Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Free ‘Starkers’ Wordpress theme

Posted on 27 January 2008 102 comments

Article illustration for Naked Wordpress theme

UPDATE, 18.09.2008: Starkers has been updated for compatibility for WordPress 2.6.2. Please read (and leave new comments on) this post.

starkers |ˈstärkərz| [ adjective [ predic. ] informal chiefly Brit.; 1. completely naked : “they ran starkers across the stage!” ]

Whenever I create a new Wordpress-based site, I find myself going through the same routine: installing the latest version, making a copy of the ‘default’ theme, and then tearing out all the styling and unnecessary HTML before starting on my own theme. It’s a process many of you probably go through; at least those of you who make your own bespoke themes.

It dawned on me the other day that this is an incredibly laborious process and it was about time I did something about it. Wordpress is an incredibly well-written blogging engine and its standards-centric build is great, but it’s still full of markup that just doesn’t need to be there. It’s time to discard the robes and get naked!

Download button

It’s worth noting that Darren Beale did something similar, but he still retained some basic formatting. My theme has no formatting whatsoever, meaning you have a complete clean slate on which to work. In fact there’s even some resetting done in the stylesheet, leaving you to build everything from the ground up and not worry about browser defaults coming into play.

For those looking for a beautifully-designed free theme, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place, but this will hopefully assist those of you who make your own Wordpress themes regularly.

Features

  • All non-semantic, presentational class names removed
    (e.g: class=“center”, class=“alignleft”)
  • All non-semantic, presentational HTML elements removed
    (e.g: <hr />, <br />)
  • All unnecessary elements removed
    (e.g: <div class=“entry”> disappears entirely; <h3 class=“comments”> simply becomes <h3>)
  • Elements converted where necessary
    (e.g: <small> becomes <p>)
  • Code indentation / tabbing cleaned up to better represent nesting
  • Browser defaults reset in the stylesheet to give a true ‘clean slate’

Disclaimers

  • This theme is provided ‘as is’, with no promise of support, although I’ll help out when I can.
  • If you do need support, use the comments area below. Please do not email me.
  • All functionality remains the same as the ‘default’ theme supplied with the WP installation (Wordpress v2.3.2 and ‘Wordpress Default’ theme v1.6 (by Michael Heilemann))
  • Dummies photo from iStockPhoto

I hope you guys find this useful. Please let let me know if you do by commenting below! I certainly plan on using it myself for the foreseeable future.

102 comments

  1. Sean Delaney

    Sean Delaney

    27 January 2008 @ 11:15PM #

    Hi Elliot

    You seem very busy – i’ve had about 7 twitter txts from you today already!

    I was actually thinking of doing this myself today and have been looking at the default wordpress theme trying to work out how I’m going to strip it down.

    I think your blog post just came at the right time and it will save me alot of time so I’ve downloaded your clean slate theme!

    Cheers

    Sean

  2. Jina Bolton

    Jina Bolton

    27 January 2008 @ 11:15PM #

    Have you looked into Sandbox? It has very minimal styling and is filled with Microformatty goodness. Speaking of — is Starkers free of Microformats now? I think I’d have left that in, but hey, it’s not my theme. :D

  3. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    27 January 2008 @ 11:24PM #

    Wow – that was quick!

    @ Jina: Thanks – I hadn’t heard of Sandbox (looking into it now). And no, don’t worry, I didn’t remove any microformats (not that there are many in the default theme anyway). :)

  4. ia

    ia

    27 January 2008 @ 11:38PM #

    To answer your question on Twitter (heh), I think that yes, I almost always modify the base theme because some code in it just feels like excess baggage. At least in certain projects. (I must rant about things like why not enclose the whole comments_template block with #comments just for good measure. But that’s just me.)

    I think the default needs a bit of updating. Just a tiny bit, since WordPress is ahead of other (crappy) CMSs out there.

    I do agree that Sandbox looks nice, but say if you want control over where your dates, categories, etc. go, you’d have to edit the theme anyway. I love Sandbox, but if you’re going to release a theme that’s supposed to please many other people, it’s nicer to customize those things (much like Widgets :).

  5. prisca

    prisca

    28 January 2008 @ 12:21AM #

    Elliot, thanks so much for sharing your template – been meaning to create one myself, for ages now… always start when I set up a new WP site, notice the same process, stripping out etc – decide to finally keep a clean copy of the template. And…. – then get carried away adding my design … and its too late, again… and again….

    for my next one I’ll use yours now – thanks :) much appreciated :)

  6. Grant

    Grant

    28 January 2008 @ 12:47AM #

    Yep, I always find myself starting from the default theme and feeling like I’m wasting a lot of time. Thanks for sharing your work – it’ll be helpful.

