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10 Remarkable (and Free) WordPress Themes

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of January 2008 Blog Design 0 Comments

The following post on great free WordPress Templates was written by Reese Spykerman from Design by Reese.

A search for free WordPress themes yields thousands of results, some dull or cluttered, some utilitarian, and many inspiring and beautiful. Numerous other well-designed WordPress themes are available to you, but these are 10 that stand out to me for various features including good usability, organization, attractive use of graphics, cross-genre appropriateness and even search engine optimization.

1. GridFocus Public

GridfocusSkellie can’t be wrong: she uses this theme on both of her blogs.

Super easy to navigate and clear in its structure and hierarchy, GridFocus can impart a more serious, trustworthy tone to your blog.

Ideal for: ProBloggers, Frequent Bloggers, Minimalists, Authors, Internal Corporate Blogs

2. Blue Zinfandel Squared Enhanced

BluezinfandelWhen you want your words to stand out without unnecessary clutter, try Blue Zinfandel.

The main body text size could be increased for greater legibility (you can change this in the style sheet under style.css>#content p and add a rule for “font-size” (such as font-size: 14px;).

The classical look of this design makes it a good fit for journalists and other writers.

Ideal for: Journalists, PR Reps, Authors

3. BlueBird

BluebirdLooking for a lovely, classy little design for your personal blog?

3-column BlueBird fits the bill well, especially for female bloggers.

Life coaches and counselors on a low budget might also find this an appropriate theme for a promotional blog.

Ideal for: Personal Blogs, Life Coaches

4. Rockin’ Biz Red

RockinbizredThis conservative 2-column theme works well for corporate, business and legal bloggers.

With plenty of whitespace and judicious use of the color red, Rockin’ Biz Red is great for the business blogger who wants a bit more personality than some of the minimalist themes listed here.

The top header image of an office can be easily swapped out with an image of your choice.

Rockin’ Biz Red is also available in a more robust 3-column version.

Ideal for: Business Blogs, Corporate Blogging, Legal Blogs, Finance-related topics (swap out the top header for a more appropriate image. Istockphoto has low-cost, high-quality images.)

5. Colors of Rainbow

Colorsofrainbow

For the obligatory “web 2.0 style” theme, TechnRoll uses popular colors and effects without going overboard.

Its top area can be easily rebranded with your personal or business logo.

The prominent location of the RSS feed link in the upper right can help drive subscriptions to your feed, so it gets a promotional and usability thumbs up.

Ideal for: personal blogs, business blogs, review sites, real estate blogging

6. Elite

EliteA design with dark tones can set your blog apart from the majority of white designs used on blogs.

Elite uses shades of dark gray, which are offset by friendly blue and green typography.

Although simple in its layout and usage of details, Elite helps your blog look both authoritative and approachable.

Ideal for: Review blogs, Tech blogs, Authority Bloggers, Personal Blogs, Gadget sites, Finance and Stock Blogs

7.Fresh

Fresh

Fresh is bright enough to make your readers stand up and take notice, but mature enough to brand you as a professional.

Well organized, easy to read and notable in its attention to small details such as icons and supporting graphics, Fresh is appropriate for just about anyone.

However, its blue theme may resonate best with male visitors.

Ideal for: Personal blogs, tech-related blogs

8. Blix

Blix

Many theme designers claim their code is search engine optimized (SEO), but Blix is one of the few that is created with SEO specifically in mind.

Blix’s code uses best practices more than the majority of other WordPress themes and is optimized for Google Adsense integration.

Blix is a good start if you aren’t consulting with an SEO and optimization is your primary concern when downloading a theme. A version with greater optimization is also available for sale. (Note: Michael Gray has great tips on further optimizing your WordPress blog for SEO.

Ideal for: SEO, Product-Based Sites, Monetized Blogs, Internet Marketing

9. GridLock

GridlockOrder and balance define Gridlock, which uses a lovely, magazine-style layout that makes for a visually stunning, clean and usable design for your readers.

When you want to look sophisticated and polished, this is the WordPress theme for you.

