12 Free WordPress Themes with Left AND Right Sidebars

It’s a real challenge to find free themes on WordPress.org that offer left AND right sidebars, with the post or page content in a central column. This is partly because it’s a less common layout, and partly due to rampant vagueness in the definitions of WordPress features. If you use the “three columns” feature filter, for example, many themes in the resulting list will have two content columns and only one sidebar. Or three content columns and NO sidebar! There will also be a few themes that only offer both-sides sidebars in the premium version. They shouldn’t be tagging “pro” features on the free version, but no one is monitoring that very closely, it seems.

Screenshot of the Featuires Filter in the WordPress.org theme repository, with the Three Columns box checked

Luckily for you, I’m working on a site that calls for such a theme, so I threshed out the true two-sidebar themes for you. Here are some free themes available at WordPress.org that allow you to select a layout with sidebars on both sides. All of the themes in this list have been updated since the last major update to the WordPress core (4.7):

Admiral (but right sidebar is hidden in default zoom)
Bootstrap Basic4
Magazine Plus
University Hub

Screenshot of a layout selection panel in Customize, with the center content, two sidebars graphic selectedIf none of these themes work for you, here’s how to check sidebar options on other themes. Install and activate the theme. Go to Customize. Look for a Layout Options tab. If you don’t see one, check General Options and Theme Options for a Layout submenu. If you still don’t see layout options, go to Widgets. You can immediately see whether there is more than one sidebar in the widget area list.

If layout selection is graphical, note that the two sidebars option is the one with GRAY sidebars. The three column layout with white on both sides gives you a narrower content column, without sidebars.

Of course, layout shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing a theme. For other design features to consider, check out 6 Important Design Characteristics of a WordPress Theme. And for tips on selecting a secure, long-lasting and well-supported theme, read Is This Theme Right for Me?

Article updated 6/24/19. All themes on the list have been updated by their author within the past 6 months.

19 thoughts on “12 Free WordPress Themes with Left AND Right Sidebars

    1. Glad if my post was helpful. Your comment inspired me to update it in June 2019. Always check the “Last updated” date when choosing a theme. WordPress itself is updated several times a year, so if a theme hasn’t been updated in the 6 months, there may not be anyone monitoring it for security vulnerabilities and changes to the underlying WordPress core files.

      My general rule of thumb is this (revised in July 2019 due to increased frequency of updates to the WordPress core):

      • Last updated more than 6 months ago: won’t use it (see notes below).
      • Last updated in the past 3 – 6 months (compatible with WordPress 5.0+): Keep an eye on it. If it has at least 1,500 users, and author seems to maintain other themes they have written and/or is providing support for the theme on WordPress.org or his/her own site, they will probably update it soon. If neither of these things are true, choose a different theme for a new site.
      • Has less than 1,000 users, and/or the author has a bunch of themes with low users that they haven’t kept updated: skip it.

      Major changes were made to WordPress with version 5.0, which was released in December 2018, and there have been numerous changes since then, including two more major updates (as of this writing, current version is 5.2.2). If a theme author has not made any changes despite all of this, it is likely they do not intend to maintain their theme with the new core.

      Customizing a theme is a considerable investment of time, so it is wise to consider how long you will be able to use that theme going forward. There are no guarantees, of course. Maintaining a theme is a big commitment, and authors of free themes may step away from that commitment at any time. However, generally speaking, if an author has been maintaining a theme regularly, the theme has thousands of users, and perhaps a premium version (so that the author is making money from theme design), that is probably a safer bet for longevity than a theme with only a few hundred users that has not been updated in the past 6 months.

      Off the top of my head, I know that Ample, GeneratePress and Tempera are still in wide usage and being maintained. I have worked with all three of them, and they are all good themes.

      This site is currently running Covfefe, which is a good example of a theme to hold off on investing any additional customization time into: I like the theme, but neither it, nor any of the 4 other themes by the same designer has been tested with WordPress 5.0, much less with the current version of WordPress. I have already invested some time into customizing it, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for awhile longer that they will come back to it, but since it is now 6+ months out of date, I would not use it for a new site. Too bad, as it has some nice features. 🙁

  1. Thanks for all your effort, Morgan
    I chose Tempora in the end, due to its flexibility and speed. I had previously been using Escapade by Godaddy which has a brilliant sidebar, but it lacks support, isn’t updated any more and I had some some issues with it that couldn’t be resolved. Other than that, it’s a great Left sidebar theme.

    1. Glad my post helped, and thanks for your comments. Tempera has been around for a long time, and is a solid theme, though its many options can be a little daunting for less-adventurous beginners who are looking for a simple theme with minimal learning curve.

