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How do I get started with theme design?

That's a common question we get from people who join OSTraining for the first time. They want to know about the skills they will need, and what kind of classes they should take.

Here's an overview of everything you need to get started with WordPress theme design.

The Skills You Need for WordPress Theming

Members are often surprised when we recommend that new WordPress designers sit through our beginner and site-building training. 

Unfortuantely, it is very common to find WordPress sites that were built by talented designers who had no WordPress knowledge. A good understanding of WordPress's user interface and key concepts is absolutely critical. Being a good designer is not enough. You need to know about plugins?//, post types, archive pages, the wp-config.php file, and more.

Here are the skills that will be useful for you as a new WordPress theme designer. You should know that an in-depth knowledge of WordPress is at least as important as any other skill. But, don't worry if you're not a PHP expert. You only need limited PHP skills to work with WordPress themes.

WordPress theme development skills

Classes to Learn WordPress Theming

Unlike Drupal, Joomla, Magento and other platforms, WordPress does not borrow very much from other systems. You still can use Twig or Bootstrap in your WordPress themes, but you won't find them there by default.

To get the ball rolling, try the Getting Started With WordPress Theme Development video. The class is less than 20 videos long and introduces you to the structure and standards used in WordPress theme. This is the perfect introduction for developers who want to start building themes.

Next, I recommend taking How to Build a WordPress Restaurant Site and Theme. Look at the two big circles in the image above: WordPress knowledge and CSS skills. In this class, you'll see how to combine both of those in WordPress. You'll create a tasteful restaurant website with a modified theme.

If you're ready for the main course, dive into How to Build WordPress Themes. This is our main WordPress theme class. These 40+ videos guides you through a detailed WordPress theme project. Follow the lessons, and we'll take you all the way from an initial design to a completed theme. 

If you're ready to get deeper into PHP, try this class: How to Build a WordPress Widget. There are thousands of widgets you can use on your WordPress site. However, sometimes you just can't find one that fully meets your needs. In this class, Topher works through the process of creating a sidebar widget from scratch.

All-in-all, those four classes have over 100 videos with step-by-step instructions. Follow along with those four classes, and I promise you'll be prepared to start modifying and building your own WordPress theme projects.


About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.