Getting started with and learning WordPress can be done in a multitude of ways. The first of those ways is the act of using WordPress in your daily life. Eventually, plugins and themes become like subjects that you gain a deeper grasp on. But, it’s not just external aspects of WordPress that has made this platform so great. In fact, to truly understand WordPress one must dive deeper into the core of WordPress as an open-source project, especially if you want to build a custom website.
You can get started in WordPress development through the WordPress Codex page. It’s a straightforward documentation of the ins and outs of WordPress, and every function has a concise explanation of how it works. In general, WordPress isn’t so hard to work with, as most functions have understandable names and uses. But, generally, developing a theme takes a little bit of practice. Most of all, you have to learn the right way to use CSS3 and HTML5 for the best possible results.
When talking about starter themes, there are multiple ways a starter theme can help you. First of those ways is through giving you a skeleton template upon which anything can be built and designed. The second way is by using a “starter framework”, the framework themes are more optimized for rapid development, and often use a drag & drop interface. Of course, using drag & drop means no coding, but perhaps that is exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to theme development.
Underscores has to be one of the most complete starter themes out there, and it certainly helps that it is being provided by the WordPress team itself. Furthermore, hundreds of developers have contributed their own ideas and features to this beautiful starter theme. As a theme, it is intended to be used solely for the purpose of learning how to build your own theme! Countless WordPress enthusiasts have used Underscores to build free and premium themes, and you could be the next person to do it. The best part about “_s” is that majority of the codebase is super optimized with comments on nearly every function and call. As a result, you can quickly learn the very core concepts of WordPress theme development.
The lack of CSS in this theme means that you get extra freedom for writing your own stylesheets. If you’d like to get started, you can either download Underscores directly from GitHub or use the official website to generate a theme with your own specific name and description. It is available with a SASS configuration as well.More info / Download Demo
Sage uses Blade (from Laravel) for its templating engine, which is known to make the development process much quicker and efficient. You can pick and choose your own front-end framework to use as well, the two primary options are Bootstrap 4 and Foundation. But, if you want a true “from scratch” experience you can pick a blank framework and style everything yourself.More info / Download Demo
Beans is a WordPress starter framework, which boasts an active community of developers who are passionate about self-developing a design for their website. The powerful features of this starter theme are perfect for bootstrapping WordPress sites for blogs, startups, and all-around business projects. The best part of Beans is that it caters to beginners as much as it does to professionals. Theme development can be a scary thing and provide unexpected challenges, but frameworks like Beans definitely lift some of the weight from your shoulders. Furthermore, you can always seek answers to your questions within the official documentation.
On the Beans website, you can preview Showcase websites, which are actual websites built with Beans. And you can also download premade themes built with Beans. Most of all, there is a section called Code Snippets, which is a collection of snippets for manipulating certain parts of your theme. Once you learn how to add one function, adding the next one is already much easier.
Beans is structured to be native responsive with images that adapt to screen size. Most of all, a modern website must have the capacity to output content that is friendly to search robots like Google or Bing. As a result, Beans uses only the latest Schema standards to ensure full content indexability.More info / Download Demo
Bones is a WordPress starter theme built for developers. The project hasn’t seen much activity in the recent two years but nonetheless has retained its status as one of the most popular starter theme projects on GitHub. Because Bones is structured to be mobile-first with deep HTML5 templates, it is universally applicable for modern themes until a new version of HTML comes out. And we know that won’t be happening anytime soon. When you plan out to build a new theme, your primary checklist is going to include design responsiveness. And Bones prioritizes mobile devices because they natively transport onto desktop screens without losing design quality.
As you know, hundreds of millions of people still browse the web from poor web connections, which makes bloated websites difficult to load and enjoy. This area of website speed is where Bones shines as a great choice for projects of any size. Again, a starter theme like Bones is excellent for jumping right into the WordPress development scene. Get your coding skills leveled up by understanding how your WordPress website truly works.More info / Download Demo
Not all starter themes are built for learning how to code. Ever since the release of plugins like Visual Composer, more brands are dedicating their time towards Drag and Drop style themes. And Ultimatum is a great example of how Drag and Drop can be used in theme development, without prior coding knowledge. The core of Ultimatum framework is based on four things. A drag and drop layout builder, premium extensions, a developer friendly codebase, and simple to update core. More than a hundred thousand websites are using Ultimatum.
