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By Morten Rand-Hendriksen |

Build WordPress Themes from Scratch with lynda.com

Download Simone and Build WordPress Themes from Scratch

One of the most popular requests I’ve received from lynda.com members is for a course on how to build WordPress themes from scratch. I’m excited to announce that WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores has finally come to fruition. The course is an introduction to WordPress theme design and development, a best-practice example of a mobile-first, standards-based web development process, and a first-hand look at my personal approach to custom WordPress projects. Just as importantly, it’s an introduction to Simone—the WordPress theme that I build in the course itself, which is now available for free in the WordPress Theme Directory.

WordPress themes from scratch, with underscores as the foundation

There’s a poorly kept secret among theme developers: You rarely build WordPress themes from scratch—completely from scratch. Like a building meant to last, even the most custom one-of-a-kind theme will benefit from a solid foundation, and for many WordPress developers that foundation is “_s” (aka “Underscores”). This starter theme was built to provide a forward thinking, standards-based starting point for responsive (and accessible) WordPress themes.

I use _s as the base for all my themes because it puts me on the cutting edge of WordPress functions and functionality, and is based on the most current web standards, semantic HTML5 markup, and accessibility best practices. When I started envisioning a course on custom WordPress theme development, _s became the obvious choice for a foundation to build upon. As there’s little reliable and comprehensive information available on developing themes with _s today, my new course also serves as an introduction to how the theme is architected; how to take advantage of its numerous features and functionalities; and how to get the most out of it in your own projects.

Simone, an open theme

When you build WordPress themes, the end goal is for them to be used—either by a client or the WordPress community. To put my money where my mouth is, I decided to use WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores to build and distribute a new theme named Simone (after the philosopher Simone de Beauvior), now available at the WordPress Theme Directory. If you’d like to become involved, Simone is also in constant development on GitHub. In the course, you’ll get a first-hand look at the theme-design process while building your own version of Simone—from scratch—which you can use on your own site or as the basis for other projects. After completing the course, you can contribute to Simone’s future development or use what you’ve learned to build your own themes for distribution.

Develop all the things you need

Simone focuses on modern, accessible, mobile-first responsive design principles and is built to take advantage of the many theme customization features built into WordPress. In my new course, you’ll explore how to build in these features piece by piece while honoring modern best practices, and learn to approach theme development in a modular way.

In particular, you’ll learn how to

  • Create an advanced, image-based header
  • Build a responsive, keyboard-accessible drop-down menu
  • Use the WordPress template hierarchy to build a solid, user-friendly information architecture for your site
  • Add support for Google Fonts and responsive typography
  • Build a CSS framework to account for both small and large screens
  • Add icon fonts to theme elements for efficiency and aesthetics
  • Add support for the WordPress Customizer, enabling custom user configuration options to your theme

Build your own WordPress themes

As you can tell, WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores ended up being far more than just a course on how to build WordPress themes. It’s a guided deep dive into the process of conceiving, designing, and building WordPress themes, aimed at giving you a deeper understanding of both WordPress, and how to help bend it to your will. It’s not a stretch to say that nearly any website or application you can envision can be built with WordPress—and it all starts with building a theme from scratch. Join me and let’s dive in!

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