ModernThemes Launches Site Dedicated to Providing Free WordPress Themes


ModernThemes is a new WordPress theme site dedicated to giving away free themes. The themes were designed and developed by Robbie Grabowski and Mike Driscoll, the folks behind a group of agencies that specialize in custom WordPress work. The duo created the site in order to make modern themes and give back to the web community.

Currently, ModernThemes offers a dozen free themes in multiple categories, including video, resume, e-commerce, business, and portfolio. They plan to add new themes every month, and the next one on deck is a blogging theme for posting and sharing recipes.


All of the themes are based on Underscores and the Simple Grid. Many of the themes offer support for WooCommerce, WordPress SEO, Advanced Custom Fields, and other various plugins. The team behind ModernThemes strives to keep theme and plugin functionality separate as much as possible. They aim to be plugin-friendly, as opposed to plugin-heavy.

While the free themes offered on the site have beautiful, appealing designs, they would not be able to pass WordPress’ theme review guidelines. A cursory sweep with the Theme Check plugin reveals a number of errors that would preclude ModernThemes’ products from being listed in the Themes Directory.

On the plus side, the themes utilize the native customizer exclusively, which will help them to keep pace with advancements in WordPress over time. When you install a theme from ModernThemes, you’ll find dozens of options available in the customizer for personalizing your site.

Demo content for the themes is available in the zip file, but documentation seems rather sparse. Getting your site to look similar to the demo will require a bit of time spent in the customizer, tweaking various sections. ModernThemes offers a basic video tutorial on using the customizer to set up the themes.

Free theme projects like this one tend to be influential in raising the bar for commercial theme developers. It will be interesting to see how long the ModernThemes team can sustain a free themes shop without any direct monetization. The project has plenty of potential and we’ll be watching to see how the site evolves in the coming year.


27 responses to “ModernThemes Launches Site Dedicated to Providing Free WordPress Themes”

    • Downloading on their site requires a sign up so I suspect being on the WordPress theme repo isn’t ideal for what they want to accomplish.

    • Spellcheck is on “Want great free WordPress themes? Look no further.” should say “WordPress” ;)

      Sorry had to mention this.

      But yeah, definitely something we need to move to WPORG like now!

    • Thanks for the article, Sarah! We have a few themes ready to submit to the repo :) Eventually, they all will be available through – We wanted to wait for some feedback and suggestions before submitting to the masses.

  1. “On the plus side, the themes utilize the native customizer …”

    I think recent discussion on the Tavern has established that this isn’t necessarily a plus at all.

  2. @KTS915 – I think you and one other person voiced a dislike for the customizer.

    The reason WP introduced the customizer in the first place was to show everyone how a “theme options” panel is supposed to work. That’s all the customizer is, a theme options panel.

    Anywho, I think some people here are just a little too nit picky

    I think a theme should be compliant and use the unit theme tests and follow the guidelines. They should also use the Theme Check Plugin (however we all know this isn’t an indication the theme is solid at all).

    I think its a good thing they are willing to rework their themes to get them into the repo

    • @Thomas,

      Two others actually. But, interestingly, absolutely no-one has come along and put forward a case for the Customizer. Even you have not. It’s just been assumed to be a good thing. But assumptions are dangerous.

      • I have 40,000+ users at Theme Hybrid. I haven’t had one complaint about the customizer but have heard a lot of praise. That’s my case. Personally, I don’t need any other cases, but I could list some other reasons if absolutely needed.

        • Of course you don’t. But, if the purpose of the Customizer is, as suggested above “show everyone how a ‘theme options’ panel is supposed to work,” then the only way to know if it’s working would be to carry out some A/B testing.

          Otherwise, those using Theme Options pages can equally claim that their method is superior. And they have no interest in carrying out A/B testing either.

          So it’s assumptions all round.

          • I’ve done testing with both, gathered polls from users, sat down with people one-on-one, and collected data based on general feedback. I’ve made no assumptions. I have real-world data to use and make no assumptions about what I’m doing.

            Like I said, this is data from my own set of users, so I can’t speak for everyone else. But, I will make an assumption that it’s by-and-large the same from others based on what I’ve heard from other people running theme businesses. Assumptions aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

            Anyway, I’ve put forward my case for the customizer as you have asked.

            • Thanks, Justin. That’s fair enough.

