WPMU DEV's Blog - Everything WordPressWordPress Freebies - WPMU.org http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog The WPMU DEV WordPress blog provides tutorials, tips, resources and reviews to help out any WP user Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:18:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.2 30+ Top Quality Free, Minimalist and Stunning WordPress Themes http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/30-top-quality-free-minimalist-and-stunning-wordpress-themes/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/30-top-quality-free-minimalist-and-stunning-wordpress-themes/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127980 Complexity in design isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Sliders, banners and other web elements can be distracting when all you want is for your readers to focus on your words.

Clean, minimalist themes allow your content to shine without unnecessary clutter or bloat.

The collection of themes below includes mostly themes put out for free by generous developers on their blogs, as well as free premium themes by larger agencies.

Don’t forget to give kudos to the developers/designers if you do decide download and use any of these themes!

What’s your favorite minimalist theme? Tell us in the comments below.



Casper is a simple, minimalist theme inspired by the Ghost blogging platform.

It features a large fullscreen header and takes advantage of features exclusive to Ghost, such as markdown and the ability to quickly paste links to display images.



Tonal offers a greyscale design that changes based on your background color.

This theme features large images, full-width videos and makes the most of post formats.



Dazzling is a colorful, flat and responsive theme ideal for businesses.

It is highly customizable for a free theme, with unlimited color variations, several widget areas, and a flexible featured slider.



Untitled has been designed by the theme team at Automattic.

It comes with full-bleed featured posts, featured images, a fixed header and subtle CSS3 transitions. This theme also supports a right sidebar.



Papaver is a stripped back, minimalist theme that puts the focus on your words.

This theme offers one, two or three column variations.



Touchfolio is a responsive, sparse design featuring large images.

It has a skinning system based on LESS CSS (similar to variables in Twitter Bootstrap) and controls Photoshop file included.

It also comes with two types of portfolio – a gallery with list in menu and masonry gallery.



Wootique is a free WooThemes design that makes full use of all WooCommerce features. Every WooCommerce widget has been styled to match the design of this theme.

It also comes with a featured slider, custom header and widgets and is highly customizable in the backend.



Frank provides a light, responsive and unobtrusive reading experience.

This theme’s main focus is speed. The parent theme’s default home page makes just nine database queries and consists of two requests. This theme has no Javascript frameworks and no unnecessary images, just a simple no-frills fast blog.

It is built on HTML5 and CSS3 and features several different homepage layouts.



Focused is a responsive, clean theme designed for personal blogs.

It features a left sidebar and takes advantage of post formats.

White Paper


White Paper features a light, easy-to-use and laconic design that is ideal for personal blogging.

This theme publishes images large, really large.



Spacious is a multi-purpose responsive theme perfect for business.

It comes with a slider four layouts, six templates, five custom widgets, 13 widget areas, boxed and wide layout, and light and dark skins.

Best of all, it features free support – something rare for free themes.



Pitch is a non-nonsense business theme that does the basics well. It’s easy to add content with built-in custom post types so you can add slides, clients, projects and features.

This theme also comes with a minimal options panel.



Expositio is a responsive portfolio theme designed with a big, clean layout for photographers and designers.

It features horizontal scrolling and is super easy-to-use.



Mystile is a lightweight and responsive WooCommerce theme designed as a canvas you can use as is or as a basis for your own design to match your products.

This theme comes with a bevy of options and alternate color schemes. It also features a custom homepage and custom shortcode.

The Night Watch


The Night Watch is a simple, elegant and responsive theme ideal for personal blogs.

It features a large head image and a single column design.



mnmlist is about as minimalistic as you’re going to get. This theme has been stripped bare to the absolute basics and is free from any distractions from the content.

It features a clean, uncluttered design with a minimalist footer and nothing else – no header, sidebar or comments.



Less is a fast, minimalist single column design with large text and full-width images. It pulls in the site’s admin Gravatar picture in the header.

It doesn’t come with widgets, though it is responsive and has one custom menu in the header.

According to the developer, this theme is “great for LoLcats.”

DW Minion


This simple and clean theme is ideal for blogging. It features a responsive design and has been optimized for social sharing.

DW Minion supports post formats.



Socute is the free version of a premium eCommerce theme designed by YITHEMES.

It is highly customizable and features a responsive design and various layout options.



Best is a functional, simple theme with a responsive design, page templates and multiple menus.

This theme’s built-in layout options allow you to build a simple blog or a fully-fledged business site. It also comes with theming options and shortcode.



Sinapp is an ideal theme for promoting a mobile app.

It features white-labeled theme administration, a shortcode generator, color skins, MailChimp integration and even free support.



Fruitful is a clean theme, featuring both responsive and fixed layouts.

It comes with a custom options panel, and key features include dummy content, easy social media sharing, custom heading, menu styling, and a JQuery slider.



Moni is a clean, elegant theme that perfect for a range of different sites.

This theme uses custom post types and has various widget areas. In the backend there are drag and drop menus for easy setup and maximum flexibility.



Fejoia is an ultra minimalist theme with a two-tone design.

This theme is ideal for bloggers with its focus on words rather than images.

Hellish Simplicity


Hellish Simplicity is a simple, clean, and responsive design.

Developer Ryan Hellyer originally developed this theme for his blog, but has made it available as a free download since 2008. It has undergone many iterations since then, but has mostly stayed true to its original design.



Padhang is a Medium-esque minimalist theme focusing on content.

This theme features a responsive layout and two widget areas in the footer. It’s easily customizable using the theme customizer that comes with WordPress.

Padhang means “bright” in Javanesse.



Tiny is another ultra minimalistic theme that puts the focus on clean typography.

It is fast, SEO-friendly and features 11 different styles ideal for bloggers.



Clean and retro, Madison has been designed for personal portfolios.

Some of this theme’s features include a responsive design, a Nivo slider on the homepage, a work page with detailed information, Superfish dropdown menu, social links with icons and LESS files included.

Doke Doke


Doke Doke is a cute and clean parallax theme ideal for creative agencies and freelancers.

