Creating WordPress themes – any advice about up to date tuition videos or sites?

Hi All, I’m just playing around with WordPress and other CMSes on the localhost, to find out what’s right for my purposes. I’ve started with WordPress, on the assumption that it would be easest to learn quickly, but I do want to be able to design my own themes. I’m fine with the HTML and CSS basics (albeit some brushing up is needed) and also have some experience using PHP. So not a novice anyway.

I started following this YouTube tutorial and it was fine up to about 25 minutes. Pretty sure that I followed faithfully, but it goes wrong from around that point. On the video he’s seeing his styles coming up, and I’m getting a blank screen when I preview the pages (everything works fine with the preinstalled themes, by the way). I’m guessing that (or wondering if) there’s maybe something fundamentally different in the structure that this guy is using, which is perhaps not being maintained now. The video is four years old – maybe enough to make it completely redundant by now - I don’t know. I was wondering if there was some issue with permissions, as I’m on Ubuntu here, but honestly I don’t see how it can be that. Everything under my www directory is as it should be – ownership given to www-data, all folder/subfolder permissions 755, files at 644.

Anyway, I’m more or less ready to give up on this video now. And so now I’ll ask if anyone has any recommendations for a good step-by-step guide, whether in video or written form, which isn’t toooooo simple and condescending, but which doesn’t skip the basic necessary concepts. I’ve seen a few courses on Udemy, which I use quite a lot. Any recommendations on there? I already asked a question about this on the WordPress forum, and got pointed towards this plugin. which seems very GUI. I’ve just tried playing with it a bit, and can’t see how to get into editing the CSS and PHP. Even if it is possible somehow, they’re very obviously not going out of their way to encourage it. Are they sliding away towards trying to emulate Wix, Squarespace et al?

Should I persist here, or start playing with Joomla already??? :thinking: Bigger initial learning curve, I realise, but worth the effort in the end?

Just to clarify what I’m talking about, a few screenshots. Here are the options that I get for the block theme that I can create using the plugin that I was directed to:


And by contrast, this is what I see with the theme that I created from following the (relatively) old YouTube video that I was following to create a theme:


Clearly, there’s a very different file structure there. The latter allows the user to get right in there and edit the files, and the former is not encouraging that at all. Sorry if I’m too impatient to dig around a bit more. If there is a way to edit directly from within the newer theme, please set me straight!

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In my experience (a bit out of date now), creating a WP theme is very messy compared with doing the same in a better CMS like Craft or ExpressionEngine. In those latter examples, you create your template first — with the HTML and CSS you want to use — and then plug in the CMS parts where needed. It’s a much cleaner and easier way to build a theme/template than with WP, which has always been a very messy CMS, imho.

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With that plugin you have several options: a blank theme, a child theme… They work differently. If you create a completely new theme, you need to know how to code the whole theme. If you create a child theme, it should work anyway, even with new, empty functions.php, style.css files.

The way Wix, Squarespace works is creating child themes. They are based on a framework already, and users only customize CSS mostly. I guess you want to do the same? Then you don’t need any plugin. Choose a “parent” theme as your framework, then create a child theme. In that case, I would recommend GeneratePress as your parent theme or framework.

Hi, and thanks for replying.

Totally new names to me. I’d be happy to have a look at them, but I worry about maintenance of anything which doesn’t have the weight of numbers behind it, and which may disappear in a few years. Anyway, I’ll have a look. Why not?

Yeah, i don’t really know much about the development of WP. I used to use another, very obscure CMS in a job that I did, but never played with WP. It looks like they’re trying to emulate the look and feel of the likes of Blogger/Blogspot, which I’ve been using for half a year, but precisely want to get away from, in order to have more control over the code and the organisation of files. In other words, they seem to be going in the opposite direction of the way that I want to go! Well, the numbers don’t lie, I suppose. You can’t completely ignore them if you’re trying to brush up on the CMS game :~)

Thanks also for this one :~)

Yes, I was able easily enough to create a blank theme, but the point is that I don’t see much sign of being able to quickly go in and edit the CSS from the bottom up. I only see lots of GUI stuff and some options for “additional CSS”, which is the same as what I’ve already got on Blogger/Blogspot/whatever they call it now.

OK, this is all quite confusing at first sight, I have to say. But now I understand. Block themes and classic themes. GeneratePress is a classic theme. Fine - that’s the kind of thing I want. Obviously I see the point now of these block themes, but no, that’s not for me. I want to be able to go in and edit everything, so I’ll certainly be playing strictly with the classic themes.

ExpressionEngine and Craft have been around for many years (10–15) and aren’t going anywhere. They were just two off the top of my head, but I chose them because they are very popular and well designed (especially Craft). I used Expression Engine for many years and it was great, but Craft was partly inspired by it and is generally considered even better. Definitely worth checking out. WordPress was never designed for websites, although it has adapted to this over the years — though imho it’s still a glorified blogging platform.

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Got it. I just asked ChatGPT for a list of lesser known (to me anyway!) CMSes other than WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, and I have to declare that it made me laugh for the first time. Another scary milestone. Anyway, is this a fair summary?

The world of content management systems (CMSs) can indeed feel like a vast forest with countless trees. Each CMS has its unique features, strengths, and quirks. But fear not! Take a deep breath, and let’s break it down. :deciduous_tree::herb:
Remember that you don’t need to explore every nook and cranny of this forest. Instead, focus on your specific needs and goals. Here’s a friendly compass to guide you:

  1. WordPress: The friendly giant oak. Widely used, versatile, and great for blogs, business sites, and more.
  2. Joomla: The sturdy pine. Robust, with a strong community, suitable for complex sites.
  3. Drupal: The ancient redwood. Powerful, but requires some climbing skills (read: technical expertise).
  4. Craft CMS: The artistic bonsai. Customizable, elegant, but demands attention to detail.
  5. ExpressionEngine: The mysterious willow. Feature-rich, but you might need a magic spell (or PHP knowledge).
  6. Ghost: The cozy cabin in the woods. Perfect for bloggers and storytellers.
  7. Grav: The minimalist treehouse. Flat-file, lightweight, and quick to set up.

It’s just AI fluff. Ask a dumb, unconscious machine a question and you’ll get a dumb, unconscious answer. :stuck_out_tongue:

Give it another two or three years

Exactly … and billions in investment will be down the gurgler following another overhyped tech bubble. AI is a fun toy but research shows there’s very little it can deliver that anyone is willing to pay for — and there’s the rub.

We’ll seeeeeeeeeeee. I’m not full of optimism about what it’s bringing.

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For up-to-date WordPress theme development tutorials, check out Udemy courses like “WordPress Theme Development with Bootstrap” by Brad Schiff, LinkedIn Learning’s “WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores” by Morten Rand-Hendriksen, or YouTube channels like Traversy Media and freeCodeCamp.
The official WordPress Developer Handbook is also a great resource. Given your familiarity with WordPress, continuing with updated resources might be more beneficial than switching to Joomla.

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My familiarity is only from the last two or three days!!! You read things in the wrong order somewhere :smiley:

Anyway, no worries… I suppose I’ve already kind of got the gist of how it works. I’ll use it to put together a basic blog site while I’m playing around learning about all the options :man_student:t3:

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