Despite its imperfections, it feels almost sacrilegious to knock this first “official” default theme. Though the images sometimes didn't quite scale and the overflow for some of the text wasn't spot on, this was a solid theme and still looks aesthetically passable to this day – something that can’t be said for most website designs from 2005.
The arrival of Twenty Ten coincided with improvements in the WordPress backend. Compared to previous versions, a lot changed with the release of 3.0 and the new look was much closer to what we’re used to working with these days:
The new style included a header image there was also larger typography throughout, the introduction of the now ubiquitous black top border in a number of places and a snazzy drop-down menu to play with.
Twenty Eleven didn’t depart greatly from its predecessor in design terms. The tagline went to a more reasonable place, and a nicely styled search bar was introduced in the header. A lot more was going on behind the scenes however.
Twenty Eleven brought much greater HTML5 compliance to the default theme and allowed for wider user control over styling with options for page layouts, customizable colors and an additional “dark” color scheme.
The first ever fully responsive WordPress default theme, Twenty Twelve highlighted two main trends in WordPress and beyond.
It signified WordPress’ move to being much more of a full-blown CMS rather than simply a blogging platform with pages. Around the time of its release, the Links section of WordPress Core was decommissioned. Twenty Twelve looks and feels much more like a website that could feasibly function without a blog, strange though that thought of a blogless website may be to some!
Offering one of the more significant aesthetic changes in default themes, Twenty Thirteen remains one of my personal favorites on our list. It stayed responsive while massively increasing the amount of options that could be easily changed. It also, impressively, managed to suggest it could be equally easily deployed on a variety of different websites, not simply on blogs.
Twenty Fourteen was another big departure from anything we’d seen in previous default themes, turning a WordPress installation into a different beast entirely with its magazine-style presentation.
The layout was extraordinarily clean and introduced a lot more advanced styling for mobile devices with multiple moving sidebars and its folding menu.
It showcased images throughout, whether in the background with its return to a fixed maximum content width, featured content grids and sliders – both set up through the Customizer – or through the heavy emphasis on Featured Images across the theme.
More than most of the default themes we have discussed, Twenty Fifteen aims very squarely at a blogging use case. It returns to having one widgetized area and only one main menu, although it does turn a second set of social links into pretty icons.
There are advantages that come with simplicity of course, one being the level of color customisation it allows. Twenty Fifteen comes with a predetermined set of color schemes and the user can select from these to make striking changes. This is easily achievable via the Customizer, Twenty Fifteen having been very much built with that particular feature in mind.
As you’d expect, Twenty Sixteen is a default theme that looks superb when browsing on mobile. In many ways, it seems a combination of its two most recent predecessors and looks to be aiming for a nice balance between being a clean, mobile-first blogging theme and incorporating some of the more advanced features of Twenty Fourteen. Even the fonts chosen seem like a compromise between the modernity of Twenty Fourteen and the unique minimalism of Twenty Fifteen.
WordPress 2017 could be called 2016 advanced. It still continues to offer a decent platform on which to build your site. Still, some would call the default theme what it really is, a placeholder.
Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little were using an existing blogging software; b2/cafelog. When it was discontinued by their main developers in 2003 they decided to build a new platform on top of the b2/cafelog platform.
They probably didn’t know that they are about to start a journey that would eventually benefit millions of users around the globe, create thousands of jobs, and a whole industry of developers, designers, writers, bloggers, and web publishers would make their living out of it.