Are you looking at WordPress theme tutorials and wondering if it’s you or them?
I researched several WordPress theme tutorials but found only a few worth reading.
Based on my research, the top Google results for “WordPress theme tutorials” might not provide the comprehensive guide you seek.
Instead, I created this guide for you to find suitable lessons — primarily for free — and avoid the bad ones.
In this article, you’ll learn which WordPress theme tutorials are worth your time and which ones you can skip.
Use the ratings (4.5/5 is my best rating) to find the right WordPress theme tutorial for your needs.
- WordPress Theme Development from Scratch 2.0 (4/5)
- The Complete WordPress Theme Development Course (4/5)
- WordPress Theme Development Tutorial Step By Step (3.5/5)
- Complete WordPress Theme & Plugin Development Course (3/5)
- WordPress Custom Theme Tutorial (3/5)
- A Step By Step WordPress Theme Development Tutorial For Starters (3/5)
- WordPress Codex (2.5/5)
- How to Develop Your Own WordPress Theme Beginner’s Guide (2.5/5)
- WordPress Custom Theme Development (2.5/5)
- (Bonus Warning) Essential WordPress Theme Development Tutorial Step-By-Step (0/5)
WordPress Theme Tutorials That Are Worth Your Time
These tutorials will teach you the basics of hooks, filters, and actions.
They’re easy to understand and take time to explain the concepts.
Focus: Complete theme development
Price: $84.99 (on sale for $9.99 as I write this)
Best for: Beginners with some knowledge of PHP, HTML, CSS, and WordPress
- Gives context to each step
- It helps you create a development environment
- Builds the steps in a logical and cumulative manner
Cons: The instructor is not a native English speaker. His accent might be a problem for some students.
Tutorial Rating: 4/5
Author: Marcelo Xavier Vierira teaches this course and prides himself on answering every student’s question within 24 hours. He has a 4.7/5 rating on Udemy.
This is the theme tutorial I would take if I wanted to learn to make and sell WordPress themes.
It teaches everything you need to build a fully functioning WordPress theme.
Unlike some tutorials that start in the middle without a map, WordPress Theme Development from Scratch begins at the beginning and gives you a solid understanding of where you’re going.
As you saw from the tutorials we discussed above, you can build a theme in a few minutes.
Not that it will do you much good, though, as a working theme doesn’t do anything until you enqueue stylesheets, add menus, construct your page templates, and build posts in single.php.
The first fifteen minutes of this course show you the rudimentary theme development you can do with the tutorials we looked at above in this article.
The following 9 hours of video lessons show you how to build a WordPress theme you can publish.
This is what you will learn:
- the Loop
- conditional tags
- customizer settings
Focus: advanced wordpress theme creation and maintenance
Price: $89.99 (on sale for $12.99 as I publish this)
Best for: programmer looking to become a WordPress developer
- very complete, thorough explanations of each step
- articulate answers, well enunciated
- The logical progression of steps
Cons: It’s old! It was updated in July of 2021. You will get 90% of what you need, but the 10% that’s changed is not in this course. It’s still worth it for the excellent explanation of the concepts still in use.
Tutorial Rating: 4/5
Author: Top-rated instructor Alexander Oni has a 4.6/5 rating on Udemy based on 62,893 reviews.
If this tutorial were up to date, it would contain Gutenberg and blocks, which would have made it perfect.
But since it is outdated, is it worth going all in?
I think so; it’s a fantastic explanation of the critical core points you need to write themes.
It’s just missing the last 10%, and yes, you need that, but most of these concepts are still in use.
WordPress Theme Tutorials That Will Teach You Some of What You Need
These tutorials have good bones but fatal flaws.
You can use them to pick up file structure and template code.
They don’t include the whole theme concept, so they get lower ratings.
Focus: file structure, templates, functions
Best for: beginners with knowledge of PHP, HTML, and CSS
Pros: Hands-on, step-by-step, and bite-size lessons that bring you from zero to a complete theme in a short period.
- Assumes you know how to run a local development environment in PHP Storm
- Does not include a summary of what you are getting into and what you will create.
- Is relevant only for building blog rolls but not for pages, sidebars, and posts.
Tutorial Rating: 3.5/5
Author: Vegibit.com is a code snippet site with no published author names
The Vegibit theme development tutorial takes you through file creation to complete the blog roll.
It walks you through creating the header and footer template parts and shows you how the blog roll query loop works.
It’s a quick but not dirty walkthrough for the beginning elements you need to build a WordPress theme.
And then it stops.
You should know that it does not show you how to build a theme for a website but only for a blog roll — the list of posts that includes each post’s title, a link to the full article, and an excerpt.
You should do this tutorial to understand the WordPress theme’s components and file structures.
Focus: Plugin and theme development
Price: $99.99 (on sale for $12.99 as I publish this article), but what I suggest in this review you can do for free
Best for at least some knowledge of PHP, HTML, CSS, and WordPress
Pros: An awesome set of instructions and explanations of the pieces of a WordPress theme and how they fit together
- It was last updated in 2020
- Does not include Gutenberg or blocks.
Tutorial Rating: 3/5
Author: Zac Gordon has a 4.2/5 rating on Udemy based on 4,381 student reviews. He’s a great teacher. It is just that this is an outdated tutorial.
