13 free/open source wordpress theme frameworks

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I received a comment to one of my posts from a reader that wants me to do some theme creation related posts. Well , that’s not as easy as it sounds. I barely have the time to write on the blog , so a complex post about building a wordpress theme is very hard to imagine. I found many tutorials on the web (Yes , Google is your friend) , and if you really want to make a wordpress theme I can recommend one of the best (if not the best) tutorials from WPDesigner.com So you want to create WordPress themes huh?.

Most developers use a framework theme when coding a new wordpress theme. I normally use a blank / stripped theme so I can code the design easily , without the need to delete a bunch of code and debug it. Other developers use more complex frameworks , that come with various build in options that they need (like a options pannel , ready made widgets etc). I scouted the web to learn more about open source wordpress frameworks , and in this article I’m featuring 13 of them.

In the near future i will have my own theme framework ready and I will start building some good themes , my way. My framework is still under development , but I can tell you 2 things: it will be lightning fast and super optimized.

So here are the 13 open source frameworks I talked before:


Fixed or flexible width layout, with min/max width, 0 – 4 sidebars, very browser safe (incl. IE6), create custom widget areas, import/export styles, javascript color pickers, over 200 options.


  • Theme Customization through Options Page:

    • Change colors and layout of our themes easily in your WordPress admin area. Custom options include colors of almost all layout sections, widths of the left and right columns, and size and colors of fonts and borders. You can also add your own header image (if there is any). Your Bytes For All theme based blog can look quite different than someone else’s.
  • Highly compatible even with problematic browsers:

    • You won’t notice that yourself because you’re probably using Firefox or the newest Internet Explorer. But you want your site to look good for everyone, right? There’s up to 10% of people who use obscure or old browsers. Maybe a few of your potentially most rewarding visitors, customers, readers, members is among them? The Bytes For All Themes work with IE 6, IE 7, Firefox 2 & 3, Opera, Safari and IE on Mac, and a whole range of smaller browsers.
  • W3C Validity

    • This is not as important as code standardistas make it out to be, but if given the choice, having a web site that is “valid” by W3C standards it better than the opposite. W3C validity is merely a test to see if there’s something fundamentally wrong with the code. The big browsers are very forgiving. They render a page even if the underlying code is “wrong”. But search engines are not that nice. Google may kick out a web site if i.e there’s ordinary HTML markup within the head section of a page. This might happen by accident and most browsers would still render the site perfectly fine.
  • Fluid and fixed width layouts

    • Most themes you see have a fixed width. It is harder to make a fluid theme. Fluid layouts adjust themselves to the browser window size of each visitor. Web site visitors with smaller screens do not need to scroll horizontally as early as they would have to with a fixed width layout. Bytes For All offers both fixed and fludi width themes, with a focus on fluid or hybrid width (fluid but set the min and max width) WP Themes.
  • Search Engine Optimization included

    • All our WP Themes are “SEO”-optimized, without the need for an additional plugin. The SEO features include Meta Tags, and nofollow and noarchive tags for certain pages or links (configurable via the options page).

More info and download

The Buffet Framework

The Buffet Framework is a theme framework designed not only for the theme developers who will be using the theme actions and filters to create the child themes, but also for the end users who would be able to add and remove what they want.
Like most WordPress theme frameworks, the Buffet Framework utlises WordPress actions and filters to allow theme developers to add additional content without editing the templates files using the child theme concept.

Framework Features

  • Search Engine Optimization – includes many SEO features such as breadcrumbs, headings, canonical URLs
  • Support for Microformats – compatible with some of the microformats like hAtom, hCard and XOXO
  • jQuery Powered – comments form validation, SuperSleight for IE6, Superfish menus, jBreadcrumb included
  • Packaged with CSS Frameworks – comes with 960gs and Blueprint CSS
  • Action & Filter Hooks – using the parent-child theme concept (with inline documentation)
  • Theme Options – organized in tabs, with features such as custom RSS feed links and custom footer messages
  • Theme Extensions – allow end-users to enable/disable features using the extensions feature
  • Plugin Compatibility – works with WP-PageNavi, WP-Print, Subscribe to Comments and more
  • Localization – fully localized, ready for translation
  • Free, Open Source – under the General Public License (GPL) v3

More info and download


Carrington is a theme platform for WordPress from Crowd Favorite. It includes the Carrington Core, a reactive templating engine that makes it easy to create different visual styles for different site areas and content and Carrington Build, an advanced drag and drop page layout system that enables full editorial control for complex pages.

