WordPress allows you to change design of your blog easily with WordPress Themes. There are thousands of free WordPress themes (opens in new tab) and premium themes available, as well as some brilliant WordPress tutorials (opens in new tab) to help you put them into practise. You should always choose a theme which not only looks great but also fully responsive and up to date.
I like to install and test free versions of WordPress themes, and if they work well and are easy to customize, I'll buy the pro version. Many premium themes offer 30-day money back guarantees, but I think it's better to avoid the hassle. Simply install and test the free version and if it works well, go and buy the pro version.
In this article I’m going to review the free versions of three of 2015's most popular themes: ZerifLite, Customizr and Graphene. I've installed all these themes on my test websites with dummy content and tested how they work on desktop and mobile devices.
- Cost: Free
- Active installs: 80,000+
- Download ZerifLite (opens in new tab)
- Pro Version (opens in new tab): $67
Zerif Lite is a free, one-page WordPress theme with parallax effect from Themeisle (opens in new tab). You can use this theme for web agencies, business, personal, photography and freelancer web sites.
Using Bootstrap, it's a mobile friendly and fully responsive theme that offers clean, modern flat design. If you're a (WooCommerce) user, Zerif Lite is also WooCommerce Compatible.
Right to left language support is available, and it's retina-ready, SEO friendly, and supports parallax effects.
After installing and activating Zerif Lite, you'll see two notifications. If you want to customize your login page you can install the free Custom Login Page Customizer plugin; to create simple contact pages, you can install the free Pirate Forms plugin.
Just click on the Begin Installing plugins link to install them, or you can just click Dismiss this notice. (*Also read: The best free WordPress plugins for contact forms (opens in new tab)).
Want to remove default content? WordPress Customizer makes it really simple and easy to customize different aspect of WordPress themes. After installing and activating ZerifLite, simply go to Appearance > Customize to add information about your team, testimonials, contact details and more.
Under the FAQ section you can will find many answers to commonly asked questions, including.
- How to create a child theme?
- How to speed up your site
- Replace big title section with Slider
- How to change page template, remove the opacity, turn off the animations
- How to configure the portfolio
Available widget areas are:
- Left Sidebar
- About us Section
- Our focus section widget
- Testimonials section widget
- Our team section widget
There's also a premium version, for $67, which offers unlimited colour options, a Google map section, a portfolio, a background slider/video and full support for any issues you have with the theme. The Zerif Lite and Zerif Pro comparison table (opens in new tab) can help you decide which version is best for you.
- Cost: Free
- Active installs: 100,000+
- Download Customizr (opens in new tab)
- Demo site (opens in new tab)
- Pro version (opens in new tab): single site $44.95, 2-5 websites $69.95, unlimited sites $99.95
Created by Nikeo (opens in new tab), Customizr is a versatile and (as you'd expect) easy to customize WordPress theme. According to its developer this theme is designed with visitor engagement in mind. It allows you to create a beautiful, fast and mobile friendly website compatible with all browsers and devices.
Customizr works well with major WordPress plugins like WooCommerce, bbPress, JetPack and many others.
The best way to start is to read the Customizr documentation (opens in new tab). To learn about different features of this theme, you can click on the About Customizr link under Appearance or the Help link in the top right corner.
After activating Customizr, when you will visit front end of your websites, you will see many help notices on the front-end for logged-in users. All these help notices will help you to set up your theme. See the animated Gif below.
After spending some time with the Customizr theme, I really liked it. Even the free version offers so many features. You can choose different layout for your blog, including 1-3 column layouts.
Under Global Settings in the theme customizer you can easily upload your site logo and favicon. Choose a preferred skin or even select a beautiful Google font pair (headings & default fonts) or single font for your website.
In the Advanced Option section you can add your custom CSS. To improve the load time of your pages you can use a minified version of the CSS style-sheet and if you check the Load images on scroll checkbox then images below the viewport will be loaded dynamically on scroll to boost performance, by reducing the weight of long web pages with images.
As mentioned earlier, Customizr displays help notices and placeholder blocks on the front-end for logged-in users. If the option is enabled. they're only visible for logged-in users with administration capabilities. If you want these help notices, go to theme customizer and under advance option un check Display help notices on front-end for logged in users.
Available widget areas include:
- Left Sidebar
- Right Sidebar
- 3 footer widget areas
The free version of Customizr theme is very powerful and offers many features and options. A Pro version is also available: you can learn more about that here (opens in new tab).
With 50,000+ active installs, Graphene is another popular WordPress theme. According to its developers, this theme aims to facilitate creative writing and claims it's a "premium theme available for free".
Note, though, that the free version of this theme is not responsive and mobile friendly but Graphene Mobile, which costs $24, is.
Also note that – at time of this review – the Graphene theme had last been updated in January 2015 and the theme developers hadn't migrated all their theme options to WordPress Theme Customizer. All options are available at the Graphene Options page, though.
Three sidebar and six page templates are available. This theme does not offers custom widgets. Here is a list of some useful features.
- Infinite Scroll
- Social sharing buttons
- Google Analytics
Available widget areas are:
- 2 Sidebar widget areas
- 1 Footer Sidebar
Now you've read about all three themes, you can see a full comparison in this comparison table (click the image to see a larger version).(opens in new tab)
Overall, I like Zerif Lite and Customizr. They're fully responsive and mobile friendly and although Graphene offers some extra features (including Adsense) its free version is not mobile friendly and responsive.
Have you tried any of these themes? We'd love to hear your views: please share them in the comments below!
Words: Tahir Taous
Tahir Taous (opens in new tab) is founder of JustLearnWP.com a WordPress beginner and advance training site. He writes about WordPress, Theme Development, Responsive Design, Blogging and Marketing. Download his free eBook Guide To Increase Website Traffic, Subscribers and Earning (opens in new tab).
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