So I began developing my first WordPress theme this week. The big thought that I couldn’t stop thinking was, “Why didn’t I try to learn this sooner?!”
What inspired me to add this challenge to an already full plate was Tim Ferriss’ interview of Matt Mullenweg, one of the co-creators of WordPress. Learning more about the history of this tool that I use (at least a few times a week) and, largely, take for granted caused a bit of a perspective shift for me. It was an interesting feeling to realize that the people who created it are just…people (albeit awesome people) and they literally intended for others to take WordPress apart, learn by doing, and use the platform in their own ways for whatever they want. The whole thing really got me re-jazzed about Open Source, too.
Anyhow, why am I working on my own WordPress theme now? I have a hundred other things I can be doing with my free time. Well, the main motivator is this little passion project that I call UpBuild. I’ve never been happy with our website. It doesn’t do a great job of telling our story, it’s pretty slow, and it doesn’t walk the walk with a lot of the very optimizations that we recommend to our clients.
My previous experience with theme editing has basically been to,
- edit whatever theme I’m using and customize it to fit my needs
- roll the dice with each update and hope it doesn’t completely wipe out my changes*.
Actually, that was how I first learned how to do anything on the web – hacking WordPress themes before I’d ever heard of SEO. It’s a little laughable that that was the extent of my WordPress skills for over a decade.
So I’m currently working to develop my own theme. All of the principles make enough sense, so the biggest challenge is going to be learning how to ensure that the theme nails all the properties on my wishlist.
- 100% AMP, because why not?
- All the semantic markup
- Built the right way, according to WordPress standard
- Content first. UX second. Vanity features, in the trash.
Of course, there are other things that I want to see on the website (concise/effective content, regular blogging) but those are independent of the theme.
Here I go!
* It wasn’t until recently that I found out that child themes were a thing. Apparently, you should always use one.