Support » Themes and Templates » How do you begin when you are designing a new theme?

  • I just did this great tutorial on designing WP themes.

    It took me step by step through the whole process and really explained the loop and the PHP elements clearly.

    I am going to try to design my own theme for a couple of my blogs but I wonder where to start.

    I’ve heard some really start from scratch each time.

    I’ve heard some start from the Kubrick theme and go from there.

    I’ve heard some find a theme with the approximate structure they want and modify it from there.

    I’ve heard some develop their own starting points like their own 2 column, 3 column, widget ready, etc.

    I’m sure these are all valid ways to go, BUT for someone who is just starting out which method, or another one if you have it, would you recommend. By starting out I mean in theme design, I know XHTML and CSS very well. I am using theme design as a springboard into PHP.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
  • Well okpeery I have to say that I always start from scratch when creating themes. When I first started learning I used another theme and then adpated that but I think that it actually harder because you are never to sure which code does what. When you write your own your always know. OK it may take a bit more time to get the code you want to make your site do something specific but its research worthwhile.

    So to sum up I would start from scratch, but others will probably tell you otherswise.

    I was afraid someone was going to say just that. After using other themes and modifying I know this to be true. It takes a bit of testing to see what does what and that same time can be spent writing the code from scratch.

    I guess I just thought that Kubrick is the default and that after modifying it a few times you probably come to know exactly what part does what. Then it might be easier to go from there.

    Anyway, I’m curious how others do it.

    Well i guess that if you learned Kubrick theme and new exactly what each bit did then maybe that would work.

    However I would rather spend the time learning how to do various differnet things that I want to do rather than learning what code does what that someone else has written that I may never need or want.

    We all work in different ways i guess!

    I’m getting ready to start building my first theme from scratch. I have modified several others beyond recognition, and it is a great learning experience. Now that I have a little bit of experience, I agree with educationthemes. When you’re working with someone else’s code, you end up spending most of your time just figuring out what everything is and what it does. If you start with a clean sheet of paper, you never have to wonder.

    When you’re starting out, I think modifying from Kubrick is a safe bet. That’s what I did too. This theme is not overly complicated, it does the “right thing”, and because it already works… you can concentrate on what you want to change rather than spending all your energy figuring out all the little details that you need to take care of had you written from scratch.

    For all of you who start from scratch, is there a checklist of sorts that has all the files that are needed?

    I did the tutorial in the link above but at the end what was missing was a list of the essential files for making a theme.

    I’m going to try to modify Kubrick for one blog and then from scratch for another and compare the time and effort required for each.

    Thanks for the help.

    This list is in lesson 1 of the tutorial.

    * style.css
    * index.php
    * home.php
    * single.php
    * page.php
    * archive.php
    * category.php
    * search.php
    * 404.php
    * comments.php
    * comments-popup.php
    * author.php
    * date.php

    I looked back and couldn’t find that list in lesson 1 of the tutorial I linked to, might you be talking about another tutorial. The only list in the 1st tutorial is a list of all the lessons you will do, not quite the same as essential files for all wordpress themes.


    I have made one/two posts on my blog and thereafter i want change the theme.How can i go about it without disturbing my previous/existing post and thereafter have i to do anything like loading my pluggins again.



    your question doesnt’ make much sense but I’ll try to answer it:
    your posts and your theme have nothing to do with each other.
    Themes are PHP files uploaded to your host server (wp_content/theme/…) while your posts, as any other content are all stored in the database.

    You can change your themes 1,000 times – your content still will be the same.

    I did the tutorial in the above link also and found it gave me enough of a start to design my own theme. All I did was lay the page out as if I were designing a regular web page (header, content, sidebar, footer etc) and then stuffed the relevant PHP into those divs. I actually used a lot of stuff from that tutorial, like the main loop and some of the sidebar. Put a few dummy posts and sidebar content into your WP installation, then see how it turns out. As long as you have the content and sidebar stuff showing up in the right places, you’re all set – just tweak and style to your hearts content from there.

    Here’s a handy cheat sheet.

    Being a web designer by trade and having designed many many WP themes over the years, I’ve found that just to get my feet wet, I’ve done what some others here have done: Taken a theme whose layout is similar to what I’ve got in mind and working it up to suit myself. That can be good, as it is a quick way to get a theme up and running but the downside is, as others have discovered, you waste time picking things apart and while you can learn from it, if you picked a theme done by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing with regard to CSS or WP, you may end up not only developing your own bad habits, but inheriting some bad habits from the other stylesheet author.

    As time has gone by and I’ve learned more and more about CSS and WordPress, and as WordPress has grown, I’ve found that just working up the design and laying out the divisions in HTML is where I start. Then once I’m satisfied with that, and it all validates, I start slicing it up and plopping the WP code in. This seems to work for me and fosters creativity and thinking outside the box more than expanding on someone else’s code. And no one likes to clean up someone else’s mess, right? 🙂

    Thanks for the help sheets. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

    The cheat sheet in the link above is great too.

    After fiddling with Kubrick for a few hours yesterday, I think I too am going the route of, design the site like normal and then slice it up with the appropriate PHP calls.

    Thanks for the help sheets.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
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