One of the best things about WordPress is how well it scales alongside your skills. You can pick up the platform and create a successful site with no technical knowledge. However, as you become more comfortable, you may start wondering how to become a WordPress developer.
With WordPress being the most popular content management system, there will always be users looking for developers to help enhance their websites. By becoming a WordPress developer, you can monetize your work or share them for free.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a WordPress developer does and all the information you need to become a WordPress developer in 2021. Then we’ll explore six essential steps you’ll need to take in order to become both a WordPress expert and a competent developer for the platform. Let’s jump in!
In this Article, We’ll take a look at:
What a WordPress Developer Actually Does
A WordPress developer is a professional who works with the basic coding and infrastructure of the WordPress platform, to improve WordPress itself, or to create entirely new products. Typically, WordPress developers perform some or all of the following tasks:
- Creating and customizing plugins and themes.
- Developing code and troubleshooting for WordPress core (that is, the actual software of WordPress).
- Working closely with clients to help design and build their WordPress websites.
- Ensuring that client websites are maintained efficiently.
- Improving the accessibility of the WordPress platform.
In order to do these things efficiently, the competent developer also has to be a WordPress expert. That is, they should have a thorough understanding of each part of the platform, as well as the various programming languages used to run it (which we will discuss in greater detail further on).
Before we approach the question of how to become a WordPress developer, let’s first talk about exactly why you might want to do so.
Types of WordPress Developers
The term WordPress developer is actually very broad. There are different types of WordPress developers since WordPress is a content management system will a lot of different moving parts and pieces working together
- Core Developer – A core developer is someone who actually works on the WordPress core software itself. These developers go into the code and make or recommend sets of changes to the WordPress core, which affects WordPress as a whole.
- Theme Developer – Theme developers create WordPress themes for WordPress websites. This allows users to customize their WordPress sites with a specific look and feel, and choose the colors, layout, and style of all of their WordPress posts and pages.
- Plugin Developer – Plugin developers create WordPress plugins for your website. Plugins are applications that can enhance and add functionality to your WordPress website.
WordPress developers are essential to WordPress success, as there would be no plugins or themes without WordPress developers. In addition to WordPress developers being important to the WordPress process, you need to love WordPress. Work only feels like work if you don’t love what you do, and if you love WordPress, you should make a living creating for it.
There are many technical aspects of WordPress, and developers take the time and overcome the challenges to create aesthetically pleasing and functional WordPress websites. As WordPress currently occupies tens of millions of webpages, there is plenty of money to be made and exchanged through WordPress.
From e-commerce stores to service based websites, there is a need for WordPress websites, and salaries for WordPress developers are also competitive as well.
A large number of WordPress developers tend to be freelancers. You can teach yourself how to develop for WordPress, and then work for yourself, set your own schedule, be your own boss, and work from anywhere. There is a lot of freedom in becoming a WordPress developer.
How to Become a WordPress Developer in 2021 ?
So you want to be a WordPress developer. Where do you start? WordPress occupies nearly eighty million websites and that number is growing all the time .Also, website owners are always looking for WordPress developers to customize their webpages.
There are six simple steps to becoming a WordPress developer. It all starts with learning the fundamentals of WordPress and applying these skills. Also, choosing a developer specialty to focus on, understand you will run into problems, and join a WordPress community.
1) Understand the Required Skills
You need to master the fundamentals of WordPress, and then your potential on the content management platform will be unlimited. WordPress developers can accomplish this by learning HTML, CSS, PHP, MYSQL and more. Knowing at least one of these languages will be very beneficial.
2) Learn Everything You Can About WordPress
There are nearly an endless amount of WordPress courses you can take online, which include things like how to upload and customize plugins and themes, as well as the different types of plugins and how all the parts of a WordPress website work together.
3) Choose the Development Area You Want to Focus On
There are different types of WordPress developers, so it’s important to pick the one you want to focus on and become a specialist in that. People tend to want the best, and if you are the best at building plugins or themes, then you will always have work to do.
WordPress is a versatile platform, which requires lots of technical knowledge. The key to success is to become a specialist in one part of WordPress, instead of being okay at all of the parts of WordPress. WordPress developers work hard and have lots of challenges to overcome, so picking one area and conquering it will lead to WordPress success.
4) Prepare For Challenges
Working with software is always tricky. You will run into problems that will cause issues with the display and functionality of webpages. This can lead to website downtime, bugs in the code and even major system crashes. There are skills to learn to try to prevent bugs or more easily resolve issues, but security issues are also a concern.
