I’ve known for some time that WordPress is an excellent blogging platform. It’s both easy to get started with and infinitely tweak-able. As it turns out, WordPress is also a great platform to develop themes for. It comes down to defining a key set of templates that drive various behaviors in WordPress:

There are a few others, but you get the idea. Because of this simplicity, it’s easy to get started. All you need is some basic PHP knowledge, a decent understanding of HTML/CSS, and a reference guide to WordPress functions.

Starter Themes

If you’re too lazy/impatient to read all that pesky documentation, I’ve got great news. There is an even easier way to get started with WordPress theme development: just use a bare-bones (starter) theme. There is a bunch to choose from (Starkers, barecity, blank slate, and many others). These themes typically implement key templates with minimal (or no) styling and it’s up to you to add the CSS.

I tried out a few, but ended up using a theme called H5 (though I borrowed pieces from a few others as well). I picked H5 primarily because it’s HTML5 compatible and I wanted to see what the fuss was about (verdict: not much).

Luckily, H5 turned out to be a solid choice for a starter theme. It gives you a bit more styling than others do, which you may or may not appreciate (I personally found it helpful, but your milage may vary). It also tries to utilize HTML5’s semantic markup, which is nice if you’re into that sort of thing.

Development environment

WordPress is a classic LAMP application (how quaint), so setting up a dev environment is as simple as setting up an *AMP stack. On a Mac (my weapon of choice),  that means using MAMP. There is a great write-up on WordPress on how to set everything up.

Since WordPress allows you to easily export and import your entire blog in an XML file, populating your dev environment with real data is also super easy. Just import the XML and watch your local WordPress instance suddenly spring to life, filled to the brink with clever writing and amusing comments. You know, just like the real thing.

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