5 Best Starter or Skeleton WordPress Themes for Web Developers

Coding editorWhether you're a seasoned web developer or have just started your career, starter themes for any publishing platform provides a good base to start a new project. They're easy-to-understand and can be extended easily. We're going to focus on skeletons themes available for WordPress platform. Almost all of the available options include highly optimized code with maximum browser compatibility. Depending on your project requirements, you can select the best theme that can be bent to shape your production theme with minimal efforts. All these starter frameworks are responsive out-of-the-box and can be converted into a static template easily if required. I'll suggest to pick the one that has bare bones page elements with standards compliant code. Let's check out these starter themes.

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Almost all of these starter themes have a free version which is more than enough for professional developers to get started from scratch. It all depends on your skills and creativity.

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Each one of these starter themes comes with extensive documentation for the developers. This helps in fully harnessing the power of these starter website building blocks for WordPress.

Underscores starter theme for WordPress Underscores - This is one of the most popular starter themes for WordPress that is used by large number of developers. It's slick, lightweight and is easy to extend. Its HTML5 markup makes it ready for modern browsers and is checked for compatibility on almost every popular browser. Developers can easily obtain a custom copy of this theme through a helpful custom theme creator dialogue. Following are some of the highlights of this excellent skeleton theme.

Well commented code - All the template files of this theme are thoroughly commented that helps developers in easily understanding the existing code as well as in extending it further without any conflicts.

Custom header support - Developers can use its custom header implementation to introduce support for different headers that can be changed easily by the end users.

Responsive navigation - It also includes a slick JavaScript based navigation menu system that can be fine-tuned with some added CSS to make the theme's navigation rock on smartphones and tablets.

Two ready-made layouts - This skeleton template includes two of the most common layout options (right & left sidebar) used on blogs and websites that can be changed to suit your theme's need.

Minimal CSS - Since it's just a skeleton theme, the accompanying CSS code is small without any extra flesh. You can easily convert or extend the existing CSS code into something stunning.

Roots WordPress starter theme Roots - This is yet another HTML5 starter theme for WordPress developers that can be used as a base for almost any project. It uses Bootstrap framework and Grunt to help you speed up the theme building process. Developers can also find extensive documentation for this theme to easily understand the structure and layout of the entire markup. Following are some of the sparkling features of this skeleton theme that makes it one of the strong candidates for starting a new web project.

Multilingual ready - This flexible starter theme can be used in over two dozen popular languages out-of-the-box that makes it an ideal candidate for sites targeting multiple audiences across the globe.

Optimized for faster compilation - Usage of Grunt ensures that the new builds of the theme are built instantly with proper minification and merging, wherever required.

Clean minimal markup - Like other competitors, this starter theme also ensures that the HTML markup, as well as CSS code, is minimal and is optimized for maximum speed and browser compatibility.

Analytics integration - Roots theme also includes HTML5 boilerplate for Google analytics that ensures end users can easily configure it for tracking inbound traffic.

Fallbacks for critical scripts - It also includes a fallback mechanism to ensure if CDN powered scripts like jQuery are not available they're quickly fetched from the local copy of the web server.

Bones - As the name implies, Bones starter theme contains bare minimum elements to power the base of your next custom WordPress theme. Its HTML5 mobile first structure can be used to make stunning responsive designs. It uses SASS to speed up theme development process. With extensive comments within CSS stylesheets, developers can easily extend and bend this theme to their will. And its WTFPL license is ideal for developers looking to create premium proprietary themes. Following are some of the important features supported by this theme.

Preloaded custom post types functions - Developers creating a complex theme can easily use the preloaded functions to create a more user friendly experience for the end users. Same goes for custom dashboard functions which are preloaded in this theme to give a better user experience.

Fallbacks for backward compatibility - It includes several useful fallbacks to support older browsers so that your production theme doesn't break when viewed in legacy environments.

Sass based styling - If you're already familiar with SASS, extending Bones theme is just a matter of minutes. You can easily add new elements and components to this theme at a rapid pace.

Reduced HTML header - As we all know, WordPress adds a lot of junk in the header while serving markup of the web page. Fortunately, Bones theme strips a lot of this junk to keep the header minimal and efficient.

Basic skeleton theme for WordPress Basic - If you're for a starter theme that already has all the common bells and whistles to make a production theme, then Basic skeleton theme is your best bet. It's a responsive HTML5 & CSS3 starter WordPress theme for web developers with loads of useful features and options. Its theme options panel can help even beginner or intermediate level users make substantial changes in the theme layout. I've used this starter template for a couple of sites and found it quite easy-to-use. Following are some of the useful and flexible features incorporated in this theme.

Child skin support - This starter theme supports child themes and also includes 5 child skins to quickly deploy a custom design.

Plugin-less lightbox gallery - If you're making a photo blogging theme from this starter template, its flexible lightbox functionality can be used without adding any bloat to the base code.

Social media integration - The theme includes various social media icons that can be easily activated and inserted into the design at the desired location.

Flexible widget-ready footer - This starter theme has one of the most flexible footers that can be customized to include rich information sections with ease.

Smooth page scrolling - If you want to create a single page design with multiple sections, its smooth scrolling feature can be used to give a better experience to the end users.

Quark starter theme for WordPress Quark - This popular HTML5 & CSS3 responsive starter theme is built on Underscores and Twenty Twelve themes. Like every good skeleton theme, this one also include loads of comments within code to help developers understand the structure and layout of the entire theme template. It also includes retina friendly Font Awesome icon library to easily style the entire design through minimal CSS code. It also has a base 12 column responsive grid to ensure your design renders consistently across different devices. Following are some of the unique features baked into this awesome starter theme for WordPress.

Impressive browser compatibility - Quark theme uses Normalize and Modernizr to ensure your theme not only take advantage of modern browser features but also renders perfectly on older browsers.

Custom headers & backgrounds - You can also use flexible WordPress theme features like custom headers and background images for themes. This ensures end users can easily customize their design with minimum hassle.

Theme options galore - Inclusion of Options Framework ensures that developers can easily add useful theme options for the end users. This helps in customizing the theme easily once it is installed on the live server without fiddling with the underlying code.

Home page widgets - It also includes handy widgets on the home page to turn it into an impressive custom landing page with custom content sections.