theme framework.
WordPress Theme Popularity vs. SEO
Popularity is definitely not the best measure of a theme or framework, by any means. Some themes and frameworks are hugely popular but a disaster in every other metric. Go figure. De gustibus non est disputandum.
That said, popular themes and frameworks mean that more other people are having the same issues we might encounter, and therefore there is more likely a publicly accessible discussion, solution, or work around more easily encountered.
GeneratePress is Modern and Updated
By this we mean that the theme or framework, if it has been around for a while (and something popular must almost by definition be a few years old), has been fundamentally re-architected (in a positive way). That is, especially for a theme, the underlying html grid/framework is up-to-date, and the management of the various assets are well thought out.
SEO PageSpeed 90+ Mobile for GeneratePress
This is the key factor which most frameworks and themes woefully lack. The ability to consistently meet the Core Web Vitals that Google measures in PageSpeed. These web vitals are one part engineering measurement and one part human factors (humans don't want to wait, can have unreliable Internet, and slow browsers). 90 out of 100 is the start of the green light by Google. Many folks rely on measurements for desktops rather than mobile, and that is a mistake. Not only do users use mobile (and increasingly), but Google is indexing mobile first.
Flexibility and Functionality of a Theme Framework
This is what things come down to in the end, if the above have been met:
- How flexible is the theme framework in terms of adaptability
- How fast is the theme framework in terms of usability
- How complete is the theme framework in terms of functionality
There are various ways to deal with the above elements of theme frameworks and is the most important reason why we have many of them. Nevertheless it is important to not be dazzled by one or two features. Certainly, if that feature is increasingly important it will be added to a popular, well-supported theme or framework.
Gutenberg Blocks and Classic Editor
For us dealing with old and new sites, it is important for a theme framework to be able to work well in both the classic editor mode as well as in the world of Gutenberg Blocks. Many new (and older) frameworks have been developing custom blocks and the like. Still there is a large codebase of older sites with older workflows that do not include blocks. Therefore a theme/framework that can deal with and be functional with both editing environments is a real advantage.
GeneratePress and GeneratePress Pro Theme for SEO
GeneratePress was first released in early 2014. It has stood the test of time and more importantly gone through steady revisions and updates. The 3.0 version released in mid-2020 includes switching to Flexbox internals, and a significant paring down of CSS and JS file numbers and sizes. It really is the best we've seen for a full-fledged WordPress theme framework.
In addition, as suggested above, GeneratePress supports and extends blocks and the Gutenberg paradigm. The sister project GenerateBlocks makes using blocks much easier and more foundational.
GeneratePress, as with Ultimatum, supports the use of page-builders such as the popular Elementor. While we don't and won't use Elementor and shy away from all page-builders for several reasons, those who do use them can continue doing so with GeneratePress.