Programming Experts’ Guide to Code a WordPress Theme

Introduction
WordPress is a massive platform for users to manage their site and the specialty of WordPress is that it is equipped with some of the most powerful and unique tools that one could use. WordPress is so popular and widely used that almost 30.3% of the total websites on the internet use WordPress and there are more than 10 million websites on the internet. 

WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems (CMS) because of its flexibility. The user can modify and create code to develop the site however they like and there are also options to create and add third-party plugins. 

Road to becoming an expert developer with WordPress 
It was understood that developing plugins and themes is possible and you can create stunning visuals and develop the website however you like but there are certain things that you should understand before you start working with WordPress.

  • Assess Your Current Knowledge and Note Any Gaps –  It is easy to learn WordPress and the interface is built in such a way that everybody can work on it easily. There are a lot of features in WordPress and to develop the perfect website you have to dive into some of the complex processes and learn the necessary skills. Some components might take up too much time to understand and this is when you can outsource your work and get programming help from professional programming experts. 
  • Ensure You Understand How WordPress’ Key Components Work Together – There are many different components in WordPress and sometimes it gets a little too complicated. It is mandatory for everyone to understand the key components because they play a major role when you are developing and using themes on a website. You should know which components can be edited and which should be never touched. Meddling with all the components can cause a lot of trouble. 
  • Gain a Strong Command of the Customizer and Other WordPress Settings – Every business is different and so are the demands for the website. It is not possible to find the perfect theme which fits your business standard entirely. The themes can be modified, edited and certain parts of it can be picked up and the remaining can be removed. There are various templates, themes, demos, and other prebuilt elements that you can edit, and working with these components helps to create a dynamic and perfect website. It is important to gain a strong command of the customizer as it allows you to work with advanced customization and turn ideas into reality. 
  • Learn About the Technical Underpinnings of WordPress – To become an expert in WordPress you don’t have to work on multiple coding languages. It is important to understand the logic behind the code rather than having a deep understanding of how the code works. Understanding the basics of HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript can help a lot and pave the way to becoming a WordPress expert. 
  • Learn about the Database and Database Maintenance – The special advantage of using WordPress is that the content management system is integrated with the database and the pages are automatically converted to HTML. Understanding the way databases work can help to work with the posts and custom posts. The data relating to the themes and plugins are stored in the database and troubleshooting becomes easy when you have a grip on the data structures. You can also custom fields, Advanced Custom Fields, and Pods custom fields and can easily incorporate custom fields into your Beaver Builder layouts. Maintaining the site also becomes a lot easier and you can make changes efficiently.
  • Become Familiar With WordPress’ Hosting Options – Hosting is one of the most crucial factors which helps to keep the website running and you should have a clear understanding on how the hosting service works and which plan to choose. There are various plans like shared server hosting, private server hosting, etc. You can choose the best service once you know the features of each option and understand the demands of the website. If you know you will experience high traffic then you should go for private hosting with a dedicated server. This will help to keep the data safe and the website running at all times. 
  •  Interact with the WordPress Community and Give Back – WordPress is completely open-sourced and there is a huge community full of experts who develop themes, plugins, extensions, and other third-party tools that can be added to a website. These expectations are free to use and can help other developers a lot. When you accept expectations from the community, it is only fair that you contribute something to society too. You can simply upload the themes or plugins that you created so that other developers can implement the application and this helps others from spending a lot of time on development. 

How to develop WordPress themes

Step 1: Set Up a Local Environment
The first step for creating a WordPress theme is to create a local development environment to manage the working of the code. The local environment is basically a server that you install on your computer, which you can use to develop and manage local WordPress sites. A Local environment can be created in many ways but the best method is to do it using a desktop server. You can go on the internet and search for the free version of the desktop server application. You have to register on the website and then download and install it. Once the application is installed you can configure the local environment according to your requirements.

Step 2: Download and Install Your Starter Theme  
You can download a theme and get started with the Underscores. This process is fairly simple, all you have to do is to open the website and name the theme. There are also advanced options available which give you a chance to give a detailed description by adding an author name and give the theme a description.

There is a Sassify option available which allows users to add Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets (SASS) and with SASS users can add variables, nesting, math operators, and more.

Step 3: Understand How WordPress Works Behind the Scenes
WordPress allows users to add custom themes and plugins and the user should have a basic understanding of how the component works. There are various parts of the code and the user can modify certain parts of the code to fit the needs of the user. There are specific areas of the code which shouldn’t be changed. Understanding components is also important to know details like header.php is used to create a header, while comments.php enables you to display comments etc.  

