30 Best Free WordPress Themes for Summer 2014

The halfway point of the year seems a good time for another round up of the latest free WordPress themes. As usual I have steered clear of ‘free’ themes that are so limited that you really to need upgrade to premium to make any use of them. I’ve not tested all the themes, though all the themes look like they are from genuine sources. For themes that are not in the WordPress depository you may want to check them with the Theme Authenticity Checker Plugin or check the theme files at VirusTotal. So here goes:

1. Limo

Limo is an impressive modern free full screen theme from CodexCoder with a good range of features and options that you often only find in premium themes. ‘Limo is a beautiful HTML5 template Designed and Developed by CodexCoder. This template is validated by W3C and we attached lots of Features. Its awesome outlook and effects can easily attract visitors’. Limo WordPress Theme

2. Isis

‘Isis is a Simple, Clean and Responsive Retina Ready WordPress Theme which adapts automatically to your tablets and mobile devices. theme with 2 home page layouts,2 header style,10 social icons,4 widget ,Slider,3 page templates – Full width page, 4 google fonts, font-awesome service icon,Upload logo option ….. Isis is suitable for any types of website – corporate, portfolio, business, blog.’ Isis WordPress Theme Continue Reading for Themes 3-30

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15 Free WordPress Themes for 2014

Here’s the first round-up of new themes for 2014 including some big bold contemporary themes. It’s also good to see many of these themes offering WooCommerce compatibility. All themes are free and responsive.

1. Bearded

This looks to be one of the more impressive free themes of late with a real premium look and feel about it. I look forward to giving Bearded from bonfirelab a try.

Bearded WordPress Theme

‘A responsive CSS3 and HTML5 blogging and portfolio theme. It supports all post formats and has layout, and color options built into the theme customizer. The theme also supports the Custom Content Portfolio plugin, giving artists and other creative people the ability to share their work’.

2.Simple

This is a great full screen theme from Themesmarts who are aiming to ‘to create free or open source WordPress themes using the best and free open source resources tools on the net’. This theme, packed with features and options, looks like their best one yet.

Simple WordPress Theme

‘Simple wordpress themes goes by its name a simple wordpress theme with enough features and options to get your satisfaction a big boost. Simple WordPress theme supports multiple color schemes 5 to be exact and 2 primary color which is dark and white. Its homepage can be fully customized, using a set of shortcodes the homepage can be created uniquely.

Simple WordPress supports 3 types of page templates, Blog template which shows all the latest blog posts, portfolio template which shows the latest portfolio project and lastly is the homepage template which is used to create your homepage’.

Continue Reading for Themes 3-15

WordPress Security: 10 Steps to Stop Your Site Getting Hacked

In terms of security, an up to date WordPress site is fairly robust, but because WordPress is so popular, there are plenty out there looking to exploit any weakness in security. Before you know it, your site could be full of links to Viagra and dodgy pharmaceutical products, or worse. So what can you do to make your site more secure? Here’s a non-technical list of 10 things you can do.

1. Use a security plugin. There are two good free plugins available – Better WP Security and WordFence. Once activated, your site is immediately more secure, but the settings provide further enhancements which do not take very long to set up.

2. Don’t use admin as your user name – it gives half the game away! And ensure strong passwords – non-dictionary, with numbers and characters. This can help protect you against ‘brute force attacks’which aim to gain access to a site by trying passwords and usernames over and over again.

Continue Reading to View Steps 2-10

15 of the Best Free WordPress Themes for Autumn 2013

It’s been a couple of months since my last round-up of free WordPress themes and a quick check around the sites reveals there’s been a surprising amount of good new themes released recently. Some of the following themes are still quite fresh so bear that in mind if you are thinking of using them – most of the developers will welcome any feedback and suggestions for improvements. The themes are all responsive and it’s noticeable that Bootstrap is being used as the basis for more and more themes.

1. Vantage

This looks to be a truly impressive free theme with a host of features usually seen in premium themes. The full screen front page slider looks great plus there’s a load of widgets and use of Page Builder to help create customised layouts. It’s a popular theme with 25,000 downloads in 5 weeks.