It features a filterable portfolio.



Min is a super minimalist and responsive theme with no bells and whistles. It has two widgetized footer areas to handle navigation or anything else you want to put there.



Landscape is a clean, minimalist responsive theme ideal for photographers and bloggers.

The focus is squarely on words with this theme, though it’s easy to change that focus with some beautiful images.



Lexiity is a responsive under construction/coming soon/landing template featuring a count down timer.

This theme’s features include white labelled theme administration, shortcode generator, color skins, MailChimp integration. It also comes with support.



Balloons is a responsive parallax theme with a whimsical design. The colors are customizable and this theme integrates well with the WP-Pagenavi plugin.

The front-end language can be easily switched between English and German.



Pinzolo is a beautiful, clean theme with customization options in the WordPress theme customizer.

This theme features a custom header image and featured image header on posts and pages, custom background and color, fixed menu, Ajax loading for blog posts.

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Free WordPress Themes: The Ultimate Guide http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/free-wordpress-themes-ultimate-guide/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/free-wordpress-themes-ultimate-guide/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=124630 There are so many free WordPress themes out there it can put your head in a tail spin. So in an effort to help you sift through the good and the – let’s face it – crap, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to free WordPress themes.

This post is your one-stop, all-you-can-eat resource for information about free WordPress Themes.

There’s an overwhelming number of free themes available – just search Google. It’s easy enough to just download the first free theme that catches your eye. And why wouldn’t you? They’re free!

Why should you fork out your hard-earned cash for a premium themes when there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, available for free?

And you’re right. Why should you pay for something you can get for nothing? Downloading a free theme instead of a premium theme seems like the obvious choice.

But like most things that are too good to be true, free themes come with a catch. You risk downloading malicious code, struggling to customize a poorly written theme or finding out the hard was that you’re all alone with no support when something goes wrong. What might be free now, you’ll pay for later in frustration, time and money.

Stick around, but in this very comprehensive look at free themes, I’ll let you in on everything you need to know about free themes and where you can find safe and reliable options.

Work desk

In this post we’ll cover:

  • What is a Free WordPress Theme?
  • Advantages of Free WordPress Themes
  • Disadvantages of Free WordPress Themes
  • Free WordPress Themes Versus Premium WordPress Themes
  • Should I Use a Free Theme or a Premium Theme
  • Where You Can Find Reliable and Free WordPress Themes
  • Searching for Free WordPress Themes on Google
  • How to Check Your WordPress Themes for Potentially Malicious Code
  • Tips for Choosing Your Ideal Free WordPress Theme

What is a Free WordPress Theme?

A free theme is, well, free.

Some developers create free themes to build their portfolio or just for fun. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of themes shops out there and some, like WooThemes and Graph Paper Press, also create free themes, often to attract users to their site in the hope they’ll empty their wallets for premium content.

If you’ve searched Google for free themes, you’ve no doubt stumbled across WordPress.org and its Theme Repository, the largest collection of free WordPress themes available online.

WordPress software is licensed under the GPL and all themes uploaded to the Repository are also required to be 100 per cent GPL-licensed, or use a GPL-compatible license. This includes all PHP, HTML, CSS, images, fonts, icons and everything else.

What’s the GPL?

The GNU General Public License is a free, copyleft license for software and other kinds of works.

The GNU General Public License, according to its preamble, is “intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software – to make sure the software is free for all its users.”

When referring to free software, the GPL means freedom, not price. The GPL is designed to ensure you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service, if you wish), and that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new, free programs.

The GPL was the first copyleft license made available for general use.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses are another type of public license, which is free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators.
Some WordPress themes, which are not part of the Theme Repository, are licensed under Creative Commons rather than the GPL.

Free Themes Are Not All Created Equal

Back in 2009, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg sought to clarify licensing for free themes. The US-based Software Freedom Law Center gave the legal opinion that PHP in themes must be GPL, while artwork and CSS may be licensed under GPL, but it’s not required.

When downloading any theme it’s important to understand how it is licensed and what you’re legally allowed to do with it.

Advantages of Free WordPress Themes

What’s not to like about something that’s absolutely free? There are many advantages to using a free theme:

Free Themes Are Free!

The awesome thing about free WordPress themes is that they’re FREE!

Free themes aren’t going to burn a hole in your pocket. You can simply download the theme you want and starting using it.

Premium themes can be expensive and if you buy a theme and later decide you don’t want it, or discover that it doesn’t work well with plugins you really need, it can be difficult to get your money back.

Also, why hire a designer and developer to create a site for you when you can simply download one for free?

Community Support

While free themes often come without support, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started with a free theme you’ve just downloaded or with any advanced customizations you may want to make. The WordPress Support Forums are the first port of call. We’ve also got a rocking support team at WPMU DEV.


If you’re like me, you quickly spot a theme you like, download and activate it and then decide it’s totally wrong for you site. Rinse and repeat.

This can get pretty expensive if you’re buying premium themes at $45 a pop. With free themes, since you don’t have to pay for them you can download as many as you like without compromising your budget. You can experiment with as many themes as you like until you find the right one that suits your needs.

Disadvantages of Free WordPress

While there are many good reasons to download free themes, they do have their limitations and disadvantages.

Not Unique

There are a plethora of blogs out there (including ours) that regularly publish lists of the best free themes, so the best ones are quickly picked up and promoted.

The best free themes can be download hundreds, if not thousands, of times, ensuring your site is about as unique as a banana.

Twenty Thirteen
The Twenty Thirteen default WordPress theme has been download 288,929 times. That’s a heluva lot of sites using the same theme.

Poorly Coded

Many free themes are put together by amateurs who have poor coding skills, leaving your site open to security vulnerabilities if you decide to use the theme.

Poorly coded free themes are also less likely to be localization-ready if you want to translate your site into another language, or SEO-optimized to help your site load faster and perform well in search rankings.

Lack of Features

Free themes usually offer very basic features. The premium theme market is an incredibly competitive place – just look at Theme Forest. Themes need to offer responsive design and dozens of customizations to get ahead of competitors. Free themes more than not have a very limited number of features.

