Most of our WordPress blog posts are dedicated to the kinds of tasks beginner users are trying to master. In this post, we want to address more advanced users looking to go beyond simple posting and using plugins.
As a long-time user of WordPress, have you ever entertained the idea of creating your own theme? A lot of WordPress users do just that after spending years getting to know how the platform works. The good news is that designing themes is fairly easy if you know some basic coding. The bad news is that without such coding knowledge, theme design can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience.
Below are some things that need to be considered before designing your own WordPress theme. Bear in mind that we are talking about creating a theme from scratch rather than merely modifying the CSS file of an existing theme.
Your PHP Skill Level
WordPress themes are heavily dependent on PHP. You do not have to be a PHP master to create a great theme, but you at least need to have a working knowledge of it. Your average website designer will have a clear command of HTML and CSS along with at least some familiarity with PHP. If a developer has absolutely no PHP knowledge, that is the starting place for designing a new theme from scratch.
For the record, PHP is a server-side scripting language that can be used for everything from web development to creating complex applications. It is great for the web because it can be embedded directly into HTML. So even a website developer who has no plans to get into WordPress themes would do well to become familiar with PHP.
Your Knowledge of Theme Structure
WordPress utilizes a very specific structure for every part of its platform, themes included. It will be nearly impossible to create a great theme if you do not understand the structure. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to grasp. There’s plenty of reference material online that will help you familiarize yourself with the basics of theme structure.
Your Knowledge of CSS
The introduction of CSS (cascading style sheets) back in the ’90s revolutionized web development. CSS makes it possible to express how websites should be displayed in browsers through a limited number of style sheets that remain static across the site. It is what allows the bulk of WordPress data to be stored in a database rather than individual pages.
You should be comfortable with the basics of CSS and their relationship to HTML and HTML 5. If you are a web developer, you should already be up to speed with CSS. If not, some basic training will be necessary.
If you are comfortable with all three things listed here, you should be fine learning to develop your own WordPress themes. And remember, there is plenty of help and support out there by way of the WordPress community. Never be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes that’s the only way to learn.