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A Guide To Different Options For WordPress Theme Development

Are you starting to develop WordPress theme or already developing themes, lets explore and understand what options you have and what to consider in choosing your option for WordPress theme development.

Things To Consider For Developing A WordPress Theme?

Before exploring the options for WordPress theme development, lets first discuss some important things you should consider before picking an option. Because it all depends on some important factors as follows.

  • Time – Turnaround time for developing this particular WordPress theme.
  • Budget – You or your client have for this.
  • Skills – What is your skill-set for for theme development, such as CSS,HTML,PHP,WordPress Hooks & Functions, etc..

Those were just some of the very important factor, however there may be more things to consider which may vary from person too person, so think of any other important factor for yourself and than choose an option.

Your Options for WordPress Theme Development

There are a few major options you have for developing WordPress themes, and deciding the right option for you before you jump start the development is really crucial. Because a right option will result in a better theme for sure.

The Options are:

  • Build a WordPress theme from Scratch.
  • Build a WordPress theme using a Starter Theme.
  • Build a WordPress theme using a Theme Framework.
  • Build a WordPress theme by editing an existing theme.

Before writing this post i took a poll to see what other awesome WordPress developers are using nowadays which would help you further analyzing what other are doing. Here is the screenshot of the poll.


As you may notice the numbers on right of each question the most favorite options among WordPress developers are “WordPress theme development from Scratch” OR “WordPress theme development using a Starter theme” however the option you chose will still based on the factors consideration mentioned earlier.

This poll was taken at Advanced WordPress Group, which is a close group so you will have to join it to read this poll and the comments there are worth reading.

Lets look into the options in a bit detail now.

1. Build A WordPress Theme From Scratch

This option you may notice is the most favorite option among experienced WordPress developers, however if you want to choose this option consider the factors again like this:

  • Time – It will possibly take more time than other options.
  • Budget – Very low budget as a developer ( but very High budget option for a client.)
  • Skills – You must be very good WordPress developer having strong knowledge of CSS, HTML, PHP & WordPress functions, actions & hooks.

Beside the factors consideration this options gives you total control over your code. However you can also use this approach to build your own starter theme or a framework which you can use for your next projects. See the big picture?

2. Build A WordPress Theme Using A Starter Theme

This is the second most favorite option resulted in my poll. Lets re-consider your factors for this option.

  • Time – It will save a lot of time as compare to first option.
  • Budget – It would be low budget as well as some of the best starter themes are free as well.
  • Skills – This options however requires the same skills-set as of option one, but you get most of the work done already and you just need to understand and use it.

This option is my personal favorite as well for developing Custom WordPress Theme and my favorite theme is Underscores. Read my tutorial series on WordPress theme development using Underscores, if you wanna learn more.

5 handpicked good WordPress starter themes you can choose from:


Underscores Starter Theme


Sage Starter Theme (a.k.a Roots)

Sage Starter Theme (a.k.a Roots)


Bones Starter Theme

Bones Starter Theme


BlankSlate Starter Theme

BlankSlate Starter Theme


Html5blank Starter Theme

Html5blank Starter Theme

3. Build A WordPress Theme Using A Theme Framework

Another option for you is to go with a theme framework. The first confusion you may what exactly is called a WordPress theme framework. To better understand this please read the article on WordPress codex here.

The following bit from the same article at codex may make it clear.

A Theme Framework includes some pre-defined code to facilitate the theme development process, such as:

  • Custom pre-made functions to be used.
  • Custom WordPress Actions & Filters Hooks to be used.
  • Theme options page integration.
  • Custom callbacks for core WordPress Actions & Filters Hooks.
  • Some useful script library integration & functionality.

Now lets consider our defined factors for theme frameworks here.

  • Time – This would be very fast using the pre-defined functions & hooks by a theme framework.
  • Budget – It depends on your choice of framework, there are free and paid options available.
  • Skills – Same skill-set mainly here as well, however you can survive with basic PHP skills using this option.

5 Possibly Good WordPress Theme Frameworks: 

Note: I have not used any of the theme frameworks mentioned bellow myself, these are mentioned based on the poll comments and my research only. And are mentioned in no particular order.

4. Build a WordPress Theme By Editing An Existing Theme

Last but an easiest option would be this one. Many beginners starts by editing existing themes for their small projects or to practice WordPress theme development. For a particular project you can search for a free WordPress theme which is close to your project requirements and you can modify / tweak it further to match your design. However there are some dangers which you need to consider if you choose with this option.

  • Never edit the theme files itself as it won’t be update proof, always create a child theme for customization.
  • Always research and pick a well coded theme otherwise you may end up with even more development time as compared to theme development from scratch.
  • If by any chance you want to edit the theme itself to make it yours and do not want to go with a child theme, you must check the license and terms of the particular theme. However all themes at WP repo comes with GPL License, which allow you to reuse there code and tweak it. Still better to give credits to the theme author.

Lets consider this options also with our defined factors for choosing an option.

  • Time – This would be quickest among all if you picked a theme close to your design requirements and is well coded as explained.
  • Budget – Very low for this as well if you pick a free theme.
  • Skills – Here you may survive with very basic PHP skills as well, because mostly you would be tweaking CSS/HTML codes to match a theme with your design/requirements.


Now as you can see we have variety of options explored and all options are fine whichever you choose based on the factors defined. No options is Best or Worst this depends on project to project and your preferences and skill set. You can start in reverse order i suggest if you are a beginner and have no or very basic PHP skills and keep learning and keep improving your skills and your workflow. I hope this article may help you understand different ways of WordPress theme development.

Have Questions? Comment it!