Lack of Support

Free themes often don’t come with customer support, so if you run into a problem you’re on your own.

Rarely Updated

Malicious code
Free themes are notorius for containing nasty code and other bugs.

WordPress is constantly being updated. In fact, the latest version of WordPress, 3.8, was released just two months after WordPress 3.7. It’s important your themes are compatible with the latest version of WordPress. When you use a premium theme, the onus is on the developer to release timely updates. But when you’re using a free theme, you could wait months for an upgrade or not even see one at all.

There are themes in the WordPress Theme Repository that haven’t been updated in more than two years.

Malicious Code and Encrypted Footer Links

Free themes are notorious for being a conduit for malicious code, encrypted spammy links and link injections for malware or whatever else.

Since the Google Penguin update, Google has cracked down on sites that have spammy and encrypted links. Hell, we were even unfairly penalised for it.

Free Themes Versus Premium Themes

It’s important to weigh up what you want to actually achieve with your site. Small personal blogs or portfolio sites may benefit from a free theme because it’s a quick and inexpensive way to get a site up and running. Small businesses that require e-commerce, agencies and large companies would do better with a premium theme. Don’t even think about using a free theme for a complex corporate site.

Premium themes offer many features that are worth paying for and free themes simply can’t compete. If you do decide to use a free theme, it’s important to acknowledge its limitations and accept them.

What is a premium theme?

Theme Forest
Theme Forest is the largest online market place for premium WordPress themes.

Premium themes are themes which have been professionally designed and developed and include advanced features and functionality, such as sliders, e-commerce, styling options, and custom widgets, among other things.

Premium themes are usually sold at a fixed cost or as part of a membership. You’re look at around $45 for a theme at Theme Forest or $99 for a standalone theme at WooThemes. When you buy a theme, it usually comes with support and regular updates for a fixed period of time.

When you hand over money for a premium theme, you can expect a higher standard and quality compared to free themes, as well as a greater selection of theme designs and functionality.

Unfortunately, there are nasty people out there who manipulate and distribute free WordPress themes containing dodgy links and malicious code. Unless you know what to look for in a theme’s files, using these free themes can negatively affect your site’s efficiency and search engine trust and rankings.

Premium themes can give you the peace of mind that a theme is clean and optimized to make your site perform at its best.

Should I Use a Free Theme or a Premium Theme?

When you’re just starting out, it makes sense to download and experiment with free themes so you can get a sense of how WordPress works and how to makes customizations.

If you’re a blogger, a free theme is ideal. Not only is it low cost, but it is unlikely you will need advanced features that comes with premium themes.

If you want to set up a site for your hipster photography, why not download a free WordPress theme?

When your site starts to get more popular, it’s probably time to start thinking about buying a premium theme

Free themes are best for:

  • Bloggers

Premium themes offer features more suited to

  • Popular blogs
  • Small businesses
  • Corporate sites

When making a decision about what kind of theme to use, it’s also worth considering what kind of look and feel you want to project to your visitors. If you use a free theme with a footer link displaying the name of the site where you downloaded it from, it tells people you don’t put much effort into your site.

Where You Can Find Reliable Free Themes

It’s important to remember that malicious code isn’t the defining characteristic of free themes. In fact, there are many quality free themes out there.

Rather, malicious code is a problem of unsafe sites offering those themes. This is why it’s important to download free themes from reliable sources like the ones mentioned below.

WordPress Theme Repository

WordPress Theme Repository

The Theme Repository really is the largest collection of free themes available online (where else would you find it? :)

At last count there were 2216 themes in the repository, which have been download 89,271,832 times. (Remember what I said about the uniqueness of free themes…?)

The Repository has a fantastic feature finder, while allows you to search for themes based on their tags. So if you’re looking for a pink theme with a right sidebar, a fixed layout and a feature header for the holidays, you can search for and find just that.

As I mentioned above, all themes uploaded to the Repository are 100 per cent GPL and are throughly tested by the Theme Review Team, so themes should be free of malicious code.

120 Free WordPress Themes from Premium Theme Developers

Free Premium WordPress themes

Our very own Joe Foley put together this amazing list of premium themes that are also 100 per cent free.

Not only are these themes free, but you can trust that they have been created and released with clean code. Many theme shops don’t provide support for free themes, so it’s a good idea to check this out if you do decide to download a free premium theme.

Free Premium Themes

While theme shops really just want you to buy and download their premium themes, many also release free themes to entice new customers.

Here are just a few:

Themes Kingdom

Themes Kingdom

Themes Kingdom offers six free themes, including a charity theme. The themes features clean designs that come with support.



WooThemes offers a collection of 16 free themes, including e-commerce, blogging and business designs.

Graph Paper Press

Graph Paper Press

Thirteen free themes are available at Graph Paper Press, a theme shop aimed at photographers, artists and small businesses.



Wpshower offers seven free themes that come with features such as custom widgets and a jQuery-powered featured post carousel. The theme shop’s site includes a forum where users can ask questions about free themes.



Themify offers three free themes, which come with features such as responsive layouts, sliders and child theme support.

Searching for Free WordPress Themes on Google

A few years ago, a simple Google search for “free wordpress themes” was very different to what it is today. Back in 2011, a search turned up a gaggle of dodgy, theme websites littered with themes containing malicious code and hidden, spammy links:

Google 2011
A Google search for “free wordpress themes” circa 2011.

Times have certainly changed since then! Since Google’s Penguin update, the search engine has cracked down on spammy links and link schemes. In 2014, a search for “free wordpress themes” brings up a very different set of search results:

Google 2014
A Google search for “free wordpress themes” this year.

I should also add that the top 10 results change daily, albeit slightly.

So what are all these sites? Let’s go through each one and check their credibility.

WordPress Theme Repository

It makes sense the WordPress Theme Repository, the largest collection of free WordPress themes available, ranks highly. In fact, both first and second.