Ideal for: ProBloggers, Writers, Corporate Blogs, Business Blogs, Anyone who loves order and balance.

10. Jello-Wala-Mello

JellowalamelloAlternative layouts beyond the usual 2-column or 3-column setup are difficult to find.

Jello-Wala-Mello turns your WordPress blog into cubed, magazine-style format.

By featuring your latest entry as a large blurb on top, with blurbs from your prior entries below, this theme helps pull readers into your archives and decreases endless scrolling on your home page.

Ideal for: creative professionals, small media (independent online publications, alternative media), journalists, review sites.

Watch Out for Malicious Code

When downloading WordPress themes, keep in mind a lot of themes get redistributed without the original creator’s permission and are often modified with spyware or other malicious code. Check out the theme’s ìfooter.phpî file and look for code that looks garbled. A legitimate footer file will either be blank or have some html and php code in it. A hacked footer file has one long line of code that looks encrypted. Derek Punsalon has more info http://5thirtyone.com/archives/870 about issues with themes on 3rd-Party sites.

Modifying Credit Links in the Footer File

Sometimes the modifications are less overt: the footer file will be modified with spam-type credit links (stuffed with keywords to online banking, poker, prescriptions, etc). These can be edited as well and replaced with links of your choice or removed entirely. Before you remove a credit link that looks legitimate, see if the author has a license that requires the credit to remain.

Note from Darren: Of course blog design is a fairly subjective thing. I asked Reese to write this post as I get a lot of questions from readers wanting to know which WordPress theme they should choose for their blog and in the hope that this might highlight a few places to start (as well as some of the things to look for in other themes). Both Reese and I would love to hear your own suggestions on free WordPress Themes that you like also.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. A great list, but of course now you’ve recommended them there will be hundreds more blogs using each of these themes, making it more difficult for blogs using them to stand out.

    I suppose there’s always ways around that though, like Skellie’s use of photography – it stand out far more than the theme itself and gives her sites a really unique look.

  2. @Darren:
    Watch Out for Malicious Code
    I think it better to download the WordPress Theme from the original author’s homepage.

    Much safer that way I reckon.

    Modifying Credit Links in the Footer File
    Folks spent many hours developing that theme, a link back to the original author is not asking for too much, is it?

    Both Reese and I would love to hear your own suggestions on free WordPress Themes that you like also.
    I took one of N.Design Studio’s theme and modified it to become what I am using now.

    Cheers, mate. :D

  3. Some really good designs there, I really like “Fresh” however I think a unique design is important, it shows who “YOU” are, everyone wears different clothes, listens to different music, drives different cars, well what about a unique design for your blog?

    Darren, what’s your take on this?

    Darin

  4. Dammit Reece. I downloaded the GridFocus Public theme last night and started editing it. Now everybody is going to be using it! :-)

    I’ve made plenty of changes so hopefully it won’t look too similar to how the template is when it comes out of the box.

  5. Doh. Sorry Reese. I spelled your name with a C in my comment above. Feel free to send me a virtual kick up the rear.

  6. Nice list :) maybe if you like my theme you’ll add it to in a future post :D http://www.acosmin.com/acosmin-v2-free-wordpress-theme/

  7. I’m thinking of releasing the theme for Brisbane Is Home.com as a free theme soon…. would anyone be interested?

  8. Great list and thanks so much for including my Bluebird theme! I love the grid based themes, and Brian’s Blue Zinfandel is a classic.

  9. I like the Prosense theme recently released by Dosh Dosh and the Wrong Advices.

  10. Very nice post, I’m sure it will rock the digg pages, my personal fave is no. 5 Colors of Rainbow

  11. Mimbo by Darren Hoyt. I’m using this new magazine-style layout on my site with positive results.

  12. Anything designed by Brian Gardner or Nathan Rice gets a second look from me. And I’ve just discovered two great themes from Justin Tadlock – Visionary, which I had earmarked for another site and Structure, which I am currently using.

  13. I have just implemented Elegant Blue by Nathan Rice after using one of the default wp themes (click on my name, if interested).

    Subscribers have increased and page views per visit also.