      There seems to be an issue with your security certificate that is causing visitors to see a security warning. Let me know if I can help with that 🙂

  2. I have added a new theme to my blog called Covfefe.

    The theme provides an opportunity for both a right and a left sidebar.

    When I enter my control panel under the item: Cover page settings, you can see the contents of both side bars.

    The only problem is that when you go in and look at the published page, you can only see the content of the right sidebar.

    However, the content of the left sidebar cannot be seen. Here there is only one white field.

    It seems a little, as the sidebar is not wide enough to show the content.

    What can the explanation be?

    Yours sincerely

    Kai Riesendorf

    1. I’m happy to say the Covfefe theme has been updated since my March comment. Since I am also using it, I tested it with both sidebars. The left sidebar did work for me.

      Did you double check that the sidebar setting under Customize/Theme Options/General Sidebar is still set to “Both”? If it is, you may be using a widget with a fixed minimum width that is too wide for the sidebar. As you noted, it is a pretty narrow sidebar. Try adding the Navigation Menu widget to the left sidebar. That is the one I tested, and since it is a text widget, it adjusts to the width of the sidebar (though it did not look very good).

      If the Navigation Menu widget shows when you publish, the left sidebar is working, but you can only use widgets that are narrow.

      If the Navigation Menu widget doesn’t show, I would ask the theme author for help at this link: https://wordpress.org/support/theme/covfefe
      If you don’t have a WordPress.org account, you will need to create one and log in to post a question. I don’t know whether the author of this theme provides support on WordPress.org or not – authors are not required to. But it can’t hurt to ask.

      The content area of this theme, including sidebars, is rather narrow. This is good for a website that doesn’t have a lot of content.

      For websites with more content, this theme has a lot of white space on the sides that seems like wasted space. It would be nice if the theme had the option to choose width.

  3. Many thanks for the reply.

    I have checked that the sidebar setting under Custom / Theme Settings / General Sidebar is still set to “Both”.

    I also added the Navigation Menu widget to the left side panel.

    Here it is that we come to the strange.

    When I access WordPress / control panel / cover page settings, the navigation menu is displayed at the top of the left sidebar along with the embedded advertisements.

    When I then publish the blog, the left sidebar is completely empty of content. That is, the navigation menu is not displayed either.

    I hope this information can help to solve the mystery.

    1. Hmm, I see you are using the WP Super Cache plugin. Did you try clearing the cache?

      If that doesn’t work, better take the question to the theme author as I suggested in my previous response. You may have discovered a bug.

  4. Very helpful list and links to the WP theme directory. Thanks to your review it was easy to narrow my theme search for a new website to just 3 on your list.

    1. Screening and selecting themes can still be one of the most tedious and time-consuming aspects of building a WordPress site. Glad my post helped!

  5. These [deleted] making the themes are then making plugins with added features to make sidebars but they [deleted] charge you for that . [Deleted] ridiculous, at first you think are they [deleted] not to include something so [delete] obvious but then you get it… They are monetizing features .

    1. I suggest you spend several years learning the coding skills necessary to write themes and plugins for WordPress, then write a few themes and plugins yourself, then maintain them for a couple of years, scrambling to keep up with frequent changes to the WordPress core and the several underlying server software programs that WordPress depends upon, not to mention the constant and occasionally vicious complaints from users, a large percentage of whom don’t really understand what they are doing or the environment in which they are doing it, and are blaming your plugin or theme for problems caused by something else, with no pay for any of that, and then let’s talk about whether monetization is unreasonable.

      That said, I’m as annoyed by freemium themes as you are, though I express myself a little more temperately. But there are thousands of themes, whose authors may use different payment models than holding back what you and I may consider to be essential features, so just move on to another one that has the features you want in the free version. Or (gasp) if their payment model is fair and affordable, and you otherwise really like the theme, you could just buy it, and pay them for their labor.

      The expectation that there would be free themes and plugins for WordPress was established many years ago, before mobile devices, when changes to the WordPress core were less frequent and drastic, and when the underlying code languages and the internet itself were a whole lot simpler. A student coder could write themes or plugins, and it wouldn’t require a huge amount of effort to continue maintaining them, though even then, people got jobs and families and other interests, and simply didn’t have the time anymore to maintain a theme used by a handful of people for free. The complexity of all of that has increased exponentially, especially with the necessity to make websites adjust to a huge variety of devices in all shapes, sizes and orientations. We should be thankful there are ANY decent free themes and plugins available. Just about everywhere else, skilled people get paid for their work.

      Developers who build for WordPress have the freedom to use a variety of payment models. Some of these are more annoying and/or opportunistic than others. Vote with your feet (or fingers as the case may be), and choose a different product if you don’t like the way someone is monetizing. But don’t slam them for trying to make a living.

Comments are closed.