LAST UPDATED: January 2017
Finding a good WordPress theme is perhaps one of the most challenging tasks in getting your site set up. It’s like the Wild West out there, with all kinds of cowboys claiming they’ve got the best theme to beat all themes. Who can you believe?!
Here are a few trusted resources for finding a reliable theme.
Premium & Free WordPress Themes
AlienWP – Their themes, which range from magazine-style, to portfolio, all share a minimalist aesthetic. They offer some free ones as well.
Array Themes – Thoughtfully designed themes with great typography. Some great choices for bloggers, photographers/designers and more. They have both free and premium themes.
GeneratePress (aff. link)- You’ll find the free version of GeneratePress in the WordPress directory. It’s a very lean theme with few thrills. CSS-proficient developers could find it to be a good starter theme that can be customized extensively.
The Pro upgrade is the GeneratePress plugin which, at $39.95, is well worth it to be able to really make GP your own.
GraphPaperPress.com – Their themes have a modern style and are geared toward image and media-heavy content. Great for photographers, portfolios etc. They offer free and premium themes.
StudioPress – StudioPress are the creators of Genesis, which is a lightweight theme framework. Some developers love to use Genesis as a starting point for custom projects. You will need to learn their system of hooks, but once you have, you can quickly create custom sites. In addition to the core Genesis theme, they offer a lot of child themes. They keep their themes lean and don’t try to offer a bazillion customization options.
Design Palette Pro – this is actually a plugin, not a theme, but if you are a Genesis user, you will find it a useful tool to help you further customize your Genesis child theme without code.
Press 75 – I generally like the design aesthetic behind these themes. They have some nice ones in particular for multimedia and image-heavy blogs.
ThemeIsle – They offer both free and premium themes for a wide array of uses.
Themify.me (aff. link)- Elegantly designed themes that give the user a lot of options to customize with. They also now have their own page builder tool for increased flexibility.
The Theme Foundry – They have a nice and flexible free theme, Make, in the WordPress repo. On their site you can purchase the Pro version, in addition to some really clean-looking portfolio style themes.
Web Savvy Marketing – They are a web design agency with a focus on SEO. All their themes are Genesis child themes and are purpose-built each with a certain type of business in mind, from authors to ecommcerce stores to lawyers.
WooThemes – Their focus is now squarely on WooCommerce, so they don’t come out with plain old themes any more. But they do have a free starter WooCommerce them, Storefront, which as premium add-ons and a slew of free and premium child themes.
I shy away from recommending any of the (in)famous multi-purpose themes that purport to be all things to all people. However, if you really must have yourself one, I’d look at these two:
Total by WP Explorer (aff. link)
I use this on my own site, albeit without Visual Composer active, and enjoy its clean design and flexible options.
Starter Theme for Developers
If you know your way around CSS and PHP and want to create something completely custom, a starter theme is what you’re looking for. It comes very bare bones and is designed to be thoroughly customized with code, not options.
Underscores – This is the starter theme from the Automattic team themselves.