Review of WordPress Theme Development – Beginner’s Guide

6 August 2013

WordPress, the ever-popular open source CMS, spawns hundreds of help guides and books from plugin development to general administration, so I was pretty excited to see Packt’s  WordPress Theme Development Beginner’s Guide book (and thanks to Ramon for the tip the book was out!).

WordPress Theme Development Beginners Guide book

Let’s start with the facts: WordPress Theme Development Beginner’s Guide (Third Edition) was written by Rachel McCollin and Tessa Blakeley Silver and is 252 pages long.

WordPress Theme Development: the good

As experienced technical writers, the books flow pretty well, and builds around a fairly believable case study as motivation for building and customising the WordPress theme.

Each task is organised in small numbered steps in Packt’s typical “Beginner’s Guide” format, and the frequent screens and code samples help guide you through things solidly. The book increases in complexity through chapters.

The book strays beyond theming in to basic set up and configuration (such as enabling search engine friendly permalinks), but I think this is likely to be useful for first-time or beginner-level WordPress developers/site owners.

WordPress Theme Development: the not-so-good

As with any technical book, it’s impossible to please everyone, though there were a few areas I felt could have been stronger, including developing WordPress child themes, and more could have been made of what can be done in functions.php (such as controlling the behaviour of the admin bar), but these were perhaps deemed to advanced for the book.

There was also some content I thought was unnecessary “fluff” for the book, such how to validate HTML and CSS as I think readers of the book should be at the stage to know that already, but perhaps I’m presuming too much; again, it’s very hard to judge what content is valid and not for beginners who are at a variety of levels.

How is WordPress Theme Development for a beginner?

I let Matthew, our office manager, read through the book; as someone with a basic grasp of CSS and HTML, and experience using WordPress as an administrator, he seemed like the type of reader that was the target demographic of the book. Here were his initial impressions:

  • “Easy to follow in most chapters, with helpful screenshots”
  • “Simple guides to WordPress settings I didn’t know about”
  • “I feel more confident about creating a theme in WordPress now”


So, how do I feel about this book? Overall, it’s fairly solid for a beginner’s guide if you’re looking to get in to WordPress theme development, and should get you up and developing simple custom WordPress themes in no time at all if you have a basic understanding of HTML, CSS and a little PHP. As with any technical book, it’s likely a useful addition to online documentation and tutorials, but not a sole resource.


I was gifted an ebook by Packt, the publishers, in return for this review.