15 Free WordPress Theme Frameworks

For designers and developers that frequently work with WordPress, theme frameworks and starter themes can have a noticeable impact of efficiency. Frameworks and starter themes can eliminate some of the repetitive work that you probably do with each custom theme. In addition, many frameworks provide additional features that can make your theme more powerful with less development time.

In the past year or two, responsive frameworks have become more popular. Since designing and developing responsive sites and themes can be highly time consuming, these frameworks can be a great resource.

In this post we’ll take a look at 15 of the best free WordPress theme frameworks and starter themes. There are also a number of outstanding premium options, but in this post we’ll focus on the free ones. Despite being free, these resources can be highly valuable.

Bones

The Bones framework comes in two variations: classic and responsive. The classic version is built on the 960 Grid. The responsive version gives you are starting point to design for multiple devices, with a stylesheet set up for media queries and a mobile first approach. Bones isn’t intended to be a framework for which you develop child themes. Instead, it is intended to be a project template.

Bones

Reverie

Reverie is a responsive HTML5 framework based on Zurb’s Foundation framework. Reverie can be used as is for a basic theme, but it also serves as a great starting point for your own custom themes. It also works with bbPress 2.0 and BuddyPress 1.5.

Reverie


Skeleton

Skeleton is a simple responsive theme that can be used as is, or it can be used as a starting point for your own custom themes. It’s features include shortcodes for CSS3 buttons, column shortcodes with media queries, and more.

Skeleton

Whiteboard

Whiteboard includes only core WordPress structure, which keeps it from being bloated and means that you won’t have to start each project by removing half of the code. Features include multi-lingual compatibility, the Less Framework and CSS3, HTML5, and it is  lightweight.

Whiteboard

Roots

Roots is a WordPress starter theme based on HTML5 Boilerplate and Bootstrap from Twitter. It is multi-lingual ready and WPML compatible. It’s features include cleaner WordPress code output, clean URLs, and more.

Roots

PressWork

PressWork is an HTML5 framework that features a front-end drag and drop editor. You can style any theme without touching any code by using the drag and drop editor. It also includes media queries for responsive themes.

PressWork

Foundation

Foundation for WordPress is a starter theme based on Zurb’s Foundation and HTML5 Boilerplate. It includes a slider that can be managed through WordPress, pagination, two sidebars, and more.

Foundation

HTML5 Reset

HTML5 Reset is a blank starter theme that can save you time by including things that are probably going  to be included in every theme you code. It features semantic HTML5 markup, CSS for basic WordPress elements, a widget-ready sidebar, and more.

HTML5 Reset

Carrington

Carrington is a CMS theme platform that has been popular for several years. With Carrrington you can quickly create unique templates for different post types and categories.

Carrington

Hybrid Core

Hybrid Core is a development framework with the purpose of giving you a solid PHP code base from which to build. Its features include breadcrumbs, galleries, pagination, enhanced featured images, drop down menus, post templates, and more.

Hybrid Core

Thematic

Thematic can be used as is, or it can serve as an excellent starting point for your own customizations. It includes 13 widget-ready areas, layout options for 2 or 3 column designs, options for multi-author blogs, and more.

Thematic

UpThemes Framework

The UpThemes Framework is a theme options framework that makes it possible for your themes to have amazing theme options within the WordPress dashboard.

UpThemes Framework

HTML5 WordPress Shell

If you’re looking to create WordPress themes using HTML5, the HTML5 WordPress Shell could be a great starting point. It can be used to create responsive themes, with media queries included for major devices.

HTML5 WordPress Shell

Simon WP Framework

The Simon WP Framework can serve as a starting point for your own custom themes by updating the theme directly, or you can use child themes for your customizations. It includes a widget-ready sidebar and footer, theme options, icons, breadcrumbs, and more.

Simon WP Framework

Gantry

Gantry is built on the 960 Grid System, 36 possible layout combinations, font sizing, and more. Gantry is also available for Joomla.

Gantry

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads.

40 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Fred Dirkse, June 12, 2012

    Very nice list of points. This is very useful and helpful for anyone who works and uses word press on their work. Aside from it’s numerous advantages, you don’t have to purchase it since these frameworks are for free and yet highly valuable. Thanks for sharing!

