Which Are The Best WordPress Themes?

by Martin Malden

Update – 4th September, 2012.

This article was originally written in March 2009 – an age ago in Internet terms.

Since then I’ve come to realise that many themes you find online, i.e. not in the WordPress repository, contain hidden code. Often this code contains links to completely irrelevant sites but it can, of course, contain malware.

Therefore, please take great care when searching for themes online.

My advice would be to start from the baseline that any free theme that’s not in the WordPress repository contains stuff in the footer that you don’t want to go anywhere near.

If your research proves otherwise that’s great – but that’s where I’d start from.

Moral of the story? Get your free themes from the WordPress repository or buy a premium theme from one of the well established premium theme developers.

Original article starts here:

I often see questions from people asking for the best free WordPress themes, or the best premium WordPress themes.

Clearly ‘best’ is dependent on the target market of your blog, its content and the image you want to portray.

For some, a Hello Kitty theme would hit all the right buttons.  But that wouldn’t be me :)

So rather than try to suggest the best WordPress themes, I’ve listed here some places where, in total, you can find thousands of them – both free and premium.

And I do mean thousands.    

So with all the free themes that are available, why would you want to pay money for a Premium theme?

Well, here’s what you generally (deliberately emphasized) get with a premium theme that you won’t get with a free one:

  • A control panel (sometimes up to 5 screens) to enable full customization of the look and feel of your blog without needing to touch the code.
  • Full support in case of problems
  • Upgrades and updates – to cope with security issues and keep pace with new WordPress functionality
  • Better coding – cleaner and more stable, resulting in smoother integration with plugins and smoother upgrades of WordPress
  • Easy SEO control – blog wide, and post by post.

Most premium themes come with 2 pricing options:

  1. Personal or Single User, which enables you to use the theme on one installation only
  2. Developer or Multi-user, which enables you to use it on as many sites as you like.

Be sure to read the T’s & C’s carefully as some will specify that you can only use them on domains owned by you.

This is important if you provide WordPress installation and maintenance services for a fee, because you may not be able to use these themes on your clients’ sites.

The better Premium themes will enable you to create completely different appearances for your blogs, all from the same platform.

So if you buy the Developer’s option, and it’s a good theme, you would be able to put up different blogs focusing on different target markets, covering completely different subjects, and create the appropriate appearance for each – all using the same theme.

This includes the number of columns (or sidebars), font styles and sizes, colour schemes, header images and so on.

Turning to free themes:  there are thousands of these available but, to be sure, some of them are pretty shoddily coded.

This opens you up to security risks (some have been known to contain spam links in the code), instability with plugins and problems with WordPress upgrades.

So if you’re going for a free theme, be sure to get it from a reputable site – because there are some good ones out there.

I’ve set out below some sites where you can find themes for WordPress, split into Premium and Free.

Please understand that I have not tested each (or any) of these themes..!  You need to do your own due diligence on them.

But I have tried to find reputable sites for both, and I hope it’s a useful list.

Premium Themes:

www.premiumwp.com

An aggregation of themes from different authors/developers. From $25 up for single use options. This site includes Premium themes, Magazine themes, Business & CMS themes and Video themes.

Woo Themes

Themes by Woo themes. A reasonable selection, including 2 or 3 column, magazine style and ‘business’ themes. All seem to be priced at $70/$150 (Personal/Developer)

Cssace.com

There’s a free version of this theme, with no control panel and 3 colour options instead of 7. Prices for the paid themes start at $49 for the Personal option.

Smashing Magazine.

Reviews of a wide range of premium themes from different authors with prices starting from $49 (Personal option)

Premium Themes.

Their catch line is “Listing only the Best Premium Themes for WordPress from Around”.  They certainly have a huge number of premium themes which they’ve reviewed here along with links to the original author sites.

WPhacks.com

Another huge range of themes with prices starting from $45 for the Personal option.

Affiliate Theme

A very nice, highly and easily customisable theme specifically designed for setting up affiliate marketing sites and landing pages. Support tutorials and support forum. From $97 for single user. $147 for the multi user version is good value.