So, why Ultimatum as a starter theme? First of all, it sits comfortably in your admin dashboard. Creating a new design for your website is similar to writing a new post. With the exception that Ultimatum is mostly drag and drop based. You can start creating a layout by choosing overall grid size, and then add new elements as you go. It’s the plugins system that allows you to add new content, elements, and features to your site with zero effort.
Everyone from beginners to advanced designers and developers is using Ultimatum in their daily project workflow. Even things like styling are largely based on a settings structure. You literally don’t have to write a single line of code to build a premium quality theme. And that’s something that is hard to bargain with.More info / Download Demo
Why does WordPress need so many different starter themes? Surely, a handful of starter themes is enough? Well, themes like Underscores are based purely on simplicity, without additional frameworks or plugins extended on top of it. Whereas themes like JointsWP use additional frameworks to provide a unique development environment. The framework that JointsWP is using happens to be the latest version of Foundation. A solid and modern HTML5 development framework used to build sites like RuneScape, and even Barack Obama’s official website is using Foundation!
So, what’s in the box? JointsWP tries to utilize as many of Foundation Framework features as possible and does so without bloating the actual core. Even though Foundation provides many useful tools, it’s still a starter theme which acts as a starting point for your creative theme idea. At the moment, JointsWP includes features like Foundation Navigation Options, Motion-UI, custom grid templates for archives, translate-ready files, Bower (or Gulp), and much more! Advanced developers can choose SASS as their preferred styling option, but plain CSS is packaged as well.More info / Download Demo
Hmm, an interesting name for this starter theme. And just as we touched on the subject of starter themes incorporating front-end frameworks, too! The UnderStrap is a project by Holger Koenemann which combines Underscores ( the first theme on this list) and the latest Bootstrap 4 framework. The end-result is a brilliant starting theme with modern styling capabilities. Bootstrap 4 refreshes the look and feel of modern websites, and it’s a highly rewarding experience to create from scratch using UnderStrap.
Gantry is yet another starter framework which prioritizes layout building versus code writing. It is the birthchild of RocketTheme, who found that maintaining custom functions for multiple CMS platform was too difficult without a set framework. As a result, Gantry is accessible for WordPress, Joomla and Grav developers. This framework, in particular, prioritizes the use of a Layout Manager. This manager acts as the building tool for any of your future WordPress theme designs.
In addition to flexible framework features, the Gantry tool can be transformed into a separate content management system based off of your existing one. You can manage anything and everything, similarly to how you would do if you were to write your own code. You always start off by using a skeleton theme upon which you can build your new layouts. As of writing this, RocketThemes have infused Gantry with two distinct themes — Helium and Hydrogen. Both of these themes use modern designs and can be adapted for business websites.More info / Download Demo
The Thesis theme from DIYthemes has been around for years and continues to play a significant role in the starter theme’s market. Coding is a valuable skill to learn, but it takes years of practice to get even decently proficient at writing reliable code. As a result, a theme like Thesis can provide a more creative way for dealing with design problems. As of recently, Thesis has transitioned its core to use an extension of Skins. The Thesis Skins are pre-designed layouts which can be modified for personal website needs.
The newest versions of Thesis Theme uses a visual template editor (which is awaiting patent approval). Using a visual editor means that you are in control of the outcome of your designs. Furthermore, you don’t need to go through the hassle of hiring a web developer! If you are future-oriented and have had business experience, you will know that being able to save development costs is a massive benefit. The second notable feature of Thesis (apart from Skins) is called Boxes. The Box system is essential a streamlined method for adding sidebar content to your site, without having to sacrifice performance.