  • aledesign.it, June 12, 2012

    Nice article with good examples. Bones is the first and my preferite! Thanks for sharing

  • Of these designs the responsive designs will work with great emphasis. Sometimes web developers create one version for mobile another for desktops and i pads. but responsive design is having all the advantage of the design aspect. Some of these designs are perfect examples for landing page as there is a clear call to action is there. So these are one of the best set of word press design frameworks to get addicted to. Thanks a lot for sharing the information.

  • DevGarage, June 12, 2012

    Great article. I am working on creating some WP themes and didn’t know about some of those frameworks.

    Also one theme framework that is missing is TwentyTenFive.

  • A Linn, June 13, 2012

    I’ve gotten into a pattern where I use the Genesis Framework for everything. I install WP, then Genesis. Am I missing out on something better?

    • Steven Snell, June 13, 2012

      A Linn,
      Genesis is a great option. Sounds like you are very familiar with it, so you’re probably best to continue using Genesis.

  • Tim Hyde, June 13, 2012

    These are all great, but in the end I found myself creating my own, that way it does exactly what I need and no more and when I need to extend it, I know where to go.

    All my themes now have the same core framework developed in-house. I don’t intend to publish it as a framework, it probably doesn’t do what all these other great frameworks do, but it does do what I want and can be easily built upon when I need.

    • Steven Snell, June 13, 2012

      Hi Tim,
      Building your own is definitely a good option if you have the time. The existing frameworks are good if you don’t have the time to create your own, if you need specific features offered by a framework, or for designers who aren’t comfortable coding everything from scratch.

  • Steven Snell, June 13, 2012

    DevGarage,
    Thanks for the mention of TwentyTenFIve. I don’t think I had seen that one before.

  • Kieran Daly, June 14, 2012

    I have been working with WordPress for many years and I would agree with some of the posters here that perhaps creating your own theme does make sense it time permits.

    However you can now create child themes and at least with some of the above themes your starting point is easier. If you are a regular site creator you (and I) find myself using the same framework again and again. This doesn’t take awey from the end prodcut as with good design, graphic choice and some careful CSS and font choices you can end up with some thing genuinely powerful with the above frameworks as a basis for the site.

    I liked Thematic for some time but it is not as well supported (nor do they claim to) as it was and now with responsive and HTML5 charging ahead the Bones is a good place to go these days and Roots also if you wish to have a cleaner starting point.

  • Gary Baguioads, August 25, 2012

    Whoah! Those were great, I am a newbie web designer and I am developing my very own project now. I am starting to learn wordpress and It’s theming. I am familiar with Twitter Bootstrap, so I pick roots theme to try it out with wordpress.

    Thanks you for this one!

  • Deny Kurniawan, September 2, 2012

    Amazing themes and beautifull :D

  • john doe, September 6, 2012

    Hi, i just purchased the Genesis Framework, however they have a 30 day refund thing.
    What is the difference between Genesis and these. Am I paying for something that I can get for free. Or is Genesis somehow better. Please explain. Thanks for the article.

    • Steven Snell, September 6, 2012

      John,
      Genesis is a really good framework. I don’t have enough experience using Genesis or some of these other frameworks to be able to point out a lot of specific advantages for Genesis, but I’ll list 3 for you. 1) As a commercial product the StudioPress team has spent tons of time developing Genesis and it has a reputation for being coded very well. Most of the free frameworks are the work of one person or a team, and usually a side project. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you can have confidence that Genesis is a refined product. 2) Genesis is a major part of the StudioPress business, so you can have confidence that they will continue to develop the product and stay up to date with new WordPress releases. 3) StudioPress has a good reputation for support. With a free framework you may be able to get some help if needed from the developer, but in general you’ll get better support from a commercial product.

  • Aswin Vayiravan, September 8, 2012

    You have not mentioned the Atahualpa framework for word press, it is one of the best and free theme frameworks out there!

  • Prashant, September 18, 2012

    Awesome collection of Frameworks. I am quite new to worpress. Can you suggest which one I can pick as a beginner.

    • Steven Snell, September 18, 2012

      Prashant,
      I haven’t used all of them, but I would recommend Bones and Skeleton.

