In October 2016, mobile internet usage officially surpassed desktop for the first time ever—worldwide.
Now while this sounds exciting, it actually wasn’t a first for mobile. Sixteen months earlier, in May 2015, Google announced that mobile search had overtaken desktop search in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.
So this didn’t exactly come from nowhere.
But the big thing that did come from this surge in global mobile usage was the essential need for websites to respond to their users’ devices and create a seamless, enjoyable experience—no matter what they were using to browse. Hence: Responsiveness.
Having a mobile-responsive website in today’s digital-first world is key to your online success, no matter whether you’re measuring your success in sign ups, sales, Google rankings, followers, inquiries or something else entirely.
And while it’s possible to fix a non-responsive website and make it responsive, there’s an easier way to get a responsive site straight out of the box.
Start with any one of the responsive WordPress themes on this (non-exhaustive) list.
What I love most about WordPress is that there’s always a good mix of both free and premium themes to meet your needs—and this collection is no different. Whether you’re looking for a free theme for your first website or are scaling your growing business with a premium one, responsiveness is given the most importance here—and that’s exactly the way it should be.
What Exactly Is Responsive and Why Should I Care?
Before I get into the actual themes, I should probably answer this question.
Responsive is pretty much just another way of saying mobile-friendly, but perhaps with a bit more purpose. If your website is responsive, it was built to work equally as well (and deliver an equally great user experience) on both desktop and mobile devices. Essentially, the structure of the site—as well as all the content and images—will adapt to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.
A good, responsive design will:
- Load quickly without any distortions
- Not need any resizing by the user to be able to view content
- Be easy to read and navigate
- Automatically change the layout of the site based on the dimensions of the screen it’s being viewed on
- Maintain a consistent presentation on every device
And you’ll be glad to know that all the themes on this list tick every box.
In the early 2000s, when the very first websites were beginning to experiment with this concept, developers threw around interchangeable words like flexible, fluid, elastic and liquid to describe it. It wasn’t until almost a decade later in 2010 when the phrase “responsive web design” was first coined by developer Ethan Marcotte.
Since then, mobile responsiveness has well and truly taken center stage as the core requirement for websites built for today’s users. Unless you’re exclusively targeting an older audience (and even then, I still wouldn’t risk it), a responsive website is absolutely essential. And there are a few reasons for that.
Why You Need a Responsive WordPress Theme
Mobile use is only going to keep growing
This is unavoidable. Mobile use has outstripped desktop use and it’s only going to keep rising. It already accounts for 51% of people’s digital media time in the US compared to 42% for desktop.
What this means is that, if your website doesn’t accommodate for your mobile users and provide a good mobile experience, then you’re alienating the majority of your audience and missing out on a huge portion of your market. You’re probably sending those potential users straight to your competitors.
It’s better for Google
Responsiveness is one of those important signals that your website sends to Google to help it recognize that the site is a good one and should be pushed up in the search results. Responsive sites are easier and more efficient for bots to crawl, have a cleaner structure and reduce bounce rates—all helpful factors for Google, and as a result, your SEO.
It’s better for users
This is a big one. Your users are what drive every success that you have online, so it’s very important that your website is pleasant for them to use and creates an enjoyable experience.
A responsive website means will load faster and will automatically adapt to suit their screens (so they won’t have to mess around with zooming or shrinking content and images). Plus, user experience is a core factor for SEO as well—so you’re basically killing two birds with one stone here.
It’s better for conversions
As a natural result of attracting more users, a responsive website will also increase your conversion rates. When people can use your site easily and find what they want, and when you can adapt your conversion elements to work for different screens and devices, people will be a lot more likely to follow through.
So, with all that in mind, here’s a hand-picked selection of free and premium responsive WordPress themes that will future-proof your website for the increasingly mobile age.
15 Responsive WordPress Themes to Supercharge Your Site
1. Parallax One
Parallax One is a solid, reliable and visually-appealing theme that could work for virtually any type of website where you want to have a smooth, single-page layout. The parallax design is popular for its quick loading and its ability to improve conversion rates by eliminating the need for users to click around to different pages.
There are two menus, a primary menu at the top of every page and a footer menu across the bottom. The one on the bottom is placed neatly above the social icons but below the custom footer text. When you’re using this theme on a smaller screen, the primary menu becomes a collapsible menu that expands with a tap.
One of the more advanced free themes available on the market, Stargazer was developed by one of the WordPress admins, Justin Tadlock—so the coding and features are on point.
It works with WordPress’s own built-in theme customizer so you have a huge range of customization options at your fingertips, and it has full content support for the beautiful display of images, video and audio files. Stargazer also boasts one of the most accurate visual editor styles, letting you see exactly what your content will look like live while you’re typing it.
3. Zerif Lite
This is another one-page theme (a very popular design choice these days) that has a clean, well-structured and appealing layout to get people scrolling. Zerif Lite is modern and streamlined, letting you make an impact with your content without users having to navigate from page to page.
It offers a really nice (and mobile-optimized) contact form, fully integrated and with customizable fields. And while the theme doesn’t come with a sticky header on mobile sites, it does provide an alternative with the Advanced CSS Editor plugin.
Other than just being a fun name to say, Gonzo is a really strong magazine and blogging theme that will present all your content in a nicely organized and intuitive way. It comes with two main styles of blog roll and five different layout modules so you can customize your mobile site to a surprisingly complex degree.