In the past, you might have relied on as many as 20 WordPress plugins for custom features. But, all those extra plugins come at a cost. Whereas Thesis is using the Box system to provide already premade extensions and widgets for your site. Whether it’s a subscription form, social media links, or the most trending posts on your site — adding these widgets with Thesis is native and simple.More info / Download Demo
FoundationPress is a WordPress starter theme which uses Foundation 6 as the back-end framework. Foundation has been regarded as the most flexible framework on the web. The core intention behind FoundationPress is that WordPress users like yourself can build great websites with an accessible set of tools. Furthermore, the FoundationPress starting kit is only a means of beginning a project, rather than using it as a final design. As an open-source project, thousands of community members have contributed to the rapid development of FoundationPress. Do you like clean code? Great, because FoundationPress is universally semantic. It’s also responsive, and you can even start by creating a mobile theme first.
Before you dive right into this powerful starter theme, keep in mind it requires some specific tools and plugins. First of all, this kit is based on Node.js, and uses the Sass preprocessor for stylesheet management. Because Sass is compiled using a library called ‘libsass’, you have to ensure that your machine has GCC installed on it. It shouldn’t be an issue for neither Linux nor Windows users.More info / Download Demo
The Automattic team are avid fans of their own software, which has led them to make many interesting plugins and frameworks for the community to interact with. One such example we saw at the beginning of the post, which was Underscores. Now, we have yet another similar starting kit which is published by Automattic. This time, it’s Components. A theme generator which can be used to generate a starting theme in four different categories: Magazine, Blog, Business, and Portfolio. But if you are feeling adventurous, go for the Classic look and make something of your own.
Components is great for freelance designers who are constantly whipping up new sites in the mentioned categories. Rather than using Underscores all the time, for simpler projects, you can generate an overall layout which is ready for styling. Most of all, any of the mentioned designs generated by Components are fully responsive and mobile-ready.More info / Download Demo
TemplateToaster is unique in that it’s an actual software for designing a WordPress layout. You don’t really see too many of those around, but if working on your desktop is your thing, then TemplateToaster can alleviate some of the productivity problems you’re having. The best features of TemplateToaster are responsive web design, cross-browser support, and a drag and drop website building interface. It’s an unusual approach for sure, but TemplateToaster does include many useful capabilities. As an example, slideshows, stock images, and image resizing are all integrated into the same user interface. So, as a result, you can add visual photos to your site instantly.More info / Download Demo
Unyson’s user base reaches more than 70,000 active installations, with a total of 450,000+ downloads and more than 240 active themes. Unlike other starter theme and framework choices, Unyson is a strong product which can support the development of actual premium themes. And, as a matter of fact, many WordPress premium themes are using Unyson framework as the back-end solution. You can explore the kind of themes people are building with Unyson by going to ThemeForest and browsing themes which are tagged with Unyson.
So, why is Unyson so appealing, and how did a free WordPress theme framework help generate millions of dollars in revenue for design companies? It’s likely to be many things at once, but more importantly, it’s the preference of individual designers. A great framework needs to encompass a wide spectrum of features, customization options, and custom functionality. And Unyson manages this requirement by using Extensions. Basically, Extensions in the real money maker in terms of designing your theme. For example, Extensions within Unyson can be used individually or disabled at all. The basic setup of Extensions includes a Page Builder, Forms, Sidebars, Sliders, Shortcodes, Blog Posts, Analytics, and so on.More info / Download Demo
Headway is a WordPress theme builder with a Drag & Drop user interface. Every project begins with a Boilerplate theme, so it is a perfect fit for our list of the best WordPress starter themes. By using a visual page builder, you can build new WordPress themes with a high-efficiency ratio. Furthermore, any theme you build is exportable and can be used on other WordPress blogs. In addition to layout building, the Headway app provides enough customization tools for colors, fonts, element borders, and similar website elements.
It’s worth noting that Headway was one of the pioneers of this whole layout builder market. As a theme company, Headway has been around for nearly 10 years and continues to dominate this part of the market with great success. The design process for Headway is divided into two parts. The first part is creating a layout by using Headway Grid. But the second part is all about actual design management using Headway Design Editor. Both tools work in tandem to help designers, developers, and WordPress enthusiasts to build awesome themes.
