WordPress themes enable users to modify the way their sites look without modifying the core WordPress software. This enables users at every skill level to create and customize their sites.

Many themes are designed to be used as is, or installed, customized, and published as quickly as possible. Known as parent themes, these fully styled themes enable beginners to get their sites online fast.

Other themes are designed with little to no styling to appeal to developers and other advanced users. These users want a theme with the most basic layout so that they can add their own code to create a completely custom look for their site without having to build the theme from scratch. These alternatives to parent themes are known as starter themes.

In this post, we've collected some of the best starter WordPress themes that you can use to design your site. 

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Best Starter WordPress Themes

1. WP Bootstrap Starter

Built on the Bootstrap CSS framework, this WordPress starter theme can be used as the base of any WordPress project. Licensed under the GPL, this theme is free and completely customizable.

There are five page templates included with this theme: right sidebar (the default), left sidebar, full-width, blank with container, and blank without container. On each template, there’s only one bit of branding, a link titled “Bootstrap WordPress Theme” in the footer. Since you can remove this link, you can make WP Bootstrap Starter completely your own.

This theme is also compatible with the following plugins: Elementor, WooCommerce, Contact Form 7, and Visual Composer. With these WordPress plugins, you can extend the functionality of your site without needing to code.

WP Bootstrap starter theme demo

2. Underscores

Underscores is one of the most widely-used starter themes for WordPress. Created by Automattic, the company that owns WordPress.org, the Jetpack plugin, Tumblr, and more, you can count on this theme to be constantly updated. 

Underscores provides a selection of modern HTML5 templates and CSS templates with the following styles: two sidebars on the left, two sidebars on the right, a sidebar on either side of the body content, a one-column layout with a sidebar on the left, and one with a sidebar on the right. You can use custom template tags to keep these templates clean and prevent code duplication.

underscores WordPress theme demo

3. Naked

Naked is a basic starter theme for developers who want to design an amazing project on WordPress, but lack experience and knowledge of the WordPress Codex. This base theme provides a strong foundation, stripped of all styling except for the basic units of a website, like the homepage, "About Us" page, blog homepage, and more.

There's support for responsive styling, custom menus, custom sidebar and widgets, and blogging. As long as you are familiar with HTML and CSS, Naked is a powerful design option.

Sample page of the Naked WordPress theme

4. Responsive

Responsive is a WordPress starter theme created by CyberChimps that's been downloaded over 40,000 times.

Among the most highly-rated themes in the WordPress directory, Responsive is fully compatible with the Gutenberg editor and most WordPress plugins, including WooCommerce, bbPress, and the top page builders. This makes it easy to customize this starter theme, which comes with nine page templates, four menu positions, 11 widget areas, and a fluid grid system that adapts to all kinds of screen sizes.

Responsive WordPress theme by CyberChimps demo

5. Quark

Coded with  HTML5 and CSS3, Quark is designed to be used as a building block for creating simple, responsive WordPress themes

Based on the Underscores and TwentyTwelve themes, Quark was built on a 12-column grid to modernize the design. It also offers  over 300 icons powered by FontAwesome; support for drop-down menus, toggle buttons, custom headers and backgrounds; and several page and post templates. These layouts include full-width, right sidebar, left sidebar, category, author, and 404. 

Quark starter theme demo with social media icons, header image, homepage widgets, and footer widgets

6. _tk Starter

Created by the ThemeKraft family, the _tk Starter theme is a blank theme you can use to create a fully responsive and lightweight design for your WordPress site.

Based on the Underscores theme and Bootstrap framework, _tk Starter includes only the WordPress files and Bootstrap elements you need to create a powerful site. This makes it ultra-light so your site's performance is optimal.

tk Starter Theme demo

7. Joints WP

JointsWP is another blank WordPress theme that you can use to  create a stunning design for your WordPress site.

Built with Foundation 6, this theme provides you with everything you need to build complex, mobile-friendly websites. From navigation menus to breadcrumbs to sliders to a recent posts sidebar, these templates will allow you to launch websites much faster than you'd be able to if building them from scratch. 

JointsWP blank theme demo

8. Sage

Sage is a powerful and flexible starter theme for WordPress development. With its Webpack-based setup, Sage enables you to write stylesheets with SASS, proofread your. JavaScript for errors, optimize images, enable synchronized browser testing, and more.

