A Beginners Guide to DIY WordPress Theme Development


You may have to do something yourself if you want it done well. While many WordPress themes are available, it may be tough to find one that offers the precise appearance and functionality you want. You might even be tempted to build your own theme instead. Getting started with theme creation might be intimidating, especially for a novice.

Creating WordPress themes may be a breeze if you know basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If you are new to WordPress, all you need to do is follow the beginner instructional instructions. By the conclusion of this lesson, you’ll understand how to create a WordPress theme, how everything fits together, and how to utilise WordPress at your leisure.

1. Establish a Local Environment

The initial step will be to establish a local development environment. This is essentially a server that you install on your PC to develop and manage local WordPress sites. A local site is a secure way to test a theme without interfering with your live site in any manner.

There are other methods for creating a local environment; however, we will use DesktopServer. This is a quick and simple method for installing a free local version of WordPress compatible with both Mac and Windows. To get started, choose the free version of DesktopServer, register it, and then download the installation.

You can launch the installer when it has been downloaded. When the installation is complete, launch the software, and you will be prompted to set up your new local environment. This is a simple process, and you’ll have your local WordPress site up and running in a matter of minutes. Your new site will appear and function precisely like a live WordPress website once it is deployed.

2. Download and Install Your Starter Theme

With your local environment setup and ready to go, the next step is to download your starter theme. A starter theme is a blank theme that you can adjust to create your own unique theme. This is the best place to start because it gives you a place to add your custom code and make your theme unique.

For this tutorial, we’ll recommend a starter theme called Underscores. This is a popular starter theme that’s available in the WordPress themes directory and is a great theme to start with. You can learn more about Underscores here.

Once you have downloaded Underscores, you can upload the ZIP file to your local environment by navigating to Appearance > Themes > Add New.

3. Set Up Your Theme

It’s tempting to believe that themes are only for show, yet they can have a significant influence on your site’s operation. Let’s have a look at some basic modification options.

Add Functionality with ‘Hooks’

Hooks are code snippets added into template files that allow you to conduct PHP operations on various regions of a site, apply style, and show other information. The majority of hooks are built into the WordPress core; however, some are also beneficial to theme creators.

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequent hooks and their applications:

  • wp head() — This function is added to the head> element in header.php and allows styles, scripts, and other information to execute as soon as the site loads.
  • wp footer() — This function was added to footer.php just before the /body> tag. This is frequently used to include Google Analytics code.
  • wp meta() — This is often found in sidebar.php and is used to incorporate extra scripts (such as a tag cloud).
  • comment form() — This function was added to comments.php just before the file’s closing /div> element to show comment data.

These will be pre-installed in your Underscores theme. We still recommend visiting the Hooks Database to examine all available hooks and learn more about them.

4. Export the Theme and Upload It to Your Site

When you’ve finished tinkering with your theme, it’s time to put it to the test. You can ensure this by putting the theme through its paces. You may use the Theme Unit Test data t quickly confirm that your theme will work in most cases. This is a collection of fictitious data that you may publish to your website in a variety of layouts and content variations. You’ll be able to examine how your theme handles irregular data.

When you’ve thoroughly tested your theme and are satisfied that it meets all of the requirements, the only thing left to do is export it. The most straightforward technique is to identify the website on your local system, which is most likely in a folder called Websites inside your default Documents directory. Navigate to the website’s folder and then to /wp-content/themes/, where your theme may be located.


While it may seem like a lot of work setting up your environment and doing the legwork with your theme, the process is straightforward. As you make themes, you will experience the rewards of your customised design and gain a better understanding of the inner workings of WordPress.

Are you looking for help with website development in Northampton? Fruitbowl Studio can help you create a website that streamlines your business operations and automates your processes. Get a free demo today! 

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