A Comprehensive Guidance on WordPress Theme Development
A Comprehensive Guidance on WordPress Theme Development
Have you just started building WordPress themes? Or, you want to develop a system for building them more efficiently but you have no idea which approaches to take. In this guide, we will take you through the whole process of WordPress Theme Development, and answer some basic questions related to WordPress.

A Comprehensive Guidance on WordPress Theme Development

WordPress is one of the most popular and easy to customizable content management systems. It is designed in a way that people can build websites easily with no coding knowledge. With some basic knowledge, you can do a lot of customization on your site. The amount of flexibility WordPress comes up with allows wide use across different site types. The scope of WP development ranges from adding features to the site to creating new themes and plugins and even to building a highly customized site. 

A theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets that describe how a WordPress-powered site looks like.  The theme is like software that provides the user with various editing options. 

There are a huge number of WordPress themes that are free or with many others at a reasonable cost. Each theme from WordPress features a different design, layout, and features. 

While there are plenty of amazing themes that may suit your needs, you can make your customized theme as well. 

How to Build own WordPress Theme 

There are three general approaches when it comes to building a custom theme

  1. Customizing an Existing Theme

The simplest approach of the three, if you are looking to make small edits in design, editing an existing theme is a great theme. But if you are planning to overhaul the whole website, you should either build a new theme from scratch or try to start as a launchpad. 

  1. Using a Starter Theme

A starter theme is designed as the backbone of your custom theme. The templates and CSS files are in place with a starter theme, it saves you a lot of time and effort creating them. 

There are many premium and free starter themes that come up with a wide assortment of features. Depending upon your technical skills and design possibilities, you can choose the one. 

  1. WordPress Theme Development from Scratch 

You can start with a black canvas and create all the templates and CSS stylesheets. To make this process successful, you need to have a clear plan of action, proper know-how, and a realistic deadline. 

Developing a custom WordPress theme from scratch is no piece of cake. But by breaking the process into small steps, following them one by one you can make it happen. 

Let’s have a look at the WordPress Theme Development basics step by step

Step 1: Set Up a Local Environment

The process begins with the creation of a local development environment. It is a server that 

is installed on computers to develop and manage local WordPress sites. The local site is considered a safer way to develop a theme without impacting the live site in any way.

There are different ways to create a local environment. DesktopServer is one of them. It allows you to install the local version of WordPress for free and is compatible with Mac and Windows. Go with the free version of DesktopServer, do the registration and then download the installer. 

After installation, you will be asked to configure your new local environment and your local WordPress will be all set. 

Step 2: Download and Install Your Starter Theme 

Click on Advanced Options to customize the base theme. Fill in the required information and give the theme a description. 

If you want, you can choose the sassify option, it will add Syntactically Awesome StyleSheets files to your theme. It is basically a preprocessing language for CSS that enables you to use different variables, math operators, nesting, etc. 

Step 3: Understand How WordPress Works in Backend

Before customizing your theme, understand the purpose of every component and how they fit together. Like, 

Template Files: The main building blocks of WP, responsible for determining the layout and look of the content on your site. 

The Loop: The code WP uses to show content, appears in all template files that display post content. 


Step 4: Configure Your Theme

Here are some ways you can make some basic customizations:

Adding a functionality through Hooks: They are code snippets inserted into template files, it allows you to run PHP actions on different parts of a site, display information, and insert styling. Some of the most hooks are:

  • wp_head() – It is added to the <head> element in header.php and allows styles, scripts, and other information that can run as soon as the site loads.

  • wp_footer () – It is added to footer.php just before the </body> tag. 

  • wp_meta() – It is added to sidebar.php, to cover additional scripts

  • comment_form() – It is added to comments.php just before the file’s closing </div> tag to showcase comment data. 

Adding Styles with CSS: CSS defines the appearance of all content on your site. It is accomplished through the style.css.file. 

Step 5: Export the Theme and Upload It to Your Site

Now, you are almost done tinkering with your theme, now you need to ensure that it works properly. Theme Unit Test data is the process to check your theme is doing well under most circumstances. It will let you actually see how your theme copes with unpredictable data. 

You have checked your theme properly and are sure that it meets the required standard, now you need to export it. Find where your site is installed on your computer, open that folder, and access. 

Now, you can use a compress tool like WinRAR, to create a .zip file if required. Just right-click on the folder and choose the option that allows you to zip it. 

After it is zipped, you can now upload and install it on any WordPress site. 

FAQs on WordPress Theme Development 

Q. What Is a WordPress Theme?

A. A WordPress theme is a group of files including stylesheets, graphics, and code that dictates the overall appearance of a site. It can control something as vast as your website’s layout, or as limited as your hyperlink colours. A theme in a site is like the skin of a body, but they are a lot more powerful than that. 

How do WordPress Themes Work?

In WordPress, these run a site and find what it has, how it works and how it looks. A website theme is different from the content, which is held in the database. It means you are free to use the same theme on more than one site, no matter what the content of that site. 

A theme contains several template files, all stored in the theme folder. 

I do not have any coding skills. Can I develop my WordPress theme?

Well, WordPress theme development is not rocket science, you can do it with a little technical knowledge. But if you have absolutely no coding skills or knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP, it is not unlikely to get desired output in custom WordPress theme development. Here, going for a pre-designed theme is a better option, in which you can make some minor modifications available in the WordPress dashboard and make it as you want. Besides, going for WordPress theme development services is also a good option. There are many companies that can help you at an affordable range. 

Do I need to build the new WordPress theme from scratch?

It’s not compulsory. You can begin from the group up if you want, otherwise, you can also opt to use some of the pre-built options available. They can be a good foundation for an endless range of designs. Besides, you can also go for modifying an existing theme, especially if it looks like the design you want. Also, using WordPress theme development tools is not a tough nut to crack, you can easily use them after checking basic tutorial or a course. 

Where can I find resources to build a WordPress theme?

There are a variety of articles, guides, video tutorials on WordPress theme development and different processes. If you are committed to learning about WordPress, with enough time and dedication, you can use them to create a custom design even if you are an inexperienced website owner. 

Last Verdicts

Chances are that, after going through this guide, you have got some idea of which approach to go with for your WordPress theme development. But in case you’re still scratching your head, here’s a summary of when each method is appropriate:

To build your website from scratch, you need to have a good understanding of WordPress and PHP. Having some basic knowledge is required, you can understand the WordPress core in more detail later as you develop. If you do not want any dramatic change, you can go for an existing theme and make those minor changes easily. A starter theme is a good option for those who want to make customized solutions but without investing a lot of effort and time. 

That’s it for now, do let us know if you have any questions in the comments section.