There’s also one notable, super-handy feature: The included image and code attribution page, a collation of anything you use on your website that requires copyright attribution. This simplifies the process considerably and ensures you’re never in breach—a common concern for bloggers and magazines.
Sydney is a clean, smooth and beautiful theme that lets you enjoy the aesthetic appeal of parallax backgrounds without limiting you to a single-page site. Parallax background images can be set for any of your rows on individual pages, coming to life as you scroll and providing a more engaging experience for your users.
Customization options are extensive, with choices for Google fonts (over 600 of them!), image headers, front page blocks, logo uploads, full-screen sliders and more. Sydney is well-suited to business and brings a touch of creativity to clean, professional websites.
This theme (among a few others on this list) comes in both a free and premium version, so you can go with whatever you’d prefer. Designed for magazines and bloggers, ColorMag presents content beautifully and integrates smoothly with social media pages and plugins.
The homepage is built predominantly with widgets, allowing for easy customization and management of different design elements—as long as you have a little bit of WordPress experience. While ColorMag is quite simple in its overall design, some of the more complex elements make it better suited to those who have some idea of what they’re doing.
Cost: Free / $69
Flash is a flexible, powerful and—if you didn’t already guess from the name—fast WordPress theme designed for business. Customization is a big feature of Flash, giving you plenty of options when it comes to colors, fonts, widgets, page layout, sliders and heaps more (but you should note that some of these options will be more extensive or will only be available in the premium version).
Whether you go with the free or premium version, though, Flash is a well-built and reliable foundation for creating a modern commercial site.
Cost: Free / $69
Flexible, clean and easy to use, Hestia is a perfect fit for both creative and corporate websites. You can customize design details, display a beautifully elegant portfolio and integrate seamlessly with WooCommerce for a smooth online shopping experience for your users.
Hestia is based on Material Design, a design language developed by Google that makes use of responsive animations, transitions, grid-based layouts and depth effects like lighting and shadows to create a more immersive experience on various screen sizes. It’s a beautiful theme that can be adapted to both multi-page and one-page websites.
I told you the parallax design was popular! But what I particularly like about this one, fittingly named Parallax, is that it can be used to create single-page and multi-page sites, which isn’t something you often see with parallax design themes.
It showcases your work or products in impressive parallax scrolling sections and lets you customize the header background, slider, layout and navigation as you like. Parallax is a solid and well-built theme that combines a clean, modern design with enough customization to let your creativity show on both small and large screens.
Total is big on customization and flexibility, letting you distinctively change the look of your website without having to get a whole new theme every time. It has an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop page builder that extends on the standard Visual Composer with a range of custom elements exclusive to Total.
There are two different mobile menus to choose from for your mobile site, and the theme lets you see what your site will look like on various screen sizes as you’re working with the live page builder, which is a pretty handy little feature.
This one is another flexible and versatile theme that isn’t built for any particular industry or niche. Vantage is really solid and well-built for a general multi-purpose design, and lets you tweak the details to make it work for you.
It has an especially nice portfolio section, supporting high resolution image display and featuring a filterable grid with thumbnails that makes it easy to navigate for your users. It’s also easy to customize and brand with its custom header, background and menus on both desktop and mobile.
A high-quality, professional theme designed predominantly for business users, Astrid has the look and feel of a premium theme—but doesn’t cost a cent. It’s sleek and modern, offering a ton of customization options for full-width headers, colors, fonts and page layouts so you can brand your website across every page.
It has a big team focus, featuring a built-in team member row and widget designed for highlighting the people in your team. Complete with a blog, portfolio, testimonials, client listings and full plugin support, Astrid is a great all-round business theme that will give any website a professional edge.
13. The Core
The Core is perhaps one of the most versatile WordPress themes currently available, coming jam packed with 20 different websites included—all purpose-built for a variety of industries and website formats, such as creative, corporate, portfolio, blog, shop, food, travel and more. This is actually a really great and cost-effective way of doing things, giving you the opportunity to get several websites out of the single theme.
Like any good theme, you can customize and modify all the responsive websites to work with your business and/or branding, and I like that there are 3 pricing options for more flexibility with your budget.
Cost: $49 / $79 / $179
The final single-page theme on this list, Onetone is another sleek, beautiful option that lets you put the focus on your design. The main reason why one-page websites are so popular is because you can really engage and immerse your users in a story when they’re not having to click around from page to page (especially on mobile)—and it’s the same with Onetone.
It’s a visually appealing theme that features a parallax scrolling background and a range of customizable creative elements to grab your readers’ attention right from the start—and keep it right till the end.
Spacious lives up to its name. It’s a clean, modern theme that makes smart use of white space and typography to create a large, open and expansive feel. The design and layout are minimalist and elegant across every screen size, and the space between content sections draws the eye to each one quite purposefully.
It’s a great looking theme that lets you choose between a range of page layouts, blog display types, page templates, widget areas and custom widgets so you can customize all the details to make the website truly your own.
Cost: Free / $69
My Final Response to Responsive Themes
Responsiveness is important. There’s no doubt about that.
No matter the goal of your website, it’s essential that it responds to your users and delivers a smooth, enjoyable experience—because whether you like it or not, mobile is the future.
So, best to embrace it with open arms!