One of the greatest things about the world of development is that it is welcoming to anyone. To be a developer, the only prerequisite is that you possess the right technical skills for the job. It doesn’t matter how old you are if you have a college degree, or through which means you obtained your technical skills, in order to get a chance to show what you can do.
This inclusivity and open-mindedness are why a lot of people go into the world of development as self-taught developers, and since 35% of the internet is powered by WordPress, a big percentage of those people choose to become self-taught WordPress developers specifically. Besides being so heavily used, WordPress development is much easier to learn than the more traditional development practices. But like every new concept, learning WordPress might be a bit of a learning curve for some people.
The thing people struggle the most in this process isn’t learning WordPress development itself, but more knowing where to start learning and what to learn.
Since you are reading this article, there is a chance that you have found yourself in the same situation. To help you dispose of any confusion that might be holding you back right now, in this article, we will provide you with somewhat of a guideline on how to become a self-taught WordPress developer.
Getting to know the basics
What to learn
While creating a site using WordPress can be done without any technical skills, developing themes, plugins, widgets, etc. for WordPress can’t. Depending on what you end up developing in WordPress, you’ll be using some of the things we will now mention more than others, but in any case, a combination of all of them is what will create the final product.
PHP is what does the “real work”. It is responsible for accessing the database and writing/deleting/updating/selecting the data from it, auto-generating files, encrypting data, and outputting the results of the tasks completed on the server into webpages. One thing to note about learning PHP, although it is very useful to fully learn it, to do WordPress development, doing so won’t be necessary since only a subset of PHP will be used. The best way to learn that specific subset is to follow PHP courses/tutorials geared towards WordPress development.
HTML is what you will be used for creating a structure on the frontend side of things. With HTML, you can insert headers, footers, tables, titles, and all other necessary design elements.
To give the structure you created with HTML, a specific look, you will use CSS. CSS enables you to add color, shadows, decorations, paddings, margins, and on-click/on-hover effects, specify widths and heights, change fonts, make the elements responsive, along with many other things.
MySQL is a relational database management system that you will use to store, manipulate, modify, and retrieve data of your post, pages, and users using PHP.
Where to learn it
You can find free beginner-oriented tutorials, quizzes, and examples of everything mentioned above at https://www.w3schools.com/. There you can obtain all the necessary general knowledge. Later, when you want to move on to more complicated or specific, YouTube tutorials can always do the trick.
After learning the basics, for all WordPress-specific information, besides YouTube tutorials, you can turn to WordPress Codex, which is the official manual for WordPress developers that contains documentation for basically everything used in WordPress.
Of course, there are also tons of forums and blogs which are full of information and advice from other fellow WordPress developers and enthusiasts.
Inspect, modify, create
Mastering the basics doesn’t mean you’ll be able to be a full-fledged WordPress developer just yet. First, you have to learn the ins and outs of WordPress itself, its plugins, themes, sites, and applications. A great way to do so is to find the source code of already existing WordPress projects, maybe of something similar to what you want to create and study that code. This way, you can begin to understand how a certain functionality or look was achieved, so you can replicate it or make your own rendition of it.
You can also take that source code and modify it to your liking and see what result will come out after, for example, adding and/or removing certain pieces of code.
You might even wind up improving the plugin, theme, or whatever the source code might be for.
Once you get into the hang of things, you can start doing your own projects from scratch and possibly create something unique and worth submitting to the WordPress directory.
Pick a specialization
Although it is possible to be very skilled in every area of WordPress development, like in any profession broad profession, picking a specialization would be a wise idea. This way, you are focusing on mastering a specific area that interests you the most. Many clients/employers will prefer hiring a developer with a more narrow but strong skillset in one area than someone who has mediocre skills in a number of areas. The following areas of WordPress development might be worth considering for your specialization:
Themes are the frontend of WordPress sites that dictates how a WordPress site is laid out and styled. The demand for theme developers is always high because every time a new trend in the design arises, there is a need for new themes that reflect that trend. Also, many people want to have a unique theme on their site, which will set them apart from the rest, and for that, the skills of a theme developer are required.
Plugins are maybe what WordPress is most known. They are what enable you to extend the functionalities of a site very quickly and easily, allowing the site to fit almost any purpose.
Plugin development is for the ones who are pretty skilled in PHP and prefer doing the behind the scenes work that makes things happen, rather than the visual, frontend part.
As a plugin developer, you should first research the existing plugins on the market to make sure you aren’t creating something that is already out there and has an established user base. It’s better to create something that the market is missing so that your plugin can be the one that fills the void.
Once you have created a plugin and feel that it is ready to be used by other people, you can submit it to the WordPress repository, sell it through sites like CodeCanyon, PickPlugins, or even on your own website.
Complete WordPress websites
Creating a complete WordPress website will involve forming a combination of plugins, widgets, themes, and everything else that makes up a WordPress website. Although using WordPress a non-developer can create a complete website on their own, a lot of people want their site to be customized one and to be created by someone experienced in development, that is where a WordPress website developer comes in.
If doing so is something that interests you, you should keep in mind that besides the technical knowledge, it will also require you to have some knowledge in UI/UX design, hosting, SEO, and of course the ability to understand and deliver the exact requirements set by your clients. If your spectrum of capabilities doesn’t reach those points, it’s always a good idea to reach out to UX consulting firms.
Hopefully, the article gave you a clear enough picture of what the process of becoming a self-taught WordPress developer might be like. You can follow our suggestions exactly or go your own route, but whatever approach you take, the most important thing is that it involves persistence and dedication. Like in any situation of overcoming a learning curve, there will be times when you might feel confused or overwhelmed, but just keep in mind that once you do overcome it, all the time and effort you put, I will be more than worth it.