Create a WordPress Theme from Scratch

A step by step guide to demonstrate how to build a custom theme for WordPress

WordPress is a widely popular platform, according to W3Techs, WordPress is used by 60.1% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 30.6% of all websites. Customizing of WordPress is based on the thousands of hooks built in to WordPress and could be frustrating for beginners to learn. In this article we will show you how to create a custom theme for WordPress step by step


  • You need a working WordPress system installed. For installation guide , please refer to Installing WordPress
  • A basic understanding of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP is required.
  • FTP access to the WordPress site is needed along with the admin username and password for WordPress admin console.

Step 1. Create skeleton files for theme

First you need to open the /wp-content/themes folder and create a new folder with your theme name for example “bytestudio”. Open the newly created folder and create 3 files.

  • style.css

    Theme Name: ByteStudio Theme
    Author: ByteStudio
    Description: A very basic sample WordPress theme
    Version: 0.0.1
  • screenshot.jpg. This is a screenshot for the theme, itwill be displayed in the theme selection page of WordPress
  • index.php

    <h1>byte studio theme</h1>

Once these files are created, you will see the new theme option appears under the theme selection page.

Step 2. Adding custom JS and CSS

After creating an empty theme, we need to add js and css library such as JQuery and BootStrap to the theme.

  • Create a js folder and a css folder under /wp-content/ themes/ bytestudio. Put the JavaScript and CSS files you wanted under these folders, then create a functions.php under /wp-content/ themes/ bytestudio. Adding the following code block to functions.php

    function bytestudio_scripts() {
    // Add custom js and css file. get_template_directory_uri() function to get the theme folder path.
    wp_enqueue_script( 'jquery-js', get_template_directory_uri() ."/js/jquery-3.3.1.min.js" );
    wp_enqueue_script( 'proper-js', get_template_directory_uri() ."/js/popper.min.js" );
    wp_enqueue_script( 'bootstrap-js', get_template_directory_uri() ."/js/bootstrap.min.js" );
    wp_enqueue_style( 'bootstrap-css', get_template_directory_uri() ."/css/bootstrap.min.css" );
    wp_enqueue_style( 'bootstrap-grid-css', get_template_directory_uri() ."/css/bootstrap-grid.min.css" );
    wp_enqueue_style( 'bootstrap-theme-css', get_template_directory_uri() ."/css/bootstrap-theme.min.css" );
    wp_enqueue_style( 'font-awesome', get_template_directory_uri() ."/css/fontawesome-all.min.css" );
    add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'bytestudio_scripts' );
  • After this you will find the home page will include all these js and css files.

Step 3. Integration with top menu bar

When developing the theme, we will fist integrate with the menu system WordPress provides.
  • Add the following code block to the end of the functions.php

    function setup_menu(){
    add_filter( 'nav_menu_link_attributes', function($atts) {
    $atts['class'] = "nav-link";
    return $atts;
    }, 100, 1 );
    add_action( 'get_header', 'setup_menu' );
  • Go to WordPress admin console-> Appearance-> Customize, and create a menu called “top-menu” as follow:
  • Create a header.php under /wp-content/ themes/ bytestudio

    <!DOCTYPE html>
    <html <?php language_attributes(); ?> class="no-js no-svg">
    <meta charset="<?php bloginfo( 'charset' ); ?>">
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
    <link rel="profile" href="">

    <?php wp_head(); ?>

    <body <?php body_class(); ?>>
    <div id="page" class="site">
    <nav id="menubar" class="navbar navbar-toggleable-sm navbar-light bg-faded" >
    <button class="navbar-toggler navbar-toggler-right" type="button" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#navbarSupportedContent" aria-controls="navbarSupportedContent" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation" style="margin-top:2px">
    <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
    <span class="d-md-none d-lg-none d-xl-none " style="padding-left:20px;padding-top:5px" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#navbarSupportedContent"><?php _e( 'Menu', 'bytestudio' ); ?></span>
    <div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarSupportedContent" >
    <?php wp_nav_menu( array(
    'theme_location' => 'top',
    'menu' => 'top-menu',
    'container' => 'ul',
    'menu_class'=> 'navbar-nav mr-auto'
    ) ); ?>
    <div class="site-content-contain">
    <div id="content" class="site-content">

  • After these steps , the top menu bar will appear on the front page

Step 4. Create options for the front page

Themes need to have options to allow user to customize it, we will add 2 options to this theme as example, one text and one image. Other type of option controls can be found from WordPress reference site.

  • First create a front-page.php. front-page.php will be used for front-page of the site while index.php is used for all other pages.
    <?php get_header(); ?>
    <img id="imgTop" src="<?php echo get_theme_mod( 'bytestudio_front_page_top_img' )?>" ></img>
    <h1><?php echo get_theme_mod( 'bytestudio_front_page_top_text' )?></h1>
    <?php get_footer(); ?>
  • Add following code to functions.php

    function bytestudio_theme_customizer($wp_customize) {
    //Add a new section to Appearance->Customize
    $wp_customize->add_section('bytestudio_front_page', array(
    'title' => __('Front Page Settings', 'bytestudio')
    // Add Settings
    $wp_customize->add_setting('bytestudio_front_page_top_img', array(
    'transport' => 'refresh',
    'height' => 585,
    // Add controls for the settings
    $wp_customize->add_control( new WP_Customize_Image_Control( $wp_customize, 'bytestudio_front_page_top_img_ctr', array(
    'label' => __('Top Image', 'bytestudio'),
    'section' => 'bytestudio_front_page',
    'settings' => 'bytestudio_front_page_top_img',

    $wp_customize->add_control( 'bytestudio_front_page_top_text', array(
    'label' => 'Top Text',
    'section' => 'bytestudio_front_page',
    'type' => 'textarea',
    //Register hook
    add_action( 'customize_register', 'bytestudio_theme_customizer' );

  • Go to Appearance-> Customize-> Front Page Settings , upload a image and set the text, then you will find the front page look like this
  • Step 5. Customizing content page

    After customizing front page, we will start working on customizing content pages (post/page)

  • create a page.php under /wp-content/ themes/ bytestudio as following
    <?php get_header(); ?>
    <article id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>" <?php post_class(); ?>>
    <header class="entry-header">
    <?php the_title( '<h1 class="entry-title">', '</h1>' ); ?>
    </header><!-- .entry-header -->
    <div class="">
    </div><!-- .entry-content -->
    </article><!-- #post-## -->
    <?php get_footer(); ?>
  • Now if you add a page or post in the admin-console and view it, you will see the top menu with all the content on the page.