Quality Starter Themes to Get Your WordPress Site off the Ground

Quality Starter Themes to Get Your WordPress Site off the Ground

Maybe you’re new to blogging. You love the design that other bloggers have used on their websites and want to create your own corner of the Internet but have no idea where to start.

Or maybe you have a new business venture that requires a well-designed website with a great user experience. One of these scenarios sound like you? Read on to find out what your next steps should be.

First, why WordPress? As one of the main blogging platforms and self-hosted website CMS, WordPress has developed a huge user base with subsequent themes, plugins, and support forums. Many of the professionally designed websites you stumble across will use WordPress as the CMS, plus the blogging community is well-established and continues to grow.

There is a myriad of themes to choose from, including free and premium versions, meaning you can personalize your site and really make it your own. Within each theme, there are options available to customize the layout of your site, add pre-made widgets, and ensure it is optimized for Google, along with many other features that make it really easy to build your site.

But it can get confusing with all of these options on offer. So we’ve rounded up the top starter WordPress themes to make it a little bit easier for you.

  • Twenty Fifteen

    For any newbie WordPress user, you must first be introduced to the default theme that WordPress.org designs every year. Named after the year in which it was created, it’s a free theme that’s guaranteed to have a modern design and the latest technical updates. Twenty Fifteen is no exception.

    The main advantage of Twenty Fifteen is that it has been built using a mobile-first approach. This means that the site content has been prioritized so that browsers using a mobile phone get to see a really clear website and the important content. As the screen size gets bigger, more content is added. As we use smartphones and tablets more and more, the ability to view clear websites is really important. So much so that websites that aren’t responsive across all devices immediately look out of date. You’ll be happy to know that yours won’t if you use Twenty Fifteen.

    The design is clean with straightforward typography, so you can get your message across to your readers or customers really clearly. It’s very much focused on being a ‘blog’ layout, so if this is the style you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with WordPress’ default theme.

    Interested in Twenty Fifteen?

  • Twenty Fourteen

    Last year’s WordPress.org default theme is still a great option if you’d prefer a more image-based site than what Twenty Fifteen provides. As both are developed by WordPress, you can rely on the support that comes with the theme and be confident when using associated widgets and plugins.

    Twenty Fourteen is responsive, just like this year’s default theme, and has three widget areas to customize your site. With over 800k downloads since it was released, there are many a happy blogger and website owner using this theme. The reviews describe Twenty Fourteen as the best theme that WordPress has developed so far. Some go on to say it’s better than some of the premium themes available, particularly in relation to its load speed.

    2014 was all about the magazine-style website and that’s perfectly reflected in this theme. It looks really modern and you’re able to organize your content to design your very own online magazine. For instance, your images could appear fullscreen or in a grid. You’re also able to display the authors on a contributor page.

    Interested in Twenty Fourteen?

  • Intergalactic

    Intergalactic is a beautifully designed theme that lets you have a one column layout with a fullscreen image. It’s therefore perfect for those who want to use imagery to have impact. Text can be overlaid on top but it’s seen in a distraction-free environment. The menu slides out so your visitors only see it when it’s needed but it’s still completely accessible.

    Intergalactic is perfect for photographers and showcasing portfolios. Once you’ve chosen which of your photos you’d like to fill the screen, it’s really easy to set a featured image.

    The author has made customizing this site simple for beginners. Those new to creating their own websites might be tempted to stay with WordPress default themes, but other authors provide brilliant support too and you’ll end up with something a little different.

    The author of Intergalactic, Automattic, are the creators of WordPress and have created 60 themes in total. They contribute to the open source WordPress community and are passionate about making the web a better place. Intergalactic, as a free WordPress theme, is just one of the ways they’re doing that.

    Interested in Intergalactic?

  • Bosco

    Another free theme created by Automattic is Bosco. Similarly to Intergalactic, the author has gone for simplicity and elegance with a one-column layout. The main content i.e. your message, is displayed centrally and other information can be found in the clear navigation. Bosco is said to be the ultimate theme for readability, so it’s perfect for blogs of any subject.

    The theme supports widget areas and custom menus, and backgrounds so you can personalize the site. You’re able to post text, quotes, images, videos, or links in the various post formats. All of these features are really easy to use and are built-in ways for you to build your site without any coding knowledge.