Vantage

‘Vantage is a flexible multipurpose theme. It’s strength lies in its tight integration with some powerful plugins like Page Builder for responsive page layouts, MetaSlider for big beautiful sliders and WooCommerce to help you sell online. Vantage is fully responsive and retina ready. Use it to start a business site, portfolio or online store’.

2. Openstrap

Another very impressive free theme, Openstrap utilises the Bootstrap Framework, and offers a whole host of features with plenty of widgets and page layouts.

Openstrap

‘The Openstrap theme for WordPress developed on top of Twitter Bootstrap Framework. The theme is fully responsive and can be viewed on any device. Openstrap theme provides 6 different layouts for posts and pages, 11 widget areas, 3 strategic menu locations, nicely designed and customizable footer with its own widgets’.

Continue Reading to View Themes 3-15

Disastrous Update for NextGEN Gallery WordPress Plugin

By all accounts, the latest substantial update for the well-established photo gallery plugin, NextGEN (over 7 millions downloads!) has been a disaster. The update promised much, but has delivered little, with broken and buggy sites now scattered over the web. For the moment, this plugin is best avoided. If you are currently using it, don’t update to version 2.x, and stick with the older versions.

NextGEN has been one of the best plugins for many years but was recently taken over by Photocrati, who have clearly struggled to make the worthy looking improvements they were seeking. Let’s hope they can sort it out as although there are many gallery plugins out there, NextGEN was the most comprehensive, especially for free, which also makes you wonder about Photcrati’s decision to bring out a Pro version at the same time as the update.

See the WordPress reviews for the plugin to get a taster of some of the problems the update has created, whilst as of today, it is worth noting that only 180 of 1,630 support threads have been resolved in the past two months.

If you need to go back to an earlier version, Next GEN do provide guidance on how to rollback a version. If you have updated successfully or have been using the Pro version and like it, please let me know, so we know that’s it’s not all doom and gloom!

UPDATE EARLY 2014: NextCellent Gallery

NextCellent Gallery – NextGen Legacy – the 2013 NextGen upgrade has led to this fork from the original, which has 40,000 downloads in a few months, and is getting good reviews.

If you have Nextgen and want to change then this article – So Long NextGen –  may help.

More of the Best Free and Responsive WordPress Themes 2013

This is another round up of free and responsive WordPress themes.Some free themes also have pro versions so when this is the case take care to check the free version has the features you require if you do not want to pay for pro. For example, the Panoramica theme, mentioned in my previous article, 16 Free Responsive WordPress Themes for 2013, which is an impressive free theme, now has a pro version, and the free version is not quite as good as it was.

In general, I have tended to shy away from listing basic or lite versions as the features are often quite underwhelming,and sometimes the free version is not responsive. This is no doubt part of a strategy to encourage you to go pro or try a theme but I have only listed basic/lite versions where the free version is still a good choice in itself.

1.Customizr

Customizr is currently the second most downloaded theme in the WordPress Themes directory, and with a good slider, plenty of widget areas, easy customisations, and a clean look, it is not hard to see why. From CPO Themes.

Cutomizr Theme

‘A  free responsive WordPress theme, easy to customize , built with HTML5 & CSS3 upon the Twitter Bootstrap framework. The clean design can be used for any type of website : corporate, portfolio, business, blog, etc. Choose a skin, upload your logo, set up your social network profiles and you are done!

It also includes a handy responsive slider generator (with call to action text and button) that can be embedded in any pages or posts. The theme supports five widgetized areas (two in the sidebars, three in the footer), up to three columns, nine post formats with special styles. It also comes with seven elegant skins and three handy featured page blocks for the front page’.

2. Discover

Another popular theme is Discover, from AntThemes, there are free and pro versions but the free version offers a lot, including a good slider with a side area for a call to action. Unlike some themes with pro versions, the free version is responsive .

Discover Theme

‘A very neat and clean orange and white business theme. The theme supports widgets. And features theme-options, threaded-comments and multi-level dropdown menu. A simple and neat typography’.

Continue Reading to View More Themes

16 Free Responsive WordPress Themes for 2013

More and more WordPress themes are going responsive with fluid page layouts that work across a range of devices. Here are some of the best free ones currently available:

1. Panoramica

This is one of my favourite free options at present with some nice basic customisations and the option to go full screen. From CPO Themes.

