Create WordPress Themes from Scratch

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with WordPress for years. Most of the hate comes from the fact that I haven’t made the time to sit down and truly get to know it thoroughly. There are so many technologies and solutions available today. And while they provide solutions that are easier and faster to implement compared to few years ago, keeping up with them is difficult.

I imagine it’s the same with most web developers. You face a problem, you Google a solution, you move on. We constantly research our micro issues, but rarely enjoy the luxury of fully understanding the software, language, or package we’re utilizing.

It’s for that reason I always started with a pre-made theme whenever building a new WordPress-based site. Seeing all the code that comes with a well-developed theme, I assumed starting with that base and tweaking it would be easier than starting from scratch.

But have you ever tried customizing the style of a WordPress theme? I’m talking full customization here. Oh, changing the basic structure and dropping in new images is easy enough. But changing text styles and altering the stylesheets applied to the layout can be a beast of a job. A single WordPress post is contained within so many layers of classes that determining which class is controlling a style can be cumbersome and time consuming.

Having this WordPress history in mind, when recently asked to design and develop a new site around WordPress, I decided to create a theme from scratch. And I quickly found that unless there is a theme that offers features (such as responsive design) that you don’t want to build yourself, starting from scratch is the way to go. If you develop the code for your design anyway, you can easily divide it up into the various templates (header, footer, sidebar, stylesheet, single, archive, etc.). Yes, packaged themes come with a vast amount of code and styles. And that level of detail is valuable if you’re sticking with that theme’s overall style and features. But when designing your own site, you don’t need all that extra code. You don’t. It becomes a burden that makes fine-tuning your design onerous.

This is not a tutorial. This is simply an encouragement to roll your own WordPress theme. There are plenty of tutorials out there. And if you have experience with WordPress, you’ll find—like I did—that you already know most the steps you need to take. It’s just a matter of getting your feet wet. Throw in a few essential plugins and you can have a pleasant WordPress experience and a happy client.

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