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WordPress Developer’s Toolbox

Web designers and developers are getting an increasing number of requests from clients for custom theme development, and a growing number of designers are also building their own themes to distribute for free or to sell as premium themes. With all of the WordPress development that is going on, there is a need for an organized collection of resources to educate, inspire and equip developers to improve the quality and efficiency of their work. This post provides all kinds of WordPress-related resources to do just that.

1. Helpful Resources Link

While there are all kinds of resources available for Web designers and developers, these are especially nice to have on hand when working with WP themes.

The WordPress Help Sheet1
This is a nice resource to refer back to when you are developing themes. It’s a one-page collection of PHP snippets and code that will come in handy when designing with WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

The Advanced WordPress Help Sheet2
A slightly more advanced version of the help sheet.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Huge Compilation of WordPress Code3
A helpful post that provides code snippets for a variety of common functions.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

WordPress Template Tag Reference Guide4
This is a handy guide to have nearby when you’re building a theme. It lists the various template tags used by the WP system.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Unraveling the Secrets of WordPress’ comments.php File5
A good starting point for getting more familiar with how comments work in WP and what you can do with them as a designer.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

48 Unique Ways to Use WordPress6
Want some ideas on how you can use WP in your next project?

Theme Switcher Reloaded7
For displaying demos of multiple themes on your website or blog.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2. WordPress Tutorials Link

One of the advantages of using WP is the amount of information that is readily available from others who are willing to share their techniques. For designers and developers, there are tutorials on just about any aspect of working with WP. Here are some that deserve to be highlighted.

2.1. Basics of Creating a Theme Link

Designing for WordPress8
A series written by Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks that includes videos and articles.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Developing a WordPress Theme9
Helps you with coding each of the necessary WP files.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Create a WordPress Theme from Scratch10
If you want to get started with your first theme from scratch, this is a good resource.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Create WordPress Themes from Scratch – Part 111
Another useful article for setting up the basics of a theme from scratch.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Create WordPress Themes from Scratch – Part 212
The second part gets into slicing and coding.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Dissection of a WordPress Theme – Part 113, Part 214, Part 315, Part 416
A detailed look at what makes up a WP theme and how to create your own.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

So You Want to Create WordPress Themes Huh?17
An excellent series of tutorials on just about every aspect of theme development.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

From XHTML/CSS to WordPress18
If you already have a site or template built, here is how to convert it to WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.2. Multiple Hints, Tips, and Tricks Link

WordPress Theme Hacks19
A must-bookmark post at Web Designer Wall that quickly shows the code needed for a variety of tricks when working with WP themes.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Mastering Your WordPress Theme Hacks and Techniques20
Another exhaustive resource with tips on many different aspects of designing on WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

The Most Desired WordPress Hacks: 11 Common Requests and Fixes21
This post includes a variety of information, including tips on custom fields, creating menus, working with categories and authors and more.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.3. Working with Categories Link

Removing Several Categories from the Loop in WordPress22
There will be times when you want to take posts in a certain category out of the loop and show them someplace else. This tutorial shows you how.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Displaying WordPress Categories in a Horizontal Dropdown Menu23
Shows you how to create drop-down navigation using CSS and JavaScript.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

3.4. Navigation Menus in WordPress Link

Creating Two-Tiered Conditional Navigation in WordPress24
Get an advanced navigation menu with the right WP coding and CSS.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Using Sliding Doors with WordPress Navigation25
Use this popular navigation style in your WP themes.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.4. WordPress as a CMS Link

How to Use WordPress as a Membership Directory
This tutorial covers one non-traditional use of WP that may be of interest in some of your projects.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Using a WordPress Page as Your Homepage
In some projects, you may want a static page to be set as the home page, rather than to display recent blog posts.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Build a Dynamic Design Portfolio with WordPress26
Some specifics for creating an effective portfolio website powered by WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.5. Working with Comments: Link

Hack Together a User Contributed Feed with WordPress Comments27
Learn how websites in the TUTS family have their community links section set up.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Adding Form Validation to WordPress Comments Using jQuery28
Learn how to validate comment form submissions without reloading the page.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Highlight Author Comments in WordPress29
Setting the author comments to stand out from reader comments can make it easier for others to identify your responses to questions and comments.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Separate WordPress Comments and Trackbacks30
You may want to give your comment area a cleaner look by keeping pingbacks and trackbacks out of the main comment area.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Add Gravatars to WordPress Themes31
You can make your comment section more appealing by displaying gravatars for each commenter.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.6. Working with Headers, Footers, and Sidebars: Link

Client Friendly WordPress Themes: Header.php
If you’re designing themes for clients, here are some things to consider.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Simple Random Header Image for Your Blog32
Provides the code for a randomly rotating header image.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Creating a Widget-Ready Footer in WordPress33
You can give your theme’s users more options by allowing for widgets in the footer.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Mashing Up Feeds Using Yahoo Pipes34
Covers the steps of adding a list of links to your sidebar that consist of posts from various blogs; in this case, blogs from the same network.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Install DomTABs on WordPress35
Improve your sidebar by giving visitors more to choose from, without taking up more space.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

