Cenote is a clean, modern, and minimalistic free WordPress blog theme from ThemeGrill, which can be used for personal, fashion, travel, or any kind of blog. It is especially highly recommended for a charming feminine website because of its gentle and graceful styles.
Cenote brings various demos for multiple niches, which can be easily imported with the help of ThemeGrill Demo Importer plugin. Also, SEO and speed optimization is another highlight of Cenote.
Cenote gives a completely light and comfortable look to your eyes when viewing it at first sight, thanks to the elegant, modern, and pleasing color and typography. Besides, the design of airy space creates a sense of freedom for your website. Especially, decorating this blog theme with some slim lines makes the theme more delicate and exquisite.
Another good point of this theme is properly using minimal decoration in icons or navigations, which makes your site look more gentle and comfortable.
Color and Font
Orienting to a decent and charming style, Cenote uses the basic and pastel color for the dominant tone. These cool colors are pretty harmonious with each other, thus giving ethereal beauty to your site. Also, to make some highlights, pink color is put on some details and some hyperlinks when you hover over them. It’s a delicate choice because this pink color makes your site look more fresh and young.
In the demo, Catamaran and Roboto are two default family fonts of this free blog theme. It is a very reasonable choice, especially for reading purposes because of their legibility. Moreover, these slim and simple fonts perfectly match with the clean and minimalistic style of Cenote, thus giving an elegant and delicate sense.
This theme allows you to modify colors and fonts as you want. However, I think the color and font used in the demo is the most suitable and beautiful choice.
Layout and Sidebar
Apart from the full-width layout as in the demo, Cenote also gives you another choice: the boxed layout. Both of them are excellent in keeping the clean, airy, and charming style of this free theme. Their looks just have a few differences, however, they are so nice that I don’t know which one is my preference.
The full-width one gives your site a fully-immersive look as in the demo. Meanwhile, the boxed one with a light shadow in the boundary makes your site look like a stretched floating paper.
Besides choosing between full-width or boxed layouts, you can also change the appearance of your site by hiding/showing sidebars. Interestingly, this theme allows you to place the sidebar in different positions for different kinds of pages. That gives your site a flexible and creative look.
All kinds of sidebars are designed in a minimal style with a spacious, well-organized layout, and simple decorations like small bullets, slim lines, ... Therefore, no matter how many widgets are included in the sidebars, your site still looks clean, airy, and easy-to-follow.
Header and Header Media
There are three layout options of the header to vary your first screen area, and I think that number is quite enough for a free theme. All of them are designed to include and arrange many elements in a reasonable and uncluttered manner, which brings a spacious, tidy, and clean look following the general design.
Placing in the middle of the header media is a bright boxed layer that can highlight the title from the image behind charmingly and gentle. Thus, you can draw more attention and effectively encourage visitors to read your content.
Featured Post Slider
Especially, there is a featured post slider to gain more attraction for your highlight posts. I’m wondering why this feature isn’t shown in the demo because users might skip this amazing one of this theme. This slider is placed right below the header media. Remarkably, the author also adds the hovering effect in the navigation button for a much more lively and eye-catching style.
Cenote only supports a four-column footer layout, and sadly, you can’t change the number of columns. It’s excellent if you want to show more information and features of your site. Otherwise, it becomes a disadvantage when you don’t add enough four widgets into each column in the footer, it will be unsymmetrical as the following image:
Interestingly, you can choose one of two styles: dark or light, depending on your taste. The dark mode can help you differentiate the footer from the others and thus highlight the footer content, while the light one will completely merge with the generally clean and spacious style of the theme.
The archive pages have three available layouts for your different choice. All of which are designed following the general design of Cenote: clean, simple, yet effective. All these elements are placed in a well-organized and airy manner so that readers can easily scan and skim your post content.
Single Post Pages
Single post pages are designed in an easy-to-follow manner so that readers are more likely to enjoy reading your posts. With good line-spacing, nice image display, legible font, your post can completely keep the readers’ eyes.
In a single post, the blockquote can be displayed in three different styles like this. The author uses a pastel pink for the background of the blockquote. This color is fitted with the elegant and gentle style of Cenote. Also, the simple quotation mark icon, the slight lines, and the drop-down capital letter are minimalistic decorations that follow the general design of this theme. With this design, we can see the author is meticulous in every detail of theme design.
Whatever viewport you use to display this free WordPress blog theme, the design is still responsive and looks good.
However, I wish the aspect ratio images were unchanged on the mobile screen so that the hero image in the header media is not cropped and thus keeps its origin.
After activating this WordPress blog theme, you are recommended to install the ThemeGrill Demo Importer plugin. With this plugin, you can quickly and easily start importing the provided demos to your website to make it completely similar to the demo. Along with the default demo, Cenote offers you the fashion and technology demo for free and three other premium demos. It takes you just a few minutes to finish this process.
