Sometimes I have an idea I want to start coding on, and ultimately what I want to focus on are the features, not the design. But as we all know, if our design is ugly and hard to use then nobody will take the features of the app seriously. Appearance and ease of use are important!
It’s times like this when it makes sense to stand on the shoulders of giants, so to speak. This is why Bootstrap is so popular – it gives you all the pieces you need to make your app. But sometimes Bootstrap is too low level. If your idea needs to provide an admin dashboard as a main part of the user interface then here are some themes you can use to get started quickly. Most of them are free, the rest are very low-cost, and some are built on the Bootstrap framework, allowing you to utilize your existing Bootstrap knowledge.
AdminLTE Dashboard and Control Panel Template (Free, Open Source) by Almsaeed Studio
This one is my favorite of the free offerings. This theme is built on Bootstrap 3 and has a bright, cheerful look to it. It uses the popular flat design style with minimal graphics. The theme communicates a professional image with it’s clean looks. It offers a responsive design, over a thousand vector icons, print styles and numerous plug-ins for data presentation. You’ll find numerous pre-made pages available so that you can start developing your app quickly by just copying a page similar to what you need.
Even better, it’s open source under an MIT license which makes it very easy to incorporate into your project wither you’re producing an open source or commercial offering. You can download the source code from GitHub where it has 2,500 stars.
Check out the Admin LTE theme on it’s website (and see the designer’s other free and non-free options as well).
SB Admin 2 (Free, Open Source) by Start Bootstrap
If you love Bootstrap and jQuery, you’ll love this free admin theme. Designed with a focus on data presentation, this theme includes several charting libraries, sortable table support, custom circle icon buttons, social media buttons, an amazing responsive time-line widget and more. All in an attractive, minimalist design. It also includes built-in Less support.
This theme is also both free and open source, available under the Apache 2 license. This license is also extremely friendly to both open source and commercial use scenarios. You can grab the source code on GitHub where it has 3,500 stars.
Check out the SB Admin 2 theme on its website as well as several other free and commercial themes by the Start Bootstrap team.
DashGum Bootstrap Dashboard ($15) by Alvarez (via GridGum)
This very classy theme is fun! The theme is based on Bootstrap 3.2 and has one of the best arrays of pre-made widget’s I’ve seen. This goes way beyond the form widgets included in Bootstrap. There are progress bar charts, 18 types of pre-made panels and Google maps integration. You get pre-made support for multi-file upload, inline editing, drag and drop and rich data tables. Add to that numerous example pages for you to use as a foundation and a responsive layout.
This theme is not free, but the cost is very reasonable, though do pay attention to the license, since it would not be suitable for use in open source projects.
You can buy the DashGum theme at the GridGum website along with several other themes.
Bootstrap Admin Theme (Free, Open Source) by VinceG
I love the look of this theme, with clean lines and simple layout options. It is based on Bootstrap 2, which is now getting a bit long in the tooth. Bootstrap 2 has great browser support, so I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in my project, especially when I’m building a portal-style website and need an admin theme. This theme is focused on data presentation and has several open source widgets and tools bundled in, including several WYSIWYG editors, charting libraries and a great calendar widget. It’s a good clean theme well integrated with Bootstrap.
This theme is both free and open source, available under the MIT license, which means you can use it in any of your projects. You can grab the source code on GithHub. The author has also started work on an updated Bootstrap 3 theme, though it’s not as far along as this theme.
Check out the Bootstrap Admin Theme demo site for the theme and then use the source code link to download it.
Charisma Bootstrap 3 Admin Theme (Free, Open Source)
Charisma offers some compelling features that can set your project apart. Most prominent is the skin changer, which allows you and/or your users to customize the color of the admin area on demand. Charima also provides tabbed widgets, which can be quite handy for some scenarios. It offers a responsive design and a variety of plugins and additional UI elements, including ajaxified menus, photo gallery and several data visualization libraries.
This theme is both free and open source, available under the Apache 2 license, which means you can use it in open source or commercial products. You can grab the source on GitHub where it’s been starred 1500 times.
Learn more about the theme and download it from the author’s website as well as learn more about some helper and add-on libraries provided by the author.
Pastel Admin Theme and Mobile App ($21) by MoveTeam (via ThemeForest)
This is the first pre-made admin theme I’ve ever used and it still holds a special place in my heart. My favorite aspect of the theme are the hardware accelerated CSS effects and animations. Instead of being responsive, this theme comes in two versions, one targeted at desktop and the other targeted at mobile. It includes numerous novel charting and graphing visualizations which will enable your theme to stand out.
This theme is not free but the cost is very reasonable at just $21. If this theme doesn’t suit your fancy, there are scores of excellent admin themes in the same price range at Theme Forest. As with all commercial themes, pay attention to the licensing restrictions. There are a few options available in case the standard license isn’t right for your project.
Preview and download the Pastel Admin theme and Mobile App at Theme Forest.
Metis Bootstrap-Admin Template (Free, Open Source)
Rounding out the offerings is the Metis template, which offers excellent right-to-left (RTL) text support. If you target RTL users or you want to provide a tool that supports both left-to-right and right-to-left users at once, this is an excellent template to consider. It is based on Bootstrap 3.2 and offers a responsive layout and many great templates, including a sharp-looking pricing table. It provides an integrated WYSIWYG editor, and upload component, a variety of custom table options, Google Maps integration and a slew of pre-made page templates. It also aims to be very developer friendly with integrated build scripts using Node.js and Grunt. It also includes a style switcher tool for customizing the color scheme.
This theme is both free and open source, available under what appears to be a BSD style license, which means you can use it in open source or commercial products. You can grab the source on GitHub where it’s been starred 1,000 times. There’s also a Bootstrap 2.x version there as well.
Check out the demo and download the theme at the Metis demo website.