WordPress Theme Development: Tools of the Trade

WordPress Theme Development Tools

WordPress is the web’s premiere publishing platform, powering over 17% of the web. With one-in-six new websites being on WordPress it is becoming more important to develop websites quickly and efficiently. In this article, you will learn what some of the most essential tools are to developing WordPress themes and plugins.


Sublime Text 2

Any web developer or web designer needs a text editor to bring all of their designs to life. Sublime text 2 is a great choice of a text editor. It has all of the basic features such as syntax highlighting, code completion and project views but also has advanced, WordPress specific features such as WP Function auto completion, Genesis function auto completion, and a built in function reference. Sublime Text 2 is also extremely extensible adding things such as (S)FTP, GIT and so much more. It is also given to you on an unlimited free trial and is frequently updated.

Sublime Text Development Tool


Local Development Environment

To develop safely and efficiently, it is important to segment production environments (live site) from your development and test sites. The best way to start with this is to use a local development environment. This begins configuring Apache (or NGINX), PHP, and MySQL on your computer to run a version of WordPress without having to go through the internet. There are countless programs that will install these services as an application, notably MAMP (for mac), WAMP (for Windows), and tasksel (for Ubuntu). There are also ways to configure each of these components individually if desired, but that requires a lot of time, patience, and technical know-how.


Staging Environment

Once your make changes to your site on a local machine, it is time to test it in real time on the web. It is not recommended to push the changes to a live site and “see how it goes”, rather it is better to use a staging environment to test changes without any risk of breaking your live site. WP Engine, they offer a great staging environment for free where you can deploy and check all changes for comparability. If not, check out Who Is Hosting This for reviews on top shared hosts to find what’s best for you.



Git Version Control System for Developers

Have you ever made a “small change” that ended up breaking the site? Do you wish there was a undo button to press to roll back to the previous state of your site? Git is a Version Control System (VCS) that allows you to do just that. Git allows you to commit versions of your website’s files and, in the case that anything goes wrong, you can just roll back to an earlier version of your site with minimal downtime.


Google Chrome

From a developers perspective, Google Chrome is a godsend. They come with a set of tools called Chrome Developer Tools, that makes analyzing a sites code and performance a breeze. Chrome Developer Tools allows you to inspect any element on the page, style it, and make any other modifications you desire in real time, without running the risk of breaking your live site. Firefox offers a similar set of tools, most notably FireBug, but Chrome Developer tools is much more robust and efficient.


Browser Stack

Having your website look and work appropriately on all browsers across all devices is key to it’s overall success. Browserstack is a good solution to test on a majority of devices without having to physically own them. They offer testing in Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Android Browser on all of the major operating systems. You can even test your local development site in Browserstack with their web tunnel feature.

A Solution to Test Websites on a Majority of Devices

This is by no means a comprehensive list of tools, but I, and many other developers and designers in the industry use these tools on a daily basis. What tools do you use?

Published by

Zach Russell

Zach Russell is a web developer & SEO with over 10 years experience. He started with WordPress 2009 and now develops exclusively on the platform.