Bootstrapping, kickstarting, jumping, ripping it on, whatever phrase you want to use, it’s become popular among developers to use a base, a framework upon a framework of sorts, to start development. Nowhere is this more apparent than in WordPress development. So what kind of themes are there and what can they do for you?





My own personal theme that I use for everything. Built over the past year or so, it includes EVERYTHING I use for development and if you check out my portfolio, you’ll find that most of my wordpress development either contains snippets from Tseczka or was actually build completely via tseczka. So what does it offer?

  • out of the box integration with WordPress backgrounds/headers etc. Meaning that it takes you 1 minute to set it up and look good
  • custom LESS framework that includes styles for just about everything. It’s also responsive out of the box
  • microformatted to death
  • simplicity
  • ability to develop or not
  • basic shortcodes

I recommend this theme highly. I already know how to work in it and you don’t, I get that , but the decoupling of elements is amazing. Want to use form formatting and styling? You can just take it out, there little to no CSS dependencies within the framework.

My Take: I’d use Tseczka when you want something up and running on a robust CSS framework and require microformatting for your SEO strategy. It can be difficult to strip away the extras if you want something very unique.

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Starkers is as barebones as you can get. If you load  it up without additional changes, you’ll end up with a bunch of mushed html elements . But that’s the cool thing. A lot of starter themes try to be a framework, Starkers is not that, it’s really a “clean” slate for your development featuring:

  • css reset
  • html5 boilerplate
  • html5 doctor resets
  • CSS file devoid of bloat
  • all necessary php files for pages such as author.php, category.php and so on

The theme is basically ready to be placed in a story and simply needs styling and a vision on your part. Download it on github!

My Take: Starkers is great when you need all that is WordPress without having to hunt down code sections in the WordPress codex. I’d say that many developers already have something like starkers in their own personal snippets library.



By far the most popular one I’ve seen 🙂 I’ve seen it mentioned just about everywhere. Now, Bones says it’s not a “framework” but it comes preloaded with all kinds of features such as :

  • LESS/SASS integration (with mixins)
  • basic styling
  • CUSTOM post types/dashboard functions

Bones is setup with some basic stuff that you can easily delete but what’s great is that you can easily work within the system. While Starkers brings you the bare basics, Bones brings you a bit more, hoping to hit that sweet spot where it provides you with enough to help but not too much to bog you down.

My Take: Unlike Starkers, Bones provides you with a tad more 😉 I’d recommend this for speed development if it fits your style: LESS/SASS usage, and predefined useful functions


Underscores is another popular one. It’s actually made by Automattic, the company which created and manages WordPress. It’s more robust than the others, featuring extra layouts, navigation, and all kinds of neat stuff like:

  • tweaks
  • sample theme options
  • 404 template
  • New Layouts
  • Some CSS
  • extra js

Underscores was based on rigorous feedback from users to create a badass hackable WP theme.

My Take: Underscores is very broad. I’d use this theme if you want to learn new tips and tricks for future development and if it can integrate well with your workflow. It can easily bog you down if you’re looking for something simple to start with.





I’d place Roots in the same category as Underscores. I’ve used snippets from Roots ALL over the place. I’d say it’s the mother/father of kickstarting themes wiuth GREAT hacks:

  • html5 boiler place/custom htaccess
  • bootstrap based. Should be easily integrated with custom Bootstrap themes
  • cleaner EVERYTHING from URLs, to HTML, and WP_head (worth checking out for your own themes)
  • microformatted

Roots has always impressed me and I see it as the pinnacle of all WordPress themes as far as detail, coding, and optimization goes. It’s really great.

My Take: Roots is a great theme but it’s almost fully featured. This is for advanced users only. If you are well versed and want to learn some great stuff and use a robust optimized theme that will go over your head, Roots is the best one.

Other Suggestions

  • toolbox– Another Automattic developed theme that can easily serve as a parent theme and can easily be made responsive
  • twentytwelve – wordpress default theme. Many use this theme as a parent during development.

How about you? Do you use any specific themes as a starter?