    His Deep Blue theme also looks good and I may try this on a new site in the near future.

  14. What the hell.

    I was LITERALLY in the middle of writing the post.

    I started writing it like last night. A post which was going to be basically exactly the same as this.

    A post for 10 great free themes!

    Amazing concidence! but incredibly annoying!

  15. Nice list and some good themes there.

    Smashing Magazine recently listed a load of free wordpress themes – better make a coffee, there’s 100 of them!

  16. Grid focus public is by far my favourite here. Even Skellie from Skelliewag.org uses it

  17. Wow, great list. I’ve been searching for a better theme for a couple of weeks, but hadn’t found one I liked before now.

    Thanks!

  18. Many of these are great – I hadn’t seen Jello-Wala-Mello and just might have a use for the code base in that one.

    My site has evolved considerably since I hired Sarah Lewis to redesign it about a year ago. She and I will be releasing that theme to the community in a few weeks – it’s an advanced level theme optimized for display advertising.

  19. I find the ones from http://www.dezinerfolio.com really sexy. Quite elaborated and web2.0-ish :).

  20. I like to hunt down lesser-known these and use those, from smaller designers just starting out. Then again, my audience is mostly female, so I tend to go for “pretty”. :)

  21. I don’t think most of these themes would make my top ten, except for Grid Force Public. I believe people should get the layout they want in a WordPress Theme and customize it so it is unique. To many blogs just up load a theme and call it done…

  22. I can find 10 better WP themes in 20 minutes. I’m not impressed.

  23. @Matej If that’s the case, then give some constructive feedback by finding 10 better WP themes in 20 minutes then share them with us. If you’re going to give negative feedback, at least make it constructive. :)

  24. I used the PinkBird theme (same as BlueBird… just pink ;) ) for a few months before I designed my own. I really enjoyed PinkBird, and got a ton of compliments on it!

  25. good comments in here. Thanks for the feedback.

    @Hazel: aye, that’s the rub. I really think it’s better to customize them and make them your own, but more on that in a sec.

    @Deimos I was torn about the footer credits issue. The reason is because *some* themes are released with spammy backlinks in the credits and I think some folks wouldn’t be comfortable with that. However, every author on this theme list absolutely deserves the linkback, AND, some of them may require it under their licensing terms–so people should check out the creative commons or other licensing terms before removing any credit links. Plus, karma is good. :)

    @Darin I have a blog entry cooking about what you mentioned. For some sites/people, free themes are a good solution. But for many business who want legitmacy, a more unique solution is definitely in order.

    @Jamie but you can still make grid focus your own, much like Skellie did. Customize some graphics, tweak the typography–heck, add a background color and change the palette while keeping the grid structure. It will still be impressive.

    @Matej would love to see your 20-minute write up. In fact, I know folks who’d hire you as a writer and researcher for that :)

    @Nick I’m sorry! Does it help to know I’ve had similar problems in the past few weeks with blog ideas myself? If you have 10 other themes that you think are great, I say go ahead and post the entry anyway. I’m sure your readers would appreciate it.

  26. I use Elite for my personal blog – as of last week!

    Not much scope in the design to incorporate Adsense ads though.

    @Darren: As I have said to you before – time to release a ProBlogger WP theme to roll in the $$$!

    Also, the regular themes showcased by SmashyMag (as i like to call them) are brill!

  27. I use Structure from JustinTadlock, which is a fantastic (and free) magazine theme. You can see it in action and find a link to the download from my website.

  28. @nick : It happens to me regularly as well … you weren’t thinking of throwing your post though were you ?

    Lex

  29. Darn it, I’m using a modified version of ‘colors of rainbow’ on my blog – I hope not too many people choose it as a result of reading this! But never mind, this just made me very happy that you approve of the template I chose after about an hour trying different ones. :) Some great suggestions there.

  30. Great list–I’m a fan of Grid Focus and Blue Zinfandel.

    White text on black background doesn’t score well for readability (although it’s nice for short headline-only ads and “red fezzes” because it’s eye-catching), so personally I’d probably steer clear of Elite.

