Tutorials, reviews, case studies and other tips to help website owners and website developers master the Joomla content management system.
Free Joomla 2.5 Templates
Free Joomla templates are not difficult to come by. Quality free Joomla templates are another story. Over the past couple of years even the free templates available have gotten much better in terms of looks and performance. While you can expect links back to developer's sites in exchange for the free software on some, we have tried to find the best looking and performing free templates out there. Many on this list are from well known development teams that have massive catalogs of templates and themes at this point.
There is also a trend in offering a very basic, stripped down template with a developer's custom framework. For some website builders, this is a fantastic way to go as you start with more of a blank canvas, but have access to a framework that helps make most modifications quick and easy. These types of templates are available for most of the well known Joomla frameworks, such as Gantry and Warp.
Between the basic free templates and the framework themes we've found, there's definitely something here for everyone and every project.
Basic Free Templates
JoomShaper's latest free template offering is Zaara, and it's a very stylized but still quick-loading template suitable for almost anything from a personal site or portfolio site to a business site. Zaara is built on JoomShaper's own Helix Framework, which is detailed later in this article.
Zaara comes with 6 preset color styles and over 68 collapsible module positions. It also sports the Free Slider SP1 module for the front page slide show. Google Font support and native jQuery support are also built in. JoomShaper has provided an easy to install "QuickStart Package" for delivery.
Responsive web design couldn't be more popular these days, and JoomlArt has provided a free, block based responsive Joomla Template to work with called Elastica. The menu system is decent, and there are several device specific layouts to take full advantage of the template's responsive nature.
One great thing about JoomlArt is that they provide a Demo Builder function with each template so you can get a good idea of what it will be like to work with before you buy. Just look for the tab on the left of the screen and give it a try.
JA Purity II
JA Purity II is just about half-way between a full fledged template and a stripped down base theme for a framework. It is the default theme for JoomlArt's framework, T3, but it is much more fleshed out than some of the others listed below. It's also been a very popular template, boasting more than 90,000 downloads.
The menu system is particularly impressive on the demo site, which includes 4 menu choices, inline modules and support for embedded video.
Bloq 2.5 is a free template offered by JoomlaPraise featuring 31 module positions, a built in CSS dropdown menu and 8 different starter themes. Although this is a free template, JoomlaPraise is still providing the logo source artwork for smooth customization.
You have the option of sidebars on the left or right, and the modules are collapsible. Some nice typography styles have also been included along with some very basic Google Font support.
RocketTheme is well known for putting a lot into their templates in terms of images and style. Both of these are usually lacking in free templates; however, Grunge offers both as you would expect from this developer.
There are several highly customizable aspects to this template, due in large part to the fact that it was built on RocketTheme's framework, Gantry. More about Gantry is listed below.
The first free Joomla template to be built with RocketTheme's Gantry 2.0 was Quasar. The tabbed content sections are one its most distinguishing features, but under the hood it boasts 6 style variations, a solid CSS dropdown menu, custom typography and 60 module positions. Developers also built in 4 different module variations and an SEO optimized layout.
Afterburner has been around for a while. It's a pretty stripped down template as well. Its main benefit is its speed. It really is a blazing fast Joomla template, and its sparse design can also be a huge benefit for a developer who knows exactly what a project calls for and can modify the CSS and PHP to make it happen.
RocketTheme says that, "The size of the frontpage of a default Joomla install, using Afterburner, is 59KB." So what you end up with is an "ultra lean, fast loading and high performance template."
The template ships with 8 preset styles in both light and dark colors, and it's been optimized for a strong SEF layout.
While they may not have vast numbers of templates built up in their catalog yet, JoomlaShine offers templates for several different industries and applications. All five of their Joomla templates are compatible with version 2.5 and offer a stripped down free version. For very basic sites, these templates will be more than adequate. For those wishing to give the templates a test run, you can download the free version and have a very good idea whether or not the full version will work for your project. This is a fantastic feature of their template offerings.
While certain web developers may find the following links more useful than others, these can be a great starting point for anyone looking to get into Joomla web development in a serious way. Each of these frameworks comes with a standard "vanilla" template that is very customizable as long as you learn the accompanying system.
Those with strong coding knowledge of HTML / CSS and possibly PHP will get the most out of these templates. Most of these frameworks also come with a full package to install Joomla, the framework itself and the base template. Some also include demo content.
As mentioned above, JoomShaper also has an available framework called Helix, and the default template is designed to be fast loading and lean. While some of the other free templates only offer very basic menu systems, Helix includes a nicely complex and flexible menu system which includes Mega Menu, Dropline Menu, Split Menu and MooMenu options.
The overall design of the base theme of Helix is very minimal, which allows a lot of possibility with design choice.
The Vertex Framework is the system built by Shape5. Its strongest point is its flexibility and responsive design. It includes support for Google Fonts, has a built in color picker and provides the ability to set row sizes very easily. You also have "an average of 80 module positions" within the layout of the template.
Warp is expected to have responsive capabilities in its next release, version 6.2.
The Gantry Framework is a well known platform created by the team at RocketTheme. Many commercially available templates are now built on Gantry. It's created on the 960 grid system, includes smart phone support and 65 base module positions out of the gate. You can also add more of your own if needed. The front end grid is entirely customizable from the Gantry back end.