How to get started with WordPress theme development

How to get started with WordPress theme development

If you’re embarking on a new business venture and want to get your website seen by the world, installing ready-made themes might be the shortcut you’re looking for. They require significantly less investment, are fast to implement, and are often mobile-friendly out of the box. 

However, relying on pre-built themes can only get you so far. Poorly made themes can contain bugs that can impact your SEO rating and pose security risks to your website. What’s more, off-the-shelf themes only allow for limited customization options, meaning you won’t be able to mark your brand identity.  

If you’re comfortable using WordPress and want to reach the next level, a custom WordPress theme will allow you to stand out from the crowd, boost your security and search ranking, and provide a smooth experience for your site visitors.

Is it worth developing a custom theme?  

Today, tens of thousands of ready-made WordPress themes are available. And with that many, you may question whether it’s worth developing your own.  

But while the number of available themes is impressive, the total number of WordPress sites is even more astounding. Of the 1.4 billion websites on the web, 455 million use WordPress. That means many websites will still look similar, despite the huge number of themes available.

While uniqueness is one of the key benefits of WordPress theme development, there are also less obvious advantages. Let’s take a look at the key benefits. 

Stand out from the crowd

Even if you go out of your way to alter a pre-defined WordPress theme, the main layout and features will essentially remain the same. Plus, you’ll probably become frustrated that you can’t change the site to match your creative ideas.

A person in a Wapuu suit tries to stand out in a crown

With distinct theming, you’ll achieve better brand recognition, improved customer experience, and as a result, a boost in sales.

Boost your website security  

Did you know that, on average, 30,000 new websites are hacked every day? That’s tens of thousands of people having to cope with the damaging impacts of a cyberattack, including site performance issues, identity theft, loss of business reputation, and more. And with millions of sites using WordPress, many attacks will inevitably be focused on this popular software. But how exactly do they get inside? 

Many cybercriminals will exploit WordPress by installing a free theme or buying a premium one, then breaking down the source code to reveal weaknesses. A custom WordPress theme, on the other hand, cannot be hacked. A bespoke theme significantly enhances your website security and reduces the chance you’ll be hit by a cyberattack. 

Create an SEO-friendly website 

Reaching and maintaining top search engine ranks is one of the most challenging aspects of running a website. So why not give yourself a head start with a custom WordPress theme? While pre-made themes contain some SEO features, you’ll still have to spend significant time tweaking them to optimize them fully. However, custom WordPress themes enable you to develop the structure from the ground up, allowing you to scale the website ranks quicker.

Speed up your website 

Premium themes can be packed with unnecessary features you’ll probably never need. And all that extra bloat can result in slower loading times. Visitors waiting more than 2 seconds may go elsewhere, and your bounce rate will increase.

Developing a theme from scratch means you only need to include the required features. As a result, you’ll propel your site speed and user experience. 

Best resources to get started 

Navigating the world of WordPress theme development isn’t as difficult as you would imagine. In fact, there are plenty of online resources to help you succeed, from step-by-step guides, YouTube tutorials, and inside tips from experienced developers. 

Thankfully, you don’t need to spend time trying to locate them. Instead, we’ve got a list of resources to help you on your way.

W3Schools 

Learn or brush up on HTML, PHP, and CSS 

You’ll need to have some basic understanding of HTML, PHP, and CSS if you want to get into WordPress theme development. If you want to brush up on these technical skills, W3Schools is a renowned online learning tool that features easy-to-read, digestible, and interactive tutorials for developers.  

SitePoint 

Go-to blog to gain tips and tricks 

For help on specific topics and like blog-styled resources, SitePoint is free to access and has a wide range of content for web developers and designers. As well as learning how to build a WordPress theme, you can gain tips and insights into mobile development, web design software options, and more. 

OSTraining 

For all styles of learning 

Cross-platform developers will find OSTraining a valuable resource for web design training. Catered for all styles of learning, OSTraining (short for Open-Source Training) includes a range of books, articles, and video tutorials. You can even use the built-in search functionality to search for a WordPress theme-related resource.

Bill Erickson 

Learn from the very best 

Having been developing custom WordPress themes for over a decade, Bill Erickson offers a surprising amount of helpful content for a solopreneur. Going beyond the basics, Bill often posts blogs around a singular WordPress theme, providing laser-focused tips on how to use code to achieve superior results. 

Step-by-step guides 

When you’re comfortable with the prerequisites needed for WordPress custom development, we recommend checking out The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Own Theme, which takes you through, step-by-step, how to create a fully functional theme that can be submitted to the WordPress.org theme directory

WordPress.org also has its own guide on theme development. As well as summarizing the key benefits, the article also covers theme development standards and the theme testing process. Plus, there are useful links to a number of resources and references, such as code standards, theme design, templates, and more. 

Dive into YouTube tutorials 

If you’d prefer to watch how to make a new custom WordPress theme, this insightful WordPress Theme Development Tutorial covers how to create a theme using Understrap

The free WordPress theme framework is trusted by more than 100,000 sites, including Intel and Facebook, and combines HTML, CSS, and JavaScript with Bootstrap.

Take your WordPress skills to the next level 

As well as standing out from the crowd, a unique theme can align your business goals, enhance web security, boost your search ranking, and create a fast and responsive site for your visitors. And even if you’re not building a business website, custom WordPress theme development is a creative and fun way to boost your understanding of CSS, HTML, and PHP. 

Fortunately, with a wide range of online resources to suit various skill levels and ways of learning, developing a theme isn’t just reserved for techies but anyone looking to advance their knowledge of WordPress and build on their creativity.   

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