More info and download


Hybrid is a user-friendly, search-engine optimized theme framework, featuring 15 custom page templates and 8 widget-ready areas, allowing you to create any type of site you want.
Like WordPress, this theme is completely free and open source. You can use it for your client work or for a blog about your grandchildren. It is continuously being developed and has a community growing around it.

More info and download


Thematic is a free, open-source, highly extensible, search-engine optimized WordPress Theme Framework featuring 13 widget-ready areas, grid-based layout samples, styling for popular plugins, and a whole community behind it. It’s perfect for beginner bloggers and WordPress development professionals.

Thematic Features

  • Perfect to use as-is or as a blank WordPress theme for development
  • Fully Search-Engine Optimized
  • Extra widget-ready areas (13 in total) and more possible in your Child Theme
  • Free and commercially supported Child Themes are available for upgrading the theme
  • Includes a sample WordPress Child Theme for rapid development
  • A wiki-editable guide to Thematic Customization
  • Ready for WordPress plugins like Subscribe to Comments, WP-PageNavi, and Comment-license
  • Fully compatible with All-In-One SEO and Platinum SEO plugins
  • Multiple, easy to implement, bulletproof layout options for 2, or 3 column designs
  • Modular CSS with pre-packaged resets and basic typography
  • Dynamic post and body classes make it a hyper-canvas for CSS artists
  • Editable footer text—remove the theme credit without harming the theme
  • Options for multi-author blogs

More info and download

WP Framework

A blank WordPress Theme Framework that’s everything you need, and nothing you don’t. With features like microformats, a traditional template structure, convention over configuration, clean semantic code, documenation, and it’s atomic templating system, WP Framework is completely extensible, flexible and the starting point for theme authoring and customization.

More info and download


Ashford was developed by Tim Bednar to aid organizations in customizing, building and growing simple web sites. It is a theme framework that many kinds of web site owners will find valuable: web workers, small business, bloggers, authors, new media, magazines, churches and nonprofits.
Selected as a “Brilliant”, “High Quality”, and “Beautiful” CMS theme framework for WordPress by Smashing Magazine, Noupe, Instashift, Six Revisions and Heal Your Church Website.

  • Optimized for SEO
  • Tuned for page speed
  • Easy to use Theme Options
  • Admin In-Place tools

More info and download


Basis has been built to make theme development for WordPress easier. If you are an experienced theme developer or a total beginner, Basis provides a highly customizable starting point for your theme development.
Basis comes with a pre-defined set of templates. The otherwise empty stylesheet provides a list of IDs und class-names which have already been used in the templates. The theme is widget-ready and introduces a number of custom functions in functions.php.

More info and download


Imagination is a Fully Customizable WordPress Theme and comes pre-loaded with 9 different site-wide styles to choose from, with just a click.
Moreover, You can customize the style according to your mood, occasion or preferences. Use your imagination to create a unique look of your blog/website anytime you want.


  • Plug & Play – No Programming Knowledge Required
  • Comes with 9 preloaded Color Schemes
  • Customize the Interface to make it unique
  • Built-In Twitter, Flickr and Entrecard Widgets
  • Built-In Feedburner RSS Integration
  • Widgets Ready & Plugins Compatible
  • W3C Valid & Cross-Browser Compatible
  • Fully Documented Admin Options
  • Standalone processing without interfering with default WordPress tables
  • All this and lot more, Absolutely Free!