WordPress Sidebar Turned Apple-Flashy Using jQuery UI36
Create a more attractive sidebar that will be noticed by visitors.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.7. Web 2.0 Integration Link

Creating a Life-Stream and Social Media Hub37
A look at the process of setting up a personal website that incorporates your social media accounts, such as Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon and Flickr.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Create a YouTube Section with WordPress38
Video is becoming a bigger part of blogs and websites, and this tutorial will help you create an attractive section for YouTube videos.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.8. Styling Link

Styling Individual Posts Using the_ID39
If you want to get creative, individual posts can be styled differently by using the post ID assigned by WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Multiple WordPress Page Layouts in One Single Template40
Create a more flexible theme that changes the layout based on various factors.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.9. WordPress SEO Link

WordPress SEO41
Although SEO involves much more than how a website is built, development can have a big influence on rankings down the road.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Blocking Your WordPress Categories and Archives from Google42
A simple step that can improve your website’s SEO.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

WordPress and SEO43
A good primer on developing search-friendly websites.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

SEO for WordPress Tips44
Another article that looks at SEO from the perspective of a WP designer or user.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.10. Working with Feeds Link

Creating Posts that Only Appear in RSS45
Send special subscriber-only content that won’t appear on your front page or archives.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Publishing External RSS Headlines to Your WordPress Site46
A simple tutorial that will show you how to add RSS headlines to your website.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Create a Featured Post Carousel for WordPress47
Displaying featured content on the front page is pretty common right now. This tutorial shows you how to set that up for yourself.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Create a Tabbed Featured Post Area in WordPress48
Give your theme an attractive look and feature the appropriate content.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.12. Working with Custom Fields Link

Using WordPress Custom Fields: Introduction49
If you’re not familiar with using custom fields, this is a good place to start.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

WordPress Custom Fields: Laying Text Over Your Lead Graphic50
A great way to improve the look of your theme by taking advantage of custom fields.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

2.13. Other Tutorials Link

13 Tags to Delete from Your Theme51
Page load time can easily be an issue with more involved WP themes. You can help the cause by getting rid of unnecessary calls to the database.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Make a Random Post Button
A different functionality that may be right for one of your upcoming themes.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Customize Your 404 Page52
You can improve the usability of your blog by customizing the 404 page that visitors may find from time to time.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Adding an Author Page to Your WordPress Blog53
You’ve probably seen blogs that have a specific page for each author. Here’s a tutorial on setting that up.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Install WordPress Manually
Most hosting companies offer an easy WP installation. If yours doesn’t, this post can help.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Adding Thumbnails to Your Posts in WordPress54
Thumbnails are popular, especially for magazine themes. Here’s an explanation of how they can be added.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

How to Easily Make WordPress Archives that Rock55
Provides some code and strategy for setting up effective archives.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

3. Articles from the Official WordPress Codex Link

The official WordPress Codex56 provides a wealth of information for developers, as well as for WP users in general. This list is just a sample of some of the articles that are most relevant to developers.

Theme Development57
This article will cover the basics of designing themes for WP, and it links to a number of additional resources on the subject.

The Loop58
Get the details on the loop, one of the most essential elements of the theme system.

Creating an Archive Index59
There are a lot of different options when working with archives in theme development. This article is a good starting point.

Customizing Your Sidebar60
Sidebars provide developers with plenty of options for experimentation and tweaking.

Conditional Tags61
To create versatile WP themes, understanding conditional tags is essential.

Stepping into Templates62
The basics of how templates work in WP.

Template Hierarchy63
Explains how templates work together in a theme.

Template Tags64
WP relies on a variety of template tags throughout a theme.

Using Custom Fields65
Custom fields open up a whole new world of opportunities for developers.

Search Engine Optimization for WordPress66
This article contains some general SEO information, as well as some that is specific to WP themes.

4. Blank Themes Link

It’s possible to save yourself a considerable amount of time in development by starting with a blank theme. Blank themes are not intended to be used as they are, but rather as a starting point or framework to increase efficiency with the tasks that are common to the development of almost every WP theme.

A free WP theme framework.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

A completely naked WP theme from Elliot Jay Stocks. (Note: some users are having problems with Starkers on WP 2.6. Improvements are hopefully soon to come.)

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

A starter theme with only very basic styling.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

The Starter Theme Project70
This is basically an empty template. It is not a theme that is intended to work out of the box.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

5. WordPress Design Inspiration Link

Readers of Smashing Magazine are obviously familiar with excellent sources of design inspiration. The resources listed here will help you if you are specifically interested in seeing what others have been able to do on the WordPress (WP) platform.