An alternative to making a grid yourself is to select from a pre-existing Headway template. When you use a premade template, you’re required to work only with the Design Editor. And the Design Editor resembles a lot of what you can find in WordPress’s Live Customizer. So, the design editing process is already familiar even to beginners. Either way, you have a helpful documentation page available to truly master the curve, and Headway is also one of the few themes with a truly dedicated community which supports and helps the project.More info / Download Demo
Picking a theme for any website is perhaps the most crucial decision you can make. Of course, elements like content are important too, but nothing beats a solid website design which conveys a visual statement to your visitor. As a result, one must invest his time and energy into finding the right theme, a framework, or a starter theme. And while we could recommend all of the starter themes in the world, the process of choosing one involves preference, personality, and business mission. PageLines in this regard is a premium theme framework, a platform for starting a one of a kind website. Because PageLines has been around for so many years already, it is highly regarded in the community, and quality of the product isn’t an issue for these guys.
Only after a few moments of experimenting with PageLines, it becomes evidently clear that this platform is fast (performance built) and utilizes an intuitive interface. Sure, you might get a little confused with the user interface at first, but eventually, you realize how easy it is to add new things or remove them. Unlike other similar starter frameworks, the PageLines platform is for both programmers and those without programming knowledge. PageLine is built on the principles of mobile-first, drag and drop, performance optimization, developer friendly environment, and external extension support.More info / Download Demo
The Genesis Framework from StudioPress has to be the most famous framework in the industry. Largely because Genesis started shortly after WordPress itself was launched, and the advanced features of Genesis quickly attracted a significant and loyal customer base. Today, the development of Genesis continues to flourish, while other frameworks try and dominate the oversaturated market. Genesis themes are generally very secure, optimized for search engines, and highly flexible in their design management. Celebrities, famous bloggers, and even WordPress developers themselves are frequently seen using Genesis on their blogs.
The Genesis theme is an affordable solution for bloggers and businesses who plan to use the same design layout for years to come. In addition to high mobility, the Genesis theme provides multiple ways to customize and manage options of your site. Furthermore, you can design pages with their own templates. For example, if you build a business website, you may want to optimize the design of your blog pages or even archives. With Genesis, this process is so simple you will forget how it is done on other themes.More info / Download Demo
The following couple of themes will be dedicated to stuff from ThemeForest. A reason for this is simple, we have run out of good starter themes to list for the default list, but also the fact that the following themes are some of the best in the market, and oftentimes with more than 300,000 existing customers. If you are wondering about the main difference, then themes like Avada are “complete” themes, but still, manage to provide the necessary tools for customizing a design to its full capacity. Furthermore, a theme like Avada includes 100+ unique demo websites available for instant activation. You can literally take an element from an Agency website demo, and put it on your Yoga website. And because of nifty features like element management, the Avada theme is an excellent choice for those wishing to start with WordPress.
Let’s get into the features a little bit. First of all, Avada uses a theme-wide responsive layout. The creators optimized everything including custom elements for mobile viewing. And to experience the mobility of design you will use Fusion Builder — a state of the art visual page builder for effortless design management. The admin section of Avada is packed with custom settings panels for virtually any part of your website. Whether it’s Sliders, Pages, Headers or Posts, you can make them feel like they have been built by you.More info / Download Demo
X Theme has been a frequent mention amongst our other roundup posts and collections. We first saw X Theme mentioned in our most popular WordPress themes post (which is amazing, btw!), and later followed up by showcasing the best websites built with the X Theme. X is a theme that has managed to impress many of the WordPress community users, and quickly rose to the top as one of the bestselling ThemeForest themes of all time. So, what makes X so good?
As per the words of the developers themselves, the X Theme is here to help you achieve a design that you have imagined. A large number of WordPress themes use Visual Composer as their page building solution, but X uses its own homegrown product: Cornerstone. The Cornerstone Page Builder is one hundred percent a front-end page building tool. So, you can edit the design of your website without leaving the page that you are on! All the great functionality of a powerful IDE integrated directly into your browser screen! You can edit stylesheets and watch changes happen in real-time. Furthermore, you can take advantage of features like key bindings, to further streamline your development efficiency.
