Simple WordPress Themes

I’ve said it countless times before, simple WordPress themes take just as much talent as those with lots of bells and whistles.  You’ve heard about minimal WordPress themes before, but there’s a difference between minimal and simple WordPress themes.  Run a search on ThemeForest for the word “simple” and you’ll come up with 314 results.  Browsing the search results yields a different result, you’ll see some great themes mixed in with junk.  The following is a guide for identifying great simple WordPress themes among the thousands.  Afterwards, there is a list of some of Pingable’s favorite simple WordPress themes so you can see what we’re talking about.

Identifying Great Simple WordPress Themes

1. Simple WordPress themes are easy to use

It’s not just about style, great simple WordPress themes are really easy to use.  Look past navigation, towards clear directive design.  By this I mean the eye is naturally drawn to important elements on the page and not to useless graphics.  The user should naturally know how to progress through the site because they are drawn to the “next step”.  For some sites this is a “read more” link.  For others it is a “donate” button.

2. Simple WordPress themes are spartan

This doesn’t just mean they’re white or monochromatic.  Each component in a spartan theme has utility and purpose.  Some theme designers are baiting customers with a ridiculous number of theme variations.  This is helpful for some people but not for those looking for a simple theme.  A simple wordpress theme has no need for anything without a purpose toward either the content or user experience.

3. Simple WordPress themes are fast

Small file sizes, compressed and minimal images create fast themes.  Why have a simple theme with the speed of a complex one?  Look for the right image types and compression.  Also look at the load speed of the demo installation.  Even a dedicated server will load a bulky theme with a slight delay.  Look for tableless designs that rely almost entirely on CSS and image sprites.

4. Simple WordPress themes are smooth

A simple theme takes advantage of the natural flow of the eye and human intuition.  Jagged and blocky designs make the user work to find what they need.  Smooth designs have a flow that is almost imperceivable unless it is managed poorly.  Sites with many different contrasting colors and no logical layout work against a smooth user experience.  Consider these two examples.

This design is smooth. Despite the color contrast is has a clear message ("War Destroys Children's Lives") and a clear action step ("Donate").
This design is not smooth. Professional? Yes. But smooth? No. The user doesn't know where to go next, and has to work for the content.

Now that you are equipped with four steps for filtering out great simple WordPress themes from the junk, here are some examples using the methods we just identified.  These are both free and premium themes.  Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post, please share it!

Bueno (Free)

Gridlocked ($40)

The Style (Club membership $29)


6 thoughts on “Simple WordPress Themes”

  1. Simple WP themes are user friendly and as you have mentioned fast and spartan. Simple WP themes if used, can make a site look a well organized site. It’s smooth natural flow makes it more appealing to the readers. The methods of simple themes which you have listed here are very good. The examples which you have shared here, gives clear understanding about the whole concept of simple WP themes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. According to my research and work I have done so far I have found that simple , easy to navigate themes, and fast in loading with user friendly themes are the bestest options to go with…

  3. I do a lot of webdesign for a living. Mostly i buy a theme from themeforest and them modify it to fit my needs.
    The biggest problem with themes is that they are made for the designer and not for the visitor. If the designer thinks like a “noob”-visitor all themes would be a lot cleaner and simpler!
    Good article 🙂
    /Erik from sweden.

  4. I am always a fan of simple themes. Back when I was using Blogspot as my blogging platform, I always use the default one. I just modify it to make it more appealing. However, my wants and needs have change. And as I transferred to WordPress, I was attracted to CMS themes which is built with fancy look .

  5. I am using a very simple yet elegant theme. All else equal, people would love to read on a simple theme.

    White spaces and few elements are refreshing to the eyes.

    No wonder even google with all the money they have go for a very simple web design.

  6. Good point about the smooth and pretty themes … I myself use Thesis, which is a bit pricey but it’s a smooth Theme and hey, Matt Cutts from Google uses it also 🙂 If you have the money I would go with that

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