  7. xo

    xo

    28 January 2008 @ 01:00AM #

    Thanks for sharing! It will literally save me hundreds, if not thousands of hours of time. :D

  8. patrick

    patrick

    28 January 2008 @ 01:27AM #

    Thanks! I think this will really come in handy.

  9. Myke Cave

    Myke Cave

    28 January 2008 @ 01:51AM #

    Most of my designs follow a basic style as far as layout is concerned so after a while I’ve created my own default theme that I just duplicate any time I start a new project to save.

    I’ve never thought of using Sandbox or stripping down the default theme. I like to build from scratch or use my own base template.

    I’ll be interested in going through your theme and seeing what if anything I can pull from it…

  10. Tom Hoad

    Tom Hoad

    28 January 2008 @ 02:43AM #

    Wow it was only today I was gutting the wordpress theme, so I’m going to take a look at this and see if it will save me some hours.

    What would be cool (and helpful) would be a barebones, non-formatted or minimal formatted CMS/blogging software. Just the scary stuff running in the background, but something that can give you ultimate control over styling without getting too deep into the ‘hardcore’ stuff :)

    Does this sort of thing exist already?

  11. brontide.org [PING]

    brontide.org [PING]

    28 January 2008 @ 03:10AM #

    […] I finally made a new layout. Based heavily on a pattern and palette from Colourlovers (I need to link it) and Elliot Jay Stocks’s Free Bare Wordpress theme. […]

  12. Darren Hoyt

    Darren Hoyt

    28 January 2008 @ 04:02AM #

    Whenever I create a new Wordpress-based site, I find myself going through the same routine: installing the latest version, making a copy of the ‘default’ theme, and then tearing out all the styling and unnecessary HTML before starting on my own theme.

    Very strange timing — I’ve been sitting here all afternoon building a custom baseline Wordpress theme for these exact purposes.

    So far I’ve grabbed some essential bits from K2, Sandbox, SEO-Sandbox, Cutline and a few others and combined them with my own CSS framework. As Jina said, Sandbox is worth checking out to adapt some of the Microformats stuff.

    Anyway, I installed the Starkers theme and had a few suggestions (if you’re taking them!) …

    It looks like you’re using ‘functions.php’ leftover from the Kubrick theme. This file actually has some security vulnerabilities, not to mention most of it doesn’t apply to the Starkers theme. The ‘functions.php’ file for Sandbox actually contains lots of helpful bits which really leverage WP as a CMS. The functions file for K2 also has some tricky stuff in there, esp if you’re fond of building control panel options.

    Consider getting rid of other files which come with Kubrick but rarely get used: ‘attachments.php’, ‘rtl.css’, etc. Consider adding files which get used with every site, like print.css.

    For SEO/organization purposes, consider using more advanced conditionals for the <title> tag

    Separate trackbacks from comments in the ‘comments.php’ template

    Insert conditionals which print sublevel nav if you’re on a parent Page

    These are just some features I know I use over and over, maybe they’ll be helpful to others too.

  13. Matt Munsey

    Matt Munsey

    28 January 2008 @ 08:44AM #

    Interesting, I don’t know why I never thought of doing this my self, considering half my client sites were built using Wordpress.

    I will have to take a look at yours when I get to coding my new site up, now that I have decided to stick with Wordpress instead of moving to Expression Engine.

  14. Hamish M

    Hamish M

    28 January 2008 @ 09:16AM #

    Very cool Elliot.

    I’m actully using a modified version of the aforementioned “Sandbox” theme. It works great, and I encourage you to look at it and see what you can borrow (if anything) — I’ll definitely keep this theme in mind for my future projects.

  15. Hning

    Hning

    28 January 2008 @ 08:27PM #

    Thanks for sharing your design elliot. It will increase my knowledge coz i do like reviewing design from other. Still in learning process… Anw, your site design is awesome, very awesome. But, i thought IE cant accept your ‘semi transparent’ :)

  16. positivespaceblog.com [PING]

    positivespaceblog.com [PING]

    29 January 2008 @ 09:31AM #

    […] the full details, a feature list, and to download the template proceed to Elliot’s Blog. Posted By: […]

  17. Dave Stewart

    Dave Stewart

    29 January 2008 @ 02:47PM #

    I’d disagree with you on “Wordpress is an incredibly well-written blogging engine”.
    In my view, the API sucks badly! Mixed-up naming conventions, mixed up OOP and procedural coding practices, functions that return markup with formatting, functions that output directly to the page with no option to cache…
    You can muddle through, but a lot of it (I’m no expect) appears to me to be badly thought out, perhaps in the name of backwards compatibility?
    Good work on the theme though. Will check out that and Sandbox.