As a premium product, the X is frequently updated and well-maintained. The owners of X Theme have done their best to work out special deals with multiple premium plugin owners, and as a result, you can get some extra value without investing more. Some of the premium plugins included in X Theme are Snippet, Email Forms, Woo Checkout Editor, ACF Pro, Layer Slider, UberMenu, and at least a dozen more! Seriously, the X is as good of a starter theme as it is a long-term solution for your business.More info / Download Demo
The Enfold theme is a clean, flexible and responsive theme which is suitable for businesses and eCommerce shops. Certainly, it’s applicable for portfolios, magazines and agency websites, too! Enfold is based on Avia Framework core, which is translation-ready. The number of customers for Enfold speaks for itself, as at this time more than 130,000 people have purchased a license. A theme can achieve the success of this level only if it happens to be exceptionally good! The key features of Enfold are a custom page template builder — whatever you can imagine, the builder can provide for you. Other notable functionality includes WooCommerce integration, responsive and retina-ready design.
The developers translated Enfold into more than twenty languages already even though translation files are provided. Rather than editing the main Enfold theme you can choose to edit child themes. When you edit a design using a child theme, you can still update the core theme without breaking your site. The community forums of Enfold is super active with 400,000 posts and 60,000 members. So, hitting a design bottleneck isn’t going to make you wait for days to get it fixed. We recommend Enfold for all WordPress users who wish to build their own design eventually.More info / Download Demo
The Bridge theme framework is quickly approaching 100,000 customers. A milestone that is worth of attention and admiration. But, as any theme agency will tell you, getting to a number as high as 100,000 customers aren’t based on luck. Everything within the Bridge theme is based on research, customer input, and pure development experience. The result of which is a fine product, and a fine theme for nearly every category out there. Do you need a theme that you can use for more than one website type? Just download Bridge!
The developers packed this theme with 200+ unique demo layouts, for blogs, for business websites, even for online stores. And each demo is extendable with customization per your own requirements. You decide what you want to do, and then use the settings panel, or the page builder, to achieve your result. And if you find it hard to navigate, you can avoid reading the documentation and watch the video tutorials instead. Bridge updates automatically whenever a new version is released, so you don’t need to monitor your email for any new updates.
Of course, thousands of customers have chosen Bridge because it does all the hard work for you. Who could ever need more than 200+ unique demo layouts? But, perhaps ten or twenty is applicable for a freelance designer. Most of all, it’s the ability to customize your site that makes Bridge so special. Without customization, this theme wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is. And because of its flexible settings panels and dashboards, we recommend it as a solid starter theme for all-level WordPress users.More info / Download Demo
BeTheme is a runner up to the handful of premium themes we listed above. At 60,000+ customers and climbing, the BeTheme framework is just as good of a pick as any other similar theme. The only difference is in the default demos provided, and the customization options provided by the developers. The developers included a library of 250+ premade websites into BeTheme and you can activate them within seconds. For example, you can use BeTheme to launch a website for a restaurant, a copywriting agency, or even a recipes blog! Of course, the number of premade websites is so big that we can’t list them all here. But, take your time to read through the theme page or the documentation, and indulge in true creativity in action.
The layout for each demo and the core of the theme itself is based on four individual grid layouts. They, the layouts, come in sizes of 1240px and 960px — boxed or full-width. You can extend a layout of BeTheme with elements and features of any of its demo websites. As a result, you can pick a handful of demo designs and select only the features you like. Then, once you have selected those features, you can create a completely unique combination of a design. It’s small (yet big) features like universal elements that make BeTheme a perfect fit for a starting theme.
Shortcodes is another area in which BeTheme shows versatility and dynamic functionality. You can add shortcodes to any post, page, or WordPress section of your site. They also included blog sliders, article boxes, call to action boxes, maps, lists, and fancy headings and 200+ shortcodes.More info / Download Demo