The 3 Most Customizable, Free WordPress Themes

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3 Free, Customizable WordPress themes

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Beginners, Non-developers

I must start with a caveat – I don’t believe any one theme should be all things to all users. A few years ago, a theme used to simply be a pre-made design that you could apply to your site – an overall look and feel, not a “website in a box”. You used a theme because you didn’t have the design and/or coding skill to create your own. But, nowadays users want to be able to control every aspect of their site’s look and feel – basically design their site themselves, without doing any code. If you are not an actual designer, then there are many downfalls to this approach. But that is not the point of this post.

Needless to say, people like free themes and they also like flexibility. So here are three themes that fit the bill. I’m not saying they will do anything and everything you want, but for free, they are pretty extensive. I’ve tried to point out the features that are useful and/or unique, but that doesn’t mean I’ve included every possibility. But these themes are free, so you can try them for yourself at no risk!

The three I’ll be looking at are: Base by ThemifyMake by Theme Foundry and Evolve by Theme4Press.

Base by Themify

Themify Base - Customizable WordPress theme

 

Check it out: https://wordpress.org/themes/themify-base

Generally I’m a fan of Themify’s themes because they do provide a good amount of control. Base is a free one that you can find in the WordPress repository. Out of the box, it has an elegant, minimalist look and feel, but you have extensive customization options to make it your own.

 

Themify CustomizerGeneral Site Layout
There are 6 preset skins to choose from which vary the color scheme (mostly between light and dark) and also the layout – some are full width, while others are boxed. You can change the widths of each container (page wrap, middle container, content column, sidebar)  in the Customizer.

Sidebars / Columns
There are controls for most styling elements from fonts to background color.

You can remove the sidebar or have one sidebar on the right or left, for each of the main blog index page, regular pages and individual posts.

 

Logo
You can choose to use your own image or have a text logo,using one of the 100s of Google Fonts provided. If you use an image, you are not restricted to a particular size, it will accommodate any size you upload.

You can’t, however, change the position of the image logo- it’s always centered.  If you use text then you can change the alignment.

Header 
Setttings for:  background color, border, margins/padding

Navigation
Setttings for: font color, styling, link hovers

Footer
Setttings for: colors, fonts, number of widget columns

Fonts
Choose from hundreds of Google Fonts in any place you can change text.

Page builder / Shortcodes
This theme does not come bundled with a page builder or any shortcode elements.

Layouts / Page Templates
You can pick a default sidebar position of left or right, or no sidebar for a full-width page.
Full-width is a page template option per page, but changing the sidebar position isn’t. However, you vary it as a whole for each of posts, pages, index and archive pages.
On your blog there is a choice of  thumbnail image sizes for blog homepage layout and single posts.

Other – Forms
There are styling options for forms which is nice. I couldn’t find a list of all the plugins this feature is compatible with, but did test Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms, and my custom styles were applied to both by default.

Overall

I really like this theme. For a free theme  I think it’s very extensive in the level of control it gives you. It’s clean and elegant right out of the box, but you can definitely make it your own.

BONUS TIP: Themify Basic

Themify’s Basic is also free but not in the WordPress directory – you have to download it from Themify.me. It’s similar to Base but it comes with their Builder plugin and shortcode functionality, which is handy for building more complex pages.

Make by Theme Foundry

make-theme

Check it out: https://wordpress.org/themes/make

Make also has a paid, Pro version, with even more customization options, but the free version is very flexible.

General Site Layout
You can choose between a full-width site, or a boxed layout

Logo / Header
Make gives you more control over the header than Themify’s Base.

There are 3 different header layouts which allow you to change the position of the navigation, and the position of the logo. It can accommodate small or large logos, and you can position it in the center, or to the left or right. There is also an optional social icons menu at the top.

Colors
Make gives you control over font and background colors for the header, the top bar (if activated), navigation menu,  main site and content area background, widgets, and the footer.

Fonts
Make provides a thorough selection of Google Fonts to choose from for the site title, navigation, body font, headings, widgets and footer.

Sidebars
Choose up to 3 columns and select when/where to show the right and/or left sidebar for each of the blog page, archives, single posts, single pages.

Footer
Designate up to 4 widget columns in the footer

Page builder / Shortcodes
On any standard page, you can choose the “Builder” template and this gives you access to the “lite” version of Make’s page builder which includes 3 building blocks – Columns (lets you divide the content area in up to 4 columns), Banner (to create hero images or a slider) and Gallery (an easy image grid).

There are a few shortcodes you can use on non-builder pages. There is a “format builder” to style notices (like call-out boxes), lists or buttons, and there’s an icon picker as well.

Overall
I obviously played with a lot of themes when researching this post, and many of them follow a similar freemium model. However with most of them, the free version felt intentionally hobbled,  pretty much requiring the upgrade in order to get the truly useful features. Not so with Make. Although the paid upgrade clearly offers a lot more, the free version feels comprehensive and could definitely be used on its own merits.

Evolve by Theme4Press

evolve

Check it out: https://wordpress.org/themes/evolve/

General Site Layout
Choose from boxed or wide and can also choose from 4 specific widths, from 800 to 1600px.

Sidebars / Columns
You can choose 0, 1 or 2 sidebars with every choice of position – left or right, and in the case of 2 sidebars you can even have both on one side if you like. This can be set globally, but also changed per page/post.

Logo / Header 
Use an image logo, or go with the site title and tagline (or both). If you use an image you can choose to place it left, right or center and you can position the site title and tagline as well.
You can choose to disable or enable a sticky header (ie. a header that is fixed to the top as you scroll down the page) as well as an optional widget area that shows below the navigation / above page content. You can choose up to 4 columns for that area, and which types of pages to place the widget area on.

Colors
Change the background color on most elements – header, body, footer, widgets.

Fonts
Integrated with Google fonts, you can control most elements – title, tagline, post/page titles, body font, widgets, menus, headings.

Footer
Choose background color and/or image, up to 4 widget columns, and an easy way to edit the default footer copyright text.

Page builder / Shortcodes
Shortcodes are only available in Premium version, but that’s not to say you couldn’t use a different page builder or shortcodes plugin with this theme.

Blog Page Layout
Choose from 3 different blog layouts, including a grid format. You can turn on or off the featured images.

Homepage Layout
Choose to add a slider and/or content boxes

Sliders
There are 3 optional sliders – Bootstrap, Parallax and a Posts slider. You can choose to enable these throughout the site, just on the homepage, or on a manual basis on posts/pages. Each slider has some styling options as well.

Widgets
The theme includes a slider widget and a tabbed widget displaying Popular Posts, Recent Posts and Comments.

Overall
Like Make, this is a freemium theme, but the free version is feature-packed and feels comprehensive. My summary here doesn’t include every single detail that’s available in this theme.

So, there you have it – 3 awesome and free themes that would make a great choice for any blog or website.

Have I missed your favorite? Leave a comment!

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This site runs on the Total WordPress theme (aff. link)

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. David McCan

    These two are pretty nice and very customizable:

    Hueman:
    https://wordpress.org/themes/hueman/

    Suffusion:
    https://wordpress.org/themes/suffusion/

    1. Lucy

      Hey David,
      Thanks for your comment!
      I agree, Hueman is a good one. I’ve looked at Suffusion, and while it does have a lot of options, I find the design overall to be too dated, so it didn’t make the cut for me :(

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