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How to Get Started With WordPress Development

January 2, 2014

There are two types of people who decide to get involved in WordPress development.

The first type of people are those who are already developers in one way or another and make the choice to learn more about WordPress. The second type of people are those who have no real coding experience but need to tinker with their current WordPress website to change something they don’t like.

WordPress is an excellent medium to learn more about development which is why it is especially suited to those who learn things as they need to. It works particularly well as a learning tool for new developers for several reasons.

The Building Blocks of WordPress

There are several different coding languages that need to be learned to get the most out of WordPress development. At its core, WordPress is built upon one of the most common programming languages on the web, PHP. It also utilizes a vast amount of HTML, CSS and a little Javascript for various aspects.

There are other coding languages and standards involved (i.e. XML and MySQL), but you don’t really need to learn too much about them at the beginning of your development journey.

The three core languages that you need to learn to become a WordPress developer (in descending order of difficulty and necessity) are PHP, CSS and HTML.

PHP controls how everything within WordPress interacts within and how it connects with the MySQL database. It can be used to create some amazing functions and is the key language to learn for every aspect of WordPress.

The next most important aspect to learn is CSS. This is how you style your website. It is how you differentiate your site from all of the others out there on the web. It can be extremely difficult to master and will require a great deal of studying to get the most from it.

HTML is the structure that the functions created in PHP and the styling defined by the CSS is built around. It is the easiest to language to learn but extremely important in creating a well built website.

Javascript is the fourth language that you can learn to use with WordPress. It isn’t one you will need to concern yourself with at the beginning of your journey into WordPress development but is worth investigating once you are comfortable with the other three.

Development Paths to Explore

There are three main paths to take if you are interested in learning about WordPress development.

Theme Development

Theme development is the most common entry into WordPress development. Most WordPress developers begin their learning process with themes. Whether you have a theme that needs to be customized for one reason or another, or you decide to create a theme of your own this is an excellent place to begin.

Theme development involves all three of the core development languages and you learn how WordPress integrates with all of its many aspects. It comes with the added bonus of allowing you to view the code for other themes and learn how they are put together.

Creating a theme from scratch is an excellent method of learning every aspect of WordPress.

Plugin Development

Creating a plugin is not usually something that is attempted by those who begin coding by tinkering with their site. There is far too much that can go wrong with a badly written plugin for complete beginners.

Those who have previous PHP knowledge and are looking to solve a particular problem they are experiencing with WordPress are more likely to follow this path from the outset. The leading factor in plugin development is that you are only limited by your imagination.

You can change a default WordPress installation into practically anything with good plugins. Example plugins currently available include forums, social networks, membership sites and many other things.

Developing the Core Software

This is not for the faint of heart.

Getting involved with core software development for WordPress requires a great deal of skill. This is not something that should be attempted by those without previous PHP experience.

Learning Sources

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Although WordPress development can get tricky, there are an enormous number of resources across the web that can help you with whatever problem you’re facing.

Chances are, if you’re stuck on something, the solution is already available. Here’s where you should start looking.

The Codex

The WordPress Codex should be the first stop for any development questions.

It is a fantastic resource that details every function and piece of code within the WordPress software. It includes many articles and tutorials for getting started with WordPress and is arguably the ultimate resource on the subject.


There is a vast array of tutorials on the internet to get you started with WordPress development. We have lots of them here on our WordPress Blog. There are numerous free tutorials available for you to study, but there are also several premium courses and tutorials you can use (.

As well as tutorials for learning about general development, there are also any number of specific tutorials that will teach you how to carry out various tasks. A quick Google search will give you days worth of reading material.


There are a number of forums specifically for developers. Not all of them are worth reading regularly but they are an ideal place to ask questions regarding problems you are having. Not all of the answers you receive will be worthwhile, but they can be quick and useful places to have specific questions answered.

There are WordPress-specific forums, or general developer forums such as Stack Overflow for you to investigate. It is worth taking the time to discover a forum that suits you and asking questions of the more experienced users.

Taking Part in The Community

The WordPress community is a vibrant and active place where you can learn everything there is to know about the software. It isn’t simply filled with coders. The WordPress community includes designers, translators, documentation writers and many other types of people all of whom can give you a different perspective on your development queries.

There are many ways to get involved in the WordPress community. You can use the beta software versions and supply feedback. You can speak with current plugin developers and either lend your coding skills or help test and troubleshoot new releases.

There is a great article in the Codex about contributing to WordPress and if you wish to become involved it is worth reading. If you think creatively there will be some way to give back to the community.


Learning about WordPress development is a difficult and time consuming task, but can be extremely rewarding. If the time is taken to learn the software then you can begin to shape your WordPress website in many ways.

Whether you develop your own themes, introduce a plugin to the WordPress repository or become greatly involved in the future development of the core software, diving in and getting involved in the WordPress community in some way will help you progress that much quicker.

Have you begun your journey into WordPress development recently, or is it something you are hoping to start soon? If you’re an experienced WordPress developer, how would you recommend people get started? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Article by Tom Ewer guest author
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  1. rolandrice

    Tom Ewer you nailed it. I love your post.

    • Tom Ewer

      Thanks Roland!

  2. Tom Ewer

    My pleasure, thanks!

  3. John Hernandez

    Very nice post Tom! Helpful indeed 🙂

  4. Thomas

    Great detailed explanation Tom, Enjoyed the Theme Development part. thx.

  5. Bucur

    A great win for this site …is name is Tom. Tom Ewer…

  6. Cliff Sumalpong

    This is great post especially for beginners. There are also nice free forum I like to share about that helps beginners:

    For those who are inspired in start their first website, you can watch this free tutorial with step by step with no step skipped approach.

    Enjoy learning. 🙂

  7. kamalesh

    I am feeling this is the right place for a beginner to dive in for a step by step wordpress development. It is so clearly explained that a beginner or an anonymous person can clearly grasp and understand and begin his wordpress journey

  8. Frank

    Great post, thanks for sharing this post.

  9. ccaruofor

    Hey Tom awesome post mate ! You covered a lot of topics that I had questions to in a single post, are you a WordPress developer and if so what did you find your biggest challenge to overcome in PHP,CSS and HTML whilst building a theme for example? (this is a question not only to Tom but anyone else reading)

    • Tom Ewer

      Hi there,

      While I know plenty of HTML and CSS and a smattering of PHP, I’m no WordPress developer. I’ve created my own themes and learned a fair bit in the process, but I’m a writer by trade!

      In terms of challenges, the best advice I can give you is to split your time between learning and creating from what you learn. Although you need to know what to do, actually *doing* it is where the true learning takes place.



  10. Jerryy

    Awesome this is great Wonderful post Thanks..

  11. Cado Magenge

    Nice posting it is. I will recommend this blog to my friends.

  12. nal

    I loved your post , so helpful and organized . thanks a lot.

  13. Rose

    Great information. Thank you!

  14. PressTigers

    WordPress has really made life easy. Secondly its great to install number of plugin as per need, similarly with the themes. I am working on wordPress to soon make my own and your guidance is quite good.

  15. Addison Ron

    Hey Tom, This is really helpful. Thanks for sharing this brilliant post, I just bookmarked this post for future reference. Really love your work have learned so much.

  16. Ajay Khandal

    You’ve included some nice and useful resources to learn WP. I complete agree with you Still I enjoy reading the article. it is very informative & useful article for WordPress Developer. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Tasbir

    Thanks Tom Ewer! It really helps.

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