WordPress Theming Basics

WordPress is known for its ease of use. Many are jumping on the WordPress bandwagon to build their own website. Sometimes with no prior web design experience. On any given day, many turn to the support forums for advice on how to customize their theme. In this episode, we discuss the basics of WordPress theming.

The Foundation: HTML and CSS

You really should learn some HTML and CSS. Two references:

Understand How Themes Work

Chris Spooner wrote an excellent tutorial at line25 on how to ¬†create a custom WordPress theme. This is a simple, visual guide. Even if you’re just modifying a theme, it’s worth a read to better understand how themes work.

Another great visual guide to help you is The Anatomy of a WordPress Theme by Joost de Valk.

The Smart Way to Modify Themes

Child Themes

How to make a child theme for WordPress: A pictorial introduction for beginners I highly recommend this tutorial, well written and lots of great resources (tools, software, references at the end.)
WordPress Protip: Child Themes Another really good tutorial, with an intro to overriding with action and filter hooks.
The Codex entry for Child Themes

Other Best Practices

If the site is live, avoid destroying the site by working off a copy of the active theme. Use a text editor and a ftp client – the built in editor is better for quick reference and minor fixes. Version that copy and use the theme test drive plugin to view your changes while logged into the site. The older version of the theme can stay active until you’ve got it all sorted.
Even better, make your changes on a local or test server. Then upload the new version of the theme when you’re ready.

Theme Building Tutorials

The Codex


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