Security and having webpages hacked or information compromised is a major part of owning a website in the digital age. There are measures you can take to prevent this and make your website as safe as possible. Also, backing up all your data is important, so you don’t lose hours and hours of work.
5) Create A Plugin Development Environment
Practice by doing. Once you’ve learned plugin or theme development, you should use that you’ve learned by testing and troubleshooting to find the most success. Working on live websites can have bad results, so it’s best to test in a more controlled environment to avoid creating new problems.
When you want to get some experience developing on a live site, do expect to pay for web-hosting. It’s not too expensive and there are many hosting reviews and advisor sites where you can grab customer approved, discounted hosting for $5-$8 per month.
6) Connect With A WordPress Community
Making connections with other WordPress users is super important to success. WordPress has millions of websites, so millions of people are behind those websites. A community of WordPress users can provide development and support on projects, as well as create a forum for WordPress trends and networking opportunities.
These skills and steps of things to learn for WordPress are essential for becoming a WordPress developer. There is also no definitive time limit of when someone becomes a WordPress developer. It is always a learning experience.
Here are the five main creations of a WordPress developer:
With more than 31.000 available options, there’s still room to display your creation as it’s high on demand. Besides, creating a free theme for the WordPress repository can be a great way to elevate your name as a developer.
Currently, creating a responsive WordPress theme is the trend among developers. With the fluid workflows of grid systems, image use, and CSS media queries, WordPress sites with responsive themes will look good on any device, including mobile phones, tablets, monitors, or large screens.
You can create themes from scratch or use starter themes such as OceanWP, Divi, and Astra. They are basically “blank canvases” or themes with minimal layouts and basic elements that you can improvise and develop.
Right now, there are more than 54,000 plugins on the WordPress directory. It’s the most sought-after and used WordPress feature. Take the advantage to contribute to the pool as well.
Plugins enable you to modify the behavior of WordPress without touching the core code. Users can also add tons of extra functions to their website with little or no advance knowledge of programming.
PHP hooks are used heavily on creating a plugin. It’s the technique that allows an application to run a function or class automatically. There are two types of hooks — action and filter. You’ll need to master both of them to create a working plugin.
While a lot of popular plugins, such as WooCommerce, Yoast SEO, or Google Analytics Dashboard, are made with complicated programming and hooks, there are tons of simple WordPress plugins that are very useful, like Search & Filter and Easy Google Fonts.
Widgets are web components that are usually added to websites to give extra content and functions. They can be used to access certain pages or parts of a website and provide a quick gateway for a particular feature.
WordPress comes with default widgets that can be arranged via the dashboard by clicking appearance -> widgets. You can also get third-party widgets by installing plugins, such as Simple Page Sidebars or Ninja Forms.
Just like creating a plugin, making WordPress widgets also need sufficient knowledge of PHP. You can start by accessing the functions.php file on your current theme, then construct the widget using the combinations of functions provided on the WP Widget class.
A custom widget is often the solution to create the desired function you can’t find anywhere. This is especially true if you aim to create your own WordPress theme or plugin.
4. Entire WordPress websites
However, building an entire website requires more than just technical skills like writing lines of code — you need to be creative, know the basic principle of UI/UX design, and use reliable resources, such as fast and secure WordPress hosting.
5. Web Applications via Rest API
A web application is functional, dynamic web pages that operate through a web server and can be accessed via a web browser. This program works great with any operating system or device, as long as the browser is compatible.
Unlike a website, web application has a more practical function. While sites are mostly static, web application works interactively. Some of the most popular web application you must have heard before are Gmail, Google Docs, and Facebook.
Since 2015, WordPress has integrated its core files with an independent REST API. This communication architecture works as a “bridge” that connects the WordPress core with any working application on a web server.
By mastering the key concepts of the REST API, you would be able to create a working web application using WordPress.
What Do You Need to Know as A WordPress Developer?
Let’s take a closer look at each of them:
1. HTML (preferably HTML5)
The implementation of valid Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML) is required for the sake of a smooth user experience. It ensures that your pages will fit in any web browser. If your code is not valid, browsers will misinterpret your code and display parts of your page poorly.
Valid HTML is written using the correct syntax, the formula that refers to the overall document structure, the order of HTML elements, nesting elements, and formatting attributes.
The structure should always start with a DOCTYPE declaration, opening <html> tags, then a head section with document metadata, such as the title of each page or a body section, and finally a closing </html> tag.
In general, HTML is split into three elements — flow, metadata, and phrasing. Each of them has different application model rules for what is allowed inside of it.
