It’s interesting to look back at our previous WordPress themes round-ups. It’s almost like looking at a visual timeline not only of WordPress’ advances in theme design, but of the rapid development in functionality of the CMS itself. The themes from year to year clearly differ in style as Web design trends have evolved. As each year passes and more functionality is added to WordPress’ core, these improvements are strongly reflected in the themes developed for it.
Once upon a time, all WordPress themes looked like traditional blogs, with basic functionality and not a heck of a lot more. But as you will see from the themes below, that original “blog” design style is clearly gone, perhaps never to be seen again. It makes you feel nostalgic.
Nowadays, user requirements for WordPress themes are very high. Users expect all themes (including free ones) to have pages for admin options built in, where you can quickly set up your website and personalize it with a minimum of fuss. With the rise of these options pages, niche-specific theme designs (such as for portfolios, blogs or magazines) are no longer required and are, in fact, few and far between.
Most of the themes below can be tailored via the options panel to be anything you want, whether a portfolio, a content-heavy magazine-style website or a basic blog. Setting one up takes only 10 minutes. This actually gave us a few problems when it came to categorizing the themes below. We spend a lot of time researching, collaborating on and writing these round-ups. In fact, it is a Smashing Magazine tradition to publish the top 100 WordPress themes from the previous 12 months (this is our fifth edition).