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Resources to Learn How to Make WordPress Themes


WordPress is great. It’s easy to install and there are a multitude of free and premium themes available to download. Or you could always make a theme yourself. Don’t know how to code? No problem, we’ve got you covered! Everyone is a beginner at some point, and with WordPress the more resources the better. Luckily there are many places you can turn to for help and instruction without ever having to leave your desk. Below are books, tutorials, starter themes, and a few extra items that we feel are great for learning how to code for WordPress. Go ahead and get started – you’ll be coding in no time!


How to be a Rockstar WordPress Designer

How To Be A Rockstar WordPress Designer is a great book, with tons of information great for coding beginners. The book walks you through three WordPress themes to show you how to develop solid portfolio, blog, and general WordPress sites. And as you go through each of the tutorials they build on each other to gradually expand your coding skillset. The Photoshop, HTML, CSS and WordPress PHP files are all included so you’ll have lots of reference material, and the only prerequisite is that you’ve had some exposure to HTML/CSS.

Digging Into WordPress

This is the place to start, and we even wrote a Digging Into WordPress Review all about it. This book provides practical knowledge and tips to transform from a WordPress beginner to a coding master. The book teaches you the basics of installation, set-up, theme anatomy, theme/plugin development, comment for creation, site security and how to keep up a healthy blog. There are tons of great tips you might not find elsewhere, as well as a lifetime of updates. So every time a new edition of Digging Into WordPress comes out, you’ll have access to all the new info and tutorials.

Building WordPress Themes From Scratch

Building WordPress Themes From Scratch takes you through the process of coding for WordPress. As you go through the tutorials, you will learn how to code a WordPress theme starting from an HTML/CSS template, how to create custom post types, developing theme options and widgets, as well as how to build plugins and more. This book does require a background in HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript so I would say this is for higher level-beginners or those with intermediate knowledge about web development.


Developing Your First WordPress Theme by WP Tuts+

Developing Your First WordPress Theme is a three-part tutorial series is a great place to start if you’re new to developing WordPress themes. The step-by-step guides teach you basics about WordPress, development, and design. And by the time you finish the series you will have created your very own complete WordPress theme.

WordPress Theme Development Training Wheels by WP Tuts+

With WordPress Training Wheels you are lead through a series of tutorials to create your own WordPress theme. This series is designed for beginners, and takes you through the process of transforming an HTML template into a functioning WordPress theme. The tutorials keep it basic and are easy to follow – perfect for all newbies.

How to Build a Responsive WordPress Theme with Bootstrap by Treehouse

This tutorial on How to Build a Responsive WordPress Theme with Bootstrap takes advantage of Bootstrap and guides you through creating a responsive WordPress theme. Bootstrap provides a strong base for learning to create responsive themes, and teh only prerequisite for this tutorial is that you have experience adding posts and installing plugins as an admin. Topics and theme features covered include: a custom homepage design, about page, contact page, news section with comments, and a widgetized sidebar.

How to Create a WordPress Theme 2nd Edition by ThemeShaper

This detailed WordPress Theme Tutorial by ThemeShaper shows you how to build a WordPress theme from start to finish, and even explains why certain methods are preferred over others. Because of the detail, this is an ongoing 16 part series and it’s worth your time to check it out. The author even affirms that by the time you complete the tutorial you should be able to do just about anything WordPress Theme related that you want.

Creating a Child Theme for WordPress by WP Tuts+

Creating a Simple Child Theme for WordPress is a great tutorial that walks you through how to create a child theme for WordPress. Because WordPress allows you to separate design from content, you can keep a theme and change the design using a child theme. And after completing this tutorial, you should be able to create a simple child theme of your own.

Starter Themes for Reference

Twenty Twelve WordPress Theme

The default Twenty Twelve WordPress theme is a great starter theme to learn from. With its bare bones design, basic structure, and limited features it’s a good place to start if you want to pick apart a well coded theme.

Underscores (_S) Theme

The Underscores WordPress theme is another strong starter theme by Automattic. Unlike Twenty Twelve, there is no style/design included – there’s only HTML5 templates. This theme is meant to be edited and expanded on to develop your own theme and improve your coding skills.

Other Helpful Resources

WordPress Cheat Sheet

This juicy little tidbit is a WordPress Cheat Sheet that sums up a bunch of useful WordPress functions. Print it out and tape it to your desk, or set it as your desktop background – then you’ll always have a quick reference when you need it!

Theme Anatomy Cheat Sheet

This Theme Anatomy Cheat Sheet is a simple diagram of what makes up a theme. Is each element needed? No. Are there other elements not listed you might want to include in a theme? Well yeah. This is a SIMPLE cheat sheet, showing the basic bones of most WordPress themes out there, and it’s a great quick-glance resource to use when composing a new theme.

Template Hierarchy Cheat Sheet

This awesome little cheat sheet visually lays out the WordPress Template Hierarchy. The hierarchy displays the template files within your theme and the order in which they’re loaded. This is especially helpful in you plan on creating different layouts for different types of content in your themes.

WordPress Codex

As always, you can refer to the WordPress Codex for anything you can’t find elsewhere. There area ton of useful tips and lessons in the codex that are sure to help you out at some point or another. And since the tutorials are coming directly from WordPress, you know they’re legit.

Your Resource Recommendations

What resources have you had success with? If you’ve used any of the resources above, or if you’ve found others on the web, we’d love to hear which have been helpful. Let us know about your experiences in the comments below!

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