16 Free WordPress Frameworks and Starter Themes

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own WordPress theme, you’ll know after reading through the theme development Codex there’s quite a lot of work involved before you write a single line of your own code, which is quite daunting. Fortunately, there are plenty of nice people on the internet who have created starter themes and frameworks so you can immediately get to grips with being creative!

What’s the difference between a framework and a starter theme?

Essentially, a framework can be thought of as a parent theme. It’s intended to be used as a library of files utilized by a child theme and so should never be altered. The child theme (which in it’s most basic form can simply be a stylesheet) calls on the framework in order to function.

A starter theme on the other hand is intended to be self contained and used as a starting point, and so should be altered, taken apart, hacked up, and crafted into the perfect WordPress theme for your site.


The following are in alphabetical order rather than ranked by preference – what suits me may be totally at odds to your needs. I’ve also omitted some frameworks and starter themes that don’t appear to have been updated in a while.

_s Underscores

_s Underscores for WordPress

Description:

Hi. I’m a starter theme called _s, or underscores, if you like. I’m a theme meant for hacking so don’t use me as a Parent Theme. Instead try turning me into the next, most awesome, WordPress theme out there. That’s what I’m here for.

My ultra-minimal CSS might make me look like theme tartare but that means less stuff to get in your way when you’re designing your awesome theme.

  • A just right amount of lean, well-commented, modern, HTML5 templates.
  • A helpful 404 template.
  • A sample custom header implementation in inc/custom-header.php that can be activated by uncommenting one line in functions.php and adding the code snippet found in the comments of inc/custom-header.php to your header.php template.
  • Custom template tags in inc/template-tags.php that keep your templates clean and neat and prevent code duplication.
  • Some small tweaks in inc/extras.php that can improve your theming experience.
  • A script at js/navigation.js that makes your menu a toggled dropdown on small screens (like your phone), ready for CSS artistry. It’s enqueued in functions.php.
  • 2 sample CSS layouts in layouts/ for a sidebar on either side of your content.
  • Smartly organized starter CSS in style.css that will help you to quickly get your design off the ground.
  • Licensed under GPLv2 or later. πŸ™‚ Use it to make something cool.

_tk

_tk for WordPress

Description:

  • A responsive, mobile first, free WordPress starter theme.
  • Based on _s (or Underscores) theme from Automattic.
  • Combined with Twitter Bootstrap 3.0
  • 100% clean integration, the WordPress way!
  • Released under GPL 3.0 – you can use it for free for all your projects, private and commercial.

b4st

b4st for WordPress

Description:

b4st is a simple WordPress starter theme loaded with Bootstrap 4.

  • Simple, intuitive, clean code.
  • CSS, JS, functions and loops are organized into different folders.
  • Bootstrap 4.0.0 alpha – included CSS and JS enqueued.
  • jQuery 2.1.4 (served by cdnjs.com CDN) enqueued.
  • Font Awesome (served by cdnjs.com CDN) enqueued.
  • Modernizr 2.8.3 (served by cdnjs.com CDN) enqueued.
  • A starter CSS theme – /theme/css/b4st.css, enqueued.
  • WordPress menu and WordPress search form in the Bootstrap 4 .navbar (Note: Bootstrap 4.0.0 supports only one level of menu links (no navbar drop-downs).
  • Bootstrap pagination ( e.g. 1 | 2 | 3 | Older ->) for Blog index and category pages.
  • Visual editor stylesheet – into which the same Bootstrap 4 and starter CSS theme are preloaded by @import, so that what you see in the visual editor is (mostly!) what you get at the front end (WYSI(M!)WYG). E.g. you will see the theme’s typpography in the WordPress Post/Page editor, but its width will not be the same as your article column width in the front end.
  • MIT licence (open source).

Basic

Basic for WordPress

Description:

The purpose of the Basic theme is to give you a starter theme so you can be your own designer. It only contains the basic layout styling so you can customize the theme with your own preferences using the Themify option panel. The layout is completely responsive. It works on any resolution on desktop and mobile devices such as iPad, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

  • Responsive layout.
  • Lightbox gallery (no plugins required).
  • Scroll to top button.
  • Optional RSS and search form.
  • Social media icons.
  • Footer text.
  • Footer menu.
  • Choose up to 4 footer widget columns.
  • 5 theme skins.
  • Coded with HTML5 & CSS3.
  • Child theme support.

Beans

Beans for WordPress

Description:

Beans is an incredibly powerful and flexible WordPress theme, yet light weight and unbelievably fast. Whether you are a pro or a beginner, you will enjoy the simplicity of it. The magic is under the hood!

  • Innovative WordPress theme framework.
  • Responsive content, adaptive images.
  • SEO friendly.
  • Built with the ultimate front-end library.
  • Impressive speed.
  • Stable updates.
  • Top notch documentation.
  • Latest technologies – LESS, CSS3, HTML5 and jQuery.

Blank Slate

Blank Slate for WordPress

Description:

BlankSlate is the definitive WordPress HTML5 boilerplate starter theme. We’ve carefully constructed the most clean and minimalist theme available anywhere for designers/developers to use as a base/foundation to build websites for clients or to build completely custom themes from scratch to release faster. Clean, semi-minified, unformatted and valid code, SEO-friendly, no programmer comments, standardized and as white label as possible and most importantly, CSS reset for cross-browser-compatability and no intrusive visual CSS styles added whatsoever. A perfect skeleton theme that blows any others like it (the subsequent underscores.me for example) completely out of the water, as they’re simply too overcomplicated for what people really want in this kind of theme. Now comes with jQuery enqueued and ready to go.

