written by: Menem Elkatan
--------- in: January 15, 2023

28 best practices for WordPress theme development


WordPress theme development is a complex process that requires a good understanding of WordPress, PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Developing a theme that is fast, responsive, and secure is crucial for providing a great user experience. Here are some best practices that you should follow when developing a WordPress theme:

  1. Use a starter theme: Developing a theme from scratch can be time-consuming and repetitive. Using a starter theme like _s (Underscores) or Bones can save you time and provide a solid foundation for your theme.
  2. Follow the WordPress coding standards: WordPress has a set of coding standards that you should follow to ensure that your theme is clean, readable, and maintainable. This includes using the proper indentation, commenting, and naming conventions.
  3. Use the latest technologies: WordPress is constantly evolving, and new technologies are being introduced. Make sure you use the latest technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript to develop your theme.
  4. Optimize your code: Optimize your code by minifying your CSS and JavaScript, using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and compressing your images.
  5. Make your theme responsive: With the increasing use of mobile devices, it is crucial to make sure your theme is responsive and looks great on all screen sizes.
  6. Use the WordPress template hierarchy: Understand the WordPress template hierarchy and use it to create a logical template structure for your theme.
  7. Use the Customizer API: The Customizer API allows users to customize the theme’s settings, such as colors, fonts, and layouts, from the WordPress dashboard.
  8. Use the WordPress API: Make use of the WordPress API, such as the WP_Query, to create custom post types, taxonomies, and custom fields.
  9. Test your theme: Test your theme on different browsers and devices to ensure that it works correctly and looks great.
  10. Use version control: Use a version control system such as Git to keep track of changes to your theme and collaborate with other developers. This will allow you to easily revert to a previous version if something goes wrong, and also make it easier to collaborate with other developers.
  1. Use child themes: Creating a child theme allows you to make changes to the parent theme without affecting the parent theme’s code. This allows you to update the parent theme without losing your customizations.
  2. Use hooks and filters: Use hooks and filters to change the default behavior of WordPress and add custom functionality to your theme.
  3. Use third-party libraries with caution: While third-party libraries can be very useful, they can also slow down your theme and introduce security vulnerabilities. Use them with caution and make sure to keep them updated.
  4. Use security best practices: Follow best practices for securing your theme such as using nonces, sanitizing user input, and escaping output.
  5. Keep your theme updated: Keep your theme up to date with the latest versions of WordPress and any third-party libraries you are using. This will ensure that your theme remains compatible and secure.
  1. Use a development environment: Set up a development environment, such as a local server, to test your theme before deploying it to a live site. This will allow you to catch any issues and test different configurations without affecting the live site.
  2. Use debugging tools: Use debugging tools such as the WordPress Debugging mode and browser developer tools to troubleshoot any issues that arise during theme development.
  3. Use a build process: Use a build process such as Grunt or Gulp to automate repetitive tasks such as minifying files, compiling Sass, and optimizing images.
  4. Optimize performance: Optimize the performance of your theme by using caching, lazy loading images, and minimizing the number of HTTP requests.
  5. Make your theme accessible: Make sure your theme is accessible to users with disabilities by following web accessibility guidelines and testing your theme with screen readers and keyboard navigation.
  6. Document your code: Document your code well and include comments where necessary, this will make it easier for other developers to understand your code and make changes to your theme if necessary.
  7. Keep it simple: Avoid overcomplicating your theme with unnecessary features and functionality. Keep it simple and focus on providing a great user experience.
  8. Follow the latest trends: Keep up with the latest design and development trends to ensure that your theme stays relevant and competitive.
  1. Keep SEO in mind: Optimize your theme for search engines by using clean, semantic code, and optimizing the meta tags and title tags.
  2. Provide support and documentation: Provide support and documentation for your theme to help users understand how to use it and troubleshoot any issues they may have.
  3. Make your theme translatable: Make sure your theme is fully translatable by using the WordPress localization functions and providing a .pot file.
  4. Use a code editor: Use a code editor that has syntax highlighting, code completion, and debugging tools to make development easier and more efficient.
  5. Use a style guide: Use a style guide to ensure consistency in your code and design and make it easier for other developers to understand and work with your theme.


WordPress uses a template hierarchy to determine which template file to use when displaying a page or post on a website. The template hierarchy is a set of rules that WordPress follows to decide which template file should be used to display a specific type of content.

Here’s an overview of the most commonly used templates in the WordPress template hierarchy:

  1. index.php: This is the fallback template file that WordPress will use if no other template files match the requested content.
  2. front-page.php: This template file is used to display the front page of a website, if the front page is set to be a static page in the WordPress settings.
  3. home.php: This template file is used to display the blog posts index, if the front page is set to display the latest posts in the WordPress settings.
  4. single.php: This template file is used to display single posts.
  5. page.php: This template file is used to display individual pages.
  6. search.php: This template file is used to display search results.
  7. archive.php: This template file is used to display archive pages, such as categories, tags, and custom post types.
  8. category.php: This template file is used to display category archives.
  9. tag.php: This template file is used to display tag archives.
  10. author.php: This template file is used to display author archives.
  11. 404.php: This template file is used to display a custom 404 error page.


This is a general overview of the most commonly used templates in the WordPress template hierarchy, but remember that depending on the theme, the template hierarchy can be different and also can include more specific templates, like custom post type templates,taxonomies templates and more.


By following these best practices and guidelines for WordPress theme development, you will be able to create a theme that is both visually appealing and functional, and that meets the needs of your users.

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and new best practices are emerging all the time, so it’s important to stay informed and continue learning about the latest developments in WordPress theme development.


Made with by Menem Elkatan