21 Best WordPress Starter Themes for Developers in 2021

The Ultimate WordPress Starter Themes for Developers in 2021

WordPress starter themes are for developers who don’t have the luxury of time or don’t want to build a theme from scratch. They provide the foundation from which you can create a fully functional WordPress theme.

You could take a standard WordPress theme and reverse engineer it for your needs. But if you have ever done that, you know that unpicking a full design can take a little too much time and effort!

Sometimes simple is best and that’s the case here.

We have collected what we consider to be the best WordPress starter themes that combine great design with the flexibility to be able to customize it easily.

What Is a WordPress Starter Theme?

As mentioned above, a WordPress starter theme is a pre-made theme that can be easily customized to become something similar or completely different.

They can provide the basis from which a busy developer can take the outline of the theme and run with it to complete a project.

They are also useful for those wanting to learn WordPress. You can play around and experiment with them without having to learn the core code and without having to pay for a full theme.

Starter themes are valid WordPress themes but have minimal styling so you can build your own site using it as the foundation. They are designed to be expanded, improved and otherwise worked on by developers.

Some are very barebones and come with nothing but the site outline. Others will come with all the tools you need to build your site or a mixture of the two. Our list covers them both.

Which Is the Best WordPress Starter Theme?

The following are what we consider the best WordPress starter themes around right now.

1. Astra

Astra starter themes page

Astra themes are unique in that they combine already fantastic designs all ready to launch with the ability to customize them as much as you like. The range of starter templates available is impressive, as is the quality of those designs.

What’s more important for developers is the ease at which you can customize each template to suit your own needs. All use clean code, are compatible with Brizy, Beaver Builder, Elementor, Gutenberg and other page builders if you like to build like that or can be fully customized at the back end.

The hard work has been done for you with Astra. All starter templates are coded to load fast, fully compliant, tested to work on all browsers and are fully responsive. What better way to start a project?

2. Underscores

Underscores homepage

Underscores (_S) is one of the most well-established WordPress starter themes available. It is run by Automatic, the people behind WordPress.com and has been designed to provide a solid base from which you can build your own WordPress website.

While owned by Automatic, the theme has been collaboratively produced to create one of the most flexible and well-coded themes out there. It has everything you need to begin building almost any site you like with all the calls and functions you can think of in a very streamlined package.

3. WP BootStrap Starter

WP Bootstrap Starter By Afterimage Designs demo

WP BootStrap Starter is another very usable WordPress starter theme. It’s based on a combination of Underscores and Bootstrap that utilizes HTML, CSS and JS to deliver a fully responsive, mobile-friendly theme for any use.

It also works with Font Awesome, WooCommerce, Visual Composer, the Elementor page builder and even Contact Form 7. WP BootStrap Starter has a GPL licence so you can use it however you like too!

4. Naked

Naked WordPress theme demo site

Naked is a WordPress starter theme designed for those who want to experiment with the design aspect of website design without the development part. The theme includes the basic outline of a WordPress site with individual pages, support for comments, responsive styling and custom options but with no design of its own.

Naked is written in HTML5 and supports custom menus and sidebars, WordPress widgets, a blog, categories and tags and everything you need to get started. The documentation is pretty good too.

5. Tonik

Tonik WordPress Starter Theme homepage

Tonik is an open source WordPress starter theme available from its website or from GitHub. It depends on having Composer and Node installed and will require a little bit of setup to get started. Once done however, the theme provides everything you need to begin building.

In return for that effort, Tonik provides a preconfigured directory structure, Ajax support, a service container, component support, templating, theme actions and filters, shortcode support, autoloading tools and command line tools.

6. Responsive

Responsive By CyberChimps demo

Responsive is a free WordPress starter theme that has a little more meat on the bones than some of these others. While still barebones, there are design elements within the theme so you’re not starting from scratch. If that works for you, this theme could work perfectly.

Responsive is more like Astra than Naked and provides some basic themes that you can import and build as you see fit. They do contain styling elements and functions but you can add, change or remove these at will. While the designs aren’t as flexible as Astra, they can work if you’re looking for a more built-out theme.

