WordPress Default Themes: Why They Exist and Thoughts on Twenty Fifteen

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I like the Twenty Fifteen theme. It’s clean, the font is great, I happen to see it everywhere (the everywhere part might not be true- but it’s an awesome theme). Truth be told, it’s the only WordPress default theme that I truly like.

The thing is, we rarely focus on default themes. And by we- I actually mean I. Whenever anyone has asked me to recommend a theme for their site or blog, I’ve never considered recommending a default theme.

I don’t use the default theme on my blog. In fact, hunting for a new theme is probably the first thing I do when I create a new website.

Which brings me to the all important question, with all the free and premium themes available- is there a need for WordPress Default Themes?


Why Do WordPress Default Themes Exist?

Prior to the existence of Twenty * themes, Kubrick was the default theme for WordPress for 5 years. Back then, it was probably meant to be an end-all theme. But with Twenty Ten a new era began. Every year WordPress brought a new default theme- Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven… to the latest Twenty Fifteen.

The question of course still remains- why? Why do default themes exist?


#1 WordPress can’t function with a Theme

WordPress default themes exist for a reason. WordPress can’t function without a theme. Obvious isn’t it. I might prefer using a different theme- but I might be in the minority. Several users might not even know what a theme is. For such users- which are a majority- there has to be a theme activated by default.

Let’s consider that users are provided an option to pick a theme in the installation process itself. But the theme they choose might not work well. And in case of glitches the fallback theme for WordPress has to be a default theme.

The WordPress default theme is thoroughly tested across several devices, and various environments. It’s foolproof and is built to work with any setup.

At WordCamp Mumbai, Konstantin Obenland mentioned a user tested bug for a default theme, that he found while testing the theme on Google Tv! The bug of course, was fixed.


#2 To teach Theme Development Best Practices

WordPress default themes have a lot to teach theme developers. There is a lot you can learn by merely reading the source code. The directory structure, file structure, the templates provide a theme development best practices guide for WordPress theme developers.

Here’s what Lance Willett- core contributor to WordPress default themes has to say before Twenty Twelve was released:

“The default theme should show off the latest and greatest features, be flexible enough to gracefully support child themes and encourage customization, work well for a blog or a website, and sport a design that is aesthetically pleasing and a bit different from the last design. Under the hood it should represent the best in coding practices and technical excellence.”


#3 To be used as Starter Themes

Several theme developers use default themes as starter themes. That is to say, they build their own themes over them. This is because, WordPress default themes inherently follow WordPress development best practices (as mentioned), are responsive, feature rich.

“My favourite is Twenty Twelve- since it’s a vanilla responsive theme it allows you to customize all aspects of the theme”

Sumit Pore, Lead Developer, WisdmLabs


#4 For Plugin Authors To test their Plugins

There’s something for plugin developers as well. Several WordPress plugin developers use WordPress default themes to develop and test their plugins. It’s always good to test your plugins on default themes to eliminate any errors caused by other themes.

Here at WisdmLabs, we test our plugins on the Twenty Twelve and Twenty Thirteen theme. Our plugin demo is set up on Twenty Thirteen theme.

Now, I get why default themes exist. But they had never appealed to me- in the design sense. But Twenty Fifteen has changed my view. This WordPress default theme dons a clean look and fresh features.


My Thoughts on Twenty Fifteen- It’s Awesome

The Twenty Fifteen theme was released in December 2014, packed with WordPress version 4.1. The theme has an elegant and simplistic design as is blog focused.

Twenty Fifteen is a clean, blog-focused theme designed through simplicity. With careful attention to typography, the theme treats text as a major part of the user interface.

– Takashi Irie, designer, Twenty Fifteen

#1 The Typography

Twenty Fifteen uses the Google Noto Font. What’s great about this font is that it supports most languages. So with WordPress 4.1, which allows for the language to be changed right from within your General Settings, the theme does well to render the font clearly.

#2 Personalization Options

I like the option to customize the Twenty Fifteen theme. Not only is there an option to change the theme’s colors, but there is an option to add images as well.


#3 Simplistic Design

The idea was probably triggered by Konstantin Obenland- the main developer for Twenty Thirteen theme. He wrote a post when Twenty Fourteen was released, which spoke about keeping Twenty Fifteen simple- designing it from scratch and basing it on _s.

But the simplistic design is the outstanding feature of the Twenty Fifteen theme. The clean look, coupled with the great font makes it a perfect theme for content focused websites like blogs.

” Twenty Fifteen focuses on content, and overcomes the main flaw in Twenty Fourteen – which is the narrow area provided for content”

Ankita Raikundalia, Senior Front-end Developer, WisdmLabs


I’d say, the liking of theme design is purely subjective. So maybe simple designs are what I prefer. Your thoughts on Twenty Fifteen theme or WordPress default themes in general, might differ.

So now over to you.


What are your thoughts on WordPress default themes? Do you like the Twenty Fifteen theme? How could WordPress default themes be improved? Share your thoughts and views in the comment section below 🙂



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