More info and download


Starkers is a bare-bones WordPress theme created to act as a starting point for the theme designer.
Free of all style, presentational elements, and non-semantic markup, Starkers is the perfect ‘blank slate’ for your projects, as it’s a stripped-back version of the ‘Twenty Ten’ theme that ships with WordPress.
Best of all: it’s free and fully GPL-licensed, so you can use it for whatever you like ?-? even your commercial projects.

More info and download

Starter Theme

Here are some of the features of my starter theme:

  • Blank style.css with theme name, author, URL, etc. tags at the top
  • Content-ready 404, archive, search, index, single post, and page files
  • Full, working comments.php file
  • Complete header.php set up with links to RSS, a stylesheet, and JS file; template
  • Default search form template
  • Blank screenshot.png file and images folder

More info and download


Whiteboard encompasses many universal needs and consolidates them all into one compact package that is perfect for developers and designers alike – allowing them to quickly build upon and develop their very own unique and powerful website. With the Whiteboard Framework for WordPress, developers and designers no longer need to rewrite the same generic structure and WordPress functions, mobile versions, dynamic classes and divs, or improve SEO. Whiteboard’s strong, widely-used, and well-established structure takes care of all that and more.
Save time and build a better website by using Whiteboard as a firm foundation to build your next WordPress-powered website.

Whiteboard Framework Features

  • Free and Open Source – Use it for commercial and non-commercial projects
  • Speeds up WordPress development time to get you onto the next project
  • Built with the Less Framework for an instant mobile website
  • Comes with a minimalist theme to use or build off of or easily remove
  • The theme and Less Framework can be easily removed if desired
  • Strong and flexible div structure for easy development and diverse usage
  • More dynamic Classes and IDs than any other WordPress framework
  • Lightweight and well noted for a shallow learning curve
  • Cross browser compatible with all major browsers
  • Built with strong Search Engine Optimization
  • Many of WordPress’ awesome features such as manageable menus, background, and header image as well as featured images, several widget areas, and more
  • Custom admin menu and changing primary navigation for logged in users
  • Follows the Web Accessibility Initiative to ensure access by visitors with disabilities
  • Basic styles and classes to speed up development
  • HTML5 with graceful degradation
  • Simple CSS3 Animations with graceful degradation
  • Follows WordPress’ CSS and PHP Coding Standards
  • Fully Compatible with WordPress 3.0 and up with fallbacks for older versions
  • Comes with a Child Theme ready to go
  • and much much more…

More info and download

Precious Theme

Precious is a theme framework for WordPress 2.8+. Built with simplicity and web accessibility in mind.


  • Page Templates for Archives, Links, Search and Frontpage.
  • Blix Archive plugin included for a better Archive page
  • All time and dates shown respects your blog’s time and date settings
  • Ability to override standard header.php, footer.php and sidebar.php by creating template files called header-mine.php, footer-mine.php and sidebar-mine.php, this can be done both to parent theme and child themes
  • Global css file that take cares of different css classes and some positioning of forms and tables etc. to give a soft starting point in creating child themes. The path to the file can be filtered so you can use your own global css file
  • Browser detection in body_class (Credit: Nathan Rice)
  • Widgets for RSS blogfeeds, Random Links and “Home” link
  • Special template file: contentheader.php for easily changing the header markup in a child theme
  • Support for navbar.php template file that let you easily add a navigation bar right under the header of your theme
  • Top navigation to make your blog easier to navigate for people using screen readers and/ or browsing your site without using a mouse
  • Accesskeys (Shortcut keys) for all inline navigation: 1 – Top, 2 – Content, 3 – Sidebar, 4 – Comments
  • Ability to have a css file with IE-hacks for IE7 and lower
  • Ability to use custom single templates with help of Custom fields


Okay, I know that some people consider this as features, but in my opinion this should be standards on all public WordPress themes

  • Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional
  • Valid CSS (level 2.1)
  • Widget enabled sidebar
  • Threaded comments support
  • Translation ready

More info and download

Eugen Dimboiu