7. Sage

Sage WordPress Starter Theme

Sage is another very popular WordPress starter theme from Roots. This theme uses a combination of Sass, Bootstrap, Bulma, Foundation, Tachyons, Tailwind and Laravel’s Blade for templating. This provides a very powerful and flexible basis from which to build a website.

Sage has been optimized to deliver efficient building without the need to repeat stages and has tools for JavaScript error checking, Sass stylesheets, third party package support and a well-coded HTML 5 template. There’s a lot going on here but Sage is a great way to learn design or build a site.

8. Beans

Beans Theme Framework homepage

Beans is a very accessible WordPress starter theme. It was designed to serve both designers who wanted a starter and beginners who wanted something to help them get started. Beans delivers on both.

It’s a comprehensive starter theme that supports responsive content, the Ulkit front-end library and most existing WordPress plugins. It also loads quickly, has been built to be SEO friendly, works with CSS3, HTML 5 jQuery and LESS. Beans is updated regularly and continuously refined by an avid community of supporters.

9. UnderStrap

Understrap Demo site

UnderStrap is a WordPress starter theme that combines Underscores and Bootstrap 4 to deliver a smart, usable theme for any kind of project. This is a premium option with no free version but in return you get to use Understrap’s dynamic PHP and JavaScript alongside Bootstrap’s static files to be able to build almost anything you like.

UnderStrap integrates Font Awesome and combines all CSS files into minified single files. It supports WooCommerce, Contact Form 7, Jetpack and other WordPress plugins too!

10. Quark

Quark Starter Theme demo site

Quark is another WordPress starter theme worth checking out. This version is based on Underscores and the default TwentyTwelve WordPress theme. That means it is fully compatible, flexible and includes very tidy HTML 5 and CSS3.

Quark is responsive, based on a 12 column grid and supports Font Awesome, custom headers, post templates, multiple pages, sidebars, custom media queries, the Options Framework, WooCommerce and other plugins. It is also WPML-ready.

11. Bones

Bones is a mobile-first WordPress starter theme that keeps things nice and simple. It’s a barebones design that provides the basic foundation from which to build your own website using Sass, CSS3 and HTML5.

Bones is a WordPress theme and not a framework. It doesn’t need a child theme and comes with everything you need to begin building right away. It is fully responsive, supports custom post types and most WordPress plugins.

12. WP Rig

WP Rig wordpress theme

WP Rig is a WordPress starter theme designed to streamline the website design process while keeping the flexibility and power we need. It uses the drag and drop convenience of the WordPress Template Hierarchy with a well-build starter template to provide a theme and builder in one.

It works by using Babel, PostCSS, Gulp, ESLint and BrowserSync to let you develop any type of website you want with minimal effort and maximum productivity. The package is easy to use and the website has a lot of documentation to help you learn and make the most of what’s possible with WP Rig.

13. _tk Starter Theme

themekraft homepage

The _tk Starter Theme is another mobile-first WordPress starter theme that delivers the tools you need to build your own site with no fuss and no mess. Based on Underscores and Bootstrap, the theme comes just with the WordPress files and stylesheets you need to build a fully functional website.

The theme is designed to be lightweight, work with Twitter Bootstrap 3.0, load quickly and yet be flexible enough to deliver the interactivity and engagement you want from a website. All files are free and offered under a GPL licence so you can do whatever you like with them.

14. JointsWP

JointsWP homepage

JointsWP is a clean WordPress starter theme that combines with Foundation 6 to deliver a very flexible basis to build a website. The combination is powerful, responsive, mobile friendly and ready to go. It works with Sass for efficient designing and requires no child theme to build.

It also works with Gulp so you can quickly compile your CSS, minify your JS and create efficient workflows. You don’t have to use Sass either, if you prefer to build your CSS by hand, you can do that too.

If you’re new to WordPress, JointsWP has a very useful documentation page to help you get started.

15. HTML5 Blank

html5 blank site

HTML5 Blank doesn’t get off to a good start thanks to a website with nothing but a video on it. Once you’re past that, you quickly realize the true potential of this WordPress starter theme.

