10 HTML5-Ready Blank, Bare-Bones and Naked Themes for WordPress

If you are a WordPress Developer and are looking for an easy way of rapidly building HTML5 ready themes without having to re-write the same WordPress code over and over, then this post is for you!

Blank, bare-bones, naked, themes, or whatever you prefer to call them, are a life-saver for developers who have to build WordPress themes on a regular basis. They are stripped-back themes that have had all of their surplus non-essential code stripped away, leaving only the bare necessities and a fantastic starting point for any new project.

Previously, we had published a post (10 Blank/Naked WordPress Themes Perfect for Development) covering barebones WordPress themes but, at the time, there were very few themes that were HTML5 ready. Now, with HTML5 being embraced by most developers, the availability and demand have sky-rocketed.

In this post, we feature ten blank, bare-bones or naked HTML5 ready themes, each with varied degrees of ‘nakedness’ and each offering different features and functionality.
We have also added The Constellation and the HTML5 in TwentyTen themes, which are not really blank themes, but are chock full of features that make them good enough as a starting point for any WordPress project.

If you’re looking for the latest free WordPress Development Frameworks, take a look at this post.

Roots WordPress Theme

Roots WordPress Theme

Roots is a starting WordPress theme that has been built with the HTML5 Boilerplate, Blueprint CSS/960.gs, and is hNews microformat ready.
Roots includes many amazing features, here are some of its key features:

  • HTML5 Boilerplate’s incredibly powerful .htaccess directly from the theme
  • Blog posts are based on the hNews microformat as recommended by Readability’s Article Publishing Guidelines
  • Home page created with some temporary lorem ipsum
  • Primary and Utility navigation menus are created
  • Automatically sets the permalink structure to /%year%/%postname%/
  • All static theme assets are rewritten to the website root (/css/, /img/, and /js/)
  • The search results show up with a clean /search/query/ URL rather than /?s=query
  • Robots.txt optimized for SEO as recommended by the WordPress Codex
  • Simple page templates for full width, sitemap & subpages

Handcrafted WP Starter Theme

Handcrafted WP is an almost-naked HTML5 ready starter theme based on Ian Stewart’s Toolbox Starter Theme and Paul Irish & Divya Manian’s HTML5 Boilerplate. It comes with a very basic layout and is packed with a kick-ass array of useful features and functions to get you started. Here are some of the key features:

  • Cross-browser compatible
  • HTML5 ready with reset
  • IE specific classes for maximum cross-browser control
  • iOS, Android, Opera mobile-adaptable markup & CSS skeleton
  • Google CDN hosted jQuery with fallback
  • HTML5 Shiv to enable support for IE
  • Custom Post Type with custom icon ready to go
  • Post formats ready to go but commented out

HTML5 WordPress Shell

HTML5 WordPress Shell

This is an updated version of the original WP Shell, this time making use of HTML5. It is a fantastic starting point for quickly creating themes using HTML5 with an abundance of features:

  • Custom template examples and 404 & 503 error pages
  • It Includes the The mother of all WordPress BODY tags
  • Support for WordPress’ new new menu system
  • Modernizr (HTML5 feature detection) and HTML5 reset stylesheet
  • Well thought out HTML5 document outline good for SEO and Accessibility
  • It includes @font-face examples
  • Supports iPhone detection
  • Includes IE conditional stylesheets

Toolbox – An HTML5 WordPress Starter Theme

Toolbox - An HTML5 WordPress Starter Theme

Toolbox, developed by Automattic, is not as feature rich as any of the other blank/bare-bones themes in this article. What it does do is give you a completely un-styled blank canvas, with some of the exciting new HTML5 elements like <article>, <header>, and <nav>, so that you can quickly build your own HTML5-ready theme.

