Best Resources for Learning WordPress Development

Odds are, if you’re a web developer, learning WordPress is either on your todo list or something that you’ve already committed yourself to. Learning to build WordPress themes is an excellent professional move that will open you to a wealth of new clients and personal opportunities.

To follow up our article last week on tutorials for learning web design, below is a list of books and free tutorials specifically targeted at learning to develop for WordPress. Whether you’ve never heard of WordPress or are just looking to update your current WordPress skill set, there are plenty of resources below to get you on your way.

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Free Tutorials

If you’re on a budget and need to learn quick, free tutorials provide a great way to get started and provide just enough information to help you pick up WordPress without bogging you down with too much unnecessary extras.

WordPress 3.0: Ultimate Guide to New Features (Six Revisions)

Many of the articles below are for older versions of WordPress so I wanted to begin by pointing out this guide to WordPress 3.0. The older articles still have plenty of solid information and relevant examples, just be sure to keep the newest version of WordPress in mind when reading them.


How to Create a WordPress Theme from Scratch: NetTuts

“Following on from the recent article on “PSD to HTML”, this tutorial will look at taking a HTML/CSS template and turning it into a functioning WordPress theme. There is so much you can do when creating your own theme we couldn’t nearly cover it all. So, we’re going to look at how themes are structured, creation of the core files and splitting up that index.html file.”


Designing for WordPress: CSS Tricks

“Over the last few weeks, I have been been doing a video screencast series on Designing for WordPress. It is a three-part series which covers downloading and installing WordPress on a server all the way to a completed theme.”


Premium WordPress Theme Design: Design Reviver

“This time you’ll learn how to slice the design and convert it into XHTML + CSS, then I’ll show you how to use the css files to mock-up a WordPress template.”


WordPress Theme Development Checklist: divtodesign

“As you might know, I have been diving into WordPress theme development and I’ve learned many tips and tricks along the way. I noticed I was forgetting about some small issues all the time. That’s why I decided to make a WordPress Theme Development Checklist. ”


How To Create WordPress Themes From Scratch: ThemeTation

“I’m going to show you how to create a wordpress theme from scratch in these 3 parts of tutorial series. I will cover from Structuring, designing in Photoshop, slicing, coding into fully css based html, and finally wordpress implementation.”


Creating WordPress Themes: Introduction

“This new series will begin with the basics and then I’ll proceed to more advanced techniques. I will also be incorporating different techniques that I’ve picked up from other developers that I’ve found to be extremely handy, and I’ll be providing links and credits to that info as I go along.”


Developing a WordPress Theme: Dezinerfolio

“Instead of coming up with some more themes, we decided to write a tutorial on how to develop a wordpress theme which we are sure will help a lot of you to design as you wish and bring them out into wordpress. We are not too advanced wordpress developers but still we are sure the below tutorial will help you successfully develop a wordpress theme. Below you will learn to convert your xHTML CSS site into a Compact WordPress Theme (final output is same as the normal theme but here code is shorter and easier to understand).”


How to Build a Custom WordPress Theme from Scratch: SpoonGraphics

“If you’re confident with your CSS and HTML, it’s not hard at all to step up to the challenge of building a custom WordPress theme. This overview shows the process of how my latest custom WordPress theme was built from design concept through to completed theme. See how the static design is split up into the various WordPress theme files, and discover how the simple PHP snippets can add that dynamic functionality of a blog.”


Creating A Quality WordPress Theme: 12 Points to Consider (Noupe)

“But what exactly makes a WordPress theme great? How does one go about creating a quality theme? In fact, it’s not that difficult. You can do a few simple things while developing your theme—from the planning stage right through coding—to make it stand out from the legions of average (and below-average) themes out there.”


Customize Your Own WordPress Theme: Vandelay Design

“An increasing number of businesses and website owners are using blogs as a means of communication with their customers and website visitors. If your business already has a website it is possible to have a blog that matches the look and feel of your existing website without doing a complete re-design and without paying thousands of dollars to have the blog developed. Using WordPress you can tailor an already existing blog theme to seamlessly flow with the rest of your website.”


Designing and Coding a WordPress Theme From Scratch: DeveloperTutorials

“In this multi-part series I’ll detail how to create and design a WordPress theme from nothing more than your imagination using Photoshop, CSS, XHTML and PHP.”


So you want to create WordPress themes huh?

“Creating a WordPress theme from scratch is not hard. I’ll hold your hand through it. Tutorials on this topic have been written before and the WordPress website also has guides for you to follow. But are those tutorials and guides really helpful to you when you don’t understand the lingo? Even I got lost while reading the WordPress guides.”


Create Your Own WordPress Theme from an HTML Template

“In this article, I’ll show you how to take an existing HTML and CSS site template and convert it into a theme for WordPress. Of course, WordPress theming is much too vast a topic to cover entirely in a single article, so I’ll provide you with some resources at the end to further your learning. It’s hoped, though, that this article will serve as a good introduction and give you a solid foundation to start learning about creating your own WordPress themes.”


