5 WordPress Theme Development Tips to Save you Time and Keep your Theme Original

Here are five WordPress development tips (aimed more at the web designer) I have put together through 2-3 years of working with WordPress.

1. Use a Cloud Based Service to Backup your Theme and Source Code

Get Dropbox

Use a cloud based backup service like Dropbox (free for up to 2gb of storage, subscriptions for more). As you drop your project files on to a designated folder, they automatically upload.

Your theme and associated design source files will be 100% safe – computer explodes? your OS wont boot? Hard drive corrupts? Jump on another computer, install drop box, log in, and your project files will come back down from the cloud.

Why waste money on a RAID setup when your a freelance web designer and have relatively small amount of data to backup?

2. Backup your Database Regularly

wp-db-backup

Install the ‘wp-db-backup‘ plugin on your WordPress installations.

This excellent plugin gives you instant piece of mind by backing up your SQL database in one of three ways, back up to your webserver, download an .sql file directly or email it to an address. You can also schedule backups automatically.

Configure it to schedule regular email backups to your email address, relax and donate to the author.

When your client comes running back to you because their host got hacked or they screwed something up, you’ll be ready.

3. Style Plugins from a Distance

Style from a Distance

Plugins are all well and good for adding extra functionality to a site, but as a web designer it your job to customise the look and feel of these so they integrate nicely with the rest of your site design.

A common mistake to make is to write the custom CSS code into the plugins native stylesheet.

This can cause problems for you down the line when your client decides to pander to that pesky notification in the WP Dashboard about updating a plugin and click ‘update automatically’.

The custom CSS you wrote will be overwritten and your plugin will break or look odd.

Instead, make sure you set apart a section in your themes main stylesheet for custom plugin CSS and check it over rides the plugins stylesheet(s).

4. Use a Skeleton Theme Framework

Thematic

Starting on a clean slate when developing a new theme makes life much easier.

There are many skeleton themes out there in which to build something new on, but Thematic (developed by Ian Stewart) is my personal preference for this.

Not only will you have a crystal clear set of meaningful mark up and CSS on which to start your new theme on, you will also have a head start with very well thought out SEO optimised code driving the mark up of the code and an extended amount of areas in which to place widgets out of the box. The base code is constantly evolving and can be updated too, as your custom code can be made transparent.

The best way to approaching a theme development can be thought of abstractly as starting with a block of stone and chipping away to create something unique, starting with the broad details and ending with the fine.

5. Don’t Create ‘Just another WordPress’

Just another WordPress Blog

It’s with mild reluctance that I approach the last tip, because my site could be said to have fallen into this pitfall. (until version 2 is made anyway!)

Don’t just create another WordPress!

There are millions of sites that run on this platform, a large percentage of these will have been thrown together by people who are not web designers.

A hundred million will use the same free themes, and a hundred million will use the same plugins, and a hundred million sites will look exactly like each other – bland and unoriginal, don’t be one of them.

If you use social networking buttons to help spread blog posts, avoid the default look of the icons, customise them, make them part of the overall web design.

Create custom templates, customise the way commenting works, customise input elements, turn the default WordPress layout on it’s head. Do you really need those tag clouds or a mini calendar showing when you post?

Create something that an experienced designer will look at and not guess that it was made on WordPress.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I am just new to using WordPress and I find this post very helpful to me. Thank you for sharing these Advanced WordPress Tips.

  2. Posted December 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Some useful tips for beginners, Im especially fond of number 5, definitely and easy trap to fall into

  3. Posted February 3, 2012 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Good tips, thanks. I like using dropbox and the backwpup plugin alot. Both make it super easy.

  4. Posted June 6, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    This article is full of marvelous information. The more I read the more I wanted to read. As an informational writer myself, I know you made a great effort to research and write this article.

  5. Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your article. I found this useful.

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