Review: Atahualpa – the Emperor of Free WordPress Themes?

Atahualpa was the last sovereign emperor of the Tahuantinsuyu; the indigenous name for the massive Inca Empire.  Presumably it is this sense of scope that led the creators of one of the most comprehensive free WordPress themes I have yet encountered to choose this namesake.  Beyond that the Atahualpa theme by the good people at BytesForAll does not share any further history with the Incan emperor who was eventually destroyed by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro.

The Atahualpa theme for WordPress is essentially a one-stop shop for everything a WordPress site could ever want.  Customization of every element is available, from headers and footers, “Next Page” text, the layout, color and size of forms, tables, links, stylesheets, even a separate page for a custom Favicon in included.  Think of the Atahualpa theme as a beautifully integrated backend for both form and function, of coding and design.

Atahualpa theme for WordPress - dashboard

The main dashboard for the Atahualpa theme

Normally getting a custom favicon for your site, that is, the small image that appears to the left of your URL in the browser line, requires a separate plugin. Atahualpa makes integrating your own custom favicon or selecting one from an existing table of popular favicons easy and seamless:

Atahualpa's favicon page

Atahualpa's favicon page

Displaying images is no longer tied restricted to the somewhat limited image control panel built into WordPress.  Nor do you have to understand php to futz with your theme.  With Atahualpa the power to alter how images display, integrate and function within your theme comes through its dedicated Image panel:

A small portion of Atahualpa's image control panel

A small portion of Atahualpa's image control panel

Even the way widgets are displayed on your site can be customized from Atahualpa’s dedicated Widgets control panel – fonts, borders, placement and much more.  If you are an advanced coder or designer, however, fear not – your talents are not being discredited or disregarded by virtue of this PowerTool for the People – your skillset can be put to work in those custom areas; knowledge of CSS can take your modifications even further:

Atahualpa even includes a control panel for Widgets!

Atahualpa even includes a control panel for Widgets!

Despite its complexity, there is little that is intimidating about the interface.  I particularly enjoyed the huge Save and Reset buttons at the bottom of each customization page – it feels like a giant NerfTM toy, despite its power.

Atahualpa theme for WordPress - Save button

Atahualpa vs. Thesis

The biggest players in the blogosphere tend to flock around a very popular and powerful theme known as Thesis

.  Thesis grants enormous levels of control and customization in a solid, very well integrated package for WordPress installations.  It has dedicated, even comprehensive SEO solutions, multi-column and width options, a heaps upon heaps of design management aides.  It will cost you $80 per site, however, and around a $150 for a multi-site license.

Atahualpa has its own dedicated SEO page, multi-column/width customization, and huge amounts of design control that even a novice could tinker with without breaking anything.  And it is completely free.  The developers have put in dozens if not hundreds of hours into developing it into a solid option to meet virtually any need, and so include a simple Paypal donation button should you feel like doing the right thing and giving a little back for their efforts.

Over 200 theme options, drop down menus for pages and categories, fluid or fixed width layout, 1, 2 or 3 columns, rotating header images, auto image resizing, integrated Feedburner form, 4 extra widgets and more comprise the vast array of features.  The admin supports English in addition to the following language codes: DE, HU, PT, CZ, SI, TR, FR, PL, NL, BG, IT, VN, JP, ES.

Atahualpa is an Emperor among free WordPress themes, indeed.  I strongly recommend it, especially for those of you just starting out, since it can even help you understand some of the processes of coding and design that you can later implement on your own in perhaps someday customizing your own themes.

To download and test-drive Atahualpa today, visit

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at and society at Listen to his podcast at and find him on Twitter @ConstantChange