Beginner WordPress Developer

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An introduction to developing WordPress themes

Introduction to themes for developers

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Welcome to this lesson introducing themes to developers.

With this lesson, you will

  • differentiate between a theme and a plugin,
  • discover the possibilities of a WordPress theme, and
  • explore the fundamental structure of a block, classic and hybrid theme.

Differentiate between a theme and a plugin

Essentially, the difference between a theme and a plugin is that themes control the presentation of content, and plugins control the behaviors and features of your site.

What are the possibilities of a WordPress theme?

You can get inspiration by visiting the WordPress.org themes directory.

When you’re ready to start designing your theme, you’ll have to put some thought towards colors, fonts, layouts and features. Start by selecting one base color and at least one complementary color to be used throughout your theme. Color wheel tools, such as those found on Canva, can be helpful.

Next for your fonts, you can navigate over to Google Fonts, do a search and find the right fonts for your theme.

Within the WordPress.org themes directory, we can see a list of layouts that theme developers normally include in their themes which demonstrates the vast amount of functionality or features that you can include in your theme.

How will your theme encourage engagement?

A popular way to encourage engagement is by using bright colored call to action buttons.

What considerations will your theme have regarding accessibility?

An easy way for you to get started would be to make sure that you have sufficient contrast between the color of your text and the color of your background.

What functionality will your theme include?

For a block theme, what blocks, patterns and media will you give your end users access to?

The fundamental structure of a block, classic and hybrid theme

The Twenty Twenty-Four theme is a good example of a block theme.

Block themes use blocks for all parts of the site, including navigation menus, headers, content and footers. This theme’s files are mainly HTML and JSON file format.

For a classic theme, the Twenty Twenty theme is a great example.

Classic themes don’t use the block editor to manage the site, layout beyond posts and pages. With classic themes we mostly have PHP files.

A good example of a hybrid theme is the Twenty Twenty-One theme.

A hybrid theme is a classic theme that adopts some features of site editing. For example, within the Twenty Twenty-One theme we will see in the functions.php file that they have added theme support for block styles.

The theme developer handbook

You can find the theme developer handbook by visiting developer.wordpress.org and clicking on the “Themes” link at the top of the page.