Top Free WordPress Themes – Best Guide, Best Features for Free & Premium


Welcome to my top free WordPress themes training guide to help you create a beautiful website with zero fuss. This article is definitely worth reading and to take a look at all my free recommended themes can be found at the bottom of this page. 

When first choosing a theme, you'll probably be looking for something either eye-catching with sliders and possibly big images at the top to represent your niche. I think there's a lot wrong with that thinking and here's why...Simplicity is always a better option because these type of themes rank better in Google.

Are Free WordPress Themes A Good Choice?

Google dislike big sliders and huge images. What they want to see is your content first.

Another thing, some free themes are coded awful which slow down your site and so gives a bad impression.

If visitors can't get on your site within two to three seconds, they will go elsewhere...I know I do!

Top Free WordPress Themes

One of the biggest bonuses that wins most people’s heart, is that ‘if it’s free then it’s for me’. However, I found that there’s more to it than picking the first free theme you like or the one that looks remotely appealing.

I'm not a big fan of free themes because customization's are always very limited. Though that's not to say there aren't any good ones available. It's for this reason, I've created a 'top free WordPress themes' at the bottom of this article. 

Want to know how easily I designed this page, then check out my review: Thrive Architect – Everything Has A Beauty But Not Everyone Sees It!

The difference between bought and free themes is that with bought themes you'll need fewer plugins. In most cases for your site to function at its optimum when using a free theme, you'll more than likely need to load many plugins for your site to function well.

And, there lies another problem...badly coded plugins can slow down your site. Bought themes, and I know for sure Thrive Themes are awesomely coded, their plugins are coded into their themes which causes less stress and friction on your website. 

 Tip: Before digging deeper into free themes, I want to stress that even cheap bought themes can be just as bad and fickle as free themes, be on your guard!

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly!

I have found there’s no grey area with free WordPress themes, they are either bad or good.

As far as my top free WordPress themes go, I have to say they’re all pretty much the same year-in and year-out, providing the developer updates and continues to offer support.

For me, support and updates are almost always the deciding factor as to which one to choose. 

Top Free WordPress Themes

Without proper support and regular updates, you might as well be swimming in mud. I say this because eventually your site will either look awful or it’ll crash. And, you don't want that because you'll eventually lose all your hard work.

I’ve listed many top free WordPress themes below for you to chose from. Generally, I’ve found that these stay at the top year-in year-out with some slight fluctuations. 

What to Look Out For

I have found there’s no grey area with free themes, they are either bad or good. So, as far as my top free WordPress themes go, I have to say they’re all pretty much the same year-in and yearout, providing the creator updates and continues to offer support.

For me, support and updates are almost always the deciding factors as to which one to choose. The fact is, without proper support and regular updates, you might as well be swimming in mud.

I say this because eventually your site will either look awful or it’ll crash. And, you don't want that because you'll eventually lose all your hard work. I’ve listed many top free WordPress themes below for you to choose from. Generally, I’ve found that these stay at the top year-in year-out with some slight fluctuations.

Digging Deeper 

When starting a new website, I found choosing a theme to be one of the hardest. It has to be right; you need to be happy with it, and it needs to function as described. There are so many free WordPress themes on the internet these days; in fact, last I looked the WordPress directory is loaded with more than 2,600.

 Support: I would love to say there’s no particular order in what you ought to consider. Support and updates are a must as said earlier. If everything else is perfect, but there’s no technical support, then you’ll end up pulling your hair out! Checking out the creators support can be a piece of cake, go to their forum and browse the type of questions asked and the creators response time. This is also true of premium themes. If they don’t have a support and/or forum ditch them.

 Features: Free WordPress themes often lack the features that you’d acquire with bought themes. Again, every bought theme can be capricious so even here you’d need to shop around.

 Lite themes: Instead of latching onto a one-man theme creator look for a company who owns free and premium themes, it is unlikely their themes will be neglected. Their free themes are often lite versions of the premium and often known as freemium, these are often considered the top free WordPress themes. They can be an excellent choice if you’re starting out, then at some point when your commissions start rolling in you could opt to buy the premium.

 Niche themes: I’ve learned not to look for niche themes; however, it makes no sense to grab a blogging theme when you’re a photographer. In this case, you’ll definitely need a photography theme to suit that need.

 Themes size: The size of the WordPress theme matters a lot; you do not want it to be huge since it will weigh your site down, load time will be slower thus it will affect your SERP (search engine ranking position) with Google. Some modern themes are so big that WordPress cannot upload them; this means it has to be uploaded using FTP such as Filezilla.

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WordPress will only allow an 8MB upload; an Avada theme I looked at once weighed in at 265MB – that’s not funny so I’m glad I ditched it! To check the size of a theme folder, download it to your computer, extract, then right click to open the properties. Most properties will show how many folders, files and its size. Otherwise, hover over the zip file to show its size.