  18. Jason Milburn

    Jason Milburn

    29 January 2008 @ 06:57PM #

    Sweet, thanks. I’ve only done one Wordpress theme, my own, but I’m sure this will come in handy next time.

  19. adrianherritt.com [PING]

    adrianherritt.com [PING]

    30 January 2008 @ 03:58AM #

    […] nice wordpress themes for developers: 1. Starkers 2. Prologue Jan 29An entertaining episode from ImprovEverywhere. Mission: The Moebius Jan 29Say […]

  20. Jermayn Parker

    Jermayn Parker

    30 January 2008 @ 08:58AM #

    sandbox theme is nice but this theme promises to be stark naked were the sandbox theme is NOT!!!

    Its full of excess junk that is so pointless and to be honest probably holds more junk than the default theme.

    I am looking forward in using your theme man!
    Thanks

  21. Dave Stewart

    Dave Stewart

    30 January 2008 @ 04:38PM #

    === BEVEL ALERT ===

    “When was the last time you used a Bevel, Elliot?”
    “Oh, about 5pm on 27.01.08, when I built a “download” icon for my `Free ‘Starkers’ Wordpress theme` blog post"

    Haaaaaaaahaaaaaa…

  22. Scott Nelle

    Scott Nelle

    31 January 2008 @ 12:33AM #

    Nice one, Elliot. I’ve done something similar at work meant to solve a slightly different problem but it never occurred to me that it would be useful to others.

  23. Jonny Haynes

    Jonny Haynes

    31 January 2008 @ 06:28PM #

    Excellent work Elliot, you’ve just saved me a long night in front of my mac. I was about to do the same for fresh rebuild.

    Many thanks, and keep up the good work!

  24. Hning

    Hning

    31 January 2008 @ 10:11PM #

    Elliot,

    OOT: If i open with IE there is added banner to not use IE. Is it a plugins? Or a self ceation. Thanks.

  25. blog.davidamcclain.com [PING]

    blog.davidamcclain.com [PING]

    31 January 2008 @ 10:48PM #

    […] after I finished this draft I was over at Elliot Jay Stocks’ site and he posted about ripping out all the unnecessary do-dads in WordPress to give you a clean slate before […]

  26. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    31 January 2008 @ 11:31PM #

    I’m glad you lot are finding this theme useful – I had no idea there’d be a demand for such a thing!

    I’d like to thank Jina again for telling me about Sandbox. Quite a few of you mentioned the theme and I’ve now spent a while looking into it. Right now, I can’t wait to try it out – although not as ‘naked’ as I’d like it to be (and so I may well make my own simplified version) the dynamic class name stuff it boasts is very cool. As soon as I’ve experimented with it, I’ll blog about my findings.

    @ Tom Hoad: I think the CMS you described pretty much sounds like Wordpress, to be honest. But if you don’t want to touch any code at all, Expression Engine appears to hide the code away a bit more, so it might be worth looking into that. This is what I’ve been told, anyway.

    @ Darren Hoyt: Thanks for the suggestions. As it currently stands, ‘Starkers’ is simply a cut-back version of the K2 theme, but now that I’ve looked into Sandbox, I’m seriously considering making a new ‘base’ theme. If so, I’ll try and incorporate some of your suggestions.

    @ Dave Stewart (1): I’ll have to take your word for it about the WP backend, mate – I’m afraid I was talking about it in terms of markup rather than PHP.

    @ Jermayn Parker: I don’t know… to me it seems like the stuff in Sandbox is also pretty relevant if you want to use its dynamic class names. But you’re right: it’s not naked. My advice to people would be this: if you want a good, solid base theme to work from that has advanced functionality you might want to tap into, use Sandbox. If you just want a plain, easy-to-use version of the K2 theme, use Starkers.

    @ Dave Stewart (2): Oi, cheeky! ;) But yes… ahem … well spotted.

    @ Hning: It’s a bit off-topic, but the IE thing is simply achieved by using conditional comments to serve up an IE-specific sylesheet. Take a look at the source code for more details.

  27. stephanmiller.com [PING]

    stephanmiller.com [PING]

    06 February 2008 @ 05:26PM #

    […] Elliot Jay Stocks » Free ‘Starkers’ Wordpress theme I going with a theme for links today. I am prepping to build a new theme. So I figured I would track down a few really basic themes good for starting with. […]

  28. Dan

    Dan

    16 February 2008 @ 12:42AM #

    Have you guys checked out Matt Brett?.
    He builds websites and then just attaches them to Wordpress. This is not as hard as it sounds. Some great info on the Wordpress site on doing this.
    Just trying your theme out now…..Cheers.

