The following post on great free WordPress Templates was written by Reese Spykerman from Design by Reese.
A search for free WordPress themes yields thousands of results, some dull or cluttered, some utilitarian, and many inspiring and beautiful. Numerous other well-designed WordPress themes are available to you, but these are 10 that stand out to me for various features including good usability, organization, attractive use of graphics, cross-genre appropriateness and even search engine optimization.
Super easy to navigate and clear in its structure and hierarchy, GridFocus can impart a more serious, trustworthy tone to your blog.
Ideal for: ProBloggers, Frequent Bloggers, Minimalists, Authors, Internal Corporate Blogs
When you want your words to stand out without unnecessary clutter, try Blue Zinfandel.
The main body text size could be increased for greater legibility (you can change this in the style sheet under style.css>#content p and add a rule for “font-size” (such as font-size: 14px;).
The classical look of this design makes it a good fit for journalists and other writers.
Ideal for: Journalists, PR Reps, Authors
Looking for a lovely, classy little design for your personal blog?
3-column BlueBird fits the bill well, especially for female bloggers.
Life coaches and counselors on a low budget might also find this an appropriate theme for a promotional blog.
Ideal for: Personal Blogs, Life Coaches
This conservative 2-column theme works well for corporate, business and legal bloggers.
With plenty of whitespace and judicious use of the color red, Rockin’ Biz Red is great for the business blogger who wants a bit more personality than some of the minimalist themes listed here.
The top header image of an office can be easily swapped out with an image of your choice.
Rockin’ Biz Red is also available in a more robust 3-column version.
Ideal for: Business Blogs, Corporate Blogging, Legal Blogs, Finance-related topics (swap out the top header for a more appropriate image. Istockphoto has low-cost, high-quality images.)
For the obligatory “web 2.0 style” theme, TechnRoll uses popular colors and effects without going overboard.
Its top area can be easily rebranded with your personal or business logo.
The prominent location of the RSS feed link in the upper right can help drive subscriptions to your feed, so it gets a promotional and usability thumbs up.
Ideal for: personal blogs, business blogs, review sites, real estate blogging
A design with dark tones can set your blog apart from the majority of white designs used on blogs.
Elite uses shades of dark gray, which are offset by friendly blue and green typography.
Although simple in its layout and usage of details, Elite helps your blog look both authoritative and approachable.
Ideal for: Review blogs, Tech blogs, Authority Bloggers, Personal Blogs, Gadget sites, Finance and Stock Blogs
Fresh is bright enough to make your readers stand up and take notice, but mature enough to brand you as a professional.
Well organized, easy to read and notable in its attention to small details such as icons and supporting graphics, Fresh is appropriate for just about anyone.
However, its blue theme may resonate best with male visitors.
Ideal for: Personal blogs, tech-related blogs
Many theme designers claim their code is search engine optimized (SEO), but Blix is one of the few that is created with SEO specifically in mind.
Blix’s code uses best practices more than the majority of other WordPress themes and is optimized for Google Adsense integration.
Blix is a good start if you aren’t consulting with an SEO and optimization is your primary concern when downloading a theme. A version with greater optimization is also available for sale. (Note: Michael Gray has great tips on further optimizing your WordPress blog for SEO.
Ideal for: SEO, Product-Based Sites, Monetized Blogs, Internet Marketing
Order and balance define Gridlock, which uses a lovely, magazine-style layout that makes for a visually stunning, clean and usable design for your readers.
When you want to look sophisticated and polished, this is the WordPress theme for you.
Ideal for: ProBloggers, Writers, Corporate Blogs, Business Blogs, Anyone who loves order and balance.
Alternative layouts beyond the usual 2-column or 3-column setup are difficult to find.
Jello-Wala-Mello turns your WordPress blog into cubed, magazine-style format.
By featuring your latest entry as a large blurb on top, with blurbs from your prior entries below, this theme helps pull readers into your archives and decreases endless scrolling on your home page.
Ideal for: creative professionals, small media (independent online publications, alternative media), journalists, review sites.
Watch Out for Malicious Code
When downloading WordPress themes, keep in mind a lot of themes get redistributed without the original creator’s permission and are often modified with spyware or other malicious code. Check out the theme’s ìfooter.phpî file and look for code that looks garbled. A legitimate footer file will either be blank or have some html and php code in it. A hacked footer file has one long line of code that looks encrypted. Derek Punsalon has more info http://5thirtyone.com/archives/870 about issues with themes on 3rd-Party sites.
Modifying Credit Links in the Footer File
Sometimes the modifications are less overt: the footer file will be modified with spam-type credit links (stuffed with keywords to online banking, poker, prescriptions, etc). These can be edited as well and replaced with links of your choice or removed entirely. Before you remove a credit link that looks legitimate, see if the author has a license that requires the credit to remain.
Note from Darren: Of course blog design is a fairly subjective thing. I asked Reese to write this post as I get a lot of questions from readers wanting to know which WordPress theme they should choose for their blog and in the hope that this might highlight a few places to start (as well as some of the things to look for in other themes). Both Reese and I would love to hear your own suggestions on free WordPress Themes that you like also.