HTML5 Boilerplate for Thematic

As the title states, this is a Thematic theme for WordPress using the HTML5 Boilerplate. Its theme has been based on the WordPress default theme Twenty Ten, and makes use of some of its features, as well as layout options from Thematic, to create an effective boilerplate for development.
HTML5 Boilerplate for Thematic →

Starkers HTML5

Starkers HTML5

Developed by Nathan Staines, Starkers HTML5 is a bare-bones WordPress theme created to act as a starting point for the theme designer. Just like Elliot Jay Stocks’ original and very popular version of ‘Starkers’ this theme is based on the current WordPress default – ‘TwentyTen’. Free of all presentational elements and non-semantic markup, Starkers HTML5 is the perfect ‘blank slate’ for your WordPress projects, as it’s a stripped-back version of the ‘Default’ theme.

HTML5 Reset WordPress Theme

HTML5 Reset WordPress Theme

The HTML5 Reset WordPress theme is a blank theme based on the HTML5 Reset templates. In addition to all the standard WordPress elements and classes, they have added the code required so that the single post template conforms with the hNews microformat.

H5 WordPress Theme

H5 WordPress Theme

The H5 Theme Template offers everything you need to create beautiful themes with HTML5. It has a complete set of theme files and folders, and each file being meticulously crafted with all of the latest and greatest WordPress functionality. As a template theme, H5 is designed with easy customization and personalization in mind, serving as a solid starting point for your next HTML5-based theme.

Brave New World WordPress theme

Brave New World is free of layout and styling beyond a modified version of Eric Meyer’s reset CSS and a baseline typography. Just like Elliot Jay Stock’s Starkers theme, this is a base theme free from cruft yet incorporates HTML5, WAI-ARIA landmark roles and hCard and hAtom microformats.

Constellation Theme for WordPress

Constellation Theme for WordPress

The Constellation theme, not as bare-bones as others, is a highly optimized WordPress framework rewritten from the ground up using HTML5. It gives you the flexibility to offer bespoke styles for different devices (includes media queries for several devices), totally up-to-date HTML5 code which is fantastic for SEO, a flexible grid system on top of all the other goodness bundled into the HTML5 boilerplate.

Use HTML5 in WordPress TwentyTen

Use HTML5 in WordPress TwentyTen

Built to accompany an article in Smashing Magazine, TwentyTen Five is an HTML5 upgrade of the default WordPress TwentyTen theme that brings brand new HTML5 elements and functionality to WordPress.

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Paul Andrew

Paul is the founder and editor of Speckyboy Design Magazine. He has many years experience within the web design industry and a passion for the latest web technologies and design trends. He lives in the small town of Inverness in the north of Scotland. Follow him on Twitter.


  • wow! nice list! will try this as base plate for wordpress theme, thanks for posting this!

  • A great post for WordPress developers like me. It will help me understand how HTML5 can be used with WordPress. Thanks an tonne

  • Ed

    cool! i didn’t realise there are lots of html5 blank themes already.

  • Sergio

    Can anyone suggest a good barebone for someone with little experience creating themes? I don’t have the patience and/or knowledge to discern every single one of the themes mentioned above. I would like to learn step by step from the documentation provided on the links.

  • Eric Rowan

    @twitter-22992563:disqus Do you know if Bones supports the 1140 CSS Grid? Or what it would take to make that happen? I’ve been struggling with Roots all day, but I can not bend it to my needs.

  • Toolbox is not “completely un-styled” blank canvas.
    It’s a bloated framework with lots of unnecessary and annoying things, as is Thematic and everything made by Automattic team.

  • TwentyTen Five  is really awesome platform to create wonderful wordpress website with HTML5. HTML5 can be used with WordPress.Thanks for nice info.

  • Man this is the exact article I need to start my next project.  Like starting with a fresh start. Thanks Specky!

  • Thanks! Thisis Just what I needed.

  • Nice list, will come in handy!

  • Lot of these themes are GROSSLY OUTDATED and/or NOT really a “blank” themes, Roots for example is anything but “blank” theme. its more like a framework enslaving wordpress loop rewriting your database and ruining your existing setup beyond repair. I liked starkers but they also decided to “improvise” and changed the “mechanism” forcing you to learn their method of how wordpress “should” work.

  • these naked themes are just the right platforms for creating awesome themes.