While content is the heart of a blog, the theme is its face. It’s the first thing visitors see and it’s what they use to make a snap judgment about whether your blog is worth checking out. There are two options for getting a theme. If you self-host your site, you can buy a theme from sites like Themeforest or you can design one yourself. I chose the latter option and built a custom WordPress theme without having any prior coding experience. I won’t lie, it was a more difficult path than buying a theme, but it also had some great benefits that I’ll get into at the end.
Looking for a Theme
If you want to have a successful blog, you need to make sure you have the right theme. When I began thinking about starting this blog, I had an image in my mind about how I wanted the site to look. So, when I was ready to start the site, I searched Google to see what themes for WordPress were available.
There were thousands and thousands of different themes. Everything from free one page designs to multipage sites that cost over $100. Honestly, it was overwhelming which theme would be the best. On top of that, according to what I’d read, once you select a theme there is a lot of customization you still need to perform.
Saddled by indecision due to the abundance of choices, I decided to try creating my own WordPress theme. The only problem was I didn’t have any experience coding.
Learning How to Code
Since I’ve never coded before, I set out to learn as much as possible. I went to my local library and found a few books, but without any prior knowledge it was difficult to understand them. I thought something visual might work better, so I went to Udemy to try and find some classes. I ultimately ended up using just two courses to go from no coding knowledge to developing my own WordPress theme in a few months.
The Complete Web Developer Course
The first course I took was The Complete Web Developer Course by Rob Percival. This is a MONSTER course with over 28 hours of video and 200+ lectures. Rob is a great teacher and it’s easy to see why his courses are among the top rated on Udemy.
Sidebar-If you don’t want to go through all 28 hours of this course, I recommend focusing on the sections on HTML, CSS, PHP and Twitter Bootstrap. These four areas are really the foundation of developing a basic WordPress Theme.
Another part I loved about the course was how hands-on it was. Rob has you code right along with him in each lecture. He also offers challenges for you to try on your own. This engagement really helps the material stick.
Once I completed The Complete Web Developer Course, I had enough knowledge of HTML and CSS to build a website. Yet, I was only halfway there. I still needed to learn how to take this knowledge and use it to create a custom WordPress theme.
WordPress Theme Development with Bootstrap
Let me start by saying Brad Hussey is crazy, but in the most amazing way possible. His course WordPress Theme Development with Bootstrap is a fast paced ride through the world of theme development. Brad’s energy is infectious and the speed at which he works makes you want to up your game.
The course, in only 12 hours, takes you from creating a static blog in HTML to converting it to a custom theme. As the title states, Brad uses Twitter Bootstrap to build the site. Bootstrap is great for quickly creating beautiful sites. While the course does cover some basics of HTML and Bootstrap, it pretty much assumes you know most of it already. That’s why The Complete Web Developer Course is so valuable. It provides the perfect foundation for WordPress Theme Development with Bootstrap.
Sidebar #2-If you already have a site built and just want to convert it to a WordPress theme, then you can skip the first half of this course and move straight into the sections on converting your site.
The meat of this course starts once you start converting your Bootstrap site to a WordPress theme. Brad uses the Underscores theme as a base. This is a free barebones theme that is easy to customize. From here it’s taking each portion of your site and converting it piece by piece. It may seem a bit monotonous, but repetition is a great way to learn new skills. Before you know it, your theme is complete and ready to use on WordPress.
The Learning Curve
While both courses are great at teaching you how to code and create themes, it still takes dedication to be successful. While I was taking these courses, I pretty much followed the S learning curve. It seemed like I was going nowhere for a while. I would follow the lessons, but I was making the same mistakes repeatedly. Then, everything started to click. I began to understand how to change each portion of a webpage or which template file I needed to edit to change a certain part of my theme. When I saw my progress, all the hard work became instantly worth it, which brings me to the benefits of learning to create your own WordPress theme.
Why You Should Create a Theme Even if You Don’t Use It
Even if you ultimately end up purchasing a theme, I still recommend taking these courses to learn how to create your own. One reason is the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment you get from creating something. Learning a new skill like coding is a major confidence boost. Plus, you may be able to take that new skill and make a side hustle out of it.
Another benefit is that by creating a custom theme, you gain a much deeper understanding of how WordPress works. I’ve found this knowledge makes it much easier to troubleshoot issues. I’m now able to perform a quick Google search and usually figure out any issue I’m having fairly quickly. Without the knowledge of the inner workings of WordPress, it would be difficult to understand what some of the troubleshooting sites are saying.
Plus, your newfound knowledge of WordPress will save you money if you need to customize an existing theme. Many people are afraid to make changes to a theme themselves and end up hiring a web designer. A lot of the changes you may want are easily made with plugins or just modifying some CSS. By learning how to do this yourself, you can have a lot more control over your site.
Create Your Theme Today
Whether you want to create your own WordPress theme or you just want to learn how to customize an existing theme, learning HTML and WordPress theme development is a great skill to have. You can use the links below to take Rob and Brad’s courses and save 90% off the price of the course.
Share Your Experience
Have you created your own site or customized an existing theme? Let me know your experience and put a link to your site in the comments so I can check it out.
Ready to start your blog today? Sign up for Bluehost for only $3.95/month.