  • Velcro

    Moving onto the themes that you have to pay for, Velcro is a top-rated theme that’s great for beginners. Sometimes it’s worth paying a few dollars to get extra features that you wouldn’t find in a free theme, such as the ability to customize your site with an unlimited color choice or receive free support from the developers.

    With Velcro, you’re able to choose between two menu types, two blog layouts, and three pagination types. There are currently 10 custom widgets that you can easily drag-and-drop to activate and customize.

    On the technical side, Velcro is SEO ready, meaning you’ll be found on search engines, retina ready so that iMac and iPad users can see your site in perfect resolution, and fully responsive across all sized devices. It also has translation support and it is able to support a switch to RTL (right to left) reading.

    Velcro costs $48.

  • Breath

    Breath is one of the best themes out there for beginner WordPress users. It comes with five tutorial videos covering how to set up a portfolio, slideshow, front page, plus a bit of general online marketing advice. As well as the theme for your website, the Breath authors have thrown in a free HTML email template that you can use through email platforms like MailChimp and CampaignMonitor.

    Once you’ve navigate your way through the tutorials, you have a variety of options to create your own personalized website. Create a portfolio with three layouts and unlimited sidebars. Breath has unlimited colors and it’s really easy to choose one by using the color picker in the admin panel. There are custom widgets available to use, such as a contact form, email subscription form, and recent posts. There’s a slideshow option that can be full-width on your website and dynamically adjust to fit any sized device.

    As well as all of these easy-to-use design features, you’ll be reassured to know that your website is translation-ready and has WordPress Multilingual support. It has WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin support and is compatible across all major browsers.

    Breath is priced at $48.

  • SimpleWox

    SimpleWox is perfect for beginners as it’s powered by the Redux Options Panel, which is an options framework for WordPress themes and plugins. It supports over 30 field types and validation options, plus you can create custom fields. This makes it really flexible, giving you the option to modify theme aspects.

    To personalize your theme, SimpleWox provides you with unlimited layouts, seven custom widgets, and nine widgetized areas. You don’t need to worry about the technical side of things as it is retina-ready and responsive so it’ll look great on any screen, plus it is SEO-ready so Google will find you. It supports RTL languages and is compatible with the WPML (WordPress Multilingual) plugin so all of your content can be translated.

    Both the Redux Options Panel and SimpleWox have brilliant support communities with forums containing helpful hints and tips.

    SimpleWox is available for $43.

  • Altera

    Altera is a Helpdesk, FAQ, or Knowledge Base WordPress theme. This means your website can have a live search function, FAQ post format, a forum through the bbpress plugin, and various widgetized areas. It’s powered by the Redux Options Panel, which is a framework for WordPress themes and plugins to customize your site.

    And customization is easy – simply choose to include one of the 10 custom widgets using one of the 15 widgetized areas. You can create unlimited layouts, implement the Font Awesome Icons, and upload your own logo.

    This theme comes with many impressive options, giving you a sophisticated website with powerful features. It has translation support and can be read right to left for those of your readers whose language is displayed this way. It’s SEO-ready and fast loading. It’s also retina ready and fully responsive, so your website will look fantastic on all screens.

    Finally, as you’re trying to give support through your website, it’s reassuring to know that you can receive support yourself. There’s a support forum, plus the authors will answer your questions.

    The Altera theme costs $53.

  • Church and Events

    Although Church and Events has been designed for churches, it’s a great option for anyone wanting to build a site for events or fundraising. It’s a really easy to use template as you can drag-and-drop your pages. It has an events calendar with professional support. Plus, it’s special in that it has a donation system through PayPal. You can also sell goods and event tickets for extra fundraising ideas, as it has WooCommerce and WooTickets support.

    Churches and Events has been optimized for speed. It has a featured slider for blog or portfolio posts, or maybe there’s a specific page you’d like to promote. There’s the premium Layered Slider Responsive plugin worth $15 thrown in for free. It also has support for the premium plugins Quform, which allows you to easily build multiple forms; bbPress, which is forum software; and MailPoet Newsletters, so you can send your followers newsletters. All of these are mobile-responsive.

    Specifically, for those who want to build a church website, it has Sermon Post Type to manage your sermons easily with support for video, audio, pdf file and links. Churches and Events has the fantastic feature of allowing you to import the demo content, so you can set up in no time and learn from the design pros.

    And to help you with this huge amount of features, Church and Events comes with 23 professionally-produced HD video tutorials. The ticketed help desk is there to help too.

