WordPress is enormously popular and that popularity shows no sign of waning. If you learn how to build themes, plugins, and other integrations, you can tap into a massive market. It’s a competitive market, to be sure, but one that offers opportunities to developers in many different areas: bespoke theme and plugin development, premium theme and plugin development, WordPress management and security services, and, with the introduction of the REST API, the ability to build novel and innovative front-end and back-end integrations that transform WordPress.
You could learn WordPress development as you go, picking up snippets of knowledge here and there as you work to solve problems. But I’d advise prospective WordPress developers to invest some time into understanding the fundamentals of the technologies WordPress is built on. Fundamental knowledge will help you write code and solve problems more efficiently, as well as avoid common security and performance pitfalls.
So, what do you need to know to be a WordPress developer?
HTML and CSS
HTML is the markup language webpages are written in. WordPress uses HTML everywhere: themes are largely written in HTML and WordPress’ most important job is to produce HTML that browsers understand.
While HTML structures documents, CSS dictates how those documents appear on the page. HTML may say “this is a header,” but CSS says what the headers look like.
HTML and CSS are the basic building blocks of all web development. They’re essential to any sort of web development, including WordPress development. There are any number of excellent free resources for learning HTML and CSS on the web, but rather than cobbling knowledge together from tutorials, I’d advise new learners to take a course from Code School or Code Academy, which cover the fundamentals and provide a strong grounding learners can build on.
Unlike HTML and CSS, PHP is general purpose programming language that can be used to build almost any piece of software. WordPress is a PHP-based application — to develop a deep understanding of how WordPress works, PHP is vital. As programming languages go, PHP is not difficult to learn, but if you have no prior knowledge of programming, you should set aside a few weeks to learn the basics.
To develop themes, you won’t need more than the basics of PHP and an understanding of how it’s used in the WordPress theme architecture, but if your aim is to build plugins and more advanced WordPress integrations, you’ll need a strong grasp of PHP and the APIs that WordPress makes available.
You’ll find no shortage of learning resources for PHP, but I’m going to once again recommend you use Code School or Code Academy, both of which offer excellent PHP tracks.
This might seem a little complicated, but it’s possible to pick up a thorough grounding in the fundamentals you need to get started on WordPress development with a couple of months of dedicated study. Then, as you work on WordPress projects, your knowledge and expertise will deepen. WordPress development offers great opportunities to new developers, and, most importantly, there’s a huge community willing and able to help you and make WordPress development fun.