Step 4: Configure Your Theme
The demands of every website are different and you have to customize the theme to fit the business requirements of your website. Once you have all the required knowledge and the tools at your disposal you can change the functionality of the website entirely. You can add hooks, add styles with CSS, and do much more. 

Step 5: Export the Theme and Upload It to Your Site
Once you complete developing the theme you have to test the efficiency of it. There should be any bugs and the theme should handle data effectively. You can find Theme Unit test data on the internet and this is basically sample data that you can upload to the website to test the efficiency of the theme. Once you are satisfied with the working of the theme you can upload it to the website and the uploading process is fairly simple. 

Conclusion
You have to have a basic understanding of the various concepts that help in the smooth running of a website. Knowing the logic and functioning is the key and with practice, you have a grip on all the functions. You may not master all aspects of WordPress development and the wise decision would be to play by your strengths and get the other components developed from a third-party source. These third-party sources master in various services and getting help from them can be a huge advantage. 

What is a WordPress Child Theme?

Want to enjoy more control over your WordPress site and wish to learn how themes actually work? WordPress child theme is the answer!

Use of WordPress child themes to modify any of your themes is a safe and recommended way. WordPress is a smart choice and magnet for all those who are keen on keeping full control of their websites in their hands and want to keep running them independently.

WordPress can make customizing websites completely easy and with just a little decent knowledge of CSS, HTML, and PHP, there are a lot of things that can be changed.

WordPress child theme further gives you little more comfort in handling websites to which you can make multiple changes without having to touch any original theme files through the process.  

What is a theme in WordPress?
Essentially, a WordPress theme is a collection of templates, styles, and other files that work together to present content on your website in a certain way. It can be used to help you build almost any kind of website much faster – from simple websites and eCommerce stores to more complex ones like membership sites or directory websites.

Any theme becomes a parent theme only when someone builds child themes for them.

Till then it is just a theme, something that you already find in the WordPress directory.

Child themes completely depend on their parent themes for working accurately.

If the parent theme is missing, it will not perform even a single task and it’s not even possible to activate it.

It is possible to change, add and manage things from the WordPress admin area. Luckily, you are spoilt for choices when it comes to choosing your favorite or suitable WordPress themes online.

WordPress themes are responsible for changing the overall design and appearance of your website and it often includes its layout and various other features that demand change.

If you want to change the overall appearance of your website on the front-end, switching over to themes can largely help.

It is possible to pick from more than a thousand free themes from the theme directory on WordPress.

For better results, you can also invest in paid and premium themes.

If you are fond of a particular theme used on some sites, online detectors and tools can help you recognize the same theme and install it on your website.

What is a Child theme?
A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality from the parent theme but allows you to safely extend and modify the parent theme while making sure that your changes won’t be lost after the updates.

In the case of tweaking an existing WordPress theme, a child theme can let you customize without having to upgrade the existing one.

This can often seem like a tough choice when you want to update your theme without losing all the existing custom styles that you have prepared for your WordPress site and you can’t – this scenario was a tough thing in the past.

However, now when you wish to update your site quickly to prevent it from getting hacked, you can do it without submitting to major changes.

The concept of parent and child theme was introduced to meet this purpose at large.

There are a few parent themes that rely on limited functionalities or features and hence they are not recommended in most cases.

Not all parent themes contain necessary action filters and hooks limiting the amount of extensibility that the developer can provide.

As a result, developers and designers can create a robust WordPress website by utilizing child themes in just a few moments.

What is the purpose of using a Child theme in WordPress?
Developers and designers from top web designing companies commonly put child themes to use for speeding up their development.

When you are using a good parent theme, you can be sure about less time utilized for creating a WordPress website.

It is not required to get everything coded simply because most of the good parent themes also known as the theme frameworks offer multiple options in customization and functionality.

Creating a WordPress child theme is easy and simple just like creating a new style.css file in the root folder of the child theme.

Child themes in WordPress can have multiple template files, as many as you have in the parent theme. Also, child themes can contain template files that may not even be available in WordPress parent themes.

Using a child theme can depend on your own requirements.

Most of the websites built for ourselves or the clients are child themes from theme frameworks.

Users must opt for child themes only in case they find themselves updating brand new features or functions or modifying styles more often than not.

In such cases, the use of child themes is highly recommended.

Now a question that usually arises in these cases is whether it is best to use custom CSS plugin or child themes and what is the purpose of child themes if you are into adding and altering custom styles only?

The answers to these questions are not complicated. It really depends on how comfortably one can put technology into use.

When there is a need to modify just a few styles in elements then you can simply use a built-in feature that is called a theme customizer.

If you are among those who keep changing color schemes constantly or shifting features around CSS is your cup of tea then utilizing child themes for your work can be great.