    You’ll have to shell out $58 for Church and Events.

  • Literatum

    We haven’t come across a more perfect theme for writers than Literatum. The design is clean, focusing the reader’s eyes on the words. Plus it has a whole host of features that makes it easy to bring those words to life. For instance, every article’s word count can be displayed automatically to give your readers an idea how long it’ll take them to read.

    There’s interview support, which allows you to add interview-style questions and answers throughout the post by using the theme’s interview buttons. It’s also compatible with Aesop Story Engine plugin, which is a fantastic plugin that can convert your articles into interactive stories through parallax content, full-width images and videos, podcasts, chapters, and timelines.

    Every author can have their own avatar featured on their articles and every category that you create can have its own template and featured image. Your articles can be commented on easily through the integration support for third-party comments, such as Disqus and Facebook, plus they can be shared through social media.

    This is a great theme for writers, but specifically for WordPress beginners. The configuration options use native WordPress functions so you only need to get familiar with one panel, rather than understanding how a third party configuration panel works too.

    Literatum is priced at $43.

  • JamSession

    What can make a music focused website look incredible? Often it’s the imagery of a stadium crowd or a video of the band in action. JamSession allows you to create this and stand out from the crowd. It has a full screen slider and as it is 100% responsive, the image will look great on any screen size. It has Vimeo and YouTube support too. Of course, you’ll also want your fans to be able to hear your music, so the JamSession authors made sure there’s an audio player built in and offers SoundCloud support.

    The custom post types for discography, events, photo gallery, and videos make it easy for artists, bands, and musicians to communicate with their fans really easily. It’s WooCommerce ready so you can get selling those tickets, too!

    You can build this site by using Visual Composer or Page Builder, which usually costs an extra $30. This plugin will let you drag-and-drop frontend and backend content so you can take control of your site without any coding knowledge. It has multiple menu layouts and you can customize the theme with unlimited color options.

    Get JamSession for $58.

  • Fitness Sport Gym

    The Fitness Sport Gym WordPress theme does exactly what it suggests: allows you to build your own fitness, sport, or gym website using this theme for beginners. As well as the technical features, this theme comes with XML dummy content, so you can go right ahead and import what you see in the demo into your own site.

    The main feature of this theme is that you can build a class or event schedule though the calendar plugin and even watch the countdown clock to the next event. This means you can manage your classes really easily and the timetable will be really clear for your customers. It allows you to sell fitness products through the WooCommerce shop, which is already designed and ready to use. All of these features are really easy to build as it has a drag-and-drop page builder. It also comes with 23 professionally produced HD videos to guide you through the building process and help desk support if you get stuck.

    It’s fully responsive, so gym-goers can access your site on their laptop at home or mobile if they’re on their way to you. It features the Revolution Slider that can go fullscreen and has 3D effects – this usually costs $18. To add to your design, you can take advantage of the free Premium Icon Set that gives you over 1,200 icons and usually costs $39.

    Fitness Sport Gym WordPress costs $58.

  • Mural

    Mural is another theme designed to showcase portfolios as it has the option for unlimited blogs and portfolios. It’s fully responsive, so no matter what device your customers view your work on, it’ll look great. Your full page backgrounds centers itself and fills the entire browser screen when the browser is resized. You’re able to resize your images and implement automatic thumbnail generation.

    The theme is WooCommerce-ready should you want to sell your work through this site. You can have a slider anywhere on the site and embed videos into it. Mural supports the SublimeVideo Player, which allows you to playback HTML5 video on your slider. If you’re selling products, you can add sub-header sliders to display similar products and encourage your customers to buy more.

    Mural comes with XML dummy content and documentation with screenshots, so it is really simple to set up. Customize your site with the skin manager, so you can change any color, font or background image of a specific skin. It supports Google Web Fonts giving you many font options to choose from. You have nine widgetized areas to play with and custom widgets including a contact form and a link to your Flickr images.

    If you’re experienced with shortcodes, the shortcodes manager allows you to input them and the theme comes with shortcodes like buttons, list styles, and maps.

    Mural will set you back $58.

  • Macho

    Macho is a super option for beginner WordPress users who have a portfolio to show off. You’re able to have full-width layouts with sidebars and extend the footer to your preferred design. The media uploader is advanced, so you can expertly upload your galleries. To display your portfolio, there’s the option for a grid layout or a slider. You’re then able to monitor the views, likes, and shares of your portfolio.

