The number of available themes, both free and premium, here on WordPress.com has been holding steady at 288 since the beginning of 2018. No new themes (at all!) have been introduced since the “Photo Blog” and “Small Business” premium themes were introduced in December 2017 and lots have been retired since then. Most of those have been free themes. As it stands right now, there are 91 free themes and 197 premium available to new sites registered on WordPress.com.
Brand New Day*
Dusk To Dawn*
Fresh and Clean*
Ideation and Intent*
Pink Touch 2*
Retro Mac OS*
Strange Little Town*
The Morning After*
*denotes themes that were added to this list after my initial check.
This list doesn’t include many Premium themes, because, quite frankly, I collapsed. I suspect however that Premium themes are less affected by retirement than free themes.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: On September 1, 2021, WordPress.com retired all 83 available Premium Themes. Read on to understand what this means for your site.*
If you are a brand new user here at WordPress.com (welcome!), then theme retirement won’t affect you at the moment, but it will in the future. Longtime users know, I hope, that theme retirement happens regularly. Themes are retired for different reasons including incompatible code, non-responsive width, license agreements and other changes that we users are not privy to.
Usually WordPress.com does not let users know that a theme has been retired unless an updated version of the same theme has been released, like Forever being updated to Toujours. When that happens there should be a notice in your WP Admin Dashboard about it. Even when updating to a newer version of the same theme, keep in mind that this is the same as changing themes, so keep an eye on your custom menus and widgets and if you have either the Premium or Business plans, any CSS changes you made, which is usually theme-specific and may not be compatible with your new theme.
As before, Staff will say you can continue to use your retired theme as long as you wish, the one exception is if you are using a retired Premium theme (see *note below). Regardless, be prepared for some “surprises” as new features are introduced or existing features are updated on WordPress.com which then break your site. WordPress.com generally updates retired themes only for security issues.
Not sure if you are using a retired theme? You can check by typing the name of your theme in the My Sites theme dashboard search box. If no theme by that name is found, then your theme has been retired and you might want to begin the hunt for a new one. If you recall what features attracted you to your original theme, you can use the filters in the Theme Showcase to search for a new one. Personally I can’t help but wonder why it isn’t possible to suggest other themes to users based on the one currently in use on their site or at least leave the feature tags on the retired theme page to make it easier to search for a new theme. If you’re really stumped for a new theme, contact Support or add a new thread to the Themes forum for suggestions.
Theme selection usually involves a lot of forethought and attention to what you feel is a good fit for your content. Then after activating your chosen theme you spend a lot of time setting up your site to take advantage of your theme’s special features and widgets. Here’s a pro tip: Content comes first. Don’t let theme choice sidetrack you from creating great content for your site. People are interested in what you have to say and less in how it’s presented. On top of that, many of your followers may use utilities like the WordPress.com Reader, Mozilla’s Reader and other RSS feed readers which strip away your design to present your content in a bare-boned view. And, of course, there’s AMP. Depressing, isn’t it?
If you are new to WordPress.com, you might be wondering what all the noise is about “retired themes.” At the moment it’s about limited theme choice. Sites on WordPress.com that have been around for a long time have access to retired themes in their WP Admin Themes dashboard that are not available to newly set up sites. You might be asking “how do I get one of those retired themes?” You can try posting to the community support forums to see if someone has an older site that they are not using and are willing to transfer ownership of it to you. Just keep in mind all the caveats about using retired themes I mentioned above.
Themes are like doctors and hairdressers; you don’t want to change them if you’ve got a good working relationship going. (And in an act of cosmic serendipity, two days before this post was published, my family doctor of nearly 40 years retired.)
*As with previous theme retirements, you can continue to use your retired Premium theme. However, be careful where you put your cursor. If you activate rather than preview a new theme, the retired Premium theme then becomes unavailable. The only exception is if you purchased the Premium theme as a standalone purchase. In this case, you need to contact Support directly for assistance.
Given that the majority of current themes on WordPress.com are Premium rather than free, I’m not sure where this is headed.
Featured Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com