With thousands of options to choose from, finding the perfect WordPress template can feel like an exercise in futility, but selecting the right one is essential. Not only is it the face of your site, it also dictates how your content appears and how visitors experience your brand.
To simplify the process, here’s a list of the best free WordPress templates for small and mid-sized publishers. Free templates are an ideal way to get started, but not all are created equal. Before jumping into the templates themselves, here’s a list of features you’ll want to include to ensure that your site looks professional and functions at the highest level.
Key features of any template:
- A responsive design
- Regularly released updates
- Compatibility with all major browsers
- Sufficient support and documentation
- Optimization for search engines
- Optimization for speed
- Translation ready
Now, let’s take a look at some vetted themes, all of which are specifically designed for publishers.
The Best WordPress Themes
The ColorMag theme has an impressive 764 five-star reviews and for good reason. The responsive, polished design lends itself to any topic from news to lifestyle to gaming. It has a heavy emphasis on featured post images and color-coded categories and tags, which makes it visually appealing. You can choose a primary accent color for site links, buttons and menus. And, most elements are implemented through sidebars and widgets, including ad placements, so there’s no need to alter the source code.
NewsCard is a clean and professional-looking template built with publishers in mind. Monetizing with ads is easy, thanks to the pre-built ad space that sits just below the navigation bar and the ability to insert ads into posts and sidebars. The free version includes two ready-made layouts, which you can import with one click. Use them ‘as is’ or customize the theme’s colors, fonts and sidebar content for a unique look.
Hueman is one of the most customizable free WordPress themes on the market. You can select any color for the header, footer and top navigation bar. The theme includes unlimited widget areas and ten post formats, plus you can design each page differently if you choose. This image-heavy theme also has special toggle sidebars that make browsing on mobile devices effortless.
MagBook comes with four demo themes, each offering a distinct design. Use a mix of grid-based content layouts across the homepage to keep your site visually exciting for readers as they scroll. It’s also super easy to monetize with the template’s built-in ad spaces.
There are a few aspects that set the Poseidon theme apart. Its full-screen image slideshow is eye-catching, allowing you to highlight posts from a category of your choosing. The template is also one of the sleekest, making great use of white space and bold typography.
With its homepage layout and four different post layouts, HitMag lets you create a magazine-style website The most interesting design aspect is the template’s detailed image slider, which uses engaging thumbnail navigation. Take advantage of the included related posts feature to keep users on your site for longer.
With pre-designed demos for news, sports and fashion-focused publishers, CoverNews makes it as easy as possible for publishers to launch their sites. Add your brand’s touch to the site through color category options and up to seven custom widgets.
Black & White
Don’t be fooled by this theme’s name: Black & White. When readers land on your site, yes, all the images are black and white, but when hovered over they change to full-color. This particular design lends itself to edgier publications with a minimalist approach.
With demo layouts for fashion, technology, gaming and news, the VMagazine Lite theme covers the needs of most publishers. Create an original-looking site with unlimited theme colors and plenty of customization. Plus, it’s WooCommerce ready. If you plan to sell any products, this theme has all you need.
If your website content is about architecture and interior design or travel and tourism, you’ll appreciate Elegant Magazine’s specific demo templates for those industries, plus three more that are applicable to any publisher. Although there are fewer layout options than some other templates, you can use widgets and customization to make the theme your own.
If you want plenty of content on your homepage and for it to still look clean and organized, Madd Magazine is your template. The theme keeps colors to a minimum to highlight post images and bold typography. The responsive slider also supports video, which is a nice perk.
MH Newsdesk Lite
The MH Newsdesk Lite theme utilizes flat design for a simplified and uncluttered presentation of your content. The template makes it simple to emphasize breaking news or popular articles and includes some designated spaces for ads. Although the theme isn’t packed with extras, it will serve your current needs well, and you can upgrade to the paid version easily when your business is ready.
Catering to online publishers, the Mag Lite developers created this theme with a one-click demo import that’s well-structured out-of-the-box, but also allows for customization. The free version includes the ability to add a background image, mobile menu, sidebar layout options, nine custom widgets and more. With this theme, you’ll quickly have a professional site up and running.
Maggie Lite offers a template perfectly designed for publishers. The color category backgrounds pop off both the dark and light theme skins. The full-width featured slider will attract site visitors, and you can grab their attention with the included news ticker. The theme is AdSense optimized and includes WooCommerce integration, helping you monetize your site in multiple ways.
As the name suggests, SuperMag is a super theme for any magazine-style site. If you’re building an engaged readership, the social media integration and threaded comments features are beneficial as well.
Taboola: The Must-Have Plugin for Publishers
As a publisher, you can easily monetize your site with native advertising through Taboola’s WordPress plugin. Using sophisticated algorithms, the Taboola widget recommends personalized content to each site visitor. The content items can be a mix of your content, increasing time on site, as well as external content from advertisers for which you’ll earn a share of the advertising revenue.
If you’re interested in other recommended plugins, check out this article.