The repository is one of the safest places to find and download free themes. A volunteer Theme Review Team reviews and approves themes submitted for inclusion in the repository. Theme reviews are a way to control the quality of themes that are available in the repository. The team doesn’t review designs, but it does look at the quality of code, ensures themes meet a strict set of guidelines and can handle test data.


WPExplorer offers a collection of free and commercial WordPress themes and plugins sourced from third-party sites, such as Theme Forest. The sites makes money from affiliate links.

According to the site’s terms and conditions, many of the themes available for download on the site are not hosted on the WPExplorer domain, and those that are hosted on the same domain may include a footer link back to WPExplorer.

Importantly, the terms and conditions also specify “any free theme downloaded from WPExplorer.com is done at your own risk and the owner of WPExplorer.com will not be liable for any problems caused from such activity.”


Our blog is an awesome source of WordPress information.

The fourth search listing is the very blog you are reading right now! Back in 2011, we reviewed the top 10 search listings for “free wordpress themes” and found the majority offered themes containing malicious code. The subsequent post, Why You Should Never Search For Free WordPress Themes, was a huge eye opener for WordPress users who had never bothered to look into the code of the free themes they were downloading.

But 2011 was a lifetime ago in the online world so we’re bringing things up-to-date in this post.

Design Razzi

Design Razzi calls itself a design magazine, but it’s really just a collection of lists, i.e. 125+ Free Responsive WordPress Themes 2014, 150+ Best Free Photoshop Text Effects Tutorials, 5+ Best Responsive WordPress Video Themes. The site is crammed with ads.

The WordPress themes section offers lists of themes hosted off-site, such as 125+ Best WordPress Photography Themes and 75+ Best Personal Blogging WordPress Themes. There’s no terms and conditions section. When you click on a theme you are taken to a third-party site where you can download or demo a theme.

My recommendation: download themes from Design Razzi at your own risk.

Smart Magazine WordPress Themes

Smart Magazine Themes offers a huge collection of free and premium themes. The site’s themes are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license – another type of license, similar to the GPL in its aims – which means anyone who downloads a theme can share it or adapt it, but they must give attribution to the theme’s creator. This means that every theme must display a link in the footer to the Smart Magazine WordPress Themes site.

While all of the themes are free, you need to cough up some cash if you want to get rid of footer links or use any themes for client sites.

Web Designer Depot

WebdesignerDepot.com is a popular online magazine about tips and techniques for web designers and developers.

The seventh entry is Web Designer Depot, a blog about web design and development. The link displayed in Google search is a round-up of themes, The Best Free WordPress Themes, December 2013. The themes listed are all hosted off-site. Many are available on the WordPress Theme Repository, while others are hosted on sites belonging to a theme’s developer.

While the site has terms and conditions, there is nothing related to the free themes promoted on the site. Themes that are available on the repository are generally safe, but you may want to check the files of any free themes you download from other sites. I’ll go into how to check free themes for malicious code later in this post.

Towfiq I.

Towfiq I. is a theme shop run by Bangladeshi developer Towfiq, offering free and premium themes. Obviously, Towfiq has been working hard on his SEO!

I downloaded a bunch of free themes from the site and scanned them for potentially malicious or unwanted code using the Theme Authenticity Checker plugin (I’ll go into more detail about this plugin later in this post). I didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, only links back to the Towfiq site. The fact this site ranks on the first page for this search term makes me wonder how he boosts his SEO?


Hongkiat is a popular design and blogging site that features articles and tutorials on Photoshop, HTML/CSS, WordPress, photography and design. The site’s WordPress section features tips and tricks, much like the WPMU DEV Blog.

The link that appears in Google search is for a list post, 40+ Free Responsive WordPress Themes. A lot of sites, such as our blog, publishes these list posts, which are designed to spark inspiration and provide a handy look at what’s out there.

The posts in this list are all hosted off-site on theme developer sites, so download at your own risk.

Torque Mag

Last but not least, Torque Mag comes in 10th in our Google search. Torque is a WordPress news site run by managed WordPress host WP Engine.

The link, Best Free WordPress Themes from 2013, offers a list of 25 free themes released during 2013. Like other list posts, the themes are all hosted off-site, so download at your own risk.

How to Check Your Theme for Potentially Malicious Code

It’s a good idea to scan new themes of malicious code if you’re not 100 per cent satisfied that the code is clean.

Luckily, there was a few great programs to help you out – and they’re all free, no less.

Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC)

Theme Activity Checker
The Theme Authenticity Checker plugin let’s you quickly check your themes for malicious code.

TAC searches the sources files of every installed theme in your WordPress install for signs of malicious code.

It’s simple to use – just install and activate the plugin. A new menu item will appear in your admin area – Appearance > TAC. If bad code is found, TAC will display the path to the theme file, the line number and a small snippet of the suspicious code.

Exploit Scanner

Exploit Scanner
Search your site for suspicious files and code with Exploit Scanner.

Exploit Scanner searches the files on your site, as well as the posts and comments tables of your database, for anything suspicious. It also examines your list of active plugins for unusual filenames.

This plugin is also easy to use – just install and activate it and go to Tools > Exploit Scanner to run a scan.

Sucuri Security – SiteCheck Malware Scanner

Sucuri provides a basic plugin that allows you to quickly scan your site for malware and blacklisting.

Sucuri scans your site for malware, spam, blacklisting and other security issues like. htaccess redirects and hidden eval code.

Like the plugins mentioned above, just install and activate the plugin. Sucuri Free will appear in the admin sidebar with various options for checking your site’s security.

The plugin available in the WordPress Plugin Repository is free, though Securi also offers premium plans.

Tips for Choosing Your Ideal Free Theme

When choosing a free theme, only you know what your needs are so it helps to write them down keep them in mind when searching for a theme.

