How to create WordPress theme from scratch


Developing WordPress themes from scratch is pretty interesting task that involves well understanding of how WordPress exactly works and what are its internal hooks and functions. I personally recommend following the general standards to avoid conflicts with the other extensions or themes, especially when it comes to naming convention.

Unlike the other tutorials I found online that explain how to work on the server by using FTP, I will explain how to create the WordPress theme files on your local device, add the necessary header information, then zip them and install the theme using the WordPress native installer.

Before starting let’s review the layout I picked up for testing purposes:

Create a WordPress theme from scratch

Create a WordPress theme from scratch

What we have here is header, breadcrumbs section, body, sidebar and footer sections. Each one has its own file that controls the visualization and options. There is also style.css file. Its purpose is to handle the styling of your website. In this tutorial we will use just one basic CSS file, but when working on complex projects you may use more, by defining them in the header or directly enqueue-ing in functions.php file. The second approach is based on wp_enqueue_style() which is core function and it is also recommended when it comes to directly injecting additional styles.

How to create WordPress header.php

Now let’s start creating WordPress theme files from scratch. Here is how our first header.php should look like:

<html>

<head>

<title><?php wp_title(); ?></title>

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>”>

<?php wp_head(); ?>

</head>

<body>

<div class=”container”>

<div class=”header rounded”>

This is the header section

</div>

<div class=”breadcrumbs rounded”>Breadcrumbs</div>

In this piece of code we added wp_title, defined the location of our CSS file and also included our first action hook. Note that wp_title is filter that handles and shows the title of a WordPress instance while wp_head is an action hook that is triggered in header section by wp_head function. In addition we added one class called container that will wrap the layout and also defined header class with simple text in it.

How to create WordPress index.php

The next main file is called index.php. Here are the functions included in it:

<?php get_header(); ?>

<div class=”main”>

<?php get_sidebar(); ?>

<div class=”content rounded”>

<?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>

<h1><?php the_title(); ?></h1>

<h4>Posted on <?php the_time(‘F jS, Y’) ?></h4>

<p><?php the_content(__(‘(more…)’)); ?></p>

<hr> <?php endwhile; else: ?>

<p><?php _e(‘Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.’); ?></p><?php endif; ?>

</div>

</div>

<?php get_footer(); ?>

The file starts with get_header();, which is an internal function that calls header.php file. If theme does not have such file, then the default one that comes within WordPress code files wp-includes/theme-compat/header.php will be included. The next two lines define two classes, one that wraps the sidebar and body and one more for the body itself. Coding this way gives us more options to control these two elements separately. The other lines define the main WordPress loop and also include the footer.

How to create WordPress sidebar.php

After saving index file, we are ready to continue with the next important one called sidebar.php. Here is an example of how this file could look like:

The next step is the footer. What you have to do is create footer.php and add the following code inside it:

<div class=”footer rounded”>

<h1>FOOTER</h1>

</div>

</div>

</body>

</html>

A few important things about this file:

  • The footer area is again wrapped in its own class
  • This file contains closing body and html tags
  • These two were opened in header.php file

How to create WordPress style.css

Now it is time to set up style.css file. It is very important because it is responsible for the entire style and visualization of the layout. Here is a sample that would help you understand better the basic of CSS:

/*
Theme Name: My theme
Theme URI: http://wppotion.com
Author: Leonid G.
Author URI: http://wppotion.com
Description: This is test theme
License: GNU General Public License v2 or later
License URI: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html
This theme, like WordPress, is licensed under the GPL.
*/

body { text-align: center; }
.rounded {-moz-border-radius: 10px; -webkit-border-radius: 10px;-khtml-border-radius: 10px;border-radius: 10px;background: #ccc;}
.container {top: 0;left: 0;width: 100%;top: 0;position: absolute;}
.header {width: 80%;margin: 0 auto;background-color: #ccc;height: 100px;line-height: 100px;margin-bottom: 10px;}
.main {width: 80%;margin: 0 auto; display: flex;margin-top: 10px;}
.breadcrumbs {height: 30px;line-height: 30px;margin: 0 auto;width: 80%;}
.sidebar {width: 100%; margin-right: 20px;}
.content {}
.footer {clear: left;width: 80%;margin: 0 auto;background: #ccc;}

There is also one more file called screenshot.png. This is the thumbnail of the test theme. If it does not exist, then in themes section you will see a blank image when checking the existing themes. Of course this would not affect the normal functionality of the theme in any way.


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