  • 100% free.
  • 100% open source.
  • 100% no visual CSS styles added (forcing you to design something original from scratch).
  • Perfect for experienced developers and designers.

Cherry Framework

Cherry Framework for WordPress

Description:

Fully responsive design, easy install, steady updates, great number of shortcodes and widgets, integration of Bootstrap functions, well documented. All brought to you by Cherry Framework for straightforward experience in website design.

  • Fully responsive design.
  • Easy install.
  • Steady updates.
  • Great number of shortcodes and widgets.
  • Integration of Bootstrap functions.

Cornerstone

Cornerstone for WordPress

Description:

Cornerstone is a free WordPress starter theme based on the Zurb Foundation Responsive Framework. Cornerstone aims to provide a lightweight starter theme (a parent theme) that is responsive and SEO friendly that web designers can build great looking website on. Cornerstone is not meant to be used as is. This theme is designed to be used as a parent theme to create a child theme from.

  • Responsive design.
  • Based on the ZURB Foundation Framework 5 – the most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world.
  • A 12-column flexible grid that can scale out to an arbitrary size (defined by the max-width of the row) that’s also easily nested.
  • Mobility – Foundation Framework 4 was built from the ground up to support any kind of device, any size screen, with any resolution.
  • Includes the new Top Bar menu from Foundation Framework 4/5.
  • Orbit slider.

FoundationPress

FoundationPress for WordPress

Description:

This is a starter-theme for WordPress based on Foundation 6, the most advanced responsive (mobile-first) framework in the world. The purpose of FoundationPress, is to act as a small and handy toolbox that contains the essentials needed to build any design. FoundationPress is meant to be a starting point, not the final product.

Please fork, copy, modify, delete, share or do whatever you like with this.

Hybrid Core

Hybrid Core for WordPress

Description:

Hybrid Core is a framework for developing WordPress themes. It allows theme developers to build themes without having to code much of the complex “logic” or other complicated functionality often needed in themes. The framework takes care of a lot of these things so theme authors can get back to doing what matter the most: developing and designing cool themes.

The framework was built to make it easy for developers to include (or not include) specific, pre-coded features. Themes handle all the markup, style, and scripts while the framework handles the logic.

JointsWP

JointsWP for WordPress

Description:

JointsWP is a blank WordPress theme built with Foundation 6, giving you all the power and flexibility you need to build complex, mobile friendly websites without having to start from scratch.

Starting its humble life as a fork of the popular theme Bones, JointsWP is now the foundation of thousands of websites across the globe.

Nebula

Nebula for WordPress

Description:

Nebula is a springboard WordPress theme framework for developers. Like other WordPress startup themes, it has custom functionality built-in (like shortcodes, styles, and JS/PHP functions), but unlike other themes it is not meant for the end-user.

WordPress developers will find all source code not obfuscated, so everything may be customized and altered to fit the needs of the project. Additional comments have been added to help explain what is happening; not only is this framework great for speedy development, but it is also useful for learning advanced WordPress techniques.

Quark

Quark for WordPress

Description:

Quark is your basic building block for creating beautiful, responsive custom themes. It’s not a convoluted or confusing framework that’s hard to learn or even harder to modify. It’s a simple and elegant starter theme built on HTML5 & CSS3. Its base is a responsive, 12 column grid. It incorporates custom theme options that are easy to modify, a set of common templates, support for WordPress Post Formats and the gorgeous, retina friendly Font Awesome icon font. Quark is WooCommerce compatible, Multilingual Ready (WPML) and translated into Spanish, German and French. Quark is also compatible with popular page builders such as Visual Composer, Beaver Builder, Divi Builder and the SiteOrigin Page Builder.

Sage

Sage for WordPress

Description:

The best WordPress starter theme with a modern front-end development workflow.

  • Gulp build script that compiles both Sass and Less, checks for JavaScript errors, optimizes images, and concatenates and minifies files.
  • BrowserSync for keeping multiple browsers and devices synchronized while testing, along with injecting updated CSS and JS into your browser while you’re developing.
  • Bower for front-end package management.
  • Asset-builder for the JSON file based asset pipeline.
  • Bootstrap.
  • Theme wrapper.
  • ARIA roles and microformats.
  • Posts use the hNews microformat.
  • Multilingual ready and over 30 available community translations.

Unyson

Unyson for WordPress

Description:

Unyson is a framework for WordPress that facilitates the development of a theme.

This framework was created from the ground up by the team behind ThemeFuse from the desire to empower developers to build outstanding WordPress themes fast and easy.

Wonderflux

Wonderflux for WordPress

Description:

Turbo-charge your WordPress theme development with Wonderflux – the Open Source responsive theme framework.

Wonderflux allows you to rapidly develop highly sophisticated, custom WordPress themes that adapt to any screen size on any device.

With just a handful of files (minimum is just 1 – style.css) harness the power of Wonderflux by creating your own simple child themes.