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.

Starkers for WordPress 2.6.2

Posted on 18 September 2008 45 comments

Article illustration for Starkers for WordPress 2.6.2

UPDATED 07.01.2009 – For everyone who keeps asking, this version works fine with WP2.7.

UPDATED 03.11.2008 – A couple of small fixes (see the read_me file)

UPDATED 29.09.2008 – Please see this comment for info

Since I released my naked, bare-bones, blank-canvas, starting-point WordPress theme ‘Starkers’ back in January, a huge amount of people appear to be using it as the basis for their own projects, and it’s become much more popular than I ever imagined. As a result, I’ve finally updated the theme to be fully compatible with the latest (at the time of writing) stable release of WordPress: version 2.6.2.

If you’d like to get it, just click on the big shiny button below. If you’d like to find out what’s new and improved, please read on…

Download button

Changes & improvements

  • The main improvements are in the way styles are organised and I’ve now included a few handy CSS rules. For better file management, everything related to style is held inside the ‘styles’ directory (except for the base stylesheet ‘style.css’ – which has to sit in the normal location – and imports the other css files).
  • Inside the ‘style’ directory, you can manage your files using the sub-directories ‘css’, ‘images’, and ‘fonts’ (for web fonts if you’re using the @font-face rule.
  • ‘Layout.css’ contains a few basic rules you might find handy to use: a <br> class to clear floats, a position of relative set to all <div> elements, and a basic style for the Theme Switcher Reloaded plugin if you have it installed.
  • ‘Typography.css’ contains a commented-out guide to better font stacks, recommended by Nathan Ford
  • ‘Functions.php’ has been stripped bare (thanks to Ben Gillbanks) and so is completely free of Kubrick’s header customisation stuff
  • Some IDs have now been kept intact (such as <h3 id=“respond”>) to preserve functionality
  • Added: a dynamic page title
  • Added: <?php bloginfo(‘version’); ?> into the footer to render the WordPress version number (handy for testing)
  • Added: ‘page-custom.php’: a base template for creating your own custom pages
  • As I’m not sure anyone still uses it, I’ve added an underscore to ‘_comments-popup.php’. Should I just delete this file, do you think?
  • Credits updated in ‘style.css’
  • Rather than call each Starkers release ‘1’, ‘2’, or ‘1.0’, ‘1.1’, etc., I’ve now opted to name each version after the WordPress build it’s been tested with. Not only does this immediately tell you its range of compatibility, but it also tells you the version of the ‘default’ theme from which it was derived.

Features, as before

  • 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)
  • Elements converted where necessary
    (e.g: <small> becomes <p>)
  • Browser defaults reset in the ‘reset.css’ to give a true clean slate


  • Code indentation / tabbing needs to be cleaned up to better represent nesting. Anyone want to volunteer?


  • 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, created by Michael Heilemann
  • Dummies photo from iStockPhoto

A word on Thematic

Since releasing the first version of Starkers, Ian Stewart unveiled Thematic, a ‘theme framework’ that I highly recommend to anyone working with WordPress. People often ask me how Starkers compares to Thematic, because – as they’re both ‘starting-points’ – they can seem quite similar on the face of it. However, dig under the surface of Thematic and you’ll see just how much power it’s got. Built on The Sandbox and then modified to add yet more functionality, I really can’t say enough good things about it. But if you ask me if you should choose between Starkers and Thematic, here’s my advice:

  • If you want something super-simple to start out with, stripped down to the bare minimum of markup, use Starkers.

  • If you want the power of dynamic class names, microformats, and some existing markup / style, use Thematic.

Anyway, I hope you guys continue to find Starkers useful. Please let me know if you do by commenting below! Please also use the comments for requests and bug reports. Enjoy!


  1. Shane


    18 September 2008 @ 05:22PM #

    Thanks for this update – I’m currently using your first starkers theme to develop my own personal site.

    Good to hear that the functions.php has been cleared out, and I reckon you’d be safe to get rid of comments-popup.php.

    Thanks again!

  2. Ian Stewart

    Ian Stewart

    18 September 2008 @ 06:19PM #

    Elliot! Thanks for the kind words on Thematic, mate!

  3. Kyle Meyer

    Kyle Meyer

    18 September 2008 @ 06:21PM #

    Awesome, I was manually readding the 2.5+ code to the starkers theme myself when I realized it was silly, this comes just in time for some wordpress dev for Clockwork.


  4. Aaron Irizarry

    Aaron Irizarry

    18 September 2008 @ 07:12PM #

    Thanks! I have used the first starkers, on a couple different occasions. I am excited to put this one to some use.

    ~ Aaron I

  5. Toby


    18 September 2008 @ 07:13PM #

    Starkers is a real timesaver. Thanks very much for this update Elliot! Look forward to checking it out.

  6. John Joubert

    John Joubert

    18 September 2008 @ 08:50PM #

    I’m definitely going to take a look at what’s under the hood. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Steve Killen

    Steve Killen

    18 September 2008 @ 10:38PM #

    Comes just in time for a new design based in WordPress, thanks Elliot, good timing :).

  8. Darren Hoyt

    Darren Hoyt

    18 September 2008 @ 11:53PM #

    Very strange – the first time you posted about Starkers I was in the middle of building my own WP framework that very day, and then second time you mention it, I’ve just blogged about Ian’s Thematic!

