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Creating your Own WordPress Theme: Tips and Tricks

WordPress is, without doubt, one of the best content management systems in existence today. You know it, I know it, and pretty much the whole world acknowledges it. With that fact irrefutably established, let’s move on to finding out what makes WordPress so well-loved.

The reasons are many – versatile plug-ins, great support, high functionality, and easy to use interface being the top few that jump to mind instantly. But the one thing that makes me a huge WordPress fan is the sheer number of themes they have.

Whether I am looking to set up a food blog, document my experiences as a travel writer, jot down personal thoughts, start an e-commerce portal, showcase my portfolio for prospective clients, or share my talent for arts and crafts with the rest of the world, WordPress has a theme perfectly suited for the purpose. And this has been made possible by a vibrant community of designers and developers who are constantly engaged in creating unique ways to display content.

If all that creativity has encouraged you to dabble in the art of making your very own WordPress theme, I’d say go for it. It requires you to have hands on experience with HTML and CSS, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s great fun. And who knows, one day you might even end up making a WordPress theme that others will want to buy. Now won’t that be something!

Before you launch yourself full throttle into your creative endeavor, let’s go over certain tips and guidelines you should get right so you are able to create a fantastic WordPress theme for yourself…and soon, for others, too.

1. Begin with a Good Concept

Concept

That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Creating a WordPress theme from scratch is no mean task and you would naturally want something functional and appealing in return for all the effort you put in. This isn’t going to happen by magic. A great theme can only stem from a rock solid concept, so make sure you have that in place before you start burning the midnight oil.

2. Follow the Fundamentals of Good Design

Fundamentals

Look at some of the best WordPress themes out and you’ll notice that they all, without fail, solemnly adhere to the fundamentals of good design. Pay attention to the lines, spacing, layout, alignment, typography, and color choices. When in doubt, ask yourself questions like “How will the headers adapt to different content?”, “Is it possible to change the logo without affecting the layout in any significant manner?”, “Can the theme accommodate multiple columns or left/right sidebars?” Questions like these will help guide you in the right direction.

3. Abide Religiously by the WordPress Best Practices

Wordpress Best Practices

WordPress best practices are what distinguish a great theme from a mediocre one. They are basically a comprehensive set of design and coding guidelines that have been laid down so that developers adhere to the highest standards in quality, security, and plug-in compatibility. In addition, these best practices also ensure that the theme supports a variety of user-generated content and is compatible with upgrades that WordPress releases from time to time. It’s always best to follow these best practices so your theme functions glitch-free.

4. Make your Theme Pop

Make Your Theme Pop

While it’s always nice to have a theme that looks different, this guideline is especially relevant to designers who are looking to sell their custom themes. Buyers are drawn towards features they’ve never seen before. It’s very important to have a unique element – one that catches the eye and makes the theme a little more appealing. We aren’t talking about anything elaborate or radically different. Even tiny details that set you apart and give you a competitive edge – such as a home page slider show, a nice graphic, or a cool text box – will do.

5. Pay Attention to Content Formatting

Pay Attention to Content Formatting

The main aim of a blog is to display content. Therefore, it’s quite surprising when I see themes that are missing blockquotes or HTML lists. For a theme to perform well, it’s important to pay attention to all the HTML elements.

There are a number of tools and plug-ins that can help you to check this, such as the WP Lorem Ipsum Post Pack that tests HTML elements like <h2> and <blockquote>. Then there is WP Dummy Content, which you can use to create pages, categories, posts, etc. This allows you to see what your blog looks like when populated with content.

If this is your first attempt at making a WordPress theme, things might not fall into place right away. But that’s okay. Be patient. You are in your learning phase. But one thing’s for sure – when you do get a hang of the whole process and can put together a theme that works glitch-free, you will be tempted to make another one, and then one more, and another one … The excitement will never quite end.

But, till that happens continue reading up about all things related to WordPress coding and development. There are a heartening number of tutorials, articles, forums, blogs, and books – some free and some paid – that impart training on all aspects of creating a WordPress theme. The more you know, the better you will get at developing themes. And that was your agenda all along, wasn’t it?

Written by Sharon Michaels

Sharon Michaels is a design specialist who gives equal importance to aesthetics and functionality. A graduate from the National Institute of Design, Sharon currently works for Art Attackk, Addictive Media’s Digital Design Division. In her spare time, she also turns her attention towards writing and photography.

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