7 Tips to Help You Develop a Better WordPress Theme

Count me out and skip this article if you are one of those who is only looking to stuff your WordPress theme with tons of features. Believe me, the more features your theme has, doesn’t mean the better it will become or that more people will buy it.

For me, a good WordPress theme is not made from features alone. So these are the 7 things that in my opinion make a great WordPress theme. Are you in for this discussion? Here are my thoughts. Don’t forget to raise yours in the comment section.

1. Put your focus on simplicity

It’s easy to lose track of what you are doing. The thing is, you must have it clear in your mind from the very beginning that WordPress is all about simplicity and so is its community. Keep your mind close to the standards of a WordPress website and to the plan you figured out at first.

Look at the themes on WordPress.org or WordPress.com; have they ever required users to learn anything to use them? No. So you’d better stick to that basis. Don’t create a bloated theme with tons of unnecessary things that will never be used, or make your theme conflict with plugins.

Unless you are making themes to sell on Themeforest, where WordPress themes are packed with a bunch of “great” functionality, you can’t keep on pursuing complicated themes. You can read more on WordPress functionality distinction here.

2. Stick to WordPress codex


So what’s the basis I’ve just talked about? It’s obviously the WordPress codex.

You must have read this a thousand times I guess, but I shall repeat it once again: don’t reinvent the wheel.

For any WordPress developer out there, the codex is their best friend. It’s a mine with many hidden gems and at the same time, it’s the most basic, latest WordPress standards. You should read it carefully from the beginning till the end and keep using it regularly in your WordPress development. Maybe you won’t find everything in there, but there are tons of useful functions for you.

Don’t ever use any random shortcodes or functions you see published somewhere on the Internet without knowing clearly how it works. If you do, don’t complain if your site breaks, or worse, gets hacked after installing your theme. Using WordPress standards, you don’t need to invent anything new.

This practice also helps your users and other developers to easily customize your theme when needed.

3. Find a niche for your WordPress theme

Why does finding a niche for your theme before building it make your theme better?

There’s always a niche category for your WordPress theme to have good sales in that niche. Users who are looking for themes always have a specific demand. Keep this fact in mind and tailor your theme design and content, as well as features, to their specific purpose. Those categories like portfolio, business or corporation, etc. seem broad, but you can divide them into smaller pieces based on different purposes and build your theme based on that.

For example, you can build a WordPress theme for vintage photography or a blog. Sure, people who make a living from vintage photography will be likely to use it.

Quick tip: after researching a niche, you can start defining the target audience and related keywords for the theme.

A theme with better focus will be more specific for users’ needs and also sell more.

4. Keep functionality in plugin, not theme


As suggested above in #1, you should keep the functionality in plugins, not theme.

To do this, you have to learn to list things that should be left out of a theme. Things to leave out are just as important as things to include in your WordPress theme. So, any functionality that you’re going to use to add brand new features (especially via shortcodes) should belong in a WordPress plugin. Get rid of these things, like shortcodes or Google Analytics or favicons, etc. into your theme.

If #1 tells you to keep it simple, here you shall keep it clean and light.

5. Ensure your theme compatibility

It’s a small thing, but it’s a big plus for your theme if it’s compatible with all browsers as well as with major plugins. It’s impossible to build a theme that supports all plugins out there, but the most popular plugins are enough. The same with browsers.

You’re not going to leave any of your users behind or make them stay away from your theme, right?

6. Provide a good Theme Options page

A Theme Options page is the usual page you see in a WordPress theme. From this panel, the site’s admin can edit the theme, its design and functionality. As you usually see in premium themes on Themeforest, because the theme itself has many functionalities, the Theme Option panel is also very complicated. They make it a powerful remote control to tweak and customize anything in the theme easily.

A good Theme Options page doesn’t have to be that superb. It’s just required to allow users to control several aspects of the website with simple actions. You should value the ease of use more than any complex system. The more you add, the more messy the code can become. Down goes the user experience too.

7. Don’t leave the small things to be done later


Image’s credit: twentytenfive

During the process of building a theme, forcing yourself to the end is a difficult task. And usually, you tend to start from the biggest tasks to the smaller ones. There’s nothing wrong with that except for when you work on the major tasks first and skip the detailed and small tasks to a later phase.

It’s a very bad practice because you will be more likely to forget the detailed things, and your code won’t be completed. Then you will waste a huge amount of time to fill in the holes, fix the bugs and conflicts, etc.

The advice here is that when you do things consequently, you shall make sure the former things work well first before jumping to the later parts.

Wrap Up

Are you going to sing your own song or sing the same song as others? A good WordPress theme is not made from one single criterion. There are many elements that decide how good it is; not only aesthetic design but also those 7 things above, and even more, to make you stand out of the crowd.

What do you think makes a good WordPress theme? Share with us below. And feel free to share this article with your friends, or on your wall, if you’ve learnt something useful.


This blog was written and published on WPDemobuilder.com in Oct 2014. Featured image’s credit: WPDB


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