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Top 10 Resources for Getting Started with WordPress Themes

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently on the members’ forum of the Pro Web Design Alliance, and one question that keeps cropping up is how to get started with WordPress theme development.

People seem to be aware that there’s no limit to what you can do with WordPress, and there are plenty of resources out there showing you how to do stuff, but with so many resources available, it’s hard to know where to begin, and how to start your journey into WordPress theme development.

In this post I’ll go over my top 10 must-read articles and tutorials for getting started with WordPress.

1. The WordPress Codex

http://wordpress.org/

This seems like an obvious starting place. The official WordPress documentation is often the first place I will look when trying to find out how a particular function works. The codex is not 100% complete and up-to-date, but it’s normally a safe bet.

Recommended Reading: Theme Development

A comprehensive introduction to theme development in WordPress, including theme development standards, theme testing process, and links to external resources.

2. WordPress.tv

http://wordpress.tv/

If you prefer watching videos to reading articles, then WordPress.tv is a great learning resource. This site is made by Automattic, the people who make WordPress, so you can expect the advice on here to be high quality.

Recommended Viewing: Designing for WordPress

Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks.com takes you through the basics of setting up a WordPress Theme.

3. WP.tutsplus.com

http://wp.tutsplus.com/

The Tuts+ sites are renowned for high quality tutorials, and their WordPress tutorials have now been given their own site, having previously been incorporated into net.tutsplus.com

Recommended Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to the WordPress Loop

The Loop is a fundamental part of every WordPress theme, which you need to get to grips with if you’re going to be building themes. This is a great introduction to the Loop.

4. Digging Into WordPress

http://digwp.com/

Some great tutorials on this site, written by Chris Coyier and Jeff Star. After the codex, this would probably be the second place I would look if I needed some WordPress know-how.

Recommended Reading: Which Template File does WordPress Use to Render Different Pages?

A handy infographic you can print out and stick on the wall, telling you which template file WordPress will use to render any given page. You need to know this, so you know which template file to edit when you need to make changes.

5. WPBeginner.com

http://www.wpbeginner.com/

This is a great starting point for beginners, as they give you a full series of tutorials for setting up a WordPress site, as well as regular tutorials.

Recommended Viewing: Setting Up WordPress on a Local Server Environment

This is something you definitely need to learn how to do if you’re going to spend a lot of time customising themes, it will increase your productivity dramatically! This article walks you through the process with several video demonstrations.

6. Yoast.com

http://www.yoast.com/

Yoast is the website of Joost de Valk, the man behind the insanely useful WordPress SEO plugin. He also writes regular articles about how to do cool things in WordPress, and specifically SEO related hints and tips.

Recommended Reading: WordPress SEO

This post is a few years old now, and I’m surprised Joost hasn’t updated it to refer to his own plugin instead of HeadSpace, but the concepts and best practices he describes are still rock-solid today. Essential reading for a WordPress newbie.

7. WP Apprentice

http://wpapprentice.com/

This is another great video tutorial site which covers the basics of setting up and customising a WordPress site.

Recommended Viewing: Working with WordPress Widgets

If you’re building sites for clients, you’ll probably want to utilise widgets, to make it easier for them to customise their content. This video will show you how.

8. Justin Tadlock

http://justintadlock.com

Life, Blogging and WordPress, three things that Justin likes to write about. WordPress is clearly a big part of Justin’s life, and he goes to great lengths to bring you useful and fresh tutorials.

Recommended Reading: Custom Post Types in WordPress

When WordPress first introduced custom post types, they were a bit of a mystery to me, but this post by Justin really helped simplify them for me.

9. DevPress

http://devpress.com/

While there are still plenty of great tutorials on Justin Tadlock’s site, recently he has started writing for DevPress.com, a dedicated WordPress tutorials site. So this is another one to add to your reading list.

Recommended Reading: Style the Post Editor Just Like Your Theme

Don’t waste time going back and forth between the post editor and the post preview to make sure everything looks ok, with this tutorial you can make your post appear exactly the same in the editor as it does on the page.

10. WP Engineer

A great resource for regular WP tutorials and hacks.

Recommended Reading: Cleaning Up the WordPress Header

Keeping your site header clean and clutter-free will speed up page-load time on your site. This tutorial shows you how to remove default WordPress actions from your site’s header.

11. Web Design From Scratch

A bonus entry in the list! If you weren’t already aware, I write articles and tutorials about WordPress right here on Web Design From Scratch. Read my previous WordPress posts here.

I hope these sites will help you get your feet wet in WordPress theme development. Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other great WordPress learning resources.

About the author

Dan Johnson

Dan used to be a WordPress developer at WDFS, but now he has gone off to pursue his passion for art, and he blogs about making a living from creativity at Right Brain Rockstar

David Kizler - 3 years ago

Hi Ben,
Thanks for the great wordpress resources. Also just wanted to add that something that helped me out this weekend along with the pro web alliance is discovering the WordPress Catalyst theme framework. My coding knowledge is very limited, and this is giving me hope that I can learn how to design within wordpress without having to become highly proficient at code. There’s still a learning curve, but it looks less daunting to me than some of my other options. I’m much more interested in design, marketing, and branding than the coding side of things. Ok, thought I’d just pass this along to any new designers who may be in my predicament. Thanks for all of your valuable content.
David

David Kizler - 3 years ago

Thanks Dan, didn’t see your name until after posting, very helpful! David

Michael - a couple of years ago

Your #9 link is 404’d. Just thought you’d like to know. Thanks for the great resources!

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Thanks, I’ve updated the link to site root.

Jacobus - last year

Hi Ben, I would actually like to add something to Yoast.com because recently I bought his video seo plugin and I see an increase in traffic. So I can highly recommend the video extension plugin for WordPress SEO. For those who have no clue what I am talking about, check it out here http://yoast.com/wordpress/video-seo/

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