  • Ali, September 26, 2012

    Very nice themes. My favory Gandry theme.Thanks for all themes

  • Denis, September 26, 2012

    I have been using Custom Community Pro from ThemeKraft and there’s quite an extensive option pallet that come with it. I’ve designed around 5 sites with it so far and each one looks completely different. The support is always on the ball and you don’t have to download any other child theme or pay for extras. The Pro framework is $70.

    I have been looking for another framework to work with in case I might be missing something but after checking out some of these free ones, they don’t compare to Custom Community.

    • Steven Snell, September 27, 2012

      Denis,
      No, free themes and frameworks usually aren’t going to be able to compare to a successful commercial theme or framework (in terms of options).

  • nic, October 18, 2012

    Are frameworks for developers who create sites for multiple clients? Is there a benefit for a large organization that develops only for its own site in having a WordPress framework as opposed to just WordPress? We already have css styles that we will be forced to use. The only caveat is the ability to force responsiveness. Do any of the frameworks offer back-end features (wp-admin area) for creating content that WordPress does not offer?

  • Steven Snell, October 18, 2012

    Nic,
    Frameworks can be used for one-time purposes, or by developers who use them on a regular basis. If it’s only going to be used for a single site the learning curve of the framework may or may not be worth it. Most of the new frameworks are responsive and already include media queries and some of the coding that would otherwise have to be done from scratch, so that is a potential benefit even if it’s just for use on one theme. Some of the frameworks do offer extra options or back end functionality. That;s a little more common with premium frameworks as opposed to free frameworks, but some of the free ones do impact the WP admin area.

  • Fauzul, October 22, 2012

    All are good frameworks. Cool of you to list them as there are quite a few that I’ve not seen yet. Thinking of getting Genesis though but now I think that I’ll try out the others as well first.

  • Cara Terbaik, November 23, 2012

    A non responsive frameworks can still work on a mobile browser however. It depends on the content and the purpose of the site. An alternative can be to serve a different theme to mobile users, but it’s not always a good option.

  • Chris Sparshott, December 18, 2012

    A great list and one I will use to investigate the best starting point for some custom WordPress themes. It would be great if each of these frameworks was ranked in regards to documentation and community as these make a real difference in getting up to speed quickly. Many thanks!

  • Chris Sparshott, December 18, 2012

    Just noticed that PressWork has been discontinued…

    • Steven Snell, December 18, 2012

      Hi Chris,
      Yeah, I just saw that announcement a few days ago. If you’re going to be using a child theme with a framework this is something to think about because you’ll want a framework that is going to be around for a while. This may be reason enough to consider one of the more popular premium frameworks that you know will continue to be updated (like Genesis, Thesis, etc.).

  • Cara dan Manfaat, December 25, 2012

    Genesis is a really good framework. As a commercial product the StudioPress team has spent tons of time developing Genesis and it has a reputation for being coded very well. StudioPress has a good reputation for support.

  • Pulau Tidung, March 25, 2013

    I have been looking for another framework to work with in case I might be missing something but after checking out some of these free ones, they don’t compare to Custom Community.

  • Rena, April 23, 2013

    Thanks for sharing! amazing set of frameworks :)
    You have a great blog!

  • Mark Palma, May 6, 2013

    Great list Steven! I am planning to use a framework on future projects as I am feeling a bit tired of doing everything from scratch. Really worth looking at these frameworks and see what’s best. Thanks!

  • pulau tidung, June 6, 2013

    thanks for sharing gan

  • belitung, June 6, 2013

    sip banget gan

  • pulau tidung, June 6, 2013

    mantap gan,sip dah

  • pulau tidung, June 11, 2013

    good idea so much, thanks to your article i will more learnging :)

  • wisata pulau indonesia, June 16, 2013

    bagus dan mantab terimakasih atas infomasi yang di berikan

  • Pulau Seribu, June 16, 2013

    salam hangat untuk mu sanga penulis

  • Durban, August 17, 2013

    This is quite an extensive list and it includes just about all the popular frameworks I’d heard about in the past. Thanks for the post.

  • kursi kantor, August 29, 2013

    the template are you share all great

  • Jual jaket, September 27, 2013

    DAMN! I like the design! Your frameworks are clean, simple, but elegant!

Close