Anyone who has embarked down the road of WordPress development will agree that there is an abundance of resources available on the internet. You can learn everything you need to know without having to spend a single penny, whether its theme or plugin development. There is a great community behind WordPress meaning help is rarely further than a forum post away, and coupled with several influential blogs and prominent social media figures, you will never be short of inspiration.
However, for someone who has little coding knowledge or is completely new to WordPress, this stockpile of resources can often be overwhelming. With no clear starting point it can be hard to get your feet off the ground, and it can be all too easy to give up before you make any real progress. We’ve put together a collection of 24 essential resources that any budding WordPress developer can’t live without.
In-depth guides are an obvious starting point, and there are plenty to choose from. Some assume that you have zero coding knowledge, whereas others expect you to at least get to grips with the basic principles.
The below guides encompass several different approaches to theme development, written by prominent and respected figures in the field.
Themeshaper – This ‘Ultimate WordPress Theme Tutorial’ by Themeshaper was an extremely thorough and well received tutorial, and recently received an update. The 2nd Edition consists of 17 in-depth sections, teaching everything you need to know to go it alone.
Spoongraphics – Chris Spooner, an internet celebrity in the design field, holds your hand in creating your first custom WordPress theme. A great starting point for understanding core principles.
Treehouse – Treehouse boast a range of informative courses with an aim of getting you job-ready in web design, development and more. Their ‘How to Build a WordPress Theme’ course consists of 8 stages, covering content strategy right through to converting static HTML into WordPress templates.
Lifehacker – Although not the type of content they typical post, Lifehacker put together a great guide. Although lacking in some sections, it succeeds at covering the essentials.
WPDesigner.com – Despite this guide clocking in at 6 years old, its still one of the most in-depth ‘hold your hand’ tutorials available. Some parts may be slightly outdated now, but the core principles remain relevant.
Wptuts+ – This fantastic 3 day course begins by highlighting the requirements of good theme design, before throwing you head first into development.
Yoast – Joost de Valk, an influential figure in the development field, put together this handy ‘Anatomy of a WordPress Theme’ info-graphic; essentially a cheat sheet for how a WordPress blog works.
There are a variety of ways to begin development on a WordPress theme, whether it’s starting completely from scratch and coding by hand, or building upon basic WordPress code. However, by far the most efficient starting point is the utilisation of a ‘theme framework’ or ‘starter theme’.
Starter themes provide strong foundations for the development of your very own theme, acting as an effective springboard that significantly reduces creation time and avoids the repetitive task of working on WordPress’ consistent back end code.
Underscores – The brainchild of the guys behind WordPress, Underscores is a well commented, modern, clean and lean starter theme that is perfect for beginners.
Starkers – A self-described ‘perfect blank slate for WordPress projects’, Starkers is a ‘naked’ (hence the name) theme with semantic HTML5 markup. Not very beginner friendly due to lack of support/documentation
Toolbox–A blank and stripped down HTML5 starter theme, great for creating a child theme with an emphasis on simplicity.
Roots –Based on HTML5 Boilerplate and Bootstrap from Twitter, Roots is a responsive framework with theme options available right after activation.
BootstrapWP–A WordPress theme powered by Twitter’s Bootstrap, that offers a solid base for bespoke theme development.
Bones – Like Roots, Bones is built upon the HTML5 boilerplate and adopts a mobile first approach. It has great documentation allows you to choose between LESS or Sass.
Blogs/Sites to follow
WebDesignerDepot – Although not strictly WordPress related, WDD regularly posts insightful articles on best practices, oozing inspiration and innovative ideas.
Smashing Magazine–The WordPress category of Smashing Machine regularly posts quality articles packed full of actionable insights and healthy discussion.
CSS-Tricks–A popular web design community curated by widely respect developer and designer, Chris Coyier.
Wptuts+ –Tuts+’s WordPress section is regularly updated with informative posts, with a core focus on instruction and furthering knowledge.
Cats Who Code – A blog for web developers, written by web developers. Boasting insightful news posts and roundups, with plenty of tools and tricks to implement.
WPRecipes – Run by Jean-Baptiste of Cats Who Code, WPRecipes is packed full of code snippets, hacks and tricks.
WordPress.tv–Another resource by the team at Automattic, WordPress.tv is full of presentations by clued up individuals in the industry.
WP Daily – A great source of news, plugin roundups, interviews, giveaways, reviews and more.
Designzzz – And last but the least, Designzzz is a must follow blog. This is the blog you are reading right now.
Finally, if you prefer the good old fashioned method of learning, there are a few books you can pick up which should over everything you need to know. However, due to the rapid advancement of WordPress they can be quickly outdated.
That concludes our collection of essential WordPress development resources. We hope this helps you establish a starting point and takes you a step closer to publishing your first WordPress theme. If you feel that we have missed something that deserves a mention, get involved in the comments below.