How To Create a WordPress Theme: The Ultimate WordPress Theme Tutorial (ThemeShaper)

“In Only 11 Individual Lessons this WordPress Theme Tutorial is going to show you how to build a powerful, up-to-date, WordPress Theme from scratch. As we go along I’ll explain what’s happening including (for better or worse) my thinking on certain techniques and why I’m choosing one path over another. Essentially, I’ll be teaching you everything you need to know about WordPress Theme development.”


Building Custom WordPress Theme

“This chapter will show you how to build a custom WordPress theme. Although the Codex site provides very good documentations on how to create a theme, but I find it too complicated for a beginner. In this tutorial, I will explain the basics of how WordPress theme works and show you how to convert a static HTML template into a theme. No PHP skill is required, but you need Photoshop and CSS skills to create your own design.”


Books on WordPress

If you’re serious about becoming a professional WordPress developer, it’s time to pick up a good book on the subject. These are usually far more in-depth than free tutorials and really cover the material you need to know inside and out.

Below are a few great books to consider in your search. Some are physical books that you can purchase on Amazon, others downloadable PDFs.

Rockstar WordPress Designer: $29

“During the course of the book you’ll build THREE WordPress themes, a blog, a portfolio site and a general site with menus and submenus. Each theme demonstrates different aspects of WordPress theming and all three are packaged in with the book so you’ll have Photoshop, HTML, CSS and WordPress PHP files to refer to.”


Beginning WordPress 3: $26.99

“WordPress is one of the most popular blogging and content management web templating platforms—it easily allows you and your business to make a statement about yourself and what you do. WordPress is also quite cost-effective, as it’s free for just about anyone to use. WordPress is colorful and flexible, and includes a variety of themes, templates, and plug-ins for you to explore and use. Beginning WordPress 3 aims to address these for the beginner who wants to start using and developing with WordPress.”


WordPress For Dummies: $16.49

“The bestselling guide to WordPress, fully updated for newest version of WordPress. WordPress, the popular, free blogging platform, has been updated with new features and improvements. Bloggers who are new to WordPress will learn to take full advantage of its flexibility and usability with the advice in this friendly guide.”


Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog: $29.69

“Smashing WordPress shows you how to utilize the power of the WordPress platform, and provides a creative spark to help you build WordPress-powered sites that go beyond the obvious. You will learn the core concepts used to build just about anything in WordPress, resulting in fast deployments and greater design flexibility. Inside, WordPress expert Thord Daniel Hedengren takes you beyond the blog and shows you how WordPress can serve as a CMS, a photo gallery, an e-commerce site, and more.”


Professional WordPress: $29.69

“An in-depth look at the internals of the WordPress system. As the most popular blogging and content management platform available today, WordPress is a powerful tool. This exciting book goes beyond the basics and delves into the heart of the WordPress system, offering overviews of the functional aspects of WordPress as well as plug-in and theme development.”


WordPress: Visual QuickStart Guide

“This book gives readers the tools they need to create beautiful, functional WordPress-powered sites with minimal hassle. Using the WordPress user interface as a baseline, authors Jessica Neuman Beck and Matt Beck walk new users through the installation and setup process while providing valuable tips and tricks for more experienced users. With no other resource but this guide, readers can set up a fully-functional and well-designed WordPress site that takes advantage of all the features WordPress has to offer.”


Using WordPress: $16.49

“WordPress has grown into the #1 blogging tool in its category: several million bloggers have downloaded this powerful open source software, and millions more are using’s hosted services. Thirty-two of Technorati’s Top 100 blogs now use WordPress. Using WordPress is a customized, media-rich learning experience designed to help new users master WordPress quickly, and get the most out of it, fast! It starts with a concise, friendly, straight-to-the-point guide to WordPress. This exceptional book is fully integrated with an unprecedented collection of online learning resources: online video, screencasts, podcasts, and additional web content, all designed to reinforce key concepts and help users achieve real mastery. The book and online content work together to teach everything mainstream Wordpess users need to know.”


Head First WordPress: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Creating Your Own Custom WordPress Blog ($23.09)

“Whether you’re promoting your business or writing about your travel adventures, Head First WordPress will teach you not only how to make your blog look unique and attention-grabbing, but also how to take advantage of WordPress platform’s more complex features to make your website work well, too. You’ll learn how to move beyond the standard WordPress look and feel by customizing your blog with your own URL, templates, plugin functionality, and more. As you learn, you’ll be working with real WordPress files: The book’s website provides pre-fab WordPress themes to download and work with as you follow along with the text.”


Closing Thoughts

I hope the resources provide the catalyst you need to begin your journey as a WordPress developer. In closing, I want to remind you that the official WordPress codex is definitely on of the best resources out there for all things WordPress.

Let us know in the comments below if we left out any of your favorite tutorials or books for learning WordPress.