This course is not recommended because it was updated in 2020; however, go to the course page and watch the free previews. You will gain a wealth of knowledge without paying the price of admission.
This would be a great tutorial if it were kept up to date.
Too many WordPress versions have been distributed between the publication of this class and today.
But if you watch the previews, you will learn:
- local installation
- How to stage a test environment
- Introduction to PHP
- The Loop
- Template Tags
- Child themes
- Starter themes
- Template hierarchy
- widget areas
- custom post types
- template tags
- Introduction to plugin development
So get all that for free from a first-class instructor, and you will be well on your way to a career as a professional WordPress developer.
5. WordPress Custom Theme Tutorial (3/5)
Focus: core files and introductory presentation
Best for: reference
Pros: A complete guide for a skeleton theme
- An incomplete guide for creating a piece you would use
Tutorial Rating: 3/5
Author: Danny Cooper is a successful WordPress theme and plugin developer
This tutorial has plenty to learn if you can make it through the confusing bits.
You’ll get a solid understanding of the core structure and minimum file requirements.
But you also get instructions like this:
This is standard HTML with one exception, [wp_head()](<https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/hooks/wp_head/>). wp_head is a core function that allows WordPress and third-party plugins to insert code into the header without modifying your template files. This is called an action hook.
To which I say,””What””
Danny is a great coder but needs to join the rest of us in using proofreaders and tools to ensure that what we say makes sense.
As seems to be the case with so many tutorials, this one gives you the pieces but not how they go together.
As you unthinkingly walk through each step, you must trust that it will connect you to the next piece.
In the end, what will you have?
It is a technically correct theme you cannot use in the real world.
So, this tutorial is fine for picking up those index.php and style.css pieces from basically any tutorial.
But don’t expect to sell your theme on ThemeForest, an expectation you will get from Danny’s references at the bottom on how to sell your work.
It’s missing too much real-world code to make assumptions like that.
Focus: barebones basics
Best for: basic concepts
Pros: easy to read
Cons: very outdated
Tutorial Rating: 3/5
Author: World Wide Web Technology
While this tutorial is easier to read than the others above, it is outdated. You will get some good basic concepts reading it, but not a fully-developed theme or Gutenberg blocks.
WordPress Theme Tutorials That Are Not Worth Your Time
These lessons failed for being out of date or impossible to use.
7. WordPress Codex (2.5/5)
Focus: Standards, definitions, and resources
It is best for experienced theme developers to use as a reference
Pros: technically precise
Cons: no context makes it hard to follow
Tutorial Rating: 2/5
Author: WordPress core team
Let’s talk about the WordPress codex for developing a custom theme.
Although it is the first result on Google for searching WordPress theme tutorials, the codex is not a tutorial.
It’s a series of explanations in Wiki or encyclopedic form.
It offers little context and, while technically impeccable, is not even a bit intuitive to read.
Use the codex when learning theme development to solidify your theme lessons.
Do not use the codex to learn initial concepts.
Focus: core essential files and functions
Best for: creating the skeleton theme
Pros: easy to read
Cons: Very light on explanations of complex subjects
Tutorial Rating: 2.5/5
Instructions to use a starter theme are the best thing I can recommend about this tutorial.
After that, it is a series of instructions that make significant assumptions about what you already know.
The tutorial sends you to localwp.com to download a local development environment tool.
I would not do this if I were taking this tutorial.
Based on the steady flood of bug reports on loccalwp’s community page and the empty addon directory, I say this.
You will glean some good info from this tutorial, but not before being sent back into the Codex,
So. There’s that.
One or two sentences about the Loop, hooks, filters, actions, and templates is not a tutorial; it’s more of someone saying something.
9. WordPress Custom Theme Development (2.5/5)
Price: $22/mo for Pluralsight access
Best for: beginners with PHP, CSS, and HTML knowledge
Pros: covers the basics
Cons: Goes over the material much too quickly
Tutorial Rating: 2.5/5
Author: Susan Simkins
Pluralsight does not list a date, reviews, or preview videos for this course, so it’s tough to say whether it is worth it.
But based on how fast the course is (2h 18 m), my hopes are not too high.
It would be best to learn hooks, actions, filters, templates, file structure, etc.
If a course sends you elsewhere for an explanation, I’m unsure why you’d bother.
10 (Bonus). Essential WordPress Theme Development Tutorial Step-By-Step (0/5)
Focus: It is hard to say; the screen will not show the entire content after each scroll
Best for: no one
Cons: waste of time
Tutorial Rating: 0/5
Unreadable artifact from 2014.
Coders aren’t writing tutorials the way they used to. The good tutorials are paid courses. Too many changes in WordPress to use out-of-date lessons.
The other issue is completeness. You can learn the basics of theme development in a few minutes, but that won’t get you a job at the advertising agency.
The best tutorials in Google’s top 10 for “WordPress Theme Tutorials” are:
- Paid: WordPress Theme Development from Scratch 2.0 (4/5)
- Paid: The Complete WordPress Theme Development Course (4/5)
- Free (watch the previews): Complete WordPress Theme & Plugin Development Course