Blank Themes, Frameworks and Templates: Resources to Speed Up Your Development Time

by Steven Snell

August 20, 2008 in Resources

As a designer, anything that you can do to make more efficient use of your time will ultimately increase your productivity. When you’re starting a new design you probably do many of the same tasks over and over again to build the foundation of the site. I’d like to point out a number of resources that others have created to streamline the process and give you a starting point that can save you some time.

CSS frameworks are of course popular for this purpose, and there are a number of different frameworks available. However, outside of the typical framework choices there are some other great resources including skeleton templates that will simply give you a starting point for your design that you can style in any way you like.

Additionally, for WordPress designers/developers there are a few different blank themes that you can download. These themes will include the standard WordPress files and the coding to have a functional site (which can save you a few hours) but they’ll leave the styling up to you.

UPDATE: We recently launched a gallery site to showcase the best blog designs for your inspiration – Blog Design Heroes.

Blank HTML/CSS Templates

Dyanamic Drive

Dynamic Drive provides a large number of CSS layouts, including two column, three column, fixed width, liquid layouts, and CSS frames.

Code Sucks

Code Sucks offers over 90 free CSS layouts. There are over 50 fixed width layouts and over 40 faux column layouts.

Code Sucks

Layout Gala

Layout Gala has 40 CSS layouts to choose from. You can download them individually or as a pack.

Layout Gala

CSS Creator

CSS Creator is a little bit different from the others. Rather than providing blank templates, you will enter the details that you want and it will create the code for the layout.

CSS Creator

Blank WordPress Themes


Whiteboard is a free WordPress theme framework. It contains all the necessary tags and files, plus a little bit extra. Unfortunately there is no demo available on the site. I’ve downloaded it and it really does give you a blank theme with just the basics (see image below).



Elliot Jay Stocks has created the Starkers theme with no formatting whatsoever, just the basic WordPress coding. Again, there is no demo available on the site, but you can refer the image below to see it in action.



Unlike Starkers, Naked does contain some very basic formatting. You may prefer it one way or another, so try them out and see what works best for you.


The Sandbox is a powerful tool available for WordPress theme designers and developers. The Sandbox can be easily designed just with CSS, so beginners will feel comfortable not bothering with PHP.” You can see a live demo of Sandbox at


Starter Theme

WPCandy has released the Starter Theme. It is not an out-of-the-box usable theme. From the words of the creator, “This isn’t a framework, and it’s not intended to work as a theme right out of the box. Rather, it’s a basic template that I can paste right into without worrying about typing out the loop and standard header.php information every time I create a theme.”

CSS Frameworks


Yet Another Multi-Column Layout (YAML) “is an (X)HTML/CSS framework for creating modern and flexible floated layouts. The structure is extremely versatile in its programming and absolutely accessible for end users.”


YUI Grids CSS from Yahoo! “offers four preset page widths, six preset templates, and the ability to stack and nest subdivided regions of two, three, or four columns. The 4kb file provides over 1000 page layout combinations.”


Google’s Blueprint “is a CSS framework, which aims to cut down on your CSS development time. It gives you a solid CSS foundation to build your project on top of, with an easy-to-use grid, sensible typography, and even a stylesheet for printing.”

What Do You Use?

If you’ve used any of these themes/templates/frameworks please share your thoughts in the comments.

For more design/development resources and tutorials see:

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design.Connect with Stephen on google+

  • Michael Castilla

    Aug 20th

    Thanks for sharing! If you’re interested in another WordPress Starer Theme, check out the following:

  • Steven Snell

    Aug 20th

    The starter theme is already mentioned in the post (just before the frameworks).

  • Michael Castilla

    Aug 20th

    Woops, my bad! You can delete these comments if you need to.

  • Steven Snell

    Aug 20th

    No problem Michael, just didn’t want you to think I missed you.

  • Hsiu-Fan Wang

    Aug 21st

    For the record: blueprint is not written by Google. Hosted at Google Code, yes, but not written by Google.

  • Dan

    Aug 21st

    I’ve not tried many, but I quite like this one.

  • Dan

    Aug 21st

    Oh, and while technically not a framework/template, I always use Eric Meyer’s reset css as a starting point.

