Build a Custom WordPress Theme

Mickey | WordPress Blogs | Sunday, November 21st, 2010

The great thing about WordPress is how easy it is to use, while remaining extremely customizable. For most people, it’s unimportant exactly how to code works; it’s too easy to just find a theme you like and import it through the control panel. For others, though, matching exactly the look and feel of an existing site or adding particular new functionality is important enough that they feel the need for a custom WordPress theme. While it’s generally easier to hire a professional theme designer than to build your own, it can be difficult to find a competent web programmer due to how many novices there are out there who believe themselves to be experts. Here’s what you need to know about building your own WordPress theme.

WordPress themes consist of a number of PHP and CSS files, with the PHP handling the functionality and the CSS the look and feel of the site. For many changes, you can do everything in CSS without ever touching any of the PHP. But if you’re making changes, you’ll need something to start with – where do you get it?

First off, every theme that can be installed from the WordPress control panel (without uploading your own files) has a license that allows you to do whatever you want with it, so you’re free to open it up and start hacking. Alternatively, many people offer theme frameworks, which are specifically designed for you to use to build your own child theme. Theme frameworks and child themes are now the preferred method of creating your own theme, as they come with the required functionality built in and leave it to you to define the look and feel of the site; as a result, you get to concentrate on the creative part without worrying too much about the details of how WordPress works under the hood.

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