    These look like great improvements to Starkers. Not sure if you’ve already added it, but one thing I recently realized I’ve needed since the release of WP 2.5: specific classes for image-alignment and captions. WP Garage has a great post about this.

  9. Daniele


    19 September 2008 @ 12:21AM #

    Thank you very much for the update. I’ve used the first Starkers release to build the theme for my personal blog, and definitely I will use the current release for my future themes.

    Greetings from Italy :)

  10. ffranz


    19 September 2008 @ 01:09AM #

    Thanks! Great update…
    I will use this theme

  11. stevie


    19 September 2008 @ 01:58AM #

    Cheers dude.

    The original starkers theme was the dogs bollocks.
    I’ll be checking this one out too.

  12. jay


    19 September 2008 @ 07:28AM #

    will this work with 2.6.1

  13. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith

    19 September 2008 @ 09:36AM #

    Thank you. This is being used tonight :)

  14. Dainis Graveris

    Dainis Graveris

    19 September 2008 @ 11:26AM #

    Great job!!! I will check this out too!

  15. Mat Packer

    Mat Packer

    19 September 2008 @ 12:18PM #

    Very nice Elliot. I’ve got to start work on a couple of new blog websites this weekend so this might be an opportune moment to have a play with Starkers.


  16. Ricardo


    19 September 2008 @ 12:59PM #

    This is in my pending list, so I have to test it when I have some time.

  17. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    19 September 2008 @ 02:22PM #

    Cheers for the comments, folks! I’m glad you guys are pleased with the update and I hope it proves even more useful than the previous version in helping you create your own themes. Feel free to post links to your completed projects!

    @ Ian Stewart: You’re welcome, mate! :)

    @ Jay: I haven’t tested it with WP 2.6.1, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work. Because the theme is so simple (and the ‘functions.php’ is virtually empty), it should be very backwards compatible.

    @ Darren Hoyt: Thanks man – great tip. I’ll get these added to the next release.

  18. Leon P

    Leon P

    20 September 2008 @ 12:25PM #

    Thanks for doing this – I’ve been using Starkers as a starting point for a while, although I tend to end up re-writing everything (perhaps I should write my own base theme!)

    I quite liked it being so spare – incorporating the Yahoo reset was a good idea, but do we need any styling beyond that? I thought the point was to have a very basic file framework with which to hang a wp theme on.

    Just my opinion, but using just one CSS file is actually a lot simpler.

    Yes – get rid of comments popup!



  19. Bob Jones

    Bob Jones

    25 September 2008 @ 01:53AM #

    A great little aid for me this Elliot thanks. I’m not a Wordpress user (been sticking to Expression Engine) but thought I would start giving it a crack as it’s useful for some of the ‘lighter’ projects I have.

    Keep up the good work



  20. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    29 September 2008 @ 04:08PM #

    Thanks again for all your comments, guys. I’ve just updated the theme with the following…

    Added: WP image-alignment and caption CSS
    Added: Page listing
    Removed: _comments-popup.php
    Fixed: prev / next links typo
    Fixed: duplicate ‘h5’ typo in reset.css

    As you might imagine, this is a recommended update.

    @ Leon P: I hear where you’re coming from, and this was something I debated for quite some time – because Starkers should be as bare-bones as possible – but also it’s intended to be a building block that contains code you’d use in almost every project, regardless of the end result, and this is why I added the extra bits of CSS: I’ll always need them for every project I do. In a way they’re just an extension of the basic browser reset. This also explains why I’ve added the extra WP classes in this latest version, on Darren’s suggestion.

  21. Shane


    29 September 2008 @ 04:56PM #

    Thanks for the update.

    Just a minor issue – the “this comment” link directing readers to the update doesn’t work on your blog front page, only from within the post itself.

  22. prisca


    29 September 2008 @ 06:39PM #

    Thanks for the update, Elliot :-)

    I’m a big fan of your original ‘starkers’ theme – it’s been very handy and a great time saver for me (though I have edited it a little by now). Your latest update looks great – though personally I am not sure if I like the ‘style’ folder idea; just too used to the straight forward standard setup. But I will give it a go …

    Thanks again :-)

  23. Chris


    29 September 2008 @ 07:21PM #

    This looks fantastic. Love it. Your style of work always fascinates me. Cheers!

  24. shane


    06 October 2008 @ 10:07PM #

    I can’t seem to link my ie6 conditional ie.css stylesheet I’ve tried all the different ways I know and to no avail.

    developing this on wamp.

    I’d love some help.


  25. John G

    John G

    07 October 2008 @ 03:59PM #

    Just adding another thank you for the theme. It really is my starting point for every wordpress site I make.

  26. agi


    10 October 2008 @ 04:29AM #

    Thanks for this, used as a starting point for my recent blog redesign. Really easy to work with.


  27. Merovinqian


    11 October 2008 @ 02:00AM #

    Thanks for the kit.
    I had some problems with it. In function.php is a space after “?>” it is causing a php error.

  28. Craig


    12 October 2008 @ 06:47AM #

    Any idea why I can’t get a “page template” option to appear when creating a new page? I have the page-custom.php file in there but no option field appears. I tried copying index.php and adding the template name stuff, but still no go. When I switch to default theme, it shows up. The folder permissions are all 755.



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