  • Steven Snell

    Aug 21st

    You’re right. Sorry if that was unclear in the post.

  • Alan Whitney

    Aug 21st

    I have been a fan or YUI CSS stuff for a while.

  • Ian Stewart

    Aug 21st

    Re. WordPress starter themes: Technically any WordPress theme is a starter theme—if it’s the Parent of a WordPress Child Theme. I wrote a little about this in How I used a WordPress Child Theme To Redesign My Blog The Smart Way.

  • Amy

    Aug 21st

    Wow, what a great list of resources! I especially like the CSS layouts. Thanks Steven!

  • Shanna

    Aug 21st

    you rock Steven! Thanks for these. I need to check some of these out.

  • Shannon Snow

    Aug 21st

    CSS templates work like a charm and cut sooo much time down on those those little things like: body { margin: 0;} Awesome list. Thanks!

  • jeremy

    Aug 21st

    The elements framework is quite good.

  • Ian

    Aug 21st

    I’ve written a sandbox wordpress theme that’s been SEO’d

  • Max | Design Shard

    Aug 21st

    This post is amazing, id say im confident with css but just started using wordpres these naked styles will be awesome as i get used to coding wordpress these, Great thanks.

  • roto

    Aug 21st

    Very nice resource, Steven. Thanks a ton.

    Thanks for NOT mentioning Template Monster. ;)

  • Steven Snell

    Aug 21st

    I wouldn’t say that any theme is a starter theme. Yes, any theme can be customized and changed in just about any way you like, but these starter themes are built specifically with the purpose of others styling and customizing them. They won’t be used as is… Now I read your comment more carefully and saw the if. In that case I guess I can agree, I’m really not all that familiar with parent/child themes.

  • whit

    Aug 22nd

    Great post, I will definitely be bookmarking this and using it in the future.

    I use the 960 grid system (, on most of my projects. I really like the simplicity of it and it’s ease of use.

  • NaldzGraphics

    Aug 23rd

    very nice post.thanks a lot Steven:)


  • PureDezigner

    Aug 25th

    Great post!! Just what I have been looking for to help me build out my layouts quicker, Thanks Steve!

  • Mayur

    Aug 30th

    Great links! I knew about a few of these but you showed a few more I haven’t seen. Thanks!

  • Mayur

    Aug 30th

    Found 1 more framework source for your list:

  • Barbara Dearaujo

    Sep 1st

    This is a great list of resources. I’ve been researching around a lot lately looking for a good tutorial on how to design a wordpress theme from scratch so this will be very useful. Thank you very much!

  • whlooi

    Sep 30th

    Great list. It’s extremely useful to me as a beginner to search for a plain CSS template for WP. Thanks once again ^^;

  • Harry

    Oct 23rd

    I was going to use the the blank theme from But since I dont speak German, thats not such a great idea, so I’m very glad to find the links you have here.


  • Hasan

    Nov 24th

    hey how i use css templates

  • Gelay

    Dec 22nd

    Blueprint CSS is not by Google.

  • gypsie

    Jul 16th

    Thanks a million. As an inexperienced freelancer, I am thrilled by the availability of these valuable resources.
    Your whole site is a treasure trove.

  • Steven Snell

    Jul 16th

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you find the site to be useful.

  • iPhone Developer

    Oct 13th

    Hey its really great theme and template. Will surely follow it on my website soon. Thanks for sharing

  • Steveorevo

    Dec 3rd

    There is also a set of 6 basic WordPress ‘blank’ themes that address compatibility issues with older browsers, a nice commented CSS file and a ‘cheat sheet’ that illustrates navigating the whole WordPress elements and how to style ‘em.

  • Walker Stoffregen

    Dec 8th

    Bertrand Russell~ Guy needs for his happiness not merely the satisfaction of this or that but hope and enterprise and change.

  • Ted Pizio

    May 12th

    I am not much of an online reader in all honesty however your sites great, keep writing! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. Good luck

  • crysis 2 questions

    May 19th

    This is a excellent posting. I am so happy the on-line world still has decent written content.

  • Leeann Kenter

    May 31st

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% positive. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks

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