Learning about Themes at WordPress.org

1. Themes Directory

Both free and paid themes are available here. There is also a Feature Tag Filter, which allows you to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are currently 2,864 themes in the repository.

2. Theme Developer Handbook

This is a work in progress, but a good place to start.

Main Headings

  • Getting Started
  • Part 1: Theme Basics
  • Part 2: Theme Functionality
  • Part 3: Advanced Theme Topics
  • Part 4: Releasing Your Theme

3. Theme Development

This page will soon be superseded by the Developer Handbook


  • Why WordPress Themes
  • Theme Development Standards
  • Anatomy of a Theme
  • Child Themes

Starting off with a child theme of one of the numbered Themes “2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and soon 2015” is a good place to get started.

Note you will need to get your head around some basic programming languages:

  • Html5
  • CSS3
  • Javascript – jQuery

More advanced but worth learning are:

4. Theme Development Checklist

An index page to keep yourself sorted, mainly for the WordPress.org development site.

5. Make WordPress Themes

Where you submit a new theme for review and eventual inclusion into the repository.

Set Up You Computer Based Sandbox

One of the problems with WordPress is that being PHP based it needs a server (another computer, usually Linux) to produce and serve the html that you look at as the end result.

Initially when you are developing it is easiest to just start modifying files willy-nilly. This is a self correcting behaviour, which can often lead to a blank screen, loss of hair and a late night coding to get your site up and running, hopefully as good as new. These ‘aha’ moments teach you to backup your site, both the front end (html, css, and PHP) and the database. Remember WordPress uses a database (MySQL) to be a content management system.

It’s time to look at setting up an on-computer sandbox, where you can play to your heart’s content.

Ways to do this:

Software – Remember I’m a Mac Guy – There are equivalent apps on the Windows side.


There is a free and a paid app ($50 or so) here. MAMP sets up the sandbox on its own. The only issue is that MAMP does not play well will all programming languages and can cause conflicts. Go ahead and give the free version a spin – you are limited to one site, but that will get you quickly started. I’ve never been able to make adding a theme or plugin through the website work.

Now, if things spin out of control, you can just delete and reinstall WordPress.


Take a deep breath and go to the GitHub site. (You will need to set up a free account – why wouldn’t you?)

7. Varying-Vagrant-Vagrants/VVV

I’m not sure why, but the top of the page for Github sites is a list of resources. I guess coders start to drool when there is more than one file, but I’m not sure about how this can attract and audience.

Scroll down to

The First Vagrant Up

As you can see this one is user friendly to Mac OS X, Linux or Windows.

Now you need to be patient as you wade through a bunch of command line cruft.

At the end of the exercise you type ‘vvv.dev’ in the URL box and you’ll have something like this in your browser:

Vagrant Chrome Homescreen

The top set of items are settings, the bottom half are four WordPress setups:

  • WordPress stable
  • WordPress trunk
  • Trunk WordPress development
  • Grunt development

Pretty cool, you have the stable site (same as the one begging for download at the WordPress.org website and also the bleeding edge development site.

Instead of having to ftp into your site, you can just use the file system. These files should be in your home folder ~/(yourcomputername here) vagrant-local if you set up your site per directions. You can fire up the sites and live-add themes and plugins from the repository.

You always work with the latest and greatest versions. It’s just built that way.

8. bitnami

A different stack arrangement. By in large, pretty good – especially WAMP for Windows. I prefer Vagrant.


9. Foundation

You can get involved with this one as much or as little as you like. There are Foundation based starter themes. (Do a search in the repository). You can also just download the CSS and work from there. This grid is extremely mobile friendly.

10. Bootstrap ยท The world’s most popular mobile-first and responsive front-end framework.

The other major framework. Again, you can have a look at the theme depository to see which themes use Bootstrap.