It should be noted here that many beginners commit the mistake of creating child themes of parent themes that can’t offer a lot of functionality.

If you are stuck into creating child themes where you have to replace plenty of parent theme files in a go, then it becomes important to consider your choice again.

It is rather advisable to put your selected theme as starter themes can further turn into custom themes later.

When you are inclined to utilizing functionality and features of a good parent theme without putting in the effort for writing plenty of code, it is advisable to use child themes for best results.

Advantages of using a WordPress child theme
Child themes can contain JavaScript, CSS, image folders, template files, and a lot of other features but you don’t necessarily require incorporating them all. They can work with more or little customizations as required.

There are many other advantages of using WordPress child themes and here are some of them.

Safe updates: Child themes automatically adapt to the features, templates, and styles of parent themes. You can then easily make changes to the site with child themes and without having to modify the parent theme.

With the introduction of a new parent theme version, it is possible to safely update with all modifications already saved in the existing child theme with no downtime. The last thing you want is your site to be down for some time-this can negatively impact your SEO ranking and progress if your site is ‘down’ for too long and Google might even deindex it.

Easily extendable: If you have a child theme set on some powerful and reliable theme framework, it is possible to enjoy the advantage of added flexibility without taking the trouble of writing plenty of codes.

You can select and modify particular functions and template files required by you without having to go through various other template files involved in the process. It is also possible to go for more added functionality for better results.

Safe fallback: While you are trying to create a new theme, think, and analyze various other possible scenarios and codes to be written for them.

There can be instances when you forget to write a code for something while working on a child theme. In that case, the functionality of the parent theme is always available as a reliable and convincing fallback option.

If you are not happy with the customization work, you can easily disable the child theme and the results are going to be similar to what it was before.

All in all, with WordPress child themes, you can start learning more about how WordPress themes actually work. You can speed up your development time and reduce the over price of the website by building on something that already exists without having to start things from scratch.

Disadvantages of using a WordPress child theme
Apart from many advantages of using a child theme in WordPress, there are also multiple disadvantages that shouldn’t be overlooked.

One of the major disadvantages in this regard is the time required to invest in learning about parent themes.

If you are working with the robust theme frameworks, you must know that they already have their own set of filters and hooks and you must try to know more about them to fetch maximum potential out of them.

Just the first few child themes created should take a long time but post that, it becomes easy to create custom websites within a few moments. It will boost your overall performance too.

Another disadvantage of using WordPress child themes is that the developers of your parent themes might begin losing interest, drop an essential feature that was already being used in a child theme, or even make a change that might just destroy the child theme of your website completely.

Most of the WordPress themes being used in the present time are GPL and open source. With the developer of the parent theme abandoning the project, chances are that you will have to stop using it.

Even though many folks from the same community can go-ahead to take over the entire project, you can still face little issues that are ultimately tough to ignore and you will probably need to hire a new developer.

If the original developers of a particular theme remove a particular feature, you can still get it added in your child theme. You should be having the code for making the changes. However, if you find them making a huge change that you are not comfortable inheriting, then what you can do is, simply avoid the update.

WordPress theme updates are extremely vital in case of a security exploit.

However, it is always required to keep updating themes since it can ensure good compatibility with multiple plugins and scripts for the future.

In case, you are using some commercial WordPress theme framework, then you can take help from the support options that can further assist you in upgrading themes or facing troubleshoot issues.

Such stable platforms should continue offering you the service you demand and they are here to stay because they are counted among top stable business organizations offering services to more than thousands of customers from all over the world.

In a few cases, it was seen that when such platforms suddenly removed typical built-in widgets or other functionalities, they instantly made them available for all, encouraging them to use plugins they wanted to stick to.

Conclusion
Even though any developer or designer can create a child theme on just any WordPress theme, it should be added that at times you might not just require any child theme at all.

Make sure that you have analyzed the number of changes you need to make to a child theme that you have selected and if you feel that the changes you have planned are minor then you can consider switching over to custom-style.css file in theme or simply start using the custom CSS plugin that meets your requirements. You must think about creating a custom theme if the changes you have planned are extreme.

With this article, you must have gained a fair knowledge of whether the WordPress child theme is a good choice for you and fits your requirements well. Building child themes in WordPress isn’t a complicated task and all you need is one folder and two files to start with.

A child theme is simple yet a lot more powerful which allows you to safely customize a website without having to edit core files.

Learning about creating WordPress child themes can prove to be an important step in the career of any WordPress developer or designer.


About the autor: Andriy Haydash is a WordPress Developer & Consultant who helps thought leaders and organizations build and launch successful membership sites.