              My broader, initial point in this thread was that the Customizer isn’t “necessarily a plus” at all. To be “a plus,” it would have to be better than the alternatives. To be “necessarily” a plus would suggest clear agreement or evidence to that effect.

              You are, of course, aware that there are developers with sales of themes much greater than yours, who say precisely the same about their Theme Options pages as you do about the Customizer.

              That doesn’t make them any more right than you. It does, however, mean that assertions that the Customizer is “necessarily a plus” need to be challenged. If assumptions aren’t challenged, then things don’t improve.

          • I’m not actually aware of any theme authors who say the same thing about theme options pages. I feel pretty sure there are some. Now, I do know many theme authors who simply don’t know how to utilize the customizer, some of whom I’m now teaching.

            Sarah wrote this article and calls using the customizer a plus. Therefore, it is a plus. This is an entirely an opinion of hers. She made no claims otherwise.

            Anyway, I was simply making my case for the customizer. If you have some real issues with the customizer, have you brought these issues up on Trac? The customizer is here to stay whether you or I like it. It’s the core-supported way to do theme options. The only way we make that better is by reporting issues on Trac, bringing things up in team meetings, and leaving notes on the Make blogs.

            • “Sarah wrote this article and calls using the customizer a plus. Therefore, it is a plus.”

              Now that’s just silly. There’s a big difference between stating an opinion and purporting to state a fact.

              You are right that the “The customizer is here to stay whether you or I like it.” Which is why I have made no comments on Trac. I have no interest in developing it, just in disabling or ignoring it.

          • Now that’s just silly. There’s a big difference between stating an opinion and purporting to state a fact.

            How could you state something like that as factual? That’s like saying apple pie tastes good. That’s not something that can be a fact nor does it mean that the person who said it needs to explain that liking apple pies is only an opinion. Of course, it can only be opinion because not everyone likes apple pie. It wouldn’t make any sense for it to be anything other than an opinion.

          • As someone who develops themes for client projects rather than for general sale, I can say that I prefer the standard Theme Options pages (using the Settings API) to the Customizer.

            The Customizer is good for basic and more stylistic changes such as colours, fonts, etc, but is not so good for more general options such as an API key, a textarea or WYSIWYG editor used for a block of text, or options which don’t directly affect the appearance of the front-end. (And yes, you could argue that API keys etc would be relevant to a plugin, and therefore go in the plugins’ settings, but I prefer to keep things as simple as possible for clients and put all the options in one place.)

            I think there is currently confusion amongst theme authors as to what should go in the Customizer and what should go under a separate options page. I’ve seen premium themes with dozens of options under the Customizer, most of which make no actual difference to the ‘live preview’ (because they’re not styling-based options).

            I think this stems from a decision by a while ago to choose the Customizer as ‘the core-supported way to do theme options’, and quietly discourage use of Theme Options pages, because that’s a good fit for the more blog-oriented themes on, and because the additional features provided on (which are not in work nicely with the Customizer.

            I would definitely be interested to know whether it’s possible to contribute to these kinds of discussions in future (e.g. preferring the Customizer over theme options pages). AFAIK, trac is great for reporting problems, bugs, etc, with existing core functionality, but not for discussing which features in core are developed in the first place and which are dropped (Theme Mods API anyone?).

  3. Yes, it is just my opinion – I consider it a plus for users that ModernThemes uses the customizer exclusively, because that means options aren’t divided between the frontend customizer and a backend options panel. Also, it enables the theme authors to more easily keep their themes up-to-date, since they are building on a core-supported feature. Sure, there are plenty of things I don’t like about the customizer but all of its issues can’t be fixed overnight. It takes time to improve things.

  4. @Justin,

    Right. So when you said “Now, I do know many theme authors who simply don’t know how to utilize the customizer, some of whom I’m now teaching,” you

    (a) didn’t really mean that as a statement of fact, because
    (b) you were just stating an opinion, and are therefore
    (c) now indoctrinating them in your opinion.

    • If you can’t have a proper discussion about the customizer, what’s the point of all this? It sounds like you don’t like the customizer and aren’t really interested in helping to improve the situation. This conversation is becoming meaningless.

      • I’d just prefer that clicking “widgets” from the drop down didn’t force you to use the customizer. I like the idea but the available width to perform fuctions is limited.

  5. I have an opinion about something with 87 degrees of separation from the original article. Can I rant about it in this thread?

  6. Firefox complains on their site about a script gone wild, causing FF to hang.


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