We Love WP71
The best gallery dedicated strictly to websites powered by WP. It is updated rather frequently and has a decent-sized archive.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

The Gallery at WPCandy72
A bit of a smaller gallery than We Love WP, but still worth checking out if you’re interested in seeing what others are able to do with WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Unmatched Style73
This design gallery has a tag for WP-powered sites.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

CSS Glance74
A large (and continually updated) category for WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

45 Beautiful and Creative WordPress Designs75
A mini-gallery from design blog Six Revisions.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

25 Outstanding WordPress Designs76
Another mini-gallery from Six Revisions.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Creative Examples of WordPress Theme Modifications77
An interesting blog post that shows sample theme designs compared to the themes that were their starting point.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

60+ Unusual WP Blog Designs78
Noupe put together a bunch of designs that stand out.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

6. Icons for Your Themes: Link

Improve the look of your theme by using some icons that are available for free.

RSS: Best Design Practices and Icons79
A collection of RSS-feed icons from Smashing Magazine.

Icons Pack

110+ Free RSS Icons to Show Off Your RSS Feed80
A nice collection that will give you some options when it comes to RSS.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Fresh, Free and Gorgeous RSS/Feed Icons81
A previous collection from Smashing Magazine.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Cheers: A Free “Social” Icon Set82
12 icons of glasses and social media from Smashing Magazine.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Feed Icons83
If you’re looking for the standard RSS icon, get it here.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

7. Places to Distribute Free Themes You Have Developed Link

Many theme developers choose to distribute their themes from their own websites or blogs because it draws more visitors and gives them control over the distribution. However, there are some other places where you can try to get your theme listed. Some will simply link back to your website, and others will offer visitors direct downloads from their own websites. In general, make sure that you’re familiar and comfortable with the directory or gallery before submitting your theme. Some have been known to distribute themes with sponsored or hidden links.

Official WordPress Theme Directory84
There are around 300 themes included at the moment.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

Weblog Tools Collection85
This blog announces new themes and plug-ins to its 11,000+ subscribers.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

8. Galleries of Free Themes that Accept Submissions from Designers: Link

9. Marketplaces to Sell Your Themes Link

Most developers of premium themes will sell them from their own websites or blogs or, if they have several for sale, set up websites specifically for marketing and selling them. However, there are also some marketplaces that will sell your theme for you, in exchange for a cut of the profit.

Theme Forest88
A new and already popular marketplace for templates and themes, including those for WP.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

A similar marketplace for themes and templates.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

A marketplace for premium themes and plug-ins.

Wordpress Toolbox Screenshot

For more WP-related content at Smashing Magazine, see:


Footnotes Link

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  92. 92 /2007/08/28/45-excellent-blog-designs/
  93. 93 /2008/08/28/magazine-themes-usage-and-considerations/
SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf Barcelona, on October 25–26, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.

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  1. 1

    Awesome. It’s about time somebody posted something like this!

  2. 2

    Very nice collection – definitely bookmarking this one. I’ve done a good 6 custom themes in the last handful of months, and demand just seems to be getting bigger for it… WP grants a lot of power to freelancers out there who don’t write backend script… but it can get a little hairy if you’re new, so having a good index page to check for easy to find resources is awesome… especially since their codex can be a bit unwieldy for non-coders. MakeDesign,NotWar is one of the themes that I’ve developed from a core Woothemes template, but I definitely used more than a few of the links you’ve posted above to modify it to my liking. Thanks again!

  3. 3

    Excellent article!!!

  4. 4

    Fantastic post! Loads of great resources covered.
    Thanks for featuring 3 posts from Noupe :)

  5. 5

    omg..that’s huge :) thank you smashing magazine!

  6. 6

    AMAZING! thank you, I’m just about to start learning Word press and this is exactly what I needed, amazing post.

  7. 7

    Michael Castilla

    September 15, 2008 2:56 pm

    Thanks for all the linkbacks guys! Appreciate it a ton! Great post.

  8. 8


  9. 9

    holly molly, this crazy shitttt, two thumb up!! very usefull.

  10. 10

    excellent, thanks for this article!


  11. 11

    Great article we all love and respect WP, as an idea maybe Drupal developers toolbox as a next topic?

  12. 12

    Wow! Fantastic post!

  13. 13

    Fantastic, and HUUUGE! Thanks for featuring PuttingBlogsFirst! :D

  14. 14

    Christian Dalsvaag

    September 16, 2008 1:10 am

    This article is just amazing. Thank you for all the effort you put into it, will be posting this as a favorite, and I am sure this deed will not go unseen. Thanks a lot!

  15. 15

    what an amazing list. You weren’t kidding when you said toolbox and not just tips. I’ll have to read this over the next few weeks to take it all in and apply it to my own projects.

    thanks for this

  16. 16

    Im in doubt: Joomla or WordPress? or other one? I want to develop websites to different markets(lawyers, etc..) but i searched in google and many people said that for blogs wordpress is the choosen, but for more complex sites or normal sites, joomla is better.
    Ive tried Joomla(just for 2 hours) and it seems that the template system is not the best…(i think).

    Can anyone help and tell me which is the best to develop sites(normal sites with a backend)?

  17. 17

    just amazing!!!!

  18. 18

    it’s huge !!!!

    thank you smashers… :)

  19. 19

    Andrei Gonzales

    September 15, 2008 4:25 pm

    This is a stunning amount of content. Well done!

  20. 20

    I think it you took the time to work through all the above, you’d be an absolute WordPress menace!


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