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How WordPress Themes Work

Our November Austin WordPress Beginner’s class continues our “Back to WordPress Basics” series. The questions our new members are asking have reminded the WPATX organizers of the level of conceptual confusion that we all felt when trying to envision and understand what the various aspects of WordPress were doing and why.

This WPATX Beginner’s class will be devoted to learning the vocabulary and structure of WordPress themes. The goal of this class is to help our community of WordPress Beginners really understand what a WordPress Theme does, and how it does it.
This session will be lead by Nick Batik and Sandi Batik and has been designed for new users of WordPress and those who have been using WordPress a while and would really like to know, 'How WordPress Themes Work’.

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How WordPress Themes Work

  1. 1. Austin WordPress Beginners Meetup How WordPress Themes Work November 21, 2016 Presented by Nick and Sandi Batik
  2. 2. How WordPress Works ❖ A simple overview of how WordPress themes work for beginners ❖ With this knowledge under your belt, you can more easily understand how your WordPress theme works
  3. 3. How WordPress Works ❖ A page on a WordPress website isn’t static; it’s dynamic ❖ Than means each page is created on the fly — every time it’s visited, built from bits and pieces pulled from separate files and from your website’s database
  4. 4. How… Dynamic? ❖ All of your sites unique information (including your site name, your blog posts, and every single comment) is stored in a MySQL database ❖ That information is retrieved from the database using the programming language PHP ❖ Then, the retrieved information is displayed via your theme’s template files, using HTML and CSS ❖ Each page is created on the fly — every time it’s visited, built from bits and pieces pulled from separate files and from your website’s database
  5. 5. What is a WordPress Theme? ❖ A WordPress theme changes the appearance of your website, often including its layout. Changing your theme changes how what a visitor sees when they browse your site on the web.
  6. 6. What can themes do? ❖ Themes take the content and data stored by WordPress and display it in the browser. ❖ You decide how your site content looks and is displayed, when you choose a WordPress theme. ❖ There are many options available when you are choosing a theme for your site.
  7. 7. What can themes do? ❖ For example: ❖ Your theme can have different layouts, such as fixed-width or responsive; using one column or two. ❖ Your theme may give you options for where and how you want it to be displayed. ❖ Your theme can display content differently on various sized devices (phones, tablets, PCs).
  8. 8. What can themes do? ❖ For example: ❖ Your theme may have custom typography and design elements using CSS. ❖ Your theme may give you special areas for other design elements like images and videos.
  9. 9. What can themes do? ❖ A WordPress theme is more than color and layout ❖ Good themes improve visitor engagement with your website’s content ❖ …in addition to being beautiful
  10. 10. What are themes made of? ❖ At their most basic level, WordPress themes are collections of different files that work together to create what you see, as well as how your site behaves.
  11. 11. The user’s browser sends a request to WordPress on the web server. WordPress is written with the PHP.
  12. 12. The PHP instructions in WordPress identify the theme template file to use
  13. 13. PHP instructions in template fetch the text out of the database…
  14. 14. …and the images from the uploads folder
  15. 15. The content is combined with the HTML,…
  16. 16. …the Style Sheet (CSS),
  17. 17. …and Javascript which is a special kind of programming code that make elements on a page interactive.
  18. 18. All these pieces are combined into the formatted page…
  19. 19. …which is then sent back to the user’s browser.
  20. 20. Can a Theme Be Changed? ❖ WordPress makes it very easy for users to change themes. ❖ BUT… ❖ Every theme has its own unique set of features and options, so it may take some time to set up.
  21. 21. What are the easy things to change? ❖ Navigation Menus ❖ WordPress comes with a built-in navigation menu system ❖ Each WordPress theme defines theme locations where menus are displayed ❖ That’s why when you switch your WordPress theme, there will be new menu locations ❖ The menu you previously assigned to a theme location might need to be reassigned
  22. 22. What are the easy things to change? ❖ Widgets ❖ Widgets allow you to easily place different elements in your WordPress theme’s sidebars ❖ When you change your WordPress theme can deactivate your active widgets ❖ Some themes will automatically show default WordPress widgets ❖ Widgets with customizations will be placed under the inactive widgets section and can be added back to your new theme’s sidebars
  23. 23. What are the hard things to Change? ❖ Your theme defines what is will display on different types of pages (home page, blog page, list page, etc.), and where that content goes on that page. ❖ If a theme does not have a page type or style that you want, it can be done but you need to hire a programmer.
  24. 24. What are the things I can Change By Myself? ❖ Many Themes have a WordPress Customizer ❖ This features allows WordPress Users to tweak theme settings using a WYSIWYG interface to customize the theme including changing the colors, fonts, text and other customization options
  25. 25. Best Practices for Making Changes to a Theme ❖ What is a Parent Theme? ❖ All themes – excluding child themes – are considered parent themes. ❖ A parent theme is a complete theme which includes all of the required Wordpress template files for the theme to work
  26. 26. Best Practices for Making Changes to a Theme ❖ A Child Theme is an extension to a theme that you create so you can make changes to it. ❖ A child theme allows you to change small aspects of your site’s appearance yet still preserve your theme’s look and functionality ❖ A child theme inherits the look and feel of the parent theme and all of its functions, but can be used to make modifications to any part of the theme ❖ This customizations are kept separate from the parent theme’s files ❖ Using a child theme lets you upgrade the parent theme without affecting the customizations you’ve made to your site
  27. 27. Best Practices for Making Changes to a Theme ❖ Child Themes ❖ Make your modifications portable and replicable ❖ Keep customization separate from parent theme functions ❖ Allow parent themes to be updated without destroying your modifications ❖ Allow you to take advantage of the effort and testing put into parent theme ❖ Save on development time since you are not recreating the wheel
  28. 28. Themes vs Templates — What is the Difference? ❖ A template defines the layout of a particular type of page, such as your blog page, home page, and list pages. ❖ All the pages that use a template will be formatted exactly the same. ❖ A Theme is a collection of templates.
  29. 29. Theme Functionality vs Site Functionality ❖ When you want to add functionality to your site, you do so by installing a plugin. ❖ Plugins work regardless of your theme. Even if you change themes, they still work. ❖ Some advanced themes include integrated, built-in plugins. If you change themes, that functionality goes away.
  30. 30. Content / Special Content ❖ How will your theme choice affect special content? ❖ Images ❖ Video ❖ Audio