  31. Hey Darren – many thanks for including Blue Zinfandel – I’m glad to know that people like it, and moreso that it made your list! Believe it or not, I had a vision of that theme one day when I was in the shower!

  32. I like them.. but I dont like 2, 3 and 4.

  33. The list is quite useful. I had just around 3 – 4 of these blog themes. I like the #7 Fresh the best of all.

    Cheers.

  34. Not entirely sure I like them all. Seems there are a few themes like Grid Focus that are very popular.

    Good advice about the footer being modified as I have a friend who experienced some weird going ons only to discover the footer was compromised.

  35. Some great themes, thanks for sharing. You can find a ton more on Smashing Magazine.

    I use a modified verion of Qwilm!.

  36. Those are some nice themes. I like almost all of them, although the header graphic on the Rockin’ Biz Red one is a bit too large for my liking.

    I’m not particularly fond of Jello-Wala-Mello, either. But, overall, there are some very nice themes here.

  37. This guy has quite a few good ones:

    http://www.headsetoptions.org/2006/07/21/3k2-redux-klee-released/

    I searched long and hard and found this one and just tweaked it a bit.

  38. awesome collection… i’m currently using the first one for my wordpress blog… i’m slowly tweaking it day by day to get it to where I want it…

  39. Wow! Thanks for this article. I have been looking for a new theme to one of my blogs. I think I found it here!

  40. Boooo :(

    I’m already using Blue Zinfandel (although I made it pink) and now everyone is going to use it too.

  41. I have had a bunch of different themes on my blogs and they all gave me fits. However, once I discovered Sadish’s work at http://sadish.net/ I became a much happier person. His themes are feature rich but clean and simple, seo friendly.

    Just today I put his zigzag3 on my blog. It is considerably modifed in the header and colors, so everyone is more than welcome to go get their own, we will not look alike, ha!

    Lexi

  42. @Reese:
    Thanks for the reply, mate. ;)

    I was torn about the footer credits issue. The reason is because *some* themes are released with spammy backlinks in the credits and I think some folks wouldn’t be comfortable with that.Ouch. O_O
    Hell yeah! Spammy backlinks are totally not link worthy. -_-

    However, every author on this theme list absolutely deserves the linkback,
    Aye, glad to hear that. :)

    AND, some of them may require it under their licensing terms–so people should check out the creative commons or other licensing terms before removing any credit links.
    Speaking of the Creative Commons thingie, do people actually honor it?

    What happens if someone violate some others’ Creative Commons license? -_-

    Plus, karma is good. :)
    Yes, karma is good! ^_^

  43. Great list. I especially like GridFocus and GridLock. In fact your endorsement (and Skellie’s) of GridFocus has helped me make a choice on one of my projects.

    As many folks have mentioned, you HAVE to make tweaks to personalize your blog. The problem that I always have is that my tweaks and mistakes are live to my readers. There are 2 new plugins that I recommend checking out – Theme Test Drive and User Level Themes. I am still testing them and did a brief post about them earlier this week at http://www.bobangus.com

  44. Good list. I like anything Chris Pearson designs, and especially Neoclassical. His earlier Cutline has gone a little pearshaped since being taken over by someone else. Thanks also for the tips re malicious code. Hmmm …

  45. Sadly, this from the Gridlock site:

    “WordPress 2.3 Warning If you are currently running WordPress 2.3, Gridlock will not work.”

  46. Chris Pearson rocks. Some of these are meh – but some rock. I like themes that expand beyond the 800 x 600 resolution.

    Thanks!

  47. Hey Darren!
    I was just looking about for some new WordPress themes and these here are excellent!

    As of now, I’m using wordpress’ own site for my work, but soon I’ll be looking forward for a domain of my own. I’ve got the access to a couple sites owned by friends, but its not quite me…

    Anyhow, these are definitely something I really needed. Other than the fact that wordpress holds you to 50mb and then wants some dough (which i suppose they deserve), my other biggest qualm was that their templates fall short.

    Thanks again and again! Good luck with your not-so-newborn, and the wife over there in the down under.

  48. These are great themes. I really like the bluebird and blix which I have used previously.

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