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Complete Study Guide for WordPress Website Building
The complete guide to learning WordPress
Learning WordPress can be a long road for an inexperienced developer. This guide can help you go from programming illiterate to freelance programming millionaire. This is an overview of the steps required to become a competent WordPress developer. This guide can help both the experienced and the inexperienced get their head around WordPress.
Don’t believe the myths
When you learn any field of programming (yes, you will have to learn), there are a lot of myths that come with it. Much of this is the hype of clickbait articles that prey on the ignorant. So I’m just going to expose the three most persistent myths I see today:
- No, you can NOT learn programming in 24 hours. Or a week Or a month To learn the whole world of programming, you will first have to become an immortal being with a clear schedule. You can learn some of the basics in 24 hours, but you’ll never finish learning new programming skills (unless you’re lazy).
- At the opposite end of the scale is the myth that you must be a genius gifted with incredible mathematical powers. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’ll be surprised at how many heads of potatoes there are to deal with in the field and how little math you’ll use.
- Maybe my favorite: There’s no point in learning programming when there are tools to make websites. This is the most aggravating because it is the hardest to explain. But in short, the question “why should I learn to code, if I have a WordPress theme?” can be answered with the next question “where would the themes come from if there were no programmers”. The same with web development tools. There are no tools on planet earth that can write more tools except programmers. Also, any tools that exist or will exist have serious limitations. But this is a longer topic.
Yes, you have to learn the basics of programming
Once again, you scream “Why do I need to learn programming? It’s WordPress!”. I think the more you learn about WordPress, the more you learn how limited it is.
Here is the secret. WordPress is a platform, not a web development tool. That is, much of the heavy lifting still requires you to flex your brain a bit and program. Here are some problems you might run into if you don’t learn to program first:
- My theme is great! But I hate the style of widgets in the footer.
- I want to create a membership site and I need functionality x, but no plugin exists.
- I want to create a membership site, but my plugins conflict.
- Turns out the theme I bought has a huge problem and I honestly think the theme developer is dead.
What would you do in these situations if you didn’t know how to program?
Now please learn the basics of programming
Before you start down the road to learning HTML and CSS, you should take a moment and relax, so I can throw a curriculum in your head.
The things you will need to learn before returning are:
- HTML – The building blocks of the front end of your website (the screen). Personal Recommendation: Common mistakes can be cured with a firm understanding of inline, inline – block and block level elements, as well as a firm understanding of relative vs absolute positioning.
- CSS – This is the secret sauce of your website. Imagine your HTML is a paint-by-numbers grid and CSS is the paint. Every website uses CSS.
- PHP: This is the black box of the website. No one sees it but you. It’s what actually creates all the functionality, does all the thinking, and delivers the content on your website. This is what real “programming” is. learn it
- MySQL – Databases are where everything on your website is stored. You will need to learn how to securely interact with the database using PHP. See parameterized queries.
There are a couple of ways to install WordPress on your website. The easiest way is through your cPanel account. There is usually a program in your cPanel that will install WordPress for you. For example, QuickInstall has a one-click installation for WordPress. Another way is to download the WordPress source files and upload them to your server via FTP.
After installing WordPress, you’ll want to log into your WordPress site to set things up. There are many guides to setting up your WordPress site through the backend, but the basics you’ll need to learn are:
- Installing your site’s theme: Even if you plan to create your own theme, it’s a good idea to set up someone else’s theme to base your work on. This will serve as a great starting point for your website.
- Familiarize yourself with plugins – they are easy to install and will provide most of the functionality of your website.
- Menus: Learn where they are and how to set them up. You can create menus that can be used anywhere on your website.
- Widgets: Widgets should not be confused with plugins. Widgets are user interface elements (like a Twitter feed), while plugins are groups of files that can make radical changes to your sites functionality.
- Learn the difference between pages and posts. These things serve very different and separate purposes.
This will give you enough ammunition to set up a basic website. However, if you want something a little less basic, you’ll have to move on.
How is the content delivered to the user?
It’s helpful to know how WordPress takes your content and presents it to the end user.
If you’ve learned php, you probably know how a website is presented to the user. If not, and you’ve made it this far, you’re a shameful human being and deserve a death by a thousand cuts. It sounds silly, but it’s very useful to know how the browser interprets the data and what PHP’s purpose is for populating content, how the website is compiled, etc.
Themes define the way WordPress presents content to a user. They do this with php files that serve as templates to display certain parts of your website, such as a blog entry page or header. They also include CSS and php files and can even provide functionality to a website.
I recommend that you learn what you will need to provide in your themes. There are also certain rules you need to follow if WordPress is going to recognize your theme. However, the main parts will be: header, index page, sidebar, footer, functions.php and stylesheet.
One more thing you can find are page templates. Page templates are simply different ways to display any page on your site. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, search for “page template”, in fact, do that anyway.
Also learn about post types. Everything on your website is a type of post, whether it’s pages, posts, or attachments. A page template is a template for a particular type of post. Learning about post types can clear up a lot of confusion down the road.
There are lists of all the global variables that WordPress provides, ranging from the content you provide to users to information about the visitors themselves. Don’t bother memorizing them, just refer to them as you go and familiarize yourself with what kind of global variables WordPress provides. If you can’t find them, you may need to add the functionality yourself, either in the form of a plugin or simply in the function.php file. Global variables are essential in WordPress development.
Plugins allow you to add functionality to your website or others. There is actually a huge plugin market for WordPress. It’s a great way to get large amounts of cocaine and gain some rep in the programming community.
Essentially, plugins are groups of files that alter or add functionality to websites. However, there are certain rules for configuring your files to be read by WordPress.
It’s also important to know when to add things to functions.php versus creating a plugin.
Hooks: actions and filters
Hooks will allow you to “stick” one of your functions into WordPress so that it runs at a specific time. If you didn’t use hooks, many kinds of functionality wouldn’t be possible. Trust me when I say that learning what they are and how to use them will save your life and unlock a world of possibilities.
Be sure to learn the difference between the two and how to use them. This knowledge will allow you to greatly alter the functionality of WordPress and will greatly open the doors to the functionality of your site.
Actions are hooks that allow you to run a function when a certain WordPress event occurs. For example, when you create a post, you might want to update a value in your database.
Filters allow data to be modified at certain times. When you set up a filter, WordPress will pass data through it before completing a task. If WordPress is about to display a login error, you can choose to change or modify that error message before it is presented to the user. Maybe something like “Stand back you scammer, this is my grandmother’s heirloom!” or “I don’t want your dirty eyes looking at my website, you dirty hillbilly hacker!”.
Of course, for everything to sink in, you need to practice. However, if you want to be like me starting out, you can find a small job online and get started. The pressure should help you keep trying to learn. If you screw someone up, you can always point them at me.
However, if you want to take the safer route, I would suggest doing the following:
Rent a small shared hosting package (you can spend a few dollars a month), grab a theme and create a small blog website. (Make it something you want to use! Actually use it!).
You can also use a local server on your computer, if you don’t feel like spending money and don’t really want to share your work with anyone.
Once you’ve learned your way around WordPress, start another small site. However, this time be a bit more ambitious and try to introduce all the functionality this time. If you’re confused about something, you can always rip off someone else’s work and learn from them.
If that seems like a lot. Is. WordPress is a much bigger subject than many people assume at first. However, if you take it one bite at a time, you will eventually learn everything you need to know when it comes to building WordPress websites. It’s a highly sought-after skill and doesn’t require a degree. Keep plugging away and you’ll find it’s been well worth it!
Hopefully, this guide will help you become a solid WordPress developer.
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