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  • Resolved Mulsiphix


    I am planning on starting a website business and want to use WordPress as my CMS. I will be creating hundreds of websites and need the ability to make them look very different and non-standard issue WordPress. I have experience with running blogs with WordPress and am now interested in running full fledged websites that break away from the standard two and three column design.

    From my understanding from browsing the Codex I will need to learn PHP, CSS, HTML (already know it), and become familiar with the WordPress engine itself. Am I missing anything? I want to be able to have complete control over theme design and content layout. I want to be able to know enough to modify and possibly create plugins from scratch.

    My question is what level will I need to be at with CSS and PHP in order to achieve this goal? Will I need to know PHP programming inside and out? I’m not super familiar with CSS beyond simple webpage display manipulation like font colors, creating tables, and other simple stuff. I don’t know how deep the language is as a whole.

    I am willing to learn whatever it takes to be able to have great control over WordPress and its presentation. I just need to know how many books I should be buying on these subjects. Most cover beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels (at least for PHP). How deep down the rabbit hole should I expect to go? Any help would be most appreciated!

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  • Well, I’d say the deeper you’re able to get with each of those technologies, the more flexibility you’ll have in creating unique WordPress-powered experiences.

    At minimum, if you’re focusing on front-end theme design only, you’ll want a decent working knowledge of HTML and CSS. Thankfully, CSS isn’t too difficult to pick up (at its core, it’s a set of definitions… nothing more) and as you use it over time you pick up more tips and tricks that you can add to your toolkit.

    Knowing a bit of PHP is also useful, but because many page elements are revealed to themes by template tags, it’s not necessary. That said, WordPress being built on PHP, the more you know of PHP, the more options you have with crafting experiences in WordPress. A working knowledge of PHP is essential if you’re looking into plugin development, and the ability to interpret source in other plugins and WordPress core doesn’t hurt when needed.

    If you have experience with any other programming languages, PHP isn’t too difficult to pick up (its syntax is C-like) and there are a number of tutorials either online or in book form. I’d recommend checking your local library to see if they have any books on introductory PHP programming… it’s so ubiquitous, many libraries will carry at least one book on intro to PHP 5.

    Long story short… HTML + CSS is needed to get started with theme development, and knowing a bit of PHP doesn’t hurt, either. For plugin development, you’ll need working knowledge of PHP.

    I hope this helps!

    Thank you very much for your detailed response. I just stumbled across something called Carrington Build. They say it isn’t really a plugin or a theme though. Do you think this was done in PHP or was a programming language used to create something like this?

    I only ask because that is something I am likely to design for myself. I will be building websites for different types of people and businesses and I will need the ability to quickly adapt. Doing all of the code by hand on that level really eats away at the time. If I design something similar to Carrington Build then I will be able to achieve much greater heights within my business. Unfortunately they don’t really give the specifics of all that went into making it on their site. At least I couldn’t find anything. It is a shining example of what I would like to do though.

    Hmm… I’m afraid I haven’t used this particular tool before, so I can’t provide much insight into its use. Looking at the documentation (or, at least the documentation that’s publicly viewable), it appears that it doesn’t include itself at the plugin layer, but by asking the theme author to include an external resource (in this case a PHP script that presumably includes the other scripts necessary to make the tool run) in the theme’s functions.php file.

    Ultimately, the theme extension would’ve had to been written in PHP in order to interface with WordPress and to run on the server. There doesn’t appear to be any installation instructions that suggest to the contrary (e.g. install this other technology, set up a separate install, et cetera).

    But, once again, haven’t used this tool before, so I can only guess based on what’s publicly available. And, of course, you’ll need to determine for your particular scenario whether it’s most appropriate to use this tool, create a plugin (or set of plugins), or do this sort of customization at the theme layer by hand.

    I hope this helps!

    Upon more research I have confirmed it uses PHP, CSS, HTML, light JavaScript, and has AJAX support, though I don’t think it played much a of a role in its development. From what I can tell it tosses the standard WordPress theme structure and tried to reinvent the wheel by using a template system. The only big drawback is that these guys really love to program and aren’t too crazy about documenting its functionality or even how to use it properly.

    One thing is for sure though, programming something at this level required a truly intimate knowledge of the WP core. The purpose of the project is to optimize repetitive WP coding tasks and the way they went about it throws many WP designing philosophies on their head. They say it is a theme engine designed to turn WP into a complete CMS. It’s features are truly impressive and recreating something like this, at this scale, would take years. They have five or six developers and have been developing it for close to five years now. It seems it would be better to just use it versus recreating it or its functionality.

    I just wish it wasn’t so expensive. While the code is open source under the GNU it doesn’t seem like I would get very far without access to their developer community. People post tutorials and discuss using it in a forum. Even seasoned developers seem to have trouble with figuring it out though. Unfortunately I can’t seem to figure out how up-to-date their website documentation is compared to where the project currently stands. All of the good stuff isn’t available publicly but gaining access will set me back $500 (not an easy investment for me).

    PHP and CSS should allow me to develop it further quite successfully but with so little information I feel very insecure about jumping in. All I know is that the demo they have available is truly impressive. The time I would save developing sites for others would be astronomical when compared to coding everything myself. I’m looking around but I can’t seem to find anything like it. It really is remarkable. GRAWR =(

    My question now is about Javascript. Will learning Javascript really help my theme making ability?

    Update On Previous Post Research (optional read)
    Alright I’m no longer focusing on the theme frameworks. I’m back to just focusing on the coding. After a lot of research it is pretty clear that I won’t be able to choose wisely until I’m actually ready to use one =P. I don’t think products like Carrington Build are what I’m looking for. I’m more interested in Gantry, Catalyst, xScape, or even Headyway (though unlikely).

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
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