I wanna be a theme designer: Intro

DevPress co-founder, Tung, wrote the most amazing series of tutorials on creating WordPress themes from start to finish in 2007.

I want to start this post by giving credit where it’s due. When I first started creating my own WordPress themes, this tutorial taught me everything. I know a ton of other theme developers who learned from him. Honestly, I should’ve just written a post thanking him for what he gave back to the community during that time.

It’s amazing how time flies. It’s now been just over four years since the completion of the series. Things have changed quite dramatically in the WordPress theme landscape since then. The original series still has a lot to offer, but it’s definitely showing its age.

Many have attempted to recreate the magic of that old set of tutorials, but no one has truly topped it. That will be my goal. I will attempt to write a better tutorial series on the topic, one that’s now long overdue in the WordPress community.

What this tutorial series is about

I have a strict philosophy on what belongs in WordPress themes. That philosophy will be the driving force behind this series. I will teach you how to create themes that use WordPress standards and don’t have a ton of plugin functionality thrown into the mix.

I plan to strip theme development down to its bare essentials. You will be taught the standard functions and be given the skills you need to get started creating your own themes.

If you create a theme after following this tutorial series, your theme will have a high likelihood of passing the theme review guidelines. Therefore, you shouldn’t have any issues getting your theme hosted on the WordPress theme repository. You will also have a more solid code base than 90% of the commercial themes I’ve seen.

This series of tutorials will be geared toward absolute beginners to theme development. However, there will be bits and pieces that seasoned developers can use.

Skills you need

Technically, you don’t need any skills to learn from this series aside from some familiarity with WordPress and themes. It will be a major plus if you have some beginning knowledge of:

  • HTML: You can probably get by with little HTML know-how by just following this series. I highly recommend learning this in your free time though.
  • CSS: I will be covering some standard WordPress CSS elements throughout the tutorial, but I can't teach you how to design. Once you learn how to create a WordPress theme, it will be up to you to decide how to style it. You might actually want to create something pretty.
  • PHP: You don't need to know any PHP at all. WordPress actually makes this fairly simple for theme developers. I will also explain all PHP used throughout the series, but knowing some basics will help tremendously.

Tools you need

I’ll keep this simple. Make sure you have these things before the first tutorial is posted:

  • WordPress: You need to have a test installation of WordPress set up. I'll assume you know how to do this beforehand. Preferably, you would set up a test install on your computer (locally). If you're unfamiliar with this process, read Installing WordPress and Xampp.
  • Test data: You can create your own test data or use the theme unit test data. This will give you some content to test your theme.
  • Text/code editor: There are tons to choose from. I'm a fan of Notepad++ for its simplicity and code highlighting.

Ready to be a theme designer?

I’ll try not to overwhelm you with each tutorial in the series and break each post up into digestible parts. Just let me know if you get lost.

So, before we get started, make sure you have the proper tools. Then, you’ll be ready for the first tutorial when its published.