WordPress has rapidly become the default content management system used by most website designers. Millions of websites, all over the world, run on WordPress. One of the reasons for that popularity is how easy it is to create a custom design, or theme, for a WordPress site. When you add in that web designers can sell their themes to many users, charge premiums for unique designs and otherwise make a living from their efforts, the WordPress platform becomes even more appealing for web designers.
Understanding the Mechanics of WordPress
Even if you’re planning to just handle the design aspect of creating new websites with WordPress, it’s worth understanding the basics, like installing and setting up the content management system. At the very least, you’ll be able to quickly test your new designs that way. The more you understand about the technical aspects of developing a WordPress site, the better equipped you are to make sure that your designs look their very best.
You may also want to invest some time in learning the ecosystem surrounding WordPress. There are quite a few different design frameworks which can take some of the pain out of designing websites. These frameworks work specifically with WordPress and often have their own marketplaces where designers can sell their themes. Not all web designers get excited about working with an additional layer of constraints, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Different frameworks work very differently; some have drag-and-drop interfaces while others just provide a convenient way to manage a whole lot of CSS. They can be a useful way to get started with designing themes, though it can be difficult to return to creating sites not based on those frameworks (or not based on WordPress in general) after using those frameworks for long enough.
Handling the Special Requirements of Themes
Building a WordPress theme isn’t quite the same as creating a website design from pure HTML and CSS. There are some special requirements that you have to follow to make sure that your design hooks in with WordPress properly. It’s not necessarily a tricky proposition for simpler web designs, but you do need to make sure that you check all the right boxes along the way.
If you plan to get especially fancy with your design, you may need to dive deeper into how WordPress operates before you start recreating work on your own. Details like automated navigation menus are built into WordPress, so even when you’re ‘building a site from scratch‘, you still have plenty of opportunities to avoid some of the work that you would have to do with another content management system or with a static site.
Testing Out Your Knowledge
Because WordPress’s core code can interact with themes, as can plugins that add functionality to WordPress-based sites, it’s worth creating what’s known as a ‘sandbox’ site. A sandbox site has a lot in common with the sandboxes you may have played in as a child: you can build new things, knock them down and start all over again. It’s a place where you can see how various pieces of code interact, as well as trying different approaches to your design problems.
It’s a relatively simple tool to create: you can have a WordPress install on any server that you use (though preferably not one that will be harmed if something goes horribly wrong with your sandbox site), or even on the computer where you do your design. It should be private, since not all of your experiments will be ready for public comment, but that’s the main requirement. That’s all it takes to create a sandbox site and, as an added bonus, it offers you a great place to work through WordPress tutorials or classes without causing any trouble on active sites.