Free Themes:

WordPress.org.

The free themes available on the WordPress.org site. 650 of them. Unfortunately the search function on these pages is completely useless. I don’t know why they even bother to put a search box up there.  I did a search for ’3 column themes’ and the #1 result was a 2 column theme called ‘Basic2Col’.  Good, huh?

www.freewpthemes.net.

160 themes that claim to be fully standards compliant and 100% free for any type of use.

Themes.rock-kitty.net.

1400 free themes in a wide variety of styles. And I do mean wide..!

Smashing Magazine.

Smashing Magazine again – this time with free themes. 100 of them.  These have been tested and reviewed by the SM people, so the quality and coding is probably pretty reliable.

www.wpskins.org.

Literally thousands of themes here, but there are a lot of boring ones amongst them.

OK – that’s it..!

Remember, again: please do your own due diligence, especially on the free themes!

Finally, the theme I’m using on this blog is Thesis. This one I can personally vouch for and recommend, and I’ve written a review of it here.

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GoEverywhere Team March 15, 2009 at 12:37 am

That’s a great list of Wordpress theme sources! I have a list of my top 3 favorite places to search for themes saved on my webtop. Whenever I create a new blog (which I do quite often!) I open up the folder on my webtop and start searching for that perfect theme. Thanks for the list!

GoEverywhere Team´s last blog post..Files across the cloud, a need for storage aggregation

WealthyDragon March 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

You’re welcome!

Cheers,

Martin.

Jenna Madison March 21, 2009 at 9:16 am

Thanks for this list, it’s amazing how many WordPress themes there are available!

Jenna Madison´s last blog post..NSFW! NSFW! NSFW!

WealthyDragon March 21, 2009 at 9:55 am

Jenna, hi,

You’re very welcome! Themes and plugins both – there are thousands of them.

WP recently announced that they’d gone past 4,000 plugins. Now that would slow down your site load times a bit :)

Cheers,

Martin.

Harsh Agrawal April 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Thanks for the list…Though there are many more resources.. This is something which constantly need to be updated… I have search for so many theme but somehow I’m not satisfied with any theme.. Seems like I should go for a custom theme

Harsh Agrawal´s last blog post..Gmail labs new feature : Senders time zone

Sasha April 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

Thanks for the info. I found it very useful! :-)

WealthyDragon April 15, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Hi Sasha,

Good to catch up here as well – thanks for coming by!

Glad you found this list useful – I hope you were able to find something you liked,

Cheers,

Martin.

Rick May 31, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Hi Martin,

Nice list of sites. There are many great WordPress Themes available these days. So many that when I go to choose a new one for a blog it takes me way more time than I really want to spend deciding.

For me the visual piece of the theme is as important as the functionality. When I do my searches for a new theme I search for the functionality I need and then check out the visual appeal.

All the sites you listed are great places to find a new theme or direct you to another place to find themes.

So many themes, and so little time. ;-)

Thanks

Riuck

Rick´s last blog post..The REAL SECRET To Consistent Commission Checks

WealthyDragon May 31, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Hi Rick,

Yep – and more themes are coming out all the time! :)

I solved that problem by going with a Premium theme quite a while ago now. It means I can tailor it to look exactly as I want, plus it gives me enormous functionality, mostly through making it easy to utilise all the flexibiity of WordPress itself.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers,

Martin.

Kat Thompson June 18, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Thanks again for the list, I’m just getting into building wordpress sites for clients and wanted to do some research and also get some inspiration.

Cheers.
.-= Kat Thompson´s last blog post: Don’t underestimate your keywords =-.

WealthyDragon June 18, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Hi Kat,

You’re very welcome!

I also do WordPress installs for clients and I do it all with Thesis. You can do it with any Premium theme that’s easily customisable, actually, and it gives you the freedom to choose how many columns, where to position them, what colours to use, what header graphics, what fonts and so on.

Once you get to know whichever theme you use it makes it a whole lot easier to do great, individual jobs for your clients.

Anyway – good luck with your business :)

Cheers,

Martin.

