Data, Maps, Usability, and Performance

Starter Themes and Frameworks for WordPress

Last updated on November 3, 2012 in Design, Development

Best WordPress Starter Themes

Do you use any frameworks or starter themes when creating a new WordPress theme? In the past, I would usually start with Twenty Ten or Twenty Eleven and slowly strip things out before adding my own HTML and CSS. Recently, however, there has been a lot of development into frameworks and starter themes which are designed to put you in a better starting point in theme development. Many of these frameworks are based on HTML5, better SEO, and blank structure which lets you just focus on the essentials. Here are the best 5 of these free WordPress frameworks:

1. Underscores

Right now, a starter theme called _s, or underscores, is my favorite starting point with WordPress theme development. It’s not a parent theme, it is ultra-minimal, and provides some awesome features: HTML5, helpful 404 template, simple functions.php, and some mobile design features. You also get 5 sample CSS layouts and everything is well organized.

2. Bones

Bones is my second favorite, and a close competitor to Underscores. It is built around the HTML5 Boilerplate and it focuses on being as bare and minimalistic as possible. It is also mobile first and a response theme, incuding some cool custom post types and custom dashboard functions.

3. Starkers HTML5

Starkers HTML5 is my third choice, and it is a completely naked WordPress theme for designers and developers. The styling is completely stripped down but most of the WordPress functionality is left in place. It also comes with Modernizr, allowing you to use most of HTML5 and CSS3 without worrying about older browsers.

4. Roots

Roots is a great starting point in WordPress theme development. The Roots theme is based on HTML5 Boilerplate and Bootstrap from Twitter. It has a cool theme wrapper, cleaner code output, and extra features like multilingual support, hNews microformats, and much more.

5. Reverie

Reverie is a versatile HTML5 WordPress Framework based on ZURB’s Foundation, a powerful tool for building prototypes on any kind of devices. It follows HTML5 Boilerplate standard and is hNews microformat ready. It is also optimized for Search Engines while at the same time improving readability. I like this framework but it has a bunch of Notice warnings upon activation with latest WordPress version.

These are my top 5 favorite WordPress frameworks and starter themes. There are many others and some of them do have some interesting features but they feel heavier, less clean, and throw warnings and even errors with the latest version of WordPress. Here are the others that did not make the cut:

Handcrafted WP – Handcrafted WP is a starter theme built for WordPress developers and based on Ian Stewart’s Toolbox Starter theme and Paul Irish & Divya Manian’s HTML5 Boilerplate.

HTML5 Blank – HTML5 Blank is a powerful shell for rapidly deploying your WordPress projects.

HTML5 Reset – HTML5 Reset is a style-free theme designed to help get your custom WordPress project off the ground.

Skeleton WordPress Theme – Simple WordPress theme based on a very popular responsive boilerplate, coupled with the popular Options Framework for full customization.

Pears – Pears is an open source WordPress theme, enabling people like you to get your own pattern library up and running quickly.

Simon WP Framework – A WordPress framework with clean code, post formats, and child themes.

HTML5 WordPress Shell – a great starting point for quickly creating WP Themes with many WordPress and HTML5 features.

Blank WordPress Theme – Another blank WordPress theme.

Whiteboard framework – Another WordPress framework including SEO, speed, usability, mobile support, and multi-lingual support.


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