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Lessons learned from WordPress theme building

August 22, 2012  

I chose to build my own WordPress theme for this website.

I did so because I wanted the flexibility of adapting the layout to my personal needs and wishes. Using an existing theme and sticking within its boundaries did not appeal to me. I did so on a previous website and it simply was not satisfying to be restricted by the design of the theme.

A number of hours

While I had experience with HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP before I started, it was still a challenge. I needed to figure out how I would like the website to look, which colors to use, which fonts to use and so on. Since it was my first WordPress theme, also needed to learn how WordPress themes work. I also, for example, wanted the website to use HTML5 and CSS3 and that was a bit new to me as well.

I did not clock my hours, but I know that I spent a number of hours building the theme. While there are many tutorials and tools as well as a lot of information regarding WordPress themes on the Internet (thankfully!), there is no single place that tells you how to build your entire theme exactly as you would like it to be.

No theme is perfect

One big lesson is to not spend too much time making the theme perfect. Because a WordPress theme will never be perfect. It will always have some shortcomings. There are always features that can be added and stuff that can be tweaked.

In my opinion, it is better to get it out there in reasonable time, because otherwise there is a risk to get stuck in an “endless” improvement cycle, resulting in a theme that doesn’t get released because it simply becomes too boring/draining to work on it.

Positive and negative

To sum up, I think that:

  • The big benefit of creating your own WordPress theme is that you can get a theme that suits your needs. It is also a big learning experience, at least if you’re doing it for the first time.
  • The biggest negative thing about creating your own WordPress theme is that it can take a lot of time, at least if you’re doing it for the first time.

In the end, was it worth it? Yes, I think it was.

Would I recommend anyone else to do it? It depends. It might, for example, be a good idea for a person who knows how to code and who sees WordPress theme creation as something fun and exciting.

But someone who does not know how to code might be better off by using a free theme or paying for one — or by outsourcing the work to someone else.