WordPress powers nearly 20 percent of all the sites in the world — and half of that figure is hosted for free on WordPress.com. With more than a decade under its belt, the open-source platform has embraced thousands of developers and designers, adding to a laundry list of contributors constantly driving the impressive content management system well beyond its humble roots and barebones beginnings. Nowadays, it serves bloggers and businesses hellbent on pushing a product, service, or content in the hopes of being seen in the bustling industry that is the Internet.
However, not everyone thinks about how their WordPress theme is a reflection of themselves. Although individual aesthetics play a role in website design, you need to factor in the kind of site you’re building and the audience you’re trying to appeal to. Different themes offer different page templates and widgets, coding and fonts, layout builders, and design responsiveness that can be custom tailored to become your site’s personal mouthpiece without ever actually saying a word. Simply put, they’re an easy way to make your site your own and stand out among the pack.
Thankfully we’ve sorted through them all to bring you our picks for the best WordPress themes available for both, whether you’re looking for premium customization or a simple, free alternative. Some cater to the professional blogger or business, some to the photo aficionado or artist, but each caters to someone.
Best free themes for WordPress.org
Themehorse’s flagship offering is simple and classic. It features highly-customizable page builder facets, including two site layouts, five page templates, five widgets areas, four custom widgets, and many more standout aspects that make it a perfect foundation on which to begin building your site. Though the free version is missing such perks as a huge font family and a gallery option — both of which are available with the premium upgrade — it supports a variety of plugins (Breadcrumb NavXT, WP-PageNavi, etc.), has built-in translation to eight different languages, and is retina optimized, meaning it automatically adapts to tablets and other mobile devices.
Swift Basic is the fastest loading WordPress theme around, and has been hailed for its intelligent loading process, one that gives first priority to the most important elements on the page. It features post sliders, eight widget areas, and built-in sidebar options that make for a magazine-oriented design. Various design aspects and meta info can always be customized using the drag-and-drop interface, too, and all the standard WordPress features are present — menus, post types, post formats, etc. The streamlined design just makes it optimized for breakneck speeds and advanced SEO purposes.
As the name suggests, Customizr is the bespoke tailor of free WordPress themes, offering the most flexibility to make your site tailor-made and unique. Built on the Twitter Bootstrap framework with HTML5 and CSS3, Nikeo’s theme is fast, responsive, SEO optimized, and easy to use — even for beginners. Some key features and design elements include individual skins, logos, social profiles, a responsive slider generator, featured home blocks, a call-to-action button, and varied designs for the overall layout, all of which are easily accessible using the built-in WordPress theme customizer. Its compatibility with plugins such as WooCommerce render it a great theme for businesses and bloggers hoping to integrate merchandise sales into their site, too, as does the theme’s extensive support forum.
An ideal theme for sites that have multiple contributors and word-heavy content — e.g. travel sites, writing blogs, or writers’ portfolios — Tracks is incredibly simple while still managing to offer a set of sophisticated options. Author bios at the bottom of posts can link to the author’s social media page, as opposed to the site’s social media pages, the latter of which can be found at the top of the page. A search bar, various post layouts, comment display controls, a logo uploader, and social media icons also make the site easy for users to navigate and site builders to brand. Custom excerpts allow authors to display succinct summaries of posts rather than just truncated versions, which, when pair with the right header images, make for visually pleasing sites that don’t look busy.
Cohhe’s Longform is the only free WordPress theme designed to be fully compatible with Aesop, meaning it can harness the powerful storytelling engine plugin to offer 13 impactful story components. This allows you to incorporate components such as chapters and timelines designed to better segment your stories, while also allowing you to add audio and video players to enhance them. The character tool provides you with further customization — i.e. the ability to display an avatar, title, and short bio for your key characters — and the built-in stories page allows you to curate a single page with stories that share the same tag, thus creating an impressive and accessible hub for all your best content. Retina-ready and responsive, your stories will benefit from an interactive experience that’s as responsive on your smartphone as your desktop.
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