ProfHacker icon


Challenging the Presentation Paradigm: Bee Docs Timeline


Preparing for a new semester: make plans now to manage your future stress

August 27, 2009, 03:00 PM ET

Finding the Best WordPress Themes for your Academic Needs

grey-xlFor a number of years, WordPress ( has been enjoyed increasing attention in the academic community.  It is open source, has an incredibly easy install process (especially for a server side app), is remarkably flexible, and has a great development community behind it.  Part of the allure of WordPress is that it has a very flexible templating system.  If you are so inclined, you can build a theme pretty easily – all you really need is a decent knowledge of CSS & XHTML + a little PHP.  But what if you don’t want to dig your hands into developing a custom WP theme?  The great thing is, as mentioned before, there is an incredible community of developers behind WP – including people who develop themes (both free & pay).  The big question is where can you go to find great themes for WP.  Here are some places to start:

There is also the issue of premium themes – themes that you’ll need to buy.  The popularity of WP as a publishing platform has created a market who want to develop and sell themes.  The good thing is that premium WP themes are usually more polished and fully featured than most free WP themes.  The downside is that (duh) you have to shell out money for them.  There doesn’t seem to be a sense of how much premium WP themes should cost.  So, you’ll find themes that are $20 and themes are are $90 (or even more) – its a matter of looking around.  Here are some good places to start:

The bottom line is that which ever way you want to go – pay or free – you’ve got a lot of options.

Where do you get your WP themes from?  Have you designed your own theme and want to share?  Is there a great resource you want to share with other profhackers?  Please share!


1. Andre Malan - August 27, 2009 at 04:16 pm

What in your experience though, constitutes a good theme in a classroom setting? What do you look for?

Also, if people are looking for a nice list of courses offered in WordPress so that you can see how different themes work, UMW blogs has a great one here.

2. Ethan Watrall - August 27, 2009 at 07:46 pm

Ultimately, the theme you choose depend on the needs of the class. So, a single column template might work for a writing class. On the other hand, a more complex design (multi-colum, multi-column + header/footer, etc) might work if you want to display multiple streams of information or you have a more robust information design/ information architecture.

Beyond design, I look for a theme that (at the very least) is standard compliant, works with the most recent version of WP (2.8), supports widgets, and has clean code (logical architecture - ie. the header.php file has the right stuff, the footer.php file has the right stuff, etc, etc, etc)

3. Prof. Hacker - August 27, 2009 at 10:16 pm

And you might want to check out ScholarPress (a.k.a. @ScholarPress), "a hub for developing WordPress plugins for education."

4. Brian Croxall - August 30, 2009 at 11:06 am

Thanks for these resources. I'm just new to using WordPress for my own site and for my classroom, so I've been looking for a good way to find some themes.

5. Encee - September 25, 2009 at 08:03 am

Atahualpa is a flexible, free and fantastic Wordpress theme that can be used for academic sites as well. It has about 200 options that can be easily configured by novices; thats why I use it. Thematic has a squeaky clean interface but its gut (code) is complicated. Cutline has good typography, but it has its drawbacks. Themes are important but good content is essential.

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.