There’s no shame in using the best tools at your disposal.
I have been using iThemes Builder and its available child themes for over a year now, and it’s made my process far more efficient. It’s not just a matter of slapping a logo on one of their prefab child themes and calling it a day. Most clients still require tweaks and changes to meet their needs. As I’ve stressed numerous times in talks, blog posts and tweets: design isn’t just a matter of making something pretty, it’s about the functional presentation of information that achieves the goals of the client.
Over the time I’ve been designing themes for clients, I’ve built up a large library of CSS and HTML snippets to help speed up changes. Builder has made that library largely unnecessary because it makes layout changes a matter of a few mouse clicks. You can switch views (home, single, page, name it) to any layout available, whether it’s the ones that ship with Builder itself or one you’ve created. You can just imagine how easier this makes testing a particular layout.
The best part about Builder is that—in a manner of speaking—it grows with you. Or, you can grow within it. You can start off with modifying a few child themes and experimenting with some layouts, through full-blown, from-scratch design. (I’m currently working on releasing a child theme or two for the framework. Testing use-cases—especially since these are being shared with the public—requires some thoroughness, so between client work and the nine-to-five, the going has been slow, I must admit.)
Watch out for a case study in the near future, but for now, iThemes is having their Black Friday sale. Use the coupon code FREESHIPPING (they’re a cheeky crowd, those guys) on a purchase of the All-Access Theme Pass, Builder, Plugin Buddy Developer Suite, or a premium annual membership to WebDesign.com.