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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The UpThemes Framework is a theme options framework that makes it possible for your themes to have amazing theme options within the WordPress dashboard.
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.
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.
Gantry is built on the 960 Grid System, 36 possible layout combinations, font sizing, and more. Gantry is also available for Joomla.