Support » Themes and Templates » What’s the best way to design a theme – start from another one, or from scratch?

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    Just to forewarn everyone, I’m a newbie, so forgive me if my question sounds a bit green.

    I’d like to create the perfect Theme for my blog.

    Am I correct in assuming that most people designing their own blogs begin with existing themes (vaguely similar to what they had in mind) and changing it to their exact specifications?

    I’m guessing the drawback might be that the previous designer could have left some serious bugs behind, but it probably would still be better than starting from scratch, right? Is this what you guys would recommend?

Viewing 14 replies - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • What are your css, html, and php skills?

    It depends. Basing on a good theme can be very educational. Please make sure you have permission before you publish it. Writing your own theme from the ground up gives a lot of customization. If I am studying/ using a theme I usually let the author know if I find a bug (that is not related to new customization).

    Moderator Mark Ratledge


    Forum Moderator

    There is no “permission needed” to make or publish your own theme. Yes, if you use CSS or PHP from another theme, be sure it is open source or get permission to use the code and give credit for the code. But not for an original theme.

    Buding your own theme from scratch is not that difficult: see designing a theme from scratch and how to design a theme and WP codex theme development.


    Thank you clarifying my post. As I read my post back it might not be clear to everyone what I meant. But to be clear, yes I meant what you said. Your explanation is clearer in this one. Thank you for taking the time. 🙂

    Moderator Mark Ratledge


    Forum Moderator

    Design Dolphin, Sorry about that; I see what you mean. 🙂 I read your first post too quickly…

    So, if one was to start from scratch, would you recommend just creating a new folder under /themes with a new name – copy in the default theme’s css and php files, and then build up from there?

    Back to my initial question: I had asked about building upon a Theme closer to my tastes, because I assumed that was what the Open Source movement was all about – not reinventing the wheel, but adding onto existing code contributed by past individuals.

    Don’t individuals and even companies who use Open Source code usually fine tune it to their own needs – put their own company logos, colors, features into it to make it relevant to their own unique needs?

    Seems to me if someone puts an Open Source Theme out there for the public to use at will, they would essentially expect it to transform a bit according to the one using it. But I can certainly understand the importance of crediting the original designer at the bottom of the site.

    I’ll probably just reinvent the wheel to make certain I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes or breaking protocol, but I guess I’m a bit surprised by the protocol.

    there are hundreds of step by step tuts to create a wordpress theme. Google is your friend.

    When im building a theme i create it basic css/ xhtml, perfect it, then i copy the code over to the right files of wordpress.

    you have 5 main files in a wordpress theme,
    header.php – controls all the standard html meta and assigns the stylesheet, and also the header of the theme
    index.php – is the main file, and is where all the other files are called from. shows the blog posts etc
    sidebar.php – controls the sidebar
    footer.php – the bottom of the theme, including the ending <html> tag and any info like on the bottom of this page

    you will then be able to add more pages such as single.php, page.php, search.php, archive.php, author.php

    best bet is to know css / xhtml to a high level, then learn the workings of php.

    good luck

    Thanks faevilangel for your tips. So you completely isolate the css/xhtml initially (working on it locally) rather than writing it directly into the css sheets in the working directory to immediately see how it changes the application?

    I hadn’t considered that. I guess you have to continue to check in the php files to see what structures they’re already using (tables, etc) to handle the incoming data?

    That’s probably a good idea as far as fine tuning all the css layout stuff. I might try that. It should also help me to polish up my css skills, before I make a mess.

    A good design can take a few hours so building it in css / xhtml means you can get it right, rather than spend hours working out whats going wrong when adding it to wordpress!

    css & xhtml skills are a must as you need to know how to code each individual section. I would never attempt a wordpress theme without a huge amount of css/xhtml knowledge.

    Never ever ever ever use tables in a theme! Always use css divs. Tables aren’t for layouts, they are for tabular data.

    Have a look through the theme directory here, to see if any themes enlighten you and see if you can replicate sections without looking at the code.

    Good luck

    Good advice! Thank you very much.

    As an addendum to what faevilangel is saying (which I wholeheartedly agree with) make extensive use of the the xhtml and CSS validators:

    Excellent site! I’m on it now. Thanks for that. I’m downloading everything locally now.

    Thanks Simon,
    I’ll be sure to use those validators throughout.

    Thanks everyone.

    Apology excepted. Thank you for taking the time. Don’t even worry about it. It has been a learning experience for me.

    start from another one, modify it. I think it’s the easy way.
    my blog

Viewing 14 replies - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
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