 Styling: Some free themes do not offer the option to code their css; in this case, you will be very limited to making customizations. Trust me, even if you currently have no knowledge of coding, you will eventually want to do it even if it’s a little bit.

 Coding: Some free themes can contain seriously bad coding, which will eventually screw up your site. This is more evident when you upload plugins and you’re hit with the white screen of death.

Theme Features To Consider

Here some examples of what you need to be looking out for when browsing themes, whether bought or free. I suggest that you pick out which are the most important to you, make a note of them in your notepad and try not to deviate from them too much.

make sure there are no catches

To avoid jumping into one bad bowl from another we need to consider the following when considering my recommend themes:

Customizr by Nikeo is a great theme. It's one of the most downloaded on the internet. However, for it to function at it's optimum you’ll need to buy their two plugins and they’re not cheap.

Granted not all themes require you to buy their plugins, but I can guarantee that you’ll always be searching for plugins to make your site functions better. Obviously, too many plugins will eventually slow down your site and that's a big turn off for any visitor.

 Tip: When choosing a theme make sure there are no catches otherwise you might find you'll have to jump into another bowl.

WordPress Themes recommendations

Aside from the popular Twenty Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen and Fourteen, etc., here are some rocking free themes. The two that consistently remain at the very top are Responsive by CyberChimps and Customizr by Nikeo.

What to Expect When Changing Your Theme

Prior to my current theme check Which WordPress Themes Should You Use? – What I Use On My Websites, I searched high and low for a good theme. I’d often change my theme, which meant I discovered some things along the way.

Often they didn't do what I wanted them to do. My posts were not easy to read, I couldn’t alter the line-spacing, some themes coding was awful making my site slow, right sidebar was too small, images were aligned wrongly, my logo wouldn’t fit, there weren’t enough menus and the list went on.

Maybe these themes could have been edited to suit me, but time was my enemy so I’d move on looking for yet another theme. Maybe I could have coded it fit, but back my coding knowledge was limited.

Here’s what I think the answer is...

Instead of loading and activating a theme onto your professional site, load it onto a testing website. For this you can buy a cheap domain for pennies from Host Papa and host it with their cheapest plan.

Somethings to lookout for are…

Those little code snippets you added to your website header such as Google Analytics, Bing Webmaster Tools, Alexa, Pinterest or whatever it maybe, may not carry over when you change your theme.

It is important to go into your editor and check they are there whenever you change your theme. Even today with my current bought theme, I always have a backup of my custom CSS and header snippets incase I need to replace lost code. When you change your theme double check that your snippets are working otherwise you’ll lose all your stats.

It is not a good idea to keep changing your theme because people often know you by your theme. Therefore, make sure you choose your new theme carefully and stick to it.

What are Stunning Themes? 

I believe carefully chosen WordPress themes can increase your conversions rates to a greater degree and of course your rankings. This is why so many people who’ve worked on the internet for some time end up switching their theme to something much more powerful.

What do I mean by more powerful?

 SEO friendly

 At least 80% faster than other sites

 Less plugins

 Theme design is clear not cluttered

 You can edit your footer

 Focused call to action on your FrontPage

Okay so this may not sound like much, but these alone can make a huge difference to your conversions. By this, I mean how many people go to your website, read your content, stay on your site, return to your site, subscribers, social shares, money you make and much more.

When I was using free WordPress themes, I found one major obstacle was not being able to style it how I liked. I wasn't much good at coding back then, so it was super difficult for me to express what I wanted to convey. After about six months of using free themes, I gave up and bought Thrive Themes.

Are There Perfect Themes? 

It’s not easy finding awesome WordPress themes because there are so many. It can be very tiring and often boring, and then just when you thought you bought the right one, you realize it wasn’t that great after all.

As in my experience! I’ve been there, done that and it’s frustrating! I’ve previously bought a ton of themes from Envato Market, but today they just site in a folder doing nothing.

It is my belief that most themes from Envato are full of unnecessary coding, full of shortcodes that you may never use and worst of all you don’t know the size of the theme until you’ve bought it.

Take for example, Avada, yes it’s a very nice-looking theme, but its size is a colossal 250MB. Compare this to my preferences as stated, which average 1-8MB.

Outsourcing Vs Recreating 

 a) You can outsource a designer for your site to get exactly what you want, but the drawback to this, is that, it can be expensive. However, it can save you a bunch of hours, which will enable you to concentrate on content writing or whatever you do.

 b) You could choose a theme that you like, then ask the creator to tweak it to your liking. Some theme developers will do this free if you’ve bought a particular package they offer, but others are more reluctant so will charge a nominal fee.

 c) An alternative is to put your thinking cap on and get creative yourself, which is the cheaper option. Bought themes are much easier to redesign compared to free themes, and I’ve found that developers of paid themes are more than willing give you HTML or CSS coding to recreate the changes you want - this happened to me with Thrive Themes.

