Drupal theme websites: I recently started looking at free Drupal themes for a new website I'm developing, so I began with the usual Google search for "free Drupal themes". The good news is that there are hundreds of free Drupal themes, and dozens of websites that try to display these Drupal themes.
The bad news is that none of these sites do a really good job of displaying Drupal themes, so in an effort to save you a little bit of time I thought I'd share what I think are the "best" free Drupal theme sites.
Attributes of a great free Drupal theme collection site
If you think about the needs of a person looking for a free Drupal theme, their thought process looks something like this:
- Initially we want to browse the Drupal themes to see what's available. Several pages with nice size theme thumbnail previews of each theme is a good way for us to decide if a theme is worth considering at all. Filtering this list by various criteria would also be wonderful (which Drupal versions are supported, how many columns the theme has, whether theme layout is fixed width or fluid, show newest first, etc.).
- As we look at Drupal themes, it would be nice to add the ones we like to a "shopping cart" of themes we're interested in.
- Once we've built our cart, we'd like to have a table where we can compare the themes side-by-side.
- During our search process, it would be helpful to see additional information about each theme, including user comments and ratings. Support information is also helpful.
- Finally, if we can't find a free theme we like, we might be willing to pay a little bit for a Drupal theme, so I personally don't see any harm in mixing free Drupal themes and commercial Drupal themes. Again, the commercial ("premium") themes can always be filtered out. (Plus, if you're providing a great website like this, I respect your need to make money by selling commercial themes, or getting a commission off these themes.)
I think you'll agree that these attributes would make for a great Drupal theme collections website, and this was what I was looking for when I set out on my search. (There's a reason for me including this criteria here, and you'll soon see why.)
Before you start your free Drupal theme search ...
If I can give you one last piece advice regarding a free Drupal theme search, it's this: Before you start your search, get some paper and a pencil, and sketch out what you want your website to look like. Then, once you have something you like, look at what you've drawn, and make some notes about it:
- How many columns does it have?
- Do you want a fluid layout, or fixed-width layout?
- What does the site navigation look like?
- What sort of "look and feel" are you looking for? Corporate? Grunge? Cartoon-like?
When you can answer these questions, I recommend looking at some of the following websites.
I've tried to list the sites below in order from "best" to "worst", but really, none of these sites are ideal, so I recommend looking at several until you find what you're looking for.
Now, on to the free Drupal theme websites ...
1) Free Drupal themes - Tripwire magazine page
Amazingly, the best free Drupal theme "website" I could find is actually one page on the tripwire.com website. Created in 2009, this Tripwire.com "Drupal theme compilation" page is a good place to start. They show all of the themes they've looked at on one long page, and each theme is shown in a preview image that lets you easily say "I like it" or "I don't like it".
Unfortunately there's no way to search these themes (or do anything else, like create a shopping cart), but at the moment this web page may be the best way to look at a large number of free Drupal themes at one time.
On a related note, a website named mogdesign.eu has a similar page they call "25 beautiful Drupal themes" that is also worth a look.
2) Free Drupal themes - Drupal.org
The drupal.org website maintains a list of hundreds of Drupal themes for Drupal versions 4.7 through 7.x, shown in a linear, paged list. You can filter the themes by version, and you can also search them, but their layout is just a paged list of themes, so that's a bit of a drawback; you'll still have to click a lot to look at several hundred themes.
Other than that, they have nice thumbnails of each theme, and good descriptions to go along with the themes. Again, their layout is not ideal, but other than Tripwire, they have the best thumbnail images.
3) Free Drupal themes at Themebot
Themebot doesn't have a large collection of Drupal themes, maybe 100 or so, and they're mostly 6.x themes. They do give you a preview thumbnail of each theme, but unfortunately they're too small to really make a quick yes/no decision just by looking at that image, so you have to look at each demo as well.
Possibly the best thing about the Themebot site is that their Search form lets you filter down to what you're looking for, so if you're looking for a Drupal 6 theme with a fluid width, CSS-based layout and two columns, you can narrow down your search very quickly. If you already know what you're looking for, this can be a big time-saver.
Most surprising of all is that the Themebot site itself has a 1990s feel to it (which strikes me as extremely odd for a "theme" website). If you can get past that, and the small thumbnails, it's one of the better free Drupal theme websites, though it's not great by any means.
4) Theme Garden
The themegarden.org site also has a large collection of free Drupal themes. I'm not a big fan of their layout either, and they don't have any search/filter capability, but one thing they do nice is that as you click through, they show each theme with the same content, something like the famous CSS Zen Garden website. The major problem with this is that if they have 200 themes, you have to click 200 times to see all the themes.
I've used this site several times now, and usually what I do is make a cup of coffee, click through each page, and make a note of which themes come closest to what I'm thinking about. It takes a long time, but eventually you'll come up with a short list of themes you're interested in.
The drupal2u website also maintains a collection of free Drupal themes. They let you search for themes by category (1 column, 2 column, colors, 4.x, 5.x, 6.x), but unfortunately you can't combine categories (like "Show me fluid 6.x themes with two columns"), so there's still a lot of hunting and pecking, so this isn't a real improvement over any of the previous sites.
6) Top Drupal Themes
The website topdrupalthemes.net also maintains a collection of Drupal themes. Unfortunately their layout also uses small thumbnails, and their preview page wraps the preview in an unsightly scrolling DIV tag or IFRAME, which makes a preview very annoying.
7) Free Drupal Theme (and Free Drupal Themes)
For the seventh and final Drupal themes website, I'm actually giving you two sites.
The freedrupaltheme.com website has a nicer layout than other free Drupal theme websites, but they offer only three short pages of themes, and no search or filtering capability.
A website named freedrupalthemes.net currently has about 15 pages of free Drupal themes, but again the layout shows small preview images that aren't very helpful, and their search functionality is very limited.
8) Clean, minimalist Drupal themes
I just did quite a bit of work trying to find clean Drupal themes, so I'm adding my own link here as a bonus. Here's a link to my clean, minimalist Drupal themes collection. If "clean" and "minimalism" are your style, I also created this collection of clean, minimalist website designs. These aren't based on Drupal, but if you can modify a Drupal theme, you can get your Drupal website to look as good as these sites.
Free Drupal themes - Summary
As I mentioned earlier, the state of the "free Drupal themes" website market isn't very good. When you look at the criteria I wrote above, and then look at these websites, you'll see there's a glaring gap between (a) what you'd really like, and (b) what's actually out there.
The interesting thing is that if you look at a website like TopNotchThemes that sells Drupal themes, their website is very close to the attributes I listed above. So clearly, when there is a revenue potential, website developers will take the time to create a good Drupal theme collections website.
So, my second to last thought: If you're looking to start a new website, please consider creating a "Drupal theme" website, using the criteria I outlined at the beginning of this article. You'll be doing the Drupal community a great favor, and my guess is that you'll be able to make some money with this approach as well. Google loves context-sensitive ads, so if you're showing Drupal themes, I'll bet Google Adsense will be showing commercial Drupal theme ads right next to your free ones. (Seriously, if I didn't have so much going on already I'd take this project on myself.)
And now, my final thought on the Drupal theme search process: If you don't find something that you like for free, look at purchasing a Drupal theme (Google for "premium Drupal themes"). Or, if you have the time and technical know-how, do what I've done before and start with the Drupal Zen theme, which people refer to as "the ultimate starter theme". The Drupal Zen theme does have great online documentation, and if you really want to learn about Drupal theming, it is a great place to start.