  • What features do you need? Do you need a slider? A portfolio? A great free theme should meet your present and future needs.
  • Is the theme easy to customize? Whether you’re a coding king or a WordPress newb, it’s important to keep in mind what customizations you may need to make to your site if the original design doesn’t meet all your needs.
  • Does your site fit a particular genre? If you are putting together a site for a specific purpose, such as a portfolio, photography or restaurant site, searching for themes available for your genre may help you save time.
  • Is there support available for the theme? Free themes often come without support, though some theme developers are happy to help. It’s a good idea to check on this before you download a theme.
  • Is the theme regularly updated? As I mentioned above, there are themes in the WordPress Theme Repository that haven’t been updated in more than two years.
  • How old is the themes? Following on from my last point, check how old a theme is before you download it because it may not be compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

Where do you go for free and reliable WordPress Themes? Tell us in the comments below.

Image credits: WikiMedia CommonsAlan O’Rourkejurvetson, Unsplash.

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Hoodwinked: Dodgy Free WordPress Hosting, Themes, and Plugins http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/dodgy-free-wordpress-hosting-themes-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/dodgy-free-wordpress-hosting-themes-plugins/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 20:15:55 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=121036 If you’re on wpmu.org, you’re probably a WordPress fan. How could you be otherwise? WordPress is an open-sourced “Jack of all trades” website builder. It can do anything.

Unfortunately, not all online freebies are as benevolent. What looks edible might actually kill your website. So hold it, Little Red Riding Hood. Before you start foraging for free hosting, themes and plugins, read these cautionary tales from the world-wide woods.

Little Red Riding Hood in the woods

Free-Hosting Services

If you’re starting a new blog or business, the free-hosting service you’ve found in the world-wide woods seems attractive. After all, why pay for the roof over your head, when you can get it for nada? But will your free-hosting service properly house your website or is it a gingerbread house, a hosting trap for the unwary? Let’s have a look at some possible scenarios:

1. The free-hosting service points you to your room, which is the linen cupboard under the stairs. 

Some free-hosting services offer you the online equivalent of a Japanese capsule hotel room. Finitesite.com really is finite in the amount of space it provides: 20MB for free subdirectory hosting or 10MB for yourdomain.com hosting. 

Webhosting-for-free.com is slightly more generous with its 100MB disk space and 1000MB monthly data transfer. This may suit you fine if your website is text heavy with minimal traffic. Start throwing in sound clips, videos, or high-resolution images and you’ll soon outgrow your space. If you build enough web traffic, you may also outgrow your bandwidth. You’ll either have to upgrade to the free-hosting service’s paid plan or relocate.

2. The facilities are basic. 

Tortoise gets nudged by a hare
The tortoise and the hare: free hosting is usually sluggish when compared to paid hosting from the same provider. Speed (or lack of) encourages free-hosting users to upgrade. Image credits: BAD RABBIT INC.

Some free-hosting services support 1-click install but limit the type of script. For instance, biz.nf only supports WordPress and Joomla.

Uptime and speed can also be less reliable when compared to paid-hosting services.

3. There’s not much help around the house. 

Support is limited. Profreehost.com does not provide phone, email or livechat support to its free account holders. If there is support, expect tardy response times: 100webspace.com guarantees a response within an hour for paid accounts, but they’ll leave free accounts hanging for up to 6 hours.

4. You must live by the house rules.

Free-hosting services like webng.com and sitepalace.com won’t let you run your own ads.

Imbahost.com discriminates on geographical location, blocking users from countries like Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Somalia, Taiwan, and Iran.

Some restrict upload file sizes; others restrict upload file types. Byethost.com restricts the size of uploads to 10MB, whilst nofeehost.com does not support .exe, cmd, .bat, .dll, and .scr.

But host-ed.me has the most impressive rule list by far, sporting restrictions like “Max 1 email per hour,” “File storage is not allowed,” and “NOT to contact us [host-ed.me] over the chat unless interested in upgrading/signing up for [a] new…paid hosting account.” They will also terminate inactive accounts:

A free hosting account with us is marked for suspension either if you have less than 1 MB of disk space uploaded and/or less than 1 MB of monthly traffic until the end of the current month.

5. The free-hosting service has a habit of leaving the windows open.

An open window poses a security risk
Leaving the windows open: most free-hosting websites do not offer security or backup services, leaving your site vulnerable to attack. Image credits: Angelo DeSantis

Backups and other security features are usually not included. What did you expect? These things cost money plus resources and you didn’t cough up.

6. While money isn’t exchanged, favours are expected. 

Some free-hosting services will put ads on your website, usually in the form of pop-ups, banners, and or links. Examples include topcities.com, huuzy.com, and bravenet.com. They have to make a living somehow.

Others like xetaspace.net will press you into compulsory forum posting.

7. The free-hosting service starts demanding rent money.

Many paid-hosting companies offer free-hosting options to attract potential clients, which is fine until they spam you with upgrade offers or hold your website at ransom until you hand over some money.

Finitesite.com even has the cheek to demand your credit card details for “verification purposes.” Ummm?

"We demand money for houses" protest sign
Show me the money: 100webspace.com advertises its free-hosting as a “fully featured free trial” while biz.nf allows you to “test our webhosting services at absolutely no cost.” Even though both allow you to use your “free trial” indefinitely, chances are they’ll persist with upselling until you give in and upgrade. Image credits: Miami Workers Centre

8. You move in. The free-hosting service drops dead. 

Free-hosting services come and go. Some run out of space and stop accepting members, some scrap their free-hosting plans on purpose to force you to upgrade to a paid plan, whilst the unviable ones simply disappear.

The moral of the story?

Free-hosting services do have their place as developmental and or learning tools. If this is what you’re after, check out free-webhosts.com for a comprehensive list of vendors.

Serious bloggers and businessfolk who want a customisable WordPress should consider spending money on their hosting though. A paid-hosting service isn’t necessarily expensive; it can even be cost effective when compared to the wordpress.com equivalent.

Don’t know which hosting service to go for? Start at Raelene Wilson’s “Web Hosting Review: So Just Who is the Best?” and go on from there.

Free Themes and Plugins

WordPress would be much more restrictive without its themes and plugins. Nevertheless, whilst WordPress’ core code is fairly reliable as long as you use the up-to-date version, themes and plugins are less so. This is due to their third-party nature.