    Personalize the site so that it reflects your work through the theme customizer. For instance, you can upload your logo and choose a font from the library that’s integrated with Google. Also, add one of seven free plugins, including social media sites and Bean Testimonials, where you can show off the feedback you’ve received from happy clients.

    Macho is fully responsive, ensuring your portfolio displays perfectly across all devices. It’s SEO ready and comes with XML dummy content to get you started.

    Macho costs $43.

  • Vanguard

    Vanguard has been built with beginner WordPress users in mind. It comes with XML dummy content so you can import the files to your website and have a ready-made site that just needs customizing. You’re provided with screenshots in the documentation to help you through the installation and customization process. The admin panel is incredibly easy to use.

    But don’t be fooled that this is a simple site – it is fully responsive across all devices, translation ready, WordPress Multilingual ready, and valid in HTML and CSS code. You’re able to build your site to have a gallery with lightbox, custom widgets like popular posts and social media links, and you can manage your fonts as it is integrated with the Google Fonts library. It supports the SublimeVideo player, meaning you can play HTML5 video playback and integrate this into your slider. You can even create completely independent blog pages or portfolios and display different categories on each page.

    To make image resizing really easy for you, it has automatic thumbnail resizing and the admin panel lets you set the image height of any image without going into the code. If you have some WordPress knowledge, you’ll be happy to know that you can benefit from all of these features while using shortcodes at the same time. In the rich text manager, there’s a shortcode manager, too.

    Vanguard will set you back $48.

  • Honeymoon

    Modern couples are increasingly turning to the web to create a personalized place containing all of the information their guests need about their wedding. It saves costs and gives a bit of a twist to the nuptials. What is more of a perfect WordPress theme to do this than Honeymoon?

    You can use the demo content to start the build of your site and then populate the content with your own information. Use the drag and drop features to create your pages and posts really easily, and then make it your own space by choosing one of the 10 header layouts and a location for your sidebars.

    There are four pre-defined skins to pick from and you can set different background images and colors for each page. All of your guests will be able to clearly view the details no matter what device they use as it is fully responsive.

    What makes this theme really special is the wedding-specific features. You can add a countdown timer to the big day and an RSVP form so guests can easily fill out their details. It has support for the shop plugin, WooCommerce, should you want to let guests purchase products.

    It has an events calendar plugin styled and supported – great if you want to add details of pre- and post-wedding gatherings. Finally, there’s a guestbook option, giving you a modern, online version of a traditional, written guestbook. Keep the site running so you can look back at what you created, or print out your guestbook comments and create your own hard copy design.

    Honeymoon costs $48.

  • InTouch

    InTouch is a WordPress theme that’s technically brilliant but also really simple for beginners to use. It is powered by the SMOF Options Panel, which provides tons of options to manage and modify any aspect of the theme. Plus, it was developed on Bootstrap so your website will be responsive across any device.

    InTouch also benefits from being retina-ready and any sized device will display perfectly as it is responsive. It supports right to left languages, giving you an international website. It can be integrated with the WooCommerce plugin if you’d like to sell products. It’s SEO-ready so you’ll be found on Google. Finally, it has AJAX Thumbnail Rebuild, which allows you to rebuild all thumbnails on your site to your specified size.

    To customize the site to you, there are unlimited color schemes, 16 Custom Widgets, 20 Widgetized Areas, 4 Home Page layouts, 4 Blog Page layouts, 4 Single Page layouts, and 4 Category Page layouts. There’s also a built in shortcode generator for you to create buttons, columns, and other specific designs.

    There are forums associated with this theme so other users and the author can answer any support queries.

    InTouch is priced at $58.

  • Photolux

    Photolux has loads of great options for photographers to showcase their work. The theme comes with dark, light, or transparent skin options and then you can personalize the site with your design choices and your own photos. Through Cufon Font replacement, you’re able to upload your own font as well as choose from one of the Google Fonts on offer.

    With the theme, you get the AJAX gallery, which allows you to apply some great jQuery animations and effects. If you upload lots of images at once, you can attach them to an item on your slider and create a montage effect. You have a lightbox, so you can play videos and create image galleries. For each gallery page, you’re able to create different sized images and set a size as the featured image. You can set a black and white theme for your gallery pages. Finally, you can enable a category filter for your users to browse through your photos.

