How to learn WordPress development as a beginner

If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you might have seen the story about the guy who developed just one theme, put it on the Theme Forest marketplace, and was then later able to build a big house for his family. Or you might have just been tempted by the many, more everyday examples of people who are making a living for themselves, from their homes, as WordPress developers. There’s just one problem, how exactly would you go about doing so? How do you learn WordPress development as a complete beginner?

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BUILD STUFF ON YOUR OWN

Basically, you set goals for yourself, projects that you want to build and then you set out to achieve them without, or with little, guidance.

If you’re a fast learner and have been exposed to code before, and perhaps know a tiny bit of PHP and CSS, you could actually start learning by experimenting alone.

You can open up themes or plugins that you want to replicate and take a look under their hood. If the theme in questions has good inline documentation (comments about the purpose of blocks of code and changes inside the code itself) you’ll even be able to quickly find the code relevant to the functions you want to incorporate in your project.

If it proves a little too challenging to go it completely solo, the great thing about WordPress is that there is a ton of documentation on how to do specific things when you’re creating a theme or plugin, so you can mix and match.

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to try to sell your first few experiments (unless you’re willing to pay an experienced developer to step in and ‘proofread’ your code).

This is a challenging, but very fun and rewarding way to learn how to do very specific things with codes for those who like experimenting.

BUILD STUFF WITH A LITTLE HELP

This is where you follow a course that sets out to help you create a project. Now I mentioned there were a lot of resources for very specific tasks when it comes to WordPress development. There’s everything from extensive, but hard to navigate, codexes, to blogs, to tutorials, to video courses.

Two stand-out alternatives are Treehouse and Tuts+. Treehouse has tons of success stories that vouch for how effective it is, and the same goes for Tuts+.

Treehouse has several different courses dedicated to WordPress, as well as courses on the languages that WordPress is built on. Tuts+ again has different courses targeted at different aspects of WordPress development, as well as courses on the languages that WordPress is built on.

The style of learning in both places is heavily focused on video instruction paired with hands-on development of the goal end product. Treehouse has an active member forum where you can ask relevant questions, and get more of a sense of accountability by interacting with real people. Tutsplus has an incredibly extensive backlog of written tutorials in addition to the video courses.

STUDY (LEARN THE UNDERLYING LANGUAGES)

WordPress is built upon mainly three languages, PHP, CSS and HTML. While PHP deals with the backend, storing information in databases and most of the other actual functionality, the HTML, and CSS deal with the frontend and control how the end result end up looking. To put it simply PHP is what’s under the hood, the engine, chassis, break system, car computer, and HTML and CSS is the body.

What languages you should focus on learning, depends on what kind of developer you’d like to be. If you want to be a plugin developer, delivering unique functionality to WordPress sites everywhere, you’d want to put a heavy focus on PHP.

If you want to focus more on the front end, you’d want to focus on CSS in the beginning, and maybe some JavaScript, maybe a particular library like jQuery or AngularJS later to be able to create a more interactive experience when necessary.

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