In a recent report, Checkmarx noted that

…any developer can add a WordPress extension to enhance the basic blogging platform. Although there are some set of coding standards and recommendations, there is no security guidance or requirements that a plugin developer needs to adhere to.

So when you come across a free theme or plugin, is it safe to consume or is it a poison apple?

1. It isn’t poisonous but it ain’t fresh either. 

Themes and plugins found in the wild are not as regularly tended as those sourced from reliable sites like wordpress.org.

For instance, a Google search for “free WordPress plugins” brings up the following:

Ithemes.com offers free WordPress plugins.

“Latest Free Plugins” sounds promising. But what does wordpress.org have to say about the matter?

This plugin hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.

So much for downloading that plugin.

A bunch of rotten apples
A bunch of rotten apples: It’s the same story for the other free plugins on ithemes.com’s list, except for PB-Tweet which is “no longer under active development and does not function due to changes in the Twitter API.” Image credits: Nick Savchenko

A theme or plugin found in the wild may also be an outdated version. This particular website features the 1.02 version of Caroline Moore’s Spun theme instead of the current 1.06 version.

TAC sniffed out some static links in both wild and wordpress.org downloads of Spun v1.02. Both sections of code were identical.

Running both downloads of Spun v1.02 through TAC: the top theme is downloaded from freethemefinder.com, whilst the bottom theme is downloaded from wordpress.org.
Running both downloads of Spun v1.02 through TAC: the top theme is downloaded from freethemefinder.com, whilst the bottom theme is downloaded from wordpress.org.

Exploit Scanner threw up heaps of “CCS style used to hide parts of a web page” for both, but softened its warning with “often used legitimately.” Nothing too scary there! Apart from not being current, this “wild and free” theme seems okay.

Nevertheless, avoid older versions of a theme or plugin. Even if an older version of a theme or plugin does not contain malicious code, it can still contain publicized vulnerabilities.

Earlier this year, a wordpress.org user reported a possible remote code execution within popular plugins WP Super Cache and W3TC. The developers responded by disabling the function in the update.

Anyone who uses the older version of WP Super Cache or W3TC, however, is now an easy target for hackers, since information on the vulnerability was widely disseminated online.

2. Tastes like cardboard?

apple made out of paper
A fake apple: you think its a free theme/plugin but it isn’t. Tasteless! Image credit: FooNar.

WordPress.org themes and plugins are either free or cost money. Unfortunately, some developers aren’t upfront about payment and or restrictions on the free version. You don’t realise that a plugin won’t work or that functions are limited until after the download and install. In advertising terms, this is called a “bait and switch.” We just call it “plain tasteless.”

Take Wapple Architect Plugin for instance. There’s no mention of payment on its wordpress.org page, only mention of a need to sign up for a “Wapple Architect Dev Key”. In order to sign up, you need to pay for the privilege: 5 pounds per month apparently.

3. One bite out of this apple will put you in a glass coffin. 

In its report, Checkmarx also notes, “Since anyone can develop a WordPress plugin, hackers can also exploit this vulnerability to hide their own nefarious plugin.”


Most dangerous themes and plugins are distributed in the wild but some have also cropped up on wordpress.org, usually after a developer has been compromised.

For more on dodgy free themes, check out Siobhan McKeown’s “Why You Should Never Search For Free WordPress Themes.”

Snow White is poisoned by an apple
Beware: some themes and plugins are poisonous. Image credits: Lauren Pollock

The moral of the story?

Instead of gathering free themes and plugins in the wild, download them from well-tended sites like wordpress.org and wpmudev.org. It’s like sourcing your food from the farm gate. You’re less likely to end up with Snow White’s apple or something equally poisonous.

Follow Sucuri’s advice: “use plugins and themes that are being actively developed and have good, trusted reviews. Do your homework.”

Once you’ve downloaded free theme or plugin, test them out on a demo website. This is where you can use your security tools like TAC and Exploit Scanner. Don’t forget to use your eyes as well if you know how to check code. Plugins and programs can only do so much.

Remove any unused themes and or plugins. Just because it’s disabled doesn’t mean that it isn’t susceptible to attacks. 

And make sure everything stays fresh. That means regular updates.

Featured image credits: martinak15.

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Download the Free MarketPress Anywhere Cart Plugin http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/download-the-free-marketpress-anywhere-cart-plugin/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/download-the-free-marketpress-anywhere-cart-plugin/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 19:45:45 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=120387 If you’ve ever built an e-commerce store, then you know that the better you can make the shopping cart experience, the more you’re going to sell. Keeping your customer on the line once he has decided to purchase something is very much like fishing. You need to start to reel him in before he gets away. Keeping the buyer mindful of what he has in his cart is one key to capturing that sale.

Introducing the MarketPress Anywhere Cart

MarketPress Anywhere Cart
The new Anywhere Cart plugin for MarketPress was designed to do just that. It displays instantly as soon as your customer clicks the ‘Add to Cart’ button – just like amazon.com.

The Anywhere Cart can be added into any post, page, widget or template using a shortcode so that you can maintain a consistent shopping experience across your website.

The Anywhere Cart plugin for MarketPress features:

Anywhere Cart button options
  • 4 different designs: Button, Flat, Box, Link.
  • Two different ways to display the shopping cart (through dropdown / modal)
  • Output the number of items in the cart as well as order subtotal.
  • Update the number of items and subtotal instantly when your customer clicks the ‘Add to Cart’ button – just like amazon.com!
  • Up to 7 pre-defined colors to choose from.
  • Ability to limit the cart to display only in MarketPress related pages.

Check out a live demo of the plugin to see the dropdown version of the display in action.

Documentation is available on the MarketPressThemes.com website and it fully explains how to use and customize the shortcode and/or widget.

Can you believe that this awesome add-on is free? Many thanks to the developer behind MarketPressThemes.com for creating it. Sign up for a free account there to download Anywhere Cart.

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Free Twitter Bootstrap Admin Theme For WordPress http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/twitter-bootstrap-admin-theme/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/twitter-bootstrap-admin-theme/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 20:15:08 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=117355 It’s not very often that I come across a WordPress admin theme that doesn’t make me want to poke my eyes out, but this one caught my attention.