    One great feature of this theme is the fullscreen slideshow. When viewers use this mode, the image fills the screen and the navigation bar disappears – an excellent way to show off your work.

    It’s a very easy to use theme, making it perfect for beginners. For instance, you can insert styled content directly into the edited area, making it easy to organize the content visually without having to flick back and forth to the admin panel. There’s extensive documentation that comes with the theme, including examples, screenshots, and instructions.

    You can get Photolux today for $48.

  • Acoustic

    The authors of Acoustic describe this theme as an “elegant, powerful WordPress theme.” And they’re not wrong. The design is clean and minimalistic and comes with many features to show off your business in a sophisticated style. It is powered by the advanced Pexeto Panel, which is very easy to use and provides tons of options to modify any aspect of the theme.

    To customize your site, there are unlimited skins available. The advanced admin options mean you can change the color and style of the theme through the simple and visual color picker. There are 23 different background options to choose from, unless you want to upload your own image, which you can do through Acoustic.

    There are four sliders, which are managed through the advanced slider management section. Drag-and-drop images onto the sliders to amend them and create as many sliders as you need here. The slider options to choose from are: Zoom Slider, where you can have a zooming motion on your images and create a black and white effect; Nivo Slider, which has 15 different transition effects; Thumbnail slider, which is great for presenting lots of images; and Accordion slider for images with longer descriptions.

    Your portfolio gallery and pages can be created through the template and then customized with a varied number of columns or by adding a black and white effect to the images, for example. You have the option of using Advanced Styling Buttons so you can directly insert styled content into the edited area. You’re able to upload your own font by using Cufon Font replacement or choose from a selection of Google Fonts. Finally, you can easily create a pricing table.

    On the technical side, Acoustic has support for translating to other languages, is SEO friendly, and works on all of the major browsers.

    You can get Acoustic today for $48.

  • Doover

    Doover has a few features that make it stand out from the crowd. The authors understand the importance of being found by Google, so they’ve made this theme as SEO-friendly as possible by using header tags and clean code. You’re also able to add Google analytics in one easy step.

    To customize the design to your liking, it has four header versions: offer slider with manually added or generated icons, image slider, custom image, or custom text. The homepage layout can be a grid, or you’re able to use one of the 70 available shortcodes to create the page you want, such as inserting an accordion, block quotes, buttons, illustration overlay, and tables. Three layouts are offered for your portfolio. You can upload your own background image and logo.

    Insert breadcrumbs to help your readers navigate their way through your site. Once they want to contact you, you have an AJAX contact page template with Google Maps built in.

    Get Doover now for $53.

  • Caps

    This is another great theme option for those wanting to build a magazine or newspaper style site. You can create a site that has event listings, a multicolumn gallery, and a mega menu – all making it really easy for your readers to view the content and find what they’re looking for. And you can build all of this through the drag-and-drop page builder.

    Built with the Bootstrap responsive format, all screen sizes will display Caps with a clear layout as it’ll automatically resize to any device. It’s WooCommerce supported so if you’re planning on adding a shop to your magazine site, it couldn’t be simpler. Each post has a rating option, too, so readers can rate articles or customers can give feedback on their purchases.

    Caps is priced at $48.

  • Lezzatos

    Lezzatos was built specifically for the cafe and restaurant industry and with the XML demo content, you can import the data and have your own website up and running in no time. The design is clean and responsive across all sized devices and is translation ready, so international tourists can find you.

    Themain benefit of using Lezzatos for your cafe or restaurant is the specific features like the reservation form, which can have an open and close time. You’re able to upload your menus and view them individually or in a list or thumbnail view. The theme has a fullscreen slider, allowing you to show off your food masterpieces. The sliders support text and URLs, plus you can set the slider to play automatically, as well as setting the speed and transition effects.

    The navigation menu has a multilevel drop down and there’s an efficient contact form. Your customers will be able to browse your site expertly. They can also find you on your social media channels through the theme’s widget. Finally, Lezzatos comes with a professional-looking, branded reservation email that you can send to your customers.

If you’re new to WordPress, hopefully you’ll have found your perfect match. These themes are the best for an easy to use admin panel and customization options, as well as their set up and after-sales support. Have you tried one of the recommended themes? Let us know in the comments section.

Brenda Barron

Brenda Barron Brenda is a freelance writer from Southern California. She specializes in WordPress, tech, and business and founded WP Theme Roundups. When not writing about all things, she's spending time with her family.