Distinguishing What's Awesome 

 a) Other than the powerful inclusions stated above, your theme needs to look minimal or for want of a better word ‘uncluttered’. If your site appears complex, then it can look amateurish, which could more than likely turn prospective readers off.

 b) Your site needs to be consistent throughout. Too many fonts and colors can make your site appear confusing or at worst messy. A minimum of one to two font types and color schemes are all that is needed.

 c) Your site's typography needs to be clear cut, in that, your H1, H2, H3 etc and your content font should be readable. Readability will depend upon color and size, I suggest your content font size needs to be 16px or 18px, test your titles what looks good and their color should be near black.

 d) Your footer is so important; it can put money in your bank account. Serious content readers want to know what theme you use and the first place they head for is your footer. It doesn’t matter if you’re not promoting WordPress themes, so my advice to you is that you sign up to your developer's affiliate scheme and add it to your footer.

 e) Visual hierarchy of the most important elements on your site converts - period! If your most import work isn’t visual, then you could be missing out on important conversions. Visuals draw in your readers so make the most of creating appealing optin forms and emphasizing specific words in bold or italics where needed. Plus, remember your FrontPage needs to be the most compelling since it's the most visited.

 f) SEO friendly themes are becoming more popular and in essence it basically means that the developer hides all or most of the themes coding behind the scenes whereby it can only be found via your FTP. Furthermore, since you can't alter the themes CSS unless you're savvy with FTP and coding, then the theme needs to supply a Custom CSS.

Check Others WordPress Themes

It's fun knowing which WordPress themes people use for their websites. Many website owners are allergic to revealing the theme they're using, I still can't fathom why it's such a big deal being so secretive.

If you love what someone else uses, there are decent tools that are quite good at disclosing what themes and plugins bloggers are using. I for one use Spybar, it's cheap and cheerful and can be used on various browsers. I think it's worth having as I feel it's very useful at times.

Which WordPress Themes Are The Best? 

It is a matter of personal opinion which theme to choose, but there are some guidelines what to look out for. When first choosing a theme, you'll probably be looking for something either eye-catching with sliders or possibly big images at the top of the theme to represent your niche.

I think there's a lot wrong with that thinking and here is why...simplicity is always a better option because these type of themes rank better in Google.

I use both Genesis Themes and Thrive Themes because they're sophisticated, simple and clean. You simply cannot get away from their uncomplicated coding. You can count on both being fast and lite, HTML5, CSS3, markup, flexible, mobile responsive design, optimized for fab SERPs, great security and much more. Genesis offers inbuilt SEO, but with Thrive Themes you have to use Yoast or something similar.

 More About Genesis Themes: Genesis themes are actually child themes built on the amazing Genesis Framework by StudioPress. They are responsive on any device, offer powerful coding, compatible browser support with the most recent versions, can translate into any language you prefer, GPL license with StudioPress Pro Plus, Customizer, unlimited domain usage and more. 

Unlike Thrive, StudioPress don't offer compatible plugins for their themes on their site, you need to look for them in the WordPress Repository. One thing I love about Studiopress is that a few years ago I splurged out on their Pro-Plus All Theme-Package. That was the best decision I ever made because I now get access to every theme they've developed and all their new releases. It’s the best deal, especially if you like to update your theme from time to time like I do or own more than one website. 

 More About Thrive Themes: Thrive Themes was founded by Shane Melaugh and tech crazy Paul McCarthy. Thrive offer a similar package deal to Genesis which is their Thrive Themes Membership. For many bloggers, Thrive Themes is the first port of call for themes and plugins because they are a reputable company offering outstanding compatible products all in one location.

Thrive Themes are totally different to Genesis themes because Thrive has 'what I call' inbuilt plugins/features into their themes and also offer separate compatible plugins. These plugin/features are social media, image optimization, 404 page, related posts, commenting options and much more.

Some exclusive benefits owning their membership is that you get unlimited support, constant updates, monthly webinars, email content courses, regular website reviews and feedback, regular homepage improvement tutorials, Thrive Themes University and much more.

Other companies that have an excellent reputation are Elegant Themes and DIY Themes.

And There You Have It

When a website theme is simple, easy to navigate and loads fast, it gives the user a better experience. Avoid sliders and big images at the top of your theme or posts and pages.

Always check out the Demo and Details first before loading onto your site. If you're looking to start a new website or customize the one you have, then create a test website to check the theme first. Paid themes are the best way to go if your budget allows, otherwise choose a lite freemium from a reputable developer.

To check you've covered all the steps go here 6 Easy Steps to Creating a WOW Website...And, Build a Sustainable Business!

It doesn't matter how much blogging experience you have, you will always start where you're at and what you currently know. Eventually as your revenue increases, you'll gradually be able to dump the full-time employment to blog full-time on your site.

Just that thought a lone sounds so awesome!

About the Author Sharon

You're talking to Sharon May...I love all things creative. Why not use my years of expertise to fast track your website? Today, let me show you how to make the right choices that will deliver! Explore the amazing things you can do when creating a website. Give yourself more power and less worry over what you can trust!

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