Our very own @aristath has created a plugin that brings Twitter Bootstrap styles into your WordPress dashboard. Bootstrap Admin is a clean, minimalist administration theme that totally changes the look of your dashboard with new icons, colors and Bootstrap as the backbone.

After you install and activate Bootstrap Admin, your WordPress dashboard will be transformed to look something like this:

Bootstrap Admin theme for the WordPress dashboard

So far Bootstrap Admin includes:

  • General styling of the WordPress admin area
  • Admin menu sub-menus as bootstrap popovers
  • Bootstrap Icons for a lot of things
  • Default WordPress forms theming
  • Buttons theming
  • Post boxes theming
  • Style the admin using LESS
  • Includes WPMUdev Pro-Sites optimizations
  • Includes WPMUdev MarketPress optimizations

New post screen with Bootstrap Admin plugin
The plugin also incorporates the Elusive-Icons Webfont, a sleek package of vector icons made for Bootstrap. Elusive-Icons Webfont is an open source font that can be used in your projects without licencing and/or attribution.

Style the WordPress Admin Using LESS

Another cool feature of Bootstrap Admin is the ability to style the admin using LESS. phpless is included in the plugin for compiling your code. It can be turned on or off in the includes/config.php file.

If you’re a big fan of Twitter Bootstrap, you’ll appreciate the overall cleaner look that Bootstrap Admin brings to the WordPress dashboard. Even if you’re just bored with the default WordPress admin, this plugin is a great option for sprucing things up. In the future @aristath plans to add the ability to completely re-brand your WordPress administration. If you’d like to contribute to the project, jump in on github and lend a hand.

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The Naked WordPress Theme: A Crash Course For Designers http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/the-naked-wordpress-theme-a-crash-course-for-designers/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/the-naked-wordpress-theme-a-crash-course-for-designers/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 17:30:28 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=115214 Here’s the scenario: You’re brand new to WordPress and you’ve been asked by your client to use it for their new website. You’ve created a beautiful design but have very limited time to learn about how to theme WordPress. You look to the codex but it has more information than you need and it’s difficult to piece it all together.

When you browse the code in the default WordPress theme, you have no idea what any of it does and you are running out of time. You need a crash course in the worst way. You need the Naked WordPress Theme.

“The solution for designers who don’t know WordPress”

Learn how to theme WordPress with the Naked WordPress theme

The Naked WordPress theme was created by Joshua Beckman to be “The solution for designers who don’t know WordPress”.

This is not your ordinary bare bones theme, stripped of everything but the essentials. Naked WordPress assumes that you know nothing about WordPress and includes comments on all aspects of the theme. Every single piece of the template files is commented so that you can understand what it does. Armed with that knowledge you can safely rearrange and customize your theme. You’ll be able to remove pieces without worrying about deleting something essential.

Here’s a quick example of just how useful the Naked WordPress theme is for beginners. If you’re brand new to WordPress, you probably have no idea what wp_head() does. Naked WordPress clues you in to how important it is so that you don’t screw things up:

<?php wp_head(); 
// This fxn allows plugins, and WordPress itself, to insert themselves/scripts/css/files 
// (right here) into the head of your website. 
// Removing this fxn call will disable all kinds of plugins and WordPress default insertions. 
// Move it if you like, but I would keep it around.

With this kind of commenting built into the theme, there’s no need to look things up in the codex when you’re building in a hurry. The functions are neatly summarized and commented inline to save you time.

Naked WordPress features:

  • Responsive styling
  • Custom menus
  • Custom sidebar and widgets
  • Blog, with all the WordPress goodies we know and love (comments, categories, tags, etc.)
  • Pages, Home page

Naked WordPress is the perfect starter theme for anyone who is new to WordPress.
Check out a live demo by visiting the Naked WordPress homepage. As you can see, it’s nothing but the basics and all the comments are neatly hidden within the php template files, which are not visible to your visitors.

Of course, reading up on the codex and learning all the ins and outs of WordPress theming is highly recommended if you want to be able to expertly navigate it and create your own themes. However, if you’re more interested in designing the theme than building it, then the Naked Theme will help to keep things moving while you’re still learning WordPress. It functions as both a starter theme and a crash course all in one.

Download the Naked WordPress theme for free from its homepage and follow the project on github. If it helps you build something, consider showing a little love to the developer by way of a donation.

photo credit: emanuela franchini via photopin cc

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Agency: A Free Responsive Business Portfolio Theme http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/agency-a-free-responsive-business-portfolio-theme-for-wordpress/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/agency-a-free-responsive-business-portfolio-theme-for-wordpress/#comments Tue, 27 Nov 2012 21:51:12 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=104205 With more web traffic happening on tablets and phones these days, it’s invaluable for an online business portfolio to be responsive, minimal and effectively eye catching. If you are looking for a WordPress portfolio theme that accomplishes this and much more, right out of the box, you should take a look at Agency. It’s a beautiful free theme offered by EGrappler. Agency was built using Twitter Bootstrap and was designed to be the perfect theme for businesses or creative agencies.

This template is a lighter version of Themesforest’s premiuim business/portfolio template. It is coming soon as a WordPress theme is packed with perks and features including:

  • A Fully Responsive Layout
  • Filterable Portfolios (2 columns, 3 columns and portfolio detail page with carousal)
  • Working Contact Form
  • Valid HTML/CSS
  • Cross Browser Compatible
  • Blog (main and single page templates)
  • Beautiful Pricing pages (3 columns, 2 columns)
  • Components page showing an example usage of menus, carousals, dropdowns, tabs etc…
  • FAQ page
  • Based on Twitter Bootstrap

One of the best features of this Twitter Bootstrap theme is the integrated pricing tables. They’re designed to match the theme and provide a clear display of your pricing structure.

The sortable portfolio template options are also a nice touch and absolutely essential for creative agencies.

Check out a live demo of the Agency theme to see all the different page templates in action.

