WordPress feels like a distant planet these days. I’ve been concentrating so much on front end development that I can barely recall building with it even as recently as several months ago, and this included redesigning Stellify after four years.
So as I went back to WP for a couple of projects, a blog for a web app and a company site without a blog, it was time to survey current options I could build on top on. Going for either a child theme or a starter theme helps me avoid blank canvas syndrome and get updated on the latest, best way to do things. (Tinkering with premium or uber-custom themes happens for me when a client mentions it explicitly, which is not very often.)
Using the first, a.k.a. the theme framework route (mine’s usually Genesis or Sandbox), keeps your concentration on the CSS and, if you want to add or remove stuff,
functions.php. The second is simply overriding existing code so you don’t have to start entering code on a blank screen, either. Both will pose the question of how much control do you want, or how much are you willing to give up. If you want to weigh your options more carefully, read this.
Once, the breadth of a framework was too wide that I resorted to using Twenty Ten as parent—that is not recommended! When I need a starter theme, I usually look no further than the flagship theme release of the year, either. An “Automattic” source for the most up-to-date WordPress code and best practices, if you will.
Underscores hadn’t existed back then. Automattic probably won’t release an official theme framework (the closest would be Thematic, solely on the principle that it was built by now Theme Team leader Ian Stewart) but they did create an official starter theme, which even has a clever nickname: “_s”. Reminds me of the ideal way to print text inside themes for localization.
Goodies include CSS layouts, keyboard navigation for image attachments, and dropdown menus for small screens—reportedly amounting to over 1000 hours of work already done for you. You can grab it from GitHub or generate custom theme attributes on the site before downloading.