As the name suggests, HTML5 Blank is an empty template made from HTML5. It supports CSS3 and has the bare bones required to build a working WordPress theme. The website is pretty useless in terms of documentation but the theme is so clean that even a beginner should soon find their bearings.

16. Ultimatum

Ultimatum homepage

Ultimatum is a premium WordPress starter theme with a little more to offer. It’s a bare starter theme but comes with a drag and drop page builder, support for premium extensions and a clean core that can be developed however you like.

If you want to build your own theme without having to load Gulp and other tools, Ultimatum can help. It loads into WordPress and uses the dashboard to help you access the drag and drop builder. If you have every used Astra, the process is much the same. Drag, drop, add content and save. Easy!

17. DIYThemes

Focus diythemes

DIYThemes offers a pair of starter themes called Focus and Thesis. They are premium themes that contain the basic layouts from which you can build your own website.

This is another theme that uses a page builder. It also uses Skins, which are theme overlays and Boxes, that are a straightforward way of building sidebars. The combination means you can begin creating your website without the higher learning curve of some of these other options. Pricing is steep though.

18. Nebula

Nebula wordpress theme homepage

Nebula crosses the line between a starter template and a framework. It provides everything you need to begin developing with some nice extras including custom functions, filters, custom metaboxes for the WordPress admin dashboard, support for Google Analytics, Sass and a whole lot more.

Nebula does mean there are specific things to learn but also helps you learn code and development in a user-friendly way. It’s a secure framework with support for external plugins and libraries as well as the Twitter API and other interactions.

19. TemplateToaster

TemplateToaster homepage

TemplateToaster goes in a different direction than some of these other WordPress starter themes. It’s an application that includes a theme generator that supports WordPress, Joomla, Magento and other CMS. It installs onto your computer and provides the tools you need to build a website with everything included.

This is a premium product with a free version that lets you experiment but won’t let you export your theme from the application. It looks like a cross between Microsoft Office and Paint.net but includes everything you need to create fully compliant WordPress themes.

20. BlankSlate

blankslate wordpress theme

BlankSlate is exactly what the name implies. It’s a very basic WordPress starter theme with nothing but the bare bones. It was designed for more experienced developers but could provide the basis to learn as long as you have access to decent documentation.

There is very little else to say about BlankSlate really. It uses clean code, no CSS styles, is SEO-friendly and supports jQuery. If you’re looking for the barest of barebones starter themes, then BlankSlate could be what you’re looking for.

21. Basic

themify basic theme

Basic is a free WordPress starter theme from Themify. We often list their premium themes in our ‘best of’ lists and this Basic is no different, just for very different reasons.

This is another very barebones theme with the basics from which you can build anything you like. It is fully responsive, includes social media elements, supports widgets, Lightbox gallery, child themes and was written in CSS3 and HTML5.

Which Is the Best WordPress Starter Theme?

We recommend any of the WordPress starter themes in this list if you’re looking for a foundation to build or to learn. Each offers something a little different and goes about it in a slightly different way.

That said, there are two starter themes that stand out. The free starter template from Astra and Ultimatum.

Astra has a selection of free starter templates covering the very bare bones up to fully functional website themes. There are also a wide selection of pro-quality premium templates if you want to skip the development and go right to the good stuff.

Ultimatum is a premium WordPress starter theme that also offers a range of themes to choose from. It loads into WordPress and uses familiar options to help build your website. It’s the middle ground between a fully-fledged working theme and a foundation such as BlankSlate.

WordPress Starter Themes

If you’re learning WordPress development, still working on your CSS or HTML skills or want to skip the framework development and get straight to the design, any of these WordPress starter themes can help.

Do you use any of these WordPress starter themes? Have any others to suggest? Tell us about it below!

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5 comments

  1. This list has some amazing names for new WordPress developers. Using starter theme gives huge boost in productivity and saves tons of time.
    Thank you for the list.

  2. As a WordPress developer, I can tell that this list has some amazing names.
    You wouldn’t go wrong if you choose any theme from this list.

  3. Astra is a great theme for new web designers, it has lot’s of free theme builder templates to play with.
    Defiantly recommend it to new users.

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