Panoramica theme

‘Panoramica is built with the intent of adapting to as many window sizes as possible. It has a fully fluid layout that gives it tremendous flexibility, allowing you to cater to both large and small screens alike. Its polished portfolio heavily emphasizes the use of images, displaying a clean slideshow in every portfolio item. And of course, you can customize its appearance through its extensive options panel’.

2. Pytheas

Pytheas is another good free option with enough basic customisations available to help create a decent site. From WP Explorer, who have a number of good free themes available on their site.

Pytheas Theme

Continue Reading to View Themes 3-15

WordPress Plugin for a Radio Station.

I’ve been working on a few sites of late that have needed some more specific or niche plugins. One such site was for a Christian radio station that wanted a plugin for its schedule and to show who’s on air. After looking around the net, and finding quite a few others that were struggling to find good plugins for this, I found a good plugin called Weekly Schedule and complemented that with another called DJ On-Air Widget which provides a widget to display the current DJ and show on air. The drawback was that I had to enter the schedule in twice, once for each plugin.

But then I found a plugin that does both, called not surprisingly, Radio Station. It’s pretty neat though it need need a bit of customising to get the right look and feel. Radio Station provides a grid layout for the weekly schedule and displays the current on air show as well as upcoming shows. Each show also has its own page linked to the schedule and you can also create playlists.

Radio Station does the job and is relatively new to WordPress, having being developed first for Drupal. To see the plugin in action go to Cloud 9 Radio, which launched earlier this week.

Most Useful WordPress Plugins 2013

Plugins can do all sort of things to help improve your site and although there are thousands of plugins to choose from, try not to over-do it. It’s probably best not to use much more than ten. Too many may slow your site down. Those listed below are some of the key current ones.

Two good SEO plug-ins which help search engines find your site and rank it more highly. Yoast offers  great SEO solution for your WordPress blog: SEO titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs & much more. Use this or All in One SEO Pack but not both!

For more information on getting started with the All in One with this plug-in, see this good introductory article: http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/users-guide-for-all-in-one-seo-pack/

AddThis provide several of the  many social plugins out there and provides a number of social media options, ranging from their original social sharing plug-in which helps you add social media sharing buttons to posts and pages; to the follow me plugin offering follow buttons and links to your social media sites; and to the more recent, social sign-in plugin allowing users to log in to a site using Facebook, Google or Twitter rather than having to create yet another password and account:

Substantially improves the standard WordPress editor.

If you want to add ecommerce to your site, then the two leading options are WooCommerce from WooThemes and WP eCommerce:

Make sure you activate Akismet, included with your installation,  and get the ‘key’ to protect your site from spam. It really does reduce the amount of spammy comments getting through to your site. To get your key, go to http://akismet.com/wordpress/

BackWPup has been a consistent performer for backing up WordPress sites for some time but is currently not well reviewed following recent changes – check reviews first. It may be suffering temporary hiccups and return to form soon. BackUpWordPress has strong reviews so may be the better options at this time.

This makes it easier for search engines to crawl your content, which can be vital to your site’s success.

Essential Plugin if you have an active Facebook page and want to integrate it into your website. Could be more straightforward to set up though.

Not much to choose between these two – both offer easy ways to create a contact form on your site

Create your own social network for your company, school, team or local organisation with this ‘social network in a box’.

Updating your site? Adds a customisable ‘splash’ page to your site letting visitors know it is down for maintenance. Useful if you are making big changes, though it seems it is no longer being updated.

If your site is loading slowly, these plug ins speed it up – good for your visitors and popular with Google too. Check the reviews and pick one.

With over 6 million downloads, this will help you make the most of your images including options for slideshows, galleries and much more. Depending on your requirements, it’s becoming less necessary as WordPress improves its own gallery features over time.

For a fully fledged and secure discussion board and web comments manager, Disqus is the market leader across all websites, and replaces the standard
WordPress comments system.

JetPack claims to supercharge your WordPress site. An impressive bundle of assorted plugins, it  provides you with extra stats for your site, social sharing buttons, automatic posting to your social media accounts, contact forms, a carousel for your images and much more. With this plugin you are unlikely to need as many of the above! Not everyone likes it – overbloated say some, slows your site down say others. You need to register with WordPress.Com to use it.