If you want to manually set up this free blog theme, you just need to deal with some simple elements using Customizer in a super easy manner, even for a non-professional user like me.
- Three provided demos
- Sticky header
- Hero image
- Social linking
- Related post
- Featured post slider
- Post ribbon
- Standard post format
- ThemeGrill recent posts widget
- One-click demo import
Apart from almost general features of a blog theme like standard post format, social linking, author bio, and so on, Cenote supports many advanced ones such as ThemeGrill recent posts widget, featured post slider, post ribbon, supporting Gutenberg for you to enhance your site conveniently.
The Customizer of Cenote is user-friendly and highly customizable thanks to visual and simple manipulations and multiple theme options. All the options in the Customizer are well-organized and imaginable for users to find and visualize them easily.
When I review this theme, I find that the author has highly focused on optimizing the display and interaction with options in the Customizer to improve user experience. In general, Cenote supports you to customize your site with 3 types of interactions:
(1): clicking the enable buttons
(2): dragging-and-dropping the item
(3): visible illustrations for available options
Besides that, Cenote provides clear instructions, with which you totally can explore the other basic features and edit the site by yourself.
It’s very easy to hide/show some element post slider, breadcrumbs, back-to-top navigation, ... just by the enable/unable buttons. Instead of using check-boxes which may confuse you whether a tick is turning the items on or off, Cenote gives you on/off buttons with clear that is more apparent.
Although some features require more customizations to finish, all the needed actions are simple and easy-to-follow.
For example, here I review the editing of the slider. After clicking these enable buttons, you need to choose one category to show up, and then your slider will visually and nicely display in the Live Customizer as below.
What about drag-and-drop editors? It’s extremely helpful for you to arrange the content on your website because you can hide/show the elements and change the order of them. It’s very simple even for a beginner. These items’ name tags are precise and easy-to-understand. Just by clicking the eye-icon on each item and moving them up-and-down, the results will display in the Live Customizer right after seconds.
Here when I wanted to hide the footer part of a post in an archive page, then move the position of its content, the changes will display accurately as the following:
Exclusively, this theme supports you with illustrations for layouts to help you visually imagine how your site will look without trying one by one. The results displaying in the Live Customizer are totally corresponding to the given symbols. That’s a notable point of customization’s design that not all other authors might care about.
Like many other themes of ThemGrills, Cenote inherited a creative widget to give your site a distinct look. That is the Recent Post widget, which allows you to display thumbnails of each post (2) instead of the boring text-only as in the standard one (1).
Though unlimited colors are given, you can apply it for only 3 sections: header text color, background color, and hyperlink color. Because this Cenote theme is designed with plentiful airy space, your site will wear a completely new appearance when changing the background color.
Instead of color, you can also choose an image as the background to create your unique style. Note that you can not change the body text color as I said above, so you need to choose a proper background so that the text can be readable.
Other weaknesses are in the slider. First, this free blog theme will automatically pick 5 posts from one category or the latest posts to show on the slider. You cannot change this number of posts as well as select specific posts. Secondly, it is unable to add other elements like highlight pages or custom images to the slider.
This WordPress blog theme has all the standard post formats for you to create different types of blog posts.
You can also showcase a gallery by gathering images. Though your images are in different sizes and styles, this theme will automatically scale them in proper frames and display nicely like this:
With the blockquote, there is an error in the second style where the quotation mark is placed on the text, so you should avoid using this style.
Here is good news for you: after checking SEO of this theme by some reliable tools, I find that Cenote is completely friendly for SEO. Therefore you can write your content more effectively.
In terms of speed, this theme seems to focus on optimizing the desktop version than the mobile one. Here is the result of checking speed by PageSpeed Insights, which is a trustworthy tool. While the result of the mobile is not really good, the score of the desktop is incredibly amazing.
All the necessary instructions for customizing this WordPress blog theme are included in the documentation. They wrote step-by-step guidelines in understandable wording with easy-to-follow illustrations. Thus you can totally customize the site by yourself.
For the free version, they claim that they provide support only via the official WordPress.org support forum. I see that their response is usually made after 1-3 days and they are quite dedicated to supporting users.
For me, Cenote can meet my expectation of a free WordPress blog theme and it deserves one of my best choices. I truly suggest this theme to bloggers, especially those loving elegant, modern, and delicate styles.
Although the customization options are somewhat limited, all the basic and some advanced features will allow you to simply create a beautiful blog. But still, I wish it will offer more customization options to more freely and creatively edit the site.
You can find more advanced features in the pro version, so you should try this free one and then consider upgrading the theme.