Since Agency is a Twitter Bootstrap WordPress theme, you’ve got tons of easy-to-use UI elements and styles baked right in and ready to use should you want to expand upon the basic theme. View the Components page to see all that is available for use with Agency.

Many thanks to Muhammad Shahbaz Saleem of EGrappler for creating the Agency theme and offering it for free. He’s currently in the process of converting this to a WordPress theme and we’ll add the link here as soon as we receive it. The licensing allows you to use it to make your own website or a website for your clients. So if you need a clean, responsive template for a business portfolio, download Agency and give it a try.

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WPExplorer Releases 3 Free Responsive WordPress Themes http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wpexplorer-releases-3-free-responsive-wordpress-themes/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wpexplorer-releases-3-free-responsive-wordpress-themes/#comments Wed, 21 Nov 2012 14:15:51 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=103761 The folks at WPExplorer have just launched a redesign of their website and a brand new logo. To celebrate the new branding and redesign, they have also decided to release three free WordPress themes, all of which include responsive design and built-in theme options for easy customization.

Here’s a quick overview of all the new freebies:

Tetris: A Free Masonry Tumblog WordPress Theme

The Tetris theme employs a masonry-style layout to display tumblog-style posts. It makes use of the excellent Soliloquy plugin for the featured slider on the home page.

It also has support for 7 post formats, including standard, gallery, audio, video, quote, link and image. This free responsive WP theme is perfect for multi-media bloggers.

View a live demo of the Tetris theme.

Photo WordPress Theme

The Photo theme was designed to showcase galleries and photography. It’s a minimalist style layout with an elegant, simple grid for displaying posts.

View the live demo of the Photo theme.

Thoughts: A Free Responsive Blog Theme

Thoughts is a beautiful theme designed to showcase the work of writers. It’s unique in that it has no widgetized areas, no sidebar and no footer. Thoughts has support for standard, gallery, image, video, quote, audio and link post formats. This is a stunning, content-focused theme that is perfect for photographers, vloggers, designers and your regular blogger.

Check out the Thoughts theme demo to see it in action.

In addition to the free themes, WPExplorer has also released a new free plugin called Symple Shortcodes. This plugin makes it easy to add effects and UI elements in your content, such as social icons, highlights, buttons, boxes, testimonials, tabs, pricing tables, columns and more.

Head on over to WPExplorer to check out their fancy new redesign and awesome new free themes and plugins. While you’re there, make sure to enter the giveaway. You could be one of three winners who will receive a free WPExplorer Premium Theme plus a super secret swag box.

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Glider: A Free Minimalist Theme for WordPress http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/glider-a-free-minimalist-theme-for-wordpress/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/glider-a-free-minimalist-theme-for-wordpress/#comments Fri, 16 Nov 2012 02:11:18 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=103190 If you’re looking for a minimalist WordPress theme that is 100% focused on typography and content, you’re going to be a big fan of the free Glider theme. This is by no means your average WordPress blog design. Glider is a simple, one-template-file responsive theme.

Tom Creighton designed and developed the Glider theme to provide a seamless reading experience with no page loads and no interruptions while accessing content.

Check out a live demo and click the arrow to see the post menu. The theme also supports arrow key navigation, so you can use your keyboard to get back to the menu.

Glider in a Nutshell:

As you can see, this is not your typical WordPress theme. How does it work? Creighton uses a unique technique to simplify the display of the content and strip out all the extras.

Glider uses/abuses jQuery’s handy .load() function to essentially load itself, strip out everything but the post content, then drop that back into itself, all behind the scenes. This allows the entire theme layout + JS to exist in one file, making for easy tweaks, typeface changes, etc..

This theme is especially fitting for infrequent bloggers and those who don’t need to provide an extensive archive. Download Glider for free from its project page on github. Use it as it is with no frills or modify it to suit your needs. Many thanks to Tom Creighton for making Glider available to the community.

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Workality: A Free Responsive Portfolio Theme for WordPress http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/workality-a-free-responsive-portfolio-theme-for-wordpress/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/workality-a-free-responsive-portfolio-theme-for-wordpress/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2012 14:30:56 +0000 http://wpmu.org/?p=102333 The easiest way to get found and recognized for your work is to have your portfolio posted online. Since mobile devices are now the main way that people access the internet, it makes sense to have a portfolio that is responsive to smaller screen resolutions. The WordPress platform plus some of the best free responsive WordPress themes is an excellent, easy-to-use option, even if you’re on a budget.

Workality is a new free WordPress portfolio theme that was designed for creative people and agencies. The layout responds well to desktops, phones and tablets alike.

Workality Features:

  • Custom Post Types – Items in the portfolio are created as a custom content type with creative fields for showcasing works
  • 4 Portfolio Layouts – 4 different thumbnail sizes for your portfolio layout: Small, Medium, Big and Portrait.
  • Responsive Design – Images, videos, and text will scale down gracefully to iPad, iPhone and all mobile devices
  • Localization Support – Workality includes default.po/mo files so you can translate the theme into the language of your choice.
  • Archive + 404 Pages – Custom 404 and Archive page for a better navigation experience

Here’s what the homepage looks like:

Check out a live demo of Workality.

If the features included in this free theme aren’t enough for you, there’s also a commercial version available for $19.99. Workality Premium offers many more ways to customize your site within the dashboard.

Workality Premium Features

  • Includes 3 different color presets – Light, Gray, and Dark
  • Customization options – Create your own color scheme and background, customize the text and the colors of each element on the project pages
  • 500+ Google Fonts
  • Sliders – Add images or embed videos to slider with unlimited quantities. Also captions can be added on image slides
  • Shortcodes – Available shortcodes include Sliders, Google Map, Contact Form, Tabs, Buttons, Alerts, Glyphicons, 16 Columns Grid

Quick preview of Workality Premium:

The demo for the premium version of Workality looks very similar to the free version, but most of the extra features are available behind the scenes in the dashboard.

If you need to get your portfolio up online in a hurry, Workality provides a professional, affordable option. Many thanks to Mert @ Workality for offering this theme as a free download.

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