The Recipe for a Great Theme

Have you ever looked at a WordPress theme and thought, “Man, I wish I could do that!” Well, here’s a little secret: You totally can.

Yes, you can make a theme, and you don’t need to be a theme expert to do so. You just need three things:

  • An idea,
  • a healthy dose of curiosity,
  • and time.

An Idea

Until five years ago, I’d never touched a WordPress theme. I didn’t have a lot of experience, I’d never experimented with dynamic programming languages, and I’d never had to design for a vast and varied audience.

But what I did have were ideas – how about a theme for babies? Or a theme with changing seasons? Or a theme with animated fish? I didn’t know how to make these themes happen – I just knew I wanted to make them.

Without an idea, there is no theme! So before you do anything, figure out what you want to build. Have a goal to strive for, write up some notes, sketch it out.

It doesn’t have to be mind-blowing, or revolutionary, or the Next Big Thing, as long as you’re excited about it. You’re probably not going to make history with your first theme, but why let that deter you from making something really cool?

A Healthy Dose of Curiosity

If you like to learn, you’ve already taken a huge step toward becoming a themer. WordPress changes often, so theming techniques change often, too. You don’t have to venture far for learning material – you’re looking at a wealth of theme-makin’ goodness right here at ThemeShaper!

But I encourage you not to get mired in the technical details. You know how you may use Photoshop, but you probably don’t use one-tenth of its capabilities? Theming is like that. You don’t need to know how to do it all – you just need to figure out one piece at a time.

Think of your theme as a puzzle, and break it into smaller components – a fixed sidebar, an animated drop-down menu, a customizable header that changes colors – together they’re an intimidating obstacle, but if you tackle each piece individually, you’re likely to find it’s not as difficult as you think.

Also keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to start from scratch (unless you want to!) Maybe you’re less interested in coding a theme, but you want to illustrate one – you can always build a child theme, or use a starter theme, so you don’t have to dive as deeply into the code.

Here are some of our favorite ThemeShaper resources to get you started:

And finally, tutorials have their place, but don’t be afraid to play around! Some of the best learning experiences and discoveries are hands on. Remember: There are very few things you could do to your WordPress theme that a quick Ctrl+Z can’t fix.

Time

We’ve come to the part I can’t help with. You have the idea, you have the tools, now you just have to make it happen. Easier said than done, but as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Some of the best themes take weeks, months, or possibly even years, to come to fruition.

But beware: Theming is addictive. If you spend enough time with it, you may find yourself staying up late into the night to squash a CSS float bug, or research scripts for a post slider, or find just the right shade of blue for that navigation menu. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I hope this inspires you to give theming a chance if you haven’t already – it’s a great opportunity to try something new and make something cool!

Further: Home Page

The Further Theme: Now Available On Creative Market

Our friends at Creative Market announced last week that all themes sold on their marketplace are now 100% GPL. We couldn’t be more thrilled about this and send hearty kudos to the gang at CM for doing the right thing.

To show our support, we’ve jumped into the fray by offering for the first time ever a WordPress.com premium theme for self-hosted WordPress blogs. Further was designed and developed by our very own Takashi Irie. He put his heart and soul into the work, and oh boy does it ever show.

Further: Home Page

For everyone who’s been asking when Further, which really shines with Jetpack, will be available for self-hosted blogs, you now have your answer. We hope you’ll love Further as much as our beloved users on WordPress.com do and can’t wait to see the amazing blogs that you build with it.

10 Beautiful WordPress Themes from the Official Directory

We are obviously theme junkies here and everyday we check the official free theme directory. It’s only March now but many free themes have already became available since the new year. To highlight the great themes there I picked up ten themes added in 2012 that are not only coded well but look beautiful.

Like last year, 2012 has been and is going to be another great year for WordPress themes. Huzzah!

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Where Do You Find the Best WordPress Themes?

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re a WordPress theme aficionado, a true connoisseur. I’d like to know: how does a devourer of WordPress themes, like you, fulfill your massive appetite for awesome new themes?

For my cravings, I generally partake in the following (most common at the top):

  • I find out by word of mouth, from my colleagues at work.
  • Via Twitter, from the theme designers and theme shops I follow closely.
  • By way of the Extend free themes directory RSS feed (I then go preview each one immediately).
  • Reading reviews on sites like WPCandy, WPTavern, Smashing Magazine, or Weblog Tools Collection.
  • By checking the Commercial listing on Extend often, to discover theme shops, from time to time.
  • Rarely, I will use visual theme sorting services like the Theme Finder or ThemeSorter.

And in case your answers are different, where would you send someone to look for great WordPress themes who is not a theme junkie? Your family, friends, clients, a non-WordPress expert who asks your advice.

On Breaking and Fixing WordPress Themes at WordCamp Singapore 2011

My coworkers at Automattic and I frequently discuss the speed with which we’re able to onboard new themes into the WordPress.com theme directory.

Our top priority as the Theme Team is to make sure that all of our users feel like they have a theme that fits them perfectly; in order to meet that goal we’re focused on bringing a variety of themes into WordPress.com through a few primary channels: the WordPress.org theme directorypremium theme shops; and Automattic (in-house) themes.

It’s often the case that each conversion—that is, making a theme’s code WordPress.com-safe and ready—will take us anywhere between one week and one month, depending on the complexity and quality of the code. In a perfect world, though, we’d be able to snap our fingers and have every single awesome-looking theme available on WP.com right now.

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