  29. Riccardo

    Riccardo

    16 February 2008 @ 10:57PM #

    Thanks Master Elliot!!! :)
    I’m discovering the amazing possibilities of WP…

    ps: can u organize a web designer conference in london please?there are always based in the states…:( like aneventapart I might ask too much?

    see ya
    riccardo :)

  30. Kevin deLeon

    Kevin deLeon

    01 March 2008 @ 01:48AM #

    Great idea Elliot. I have often thought about doing this, and just never gotten around to it. It’s amazing how lazy one can be, even when it would save you work in the end haha.

    Will definitely be putting this guy to use. Thanks!

  31. Shane

    Shane

    03 March 2008 @ 12:25AM #

    Nice one Elliot – many thanks. It’ll probably be a start point for me when developing future themes.

  32. geraint

    geraint

    06 March 2008 @ 04:44PM #

    Hi Elliot,

    Love the site and i love the template but what puzzles me is why you haven’t stripped all the bespoke functions that are used in the kubrick theme to configure the header color… as in this template there completely obsolete.

    Thanks for the starting point tho!! great idea..

  33. Camilo

    Camilo

    12 March 2008 @ 01:05AM #

    Great Idea! I have never thought of something like this. I’ll use it. Thanks for sharing

  34. Rob Smith

    Rob Smith

    14 March 2008 @ 07:09PM #

    Cheers Elliot really useful stuff

  35. Rod Falk

    Rod Falk

    21 March 2008 @ 03:41PM #

    Great looking theme! I really like the layout. This will really come in handy. Thanks!

  36. Kyle Meyer

    Kyle Meyer

    04 April 2008 @ 12:51AM #

    Heya, forgot to mention to you at some point that both Typesites and my forthcoming blog design are both started with Starkers, and I’ve recommended it to more than a few new WP folks.

    As mentioned above, removing functions.php would be a good improvement (or, at the very least, empty it and just leave open/close PHP tags). The other thing that would be nice is if the comments.php file was updated now that Wordpress 2.5 has built in gravatars.

    Excellent stuff, and very much appreciated. :)

  37. Benji

    Benji

    04 April 2008 @ 03:45AM #

    This was easy for me cause i use blueprint so i was able to create my own theme, ’cause editing some can be a pain!

  38. Tim Norton

    Tim Norton

    29 April 2008 @ 10:17AM #

    Thanks a bunch for the theme! I will use it a lot, in fact I used it this weekend creating my new theme. It’s a lot easier to start building than to be building and stripping down at the same time, trying to meet somewhere at a happy middle, but not being happy with it.

  39. godonholiday

    godonholiday

    31 May 2008 @ 01:01AM #

    Hay that looks cool, I was wondering though if you or those commenting here might have a list of places you might send someone on the web to learn how to build Wordpress themes from start to finish?

    I am currently getting my teeth into ZenGarden, but I have not found any quality tutorial sites for css or wordpress?

    The standard i am looking for is inline with PSDTUTS.com

    Can anyone help?

  40. Jay

    Jay

    04 June 2008 @ 08:51PM #

    Hi Elliot,

    Does starkers still work with the latest Wordpress release?

    Thanks!

  41. Samuel Lavoie

    Samuel Lavoie

    27 June 2008 @ 10:04AM #

    Wonder if there’s any news about a new version of Starkers maybe merging with the Sandbox theme? Keep up the great work Elliot.

  42. Karl Hardisty

    Karl Hardisty

    03 July 2008 @ 12:06PM #

    I saw this mentioned in Chris Coyier’s Podcast CSS_Tricks Screencast #25, and the timing was great, as about to start work on turning a very successful sailing newsletter (‘yachtyakka’) into a blog.

    Thank you for doing all the hard work, and making it available to the rest of us.

  43. carlnunes

    carlnunes

    17 July 2008 @ 04:48AM #

    How’s this working under the new 2.6?

  44. Chris Coyier

    Chris Coyier

    18 July 2008 @ 06:34AM #

    Hey Elliot,

    On the “single.php” file, the closing div tag for the class=“post” div is missing. Just a quick fix =).

  45. Scott

    Scott

    19 July 2008 @ 06:40PM #

    Is anyone having problems with this theme? Wordpress isn’t recognizing it for me. Does it work with the latest version of Wordpress?

  46. Denis

    Denis

    20 July 2008 @ 07:28PM #

    cool theme..)))

  47. Cath

    Cath

    23 July 2008 @ 12:25AM #

    It’s lovely Elliot, thanks v much :)

  48. erdem

    erdem

    18 September 2008 @ 02:44AM #

    Thanks.. its really useful..

    Thanks.. its really useful..-——-
    selamlar

  49. 1 år med wordpress

    1 år med wordpress

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