For instance, paragraph tags can have phrasing content (inline) inside them such as <b> (bold), <i> (italics), <a> (links) etc. However, it’s not allowed to contain flow elements (blocks) such as <ul>, <div>, or <footer>.
Learning to use the right HTML tags, structures, and format can be intimidating at first. Luckily, you can download an HTML cheat sheet to help you create a perfectly working line of codes, then run it through W3C HTML Validator to see the result.
2. CSS (Preferably CSS3)
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used to style your page and its content. It determines how the HTML elements are shown on a screen. This stylesheet language enables you to make significant style changes to your entire site quickly.
CSS has a feature called Media Queries, which allows you to define how each part of a page behaves on the specific screen size. This feature is one of the most important parts of creating a responsive website — a website adapts based on the visitor’s device.
Just like other languages, CSS also has its own syntax. The syntax only consists of two elements: selector and declaration block. Selector block is used to select the part of HTML you wish to style, while the declaration block defines the style you use for each selected part.
Currently, CSS3 is the most renewed Cascading Style Sheet available. As the successor of CSS2.1, CSS3 comes with a lot of new perks, including new layouts, flexible grid, more text effects, and multiple-column layout.
Moreover, to get a better understanding of this language, you can learn about CSS fundamentals on BitDegree.
PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a powerful scripting language for web development. It works by performing tasks in the server, then send back requests in the form of HTML. In other words, PHP takes care of the back-end, and HTML is used to present the result of the script after the tasks are completed.
The WordPress core is built on PHP along with MySQL. PHP is very flexible to use since it’s compatible with most servers and runs on almost all operating systems.
It has tons of features. The most common ones you will use are:
- Variables — store information such as strings of text or numbers.
- Arrays — collect the information that is assigned to a variable.
- Functions — complete tasks and give results which can be used later. The result can be assigned to a variable.
- Conditionals — define that if 1 == 1 is true, the runtime will do an action, and if 1 == 1 is false, it will run a different response.
- Comparison operators — compare values with one another. There is a difference between =, ==, and ===. They affect the result of conditional statements.
If you plan to use PHP to build Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), the knowledge of PHP classes is required. The classes allow you to neatly group variables and functions that are related to each other in one place.
The information of PHP classes can be accessed through the WordPress codex page about Class Reference/WP Object Cache.
MySQL is a database used to store all the information about a WordPress site. The information inside the database is retrieved dynamically using PHP. The actual content of every page and post on a WordPress website is stored here.
WordPress provides a set of PHP functions to safely interact with the WordPress database and run it through the appropriate function. Some functions use standard SQL statements, while others use arrays of information.
The SQL functions are explained on the WordPress Developer Codex page – Talking to the Database: The wpdb Class.
This language can turn the static HTML into an interactive web page. You can embed the script into a page’s HTML file, and it’ll work automatically when the page is accessed. Also, it has full integration with CSS files.
Fortunately, jQuery has an official learning center for developers. This platform allows you to learn how to use jQuery core functions as well as its practical use, like helping you designing UI/UX or creating mobile applications.
For example, if you want to create a live search where the result appears below the search box, you can use AJAX to send the search data to the search script, return the result, and display it without refreshing the entire page.
WordPress makes use of AJAX in the admin control panel. For example, when users write posts, the WordPress system uses AJAX to auto-save drafts without you noticing. That way, the risk of data loss during the writing process can be significantly cut.
Utilizing Ajax is beneficial to make a webpage more interactive and responsive. To learn more about this technique, you may want to look at the WordPress codex entry on AJAX.
READ THE MATERIAL
The amount of reading material available on WordPress is overwhelming. There are thousands of people talking about WordPress and it is becoming increasingly difficult to filter through the noise. There are authorities, however, and when you commit to mastering WordPress, then you should start your journey by finding the highest quality resources and concentrating your efforts just on those.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
1. WordPress Codex.
The WordPress codex is a community-edited repository for all things WordPress. Start with the very basics and focus on mastering the WordPress interface itself from an end-user’s perspective. Learn the WordPress semantics. Read about theme design and plugin development.
2 . Books on WordPress.
There are more than a dozen books available on WordPress. Start off with the titles of greatest interest to you and then work towards the others. Think “WordPress For Dummies” is too basic? Maybe not. Your clients may read it and it’s important to have their perspectives. When you’re finished, thank the author and write a review.
3. Blogs on WordPress.
Find and follow the best blogs about WordPress. Subscