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Nadine M. Thêry
Nadine M. Thêry

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Your first coding job: a Wordpress site. How to manage that?

If you decided you wanted to be a web dev, probably your path must have been similar to mine: first HTML5, then CSS and later JS.
But then a friend of a friend hears that you are now a web developer, and asks you to make a Wordpress for them.

As a developer, I found Wordpress limited, confusing and so restricted! Something I could easily solve by modifying a CSS file or just by changing a few tags in the HTML was so hard!

Where are the files? Why isn't there any index.html?

So, you had to face a Wordpress development when you thought it was easy, and everything looks like if you had absolutely no idea where to start from.

So, if this job is actually something punctual, and you do not think to focus your career in Wordpress development maybe these tricks could actually work for you:

Know what the client wants

Probably the hardest part, especially if they are not quite technical. But you should at least now what structure the client wants the web to have and of course the functionalities.
It always helps a lot to have the content of the website (texts and images). If the client doesn't have this, then it might be a bit more difficult. But you can always play with dummy content.

Start from a template

At least you are feeling brave, do not start from scratch. Wordpress works with php. Which is a language that mixes the HTML tags with the language itself and is not pretty similar to JavaScript.
Look for free (or paid if you consider) themes that have most of the requirements the client wanted: a blog, an about section, a single page design... you name it. Just save you time for later.
Do not limit yourself to the Wordpress browser. There are plenty of cool designs out there you can import to Wordpress.

Make a child-template

This is a must. Once you have your theme installed, install this plugin: Child Theme Configurator and make a child-theme.
This is the best practice when working with templates. It is easier to solve mistakes and your changes won't be overridden by a theme update.

Ask full access to the hosting site

You will need access to the hosting site, in order to access the Wordpress files and start working.

Use an FTP manager

Download and install an FTP manager such as WinSCP. Connect it to the hosting. You will need to ask for permission in the host site, but it will surely have a tutorial on how to connect it.

Copy the original theme to local

You need to set up your playground, so copy the original theme to local, and also your child-theme archives.
Modify anything in local, and once you are ready, upload it.

What now?

Ok, you are ready to start. The first thing you need to know is how Wordpress actually works. Here I suggest a cool article with a straight-forward explanation on this.

After this, go to the Wordpress Administration Tool and play around. Modify as much as possible with the Wordpress tool. If you find that something cannot be modified, and there are no plugins to fix that, then that is the time to jump into the code.

Using a Code editor with a powerful search engine such as Visual Studio Code, will improve your task of searching for the functions.


Wordpress Codex: here's where Wordpress says anything that can be done with their platform. You may need it if you want to get more data from other places.

May the force be with you!

Top comments (6)

ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

Also, harden the hosting environment ASAP! It does not look good when some script-kiddie takes over your site because a plugin was out of date. If your server is on the public Internet, you should assume someone is trying to take it down.

Cloudfire or another Web Application Firewall can help out a ton here by defending you from a lot of common threats and adding a layer of indirection between users and your site.

highcenburg profile image
Vicente G. Reyes

Creating a WordPress was also the first job I did for a client. I did not know what to do. I did not know where the files were. But what I saw was the WP Bakery builder on the plugin. I was fortunate(or unfortunate) enough to finish a page in 3 days(including revisions). The hard part was the contact form which was very confusing at first and which video tutorial should I follow.

After that client, I declined/avoided WordPress jobs. I also even declined/refused learning PHP.

Don't get me wrong, I have my own WordPress site built with a free theme just in case I change my mind lol

chrisrhymes profile image
C.S. Rhymes

Great article. Some great advice to copy everything locally first and work on it there.

A nice starting point for a new WordPress theme is Sage by roots. It uses blade templating engine (instead of mixing php and html) and offers a choice of frontend frameworks too.

midikris profile image
Christopher Heireth

Keep in mind one of the best things about WordPress is there is a point in developing in it that you realize that you can/should build from scratch and keep your themes incredibly light weight, only building in features and files that are needed. Some of the frameworks bloat your projects with functionality you may never use. Not to say you shouldn't start with a framework, it's a good place to start to learn WP but at the end of the day you really only need a handful of files to build a site theme.

nanythery profile image
Nadine M. Thêry

Sure. If anyone wants to develop their career in Wordpress, my article is probably not the path to follow.
This article is for those having to face a unique project. :)

midikris profile image
Christopher Heireth • Edited

Don't get me wrong I love the article and WordPress. I know, I face unique projects every project daily, built on WordPress, WordPress is a powerful CMS platform and framework and super easy to use from a client perspective. I was just noting that if you get into WordPress as a platform it, especially early into it, its extremely flexible. You can literally build your entire site just using static html, css and JavaScript and drop your html files into singles.php and pages.php and add any CMS functionality you want for the client, as you said. The goal of WordPress is to democratize the user experience so you can separate code from data management and empower the client to be a collaborator/partner. They will love you for it.

That said I'm also assuming you are the designer as well or work with one, but if not then use off the shelf themes.