Sage comes with the latest version of Bootstrap. Upon installation, you can replace with another development framework or no framework at all. Whatever you choose, Sage can help you build a truly unique website, like this one from the showcase

Zillow Porchlight website from Sage showcase

9. HTML5 Blank

Built to HTML5 and WordPress code standards, the HTML5 Blank starter theme was created with performance in mind. With this codebase, you have a completely blank slate to create your website on.

There's no unnecessary styling elements or bloat to slow your site down. You just need to have some experience with CSS and you'll be able to have complete control over the elements on your site.

HTML5 Blank WordPress starter theme demo

10. Bones

Bones provides you with a solid foundation to start your own WordPress theme. Offering detailed stylesheets that shows you exactly what custom CSS and selectors are used, Bones is ideal for developers at different skill levels.

In addition to being free, the best things about this theme is that it takes a mobile-first approach. Built with a unique SASS set-up that uses only the necessary resources to display on smaller screens and then scale up to larger viewports, Bones enables you to create a fully responsive design fast.

Featured art for WordPress starter theme Bones

11. Basic

Basic is a free starter theme created by Themify. It comes with only the most basic styling, which you can customize using the Themify panel.

Built with HTML5 and CSS3, this fully responsive design supports lightbox galleries, social media icons, a search box, scroll-to-top button, and footer widgets, menus, and text. 

Basic WordPress starter theme demo

12. Astra

If you’re looking to build a starter site, consider Astra. With over  900,000 active installs, Astra is among the most popular themes in the official WordPress theme repository.

Why do so many people like it? Apart from a user-friendly interface, Astra offers a range of professionally designed starter templates that allow you to build a website in minutes. It’s easy: you choose a template, change the content to match your brand, and then go live.  Take a look at the Outdoor Adventures demo below. 

Astra's Outdoor Adventures starter template demo

While several of its themes are free, more themes and features are available in Astra's premium plans.

13. Start

Start is a free starter theme available in the WordPress directory. Fully compatible with the Gutenberg editor, Start enables you to create and customize your website faster and easier than before.

Performance will not be an issue with this theme, either. Built without jQuery, a framework, or bloat, Start is lightweight. Considering its speed and simplicity, this multi-purpose theme appeals specifically to entrepreneurs like restaurant owners, wedding planners, and shop owners. 

Start WordPress theme shows feed of blog posts and simple navigation bar

14. Highstarter

Just released this year, Highstarter is already among the top-rated starter themes in the official WordPress directory. Weighing in at only 33KB, this lightweight theme combines core WordPress functions with custom CSS and vanilla JavaScript to optimize the performance of your site. 

In addition to being compatible with the Gutenberg editor and the classic editor, this theme offers a wide range of options in the theme customizer, making it ideal for developers and people with little to no coding skills. You can pick between a full-width or right sidebar layout and a light and dark mode. You can use a static homepage and add a custom header image, call-to-action button, parallax scrolling, and accent colors to make it your own. 

This theme also supports nested dropdown menus, pagination, and breadcrumbs out-of-the-box so you can create a content-rich site that's easy to navigate.

Hightstarter theme demo

15. Beans

A flexible starter theme, Beans offers a responsive layout with adaptive images and elements that can be moved, modified, or removed however you'd like. Built with the latest technologies including LESS, CSS3, HTML5, and jQuery, Beans is a lightweight and SEO-friendly option for any website.

Looking through the showcase of websites built with Beans, you can see the virtually unlimited design possibilities this theme offers. Here's one example from the showcase: Next Insurance.

Next Insurance website built on the WordPress starter theme beans

16. Understrap

Understrap is a unique option for developers. It offers the above-mentioned starter theme Underscores and the Bootstrap CSS framework in one package. Because you don't have to download and merge this theme and framework yourself, using Understrap reduces the time it takes to customize and launch a site.

There are several demos you can choose from, including premium child themes called "Overstrap." But you can get started for free with the Understrap theme shown below. 

Understrap demo

Getting Started with a WordPress Starter Theme

There's no need to create a theme from scratch when there are so many well-designed WordPress starter themes available. These themes are completely customizable so you can create a truly unique design for your WordPress website without having to build it from scratch.

Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms  without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

 Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms  without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

Originally published Jan 1, 2020 12:26:00 AM, updated June 23 2020

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WordPress Themes