Every Web developer today knows very well that a majority of CMSs today support extendable features with the help of themes and plugins. The best example is WordPress, which has already given a great rise to a new business popularly known as Theme development.
Talking about WordPress Theme development, the first thing we hear from both the developers and the clients is: theme options, as to a greater extent, the features of your theme rely on how efficiently you do this particular section. And when you’re developing a theme to sell online, it becomes a crucial part.
Well, developing your very own theme option panel is not so easy, in fact it is time consuming process. It may also be intimidating to those who are designers or beginning developers.
What does it take to code WordPress theme options?
- Good knowledge of WordPress standards, the Settings API and Theme Customization API
- Good programming skills, specially PHP
- Great amount of time
I’m not saying that coding your own panel is meaningless, but it requires time, practice, and experience to code a good one. And there are some excellent resources on web to keep practicing and learning the WordPress Customizer and Settings API.
Note that WordPress Theme Customizer is not a framework. It’s a native WordPress feature and you may learn Customizer API to integrate it in your themes.
Meanwhile, you may make use of the following easy-to-install frameworks to give your themes an option panel. You may make use of these frameworks in any of your projects, and may also fork the code of the free ones for learning purpose.
Free Theme Option panel frameworks
These free frameworks are plugins and packages that are available under GPLv2 license. You may modify and use them in your personal as well as commercial projects.
Developed by Devin Prince, Options framework is a free plugin that you may install to add an option panel to your theme. You may also merge the plugin into your theme to provide it a ready-made options panel functionality.
With Options framework, you may add a number of features in theme options covering textbox, textarea, checkbox, select combo box, radio option, image uploader, image-based radio buttons, set of options to define theme background properties, multicheck, color picker, typography options, and editor.
You may also utilize the Options check theme provided by the developer to learn using the framework.
OptionTree, partly sponsored by ThemeForest, is a plugin created by Derek Herman which has some advanced features that you may have been looking for if you want to develop a premium theme.
With the plugin, you may add many types of options ranging from simple properties like select box, checkbox, radio, textbox, textarea, background options, color picker etc. to advanced options like checkbox & select box for posts, pages, categories, sidebar & CPTs, textarea to add CSS code, date & time picker, On/Off options, radio image options, image uploader and a bunch of more features.
The developer also provides Option Tree theme that helps to quickly learn the framework usage.
Provided by UpThemes, a popular WordPress theme company, the framework do has robust features but I’d recommend it to the developers above the intermediate level. It is developed while keeping the Settings API in mind, supports standard WordPress features for media uploader, color picking, theme customization, header, and background options.
Unyson is provided by ThemeFuse, another popular WordPress theme service. It supports a bunch of handy options like drag & drop page builder, backup, sliders, breadcrumbs, events, portfolio, user feedback, quizzes & lessons.
If you are beginning up with Unyson, you should download Scratch theme by ThemeFuse to get the hang of it.
Redux provides a great variety of options, and also lets you test the framework in the real time. It’s a translation ready product, and you may also generate it according to your need just by creating a free account at their site.
Slightly Modded Options Framework
Aka SMOF is the modified version of Devin Prince’s Options Framework. SMOF is now a part of Redux Framework, but it can still be a good fit if Redux is too much for your requirement.
Feature-wise, you may consider it Options framework laden with some advanced stuff like drag-drop unlimited slider options, layout manager, backup and restore, Google fonts with live preview etc. It also makes good use of native WordPress features like media uploader and color picker.
For those who’ve already been using SMOF, and want to switch to Redux, SMOF to Redux converter is worth a see.
The author says it’s the easiest way to add admin pages to your plugins and themes. With a good variety of features, it also supports adding Customizer to the theme. You can also see it’s working demo as told on the download page.
Currently, Vafpress’s demo is running on WordPress 3.5.1, but then I checked it’s GitHub repo updated few months ago and people are still giving it stars and reviews.
Though I’m listing the working and regularly updated frameworks here, I’ll still advise you to do a good research before rushing to the purchase.
Whitelabel provides a cool option panel with many advanced features with a slick responsive design. It is lastly updated in June 2014, and seems the best choice so far in the list of premium option panels.
- Price: $17 (Regular)
- License: CodeCanyon Split License. Commercial use may require an extended license.
Fluent is the latest premium framework (updated August 2014) available on CodeCanyon marketplace. According to the creators, it provides standardized definitions & access to options and additional meta information for any data types.
- Price: $17 (Regular)
- License: CodeCanyon Split License. Extended license is required for commercial use.
Propanel is developed by TrueThemes, an elite author at Code Canyon. It’s one of the featured items on the marketplace and has been purchased by 400+ people.
- Price: $17 (Regular)
- License: CodeCanyon Split License. You can use Propanel commercially by purchasing an extended license.
That’s the best of what I found so far. But I’m sure once you gain confidence with the required APIs, you would rather enjoy developing your own panels then using any ready-made frameworks. Hope you enjoyed the collection, feel free to share your thoughts, choices, and suggestions :)