I was intrigued when I was asked to review this book. I have worked extensively in WordPress since 2008, having written several plugins and modified countless plugins and themes. The term “Beginner’s Guide” threw me off, as I figured with my background, it would be too basic for me. Wrong. The level of writing was just right. The author assumes the reader is an experienced WordPress administrator with some PHP and CSS coding experience.
The book sets out to help the reader build a WP theme from scratch, and at first I thought, why would anyone want to? Most theme work is done by modifying the supplied Twenty Twelve theme or some other framework. As I progressed in reading, the answer emerged. Working from a blank page gives the developer ultimate flexibility. Also, the learning experience gave me a deep understanding of how themes work.
The bottom line is, I liked the book. It is clear that this is written by authors with extensive knowledge and is not their first time teaching this topic. Their experience shows. Chapter 1 introduces WordPress and the various components of that world. In chapter 2 and the balance of the book, a magazine theme is built step by step. The exact look of the example theme is not important. You are encouraged to build your own instead, but the download materials are the example. I read one criticism that the book photos were hard to decipher, as the theme is dark with white lettering. My review is done from using the PDF book version, so the diagrams are in colour and easy to understand.
A key focus of the guide is on handling the three browser sizes: desktop, tablet and smartphone. It is one of the better explanations I have read. The authors provide a clear direction on how to handle various screen sizes.
The authors use an interesting writing style. They present a topic, then ask the reader to enter some code and try it. Then in a “What just happened?” section, the code is explained in detail. This approach took a bit to get used to, but it works well. The building steps are also small enough that it is clear what is accomplished in each.
The book builds from the most basic theme to widgets, custom menus and beyond. I will definitely use this as a reference in my theme work. When I finished the book, I felt I could tackle a theme from scratch or modify a theme with more confidence.
What this book covers:
- Chapter 1, Getting Started as a WordPress Theme Designer, gives an introduction to the world of WordPress theme building. It covers the basics of how themes work, theme coding strategies using HTML and CSS, and setting up your theme design process.
- Chapter 2, Preparing a Design for our WordPress Theme, takes you through the process of creating a design for your theme, including wireframing, creating your design concepts, and designing responsively in the browser.
- Chapter 3, Coding it Up, is when you’ll start to build an actual theme by taking your HTML from Chapter 2 and inserting that into theme template files along with the PHP needed to make your theme work.
- Chapter 4, Advanced Theme Features, covers additional features you can add to your theme. These include site settings, reading settings, permalinks, featured image support, and widgets.
- Chapter 5, Debugging and Validation, shows you how to check for any bugs in your code and test that your site meets the W3C requirements for validity. We’ll also look at browser testing and troubleshooting.
- Chapter 6, Your Theme in Action, is all about shipping your theme to other WordPress users and developers. You’ll learn how to use the WordPress theme repository to make your themes publicly available and the steps you need to take to package up a theme.
- Chapter 7, Tips & Tricks, will help you take your WordPress theme development skills further. You’ll learn how to add some more advanced features to your theme, including additional template files, conditional tags to display different content according to context, how to give your theme’s users access to the theme customizer, and how to optimize your theme for SEO.
WordPress Theme Development Beginner’s Guide
Third Edition: March 2013
Learn how to design and build great WordPress themes
Tessa Blakeley Silver
Rich Helms is a seasoned software developer with over 30 years of experience in computer Research and Development. His credentials range from deep technical work (five patents in hardware and software with a sixth pending) to running R&D. In 2010 co-authored “Amazon SimpleDB Developer Guide” for Packt Publishing.