Susan August 19, 2009 at 6:38 am

I would also like to add another free theme gallery called New Wordpress Themes.
.-= Susan´s last blog ..Y =-.

WealthyDragon August 19, 2009 at 10:38 am

Thanks Susan,

There are a lot of nice themes there – both free and premium.

A heads up to anyone clicking through: they’re not very well organised.

There are Premium themes in the free themes section, and in many cases clicking the demo link of a Premium theme takes you through to the developer’s site, not the theme itself. These links often go through affiliate links.

Also, some Premium themes don’t have demo (or preview) links at all.

That said, there are some nice themes there, and lots of them. Prices for the Premium themes start at around $75 for the Single User licence.

Cheers,

Martin.

Chris September 10, 2009 at 1:49 am

Great List, this is just what I was looking for!

WealthyDragon September 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm

You’re welcome – glad it was useful,

Cheers,

Martin.

Tom - home business tips September 10, 2009 at 2:02 am

Great list of sites! Personally I like the WP themes by Chris Pearson.He has a lot of paid themes but excellent free ones as well, like Cutline for instance.

WealthyDragon September 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Chris’ themes are great – I’m a Thesis freak – in case you hadn’t noticed! :)

Cheers,

Martin.

KaylaB September 15, 2009 at 12:59 am

Thanks Martin,

Great list of themes! I am always on the search for great free themes and have quite the collection on my hard drive! I still have not found the perfect one.

I am also a big fan of Chris Pearson’s Cutline theme and have been debating whether to buy his Thesis theme. It looks like the best paid theme out there – very configurable with an easy to use interface. I was pleased to find another happy customer. I might just have to buy it!

If anyone is interested I am giving away 140 premium two and three column Wordpress themes. I have eight samples on my website:
http://internet-marketing-girl.com/140-free-wordpress-themes

Cheers,

Kayla
.-= KaylaB´s last blog ..140 Free Wordpress Themes =-.

WealthyDragon September 15, 2009 at 7:52 am

Kayla, hi,

If you’re seriously thinking about Thesis there’s a review of the latest version here:

Review of Thesis 1.5

Cheers,

Martin.

KaylaB September 15, 2009 at 8:21 am

Thanks Martin,

I will take a look.

Kayla
.-= KaylaB´s last blog ..140 Free Wordpress Themes =-.

Allison December 2, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Thanks for the post. I find though there seems to be a lack of great themes that are Adsense optimized.
.-= Allison´s last blog ..Chococat ~! =-.

Martin December 3, 2009 at 7:26 am

You’re welcome, Allison,

You can Google for Adsense optimised themes, although as long as your theme is well coded and, therefore, well optimised, it will be good for Adsense too.

More importantly, for Adsense to know which ads to put on your site you need to make sure each article is well optimised – which is not necessarily theme specific.

Make sure they each have META title, description and keyword tags set, make sure your url is optimised, your post title is optimised, use your H tags well and make sure all images have ALT tags.

That’s not necessarily theme specific although some themes make it easier for you to do this by placing similar fields in your Add New Post screen to the fields that plugins like All-in-one-SEO and Platinum SEO plugins display.

Cheers,

Martin.

Keith Davis December 24, 2009 at 1:23 am

Hi Martin
Came over here from your Thesis theme post.

Quick question, still about Thesis theme. One of the options for buying Thesis is “Developer or Multi-user, which enables you to use it on as many sites as you like.”

Does that mean that with a Developer licence would allow me to use Thesis on my client’s sites?
.-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..The eyes have it! =-.

Martin December 24, 2009 at 7:14 am

No – Developer’s version enables you to use it on as many of your own sites as you like.

But you can buy the client’s site version for $40 – this one you can use on a clients site.

I always give my clients the option of buying whichever version they like (Personal or Developers) so that they own the licence or having me supply Thesis (client site version) where I pass the charge straight through to them.

If they buy their own licence I then help them upload and install it, and do the on-site customisation on their server.

Cheers,

Martin.

Keith Davis December 24, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Thanks Martin
I understand now.
I couldn’t find anywhere on the Thesis site where I could ask that simple question!
.-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..The eyes have it! =-.

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