Build Your Own Wicked WordPress Themes
$39.95 from Sitepoint (an imprint of O’Reilly)
I’ve been looking to get into designing WordPress themes, so I’ve been browsing through a number of WordPress books lately. They’ve generally tended to call into two types: “here’s how to make a post” and “here’s how all the PHP in WordPress works”. What I needed is a “here’s how to get started building WordPress themes”; fortunately, that’s just what I’ve found in this book.
The book is reasonably short (just under 200 pages, not counting the preface and index) and is divided into eight chapters. The first is the obligatory “Introducing WordPress”. Chapters two and three cover how to plan and design your theme; this is the type of stuff you do before you start programming, so you don’t get halfway through the coding and realize that what you were envisioning isn’t going to work correctly.
Chapter four is the one that really got me started; it introduces theme frameworks, which act as a scaffolding on which you can build your theme. After reading this chapter, I was able to jump right in to extending the recommended Thematic framework. Theme frameworks provide basic functionality (and even more hooks) and are meant to be extended with child themes; they let you jump right into developing the appearance of your theme without having to spend time getting the basic elements to work correctly.
Chapter five explains how the various files work together and introduces you to some sample PHP code. Have no fear: if you don’t want to change the functionality if your theme template, you can ignore the php files entirely and code entirely in CSS! To increase what your theme can do, though, you’ll need to pick up some PHP and dive in.
Chapter six is about widgets and widget-ready areas; again, this is something you only have to pay attention to if you’re working with the PHP. Widgets are add-ons that increase the functionality of your site; when you’re building a new theme, you want to be sure it works with the most popular widgets, and that there are a number of places where the widgets can be dropped.
Chapter seven is about making your theme easy for the user to customize to meet his own needs. This chapter shows how to add a menu to the administration panel for your theme – a pretty useful trick! You can copy code directly from the book to allow your theme’s users to make changes to the look of the site without knowing any CSS.
Finally, chapter eight is on selling your theme. The authors of this book are professional WordPress theme designers who make their money by doing just that, and this chapter is pretty informative. It also explains how the licensing works for commercial themes, which I had wondered about as WordPress itself is licensed under the GPL.
Overall, this was exactly the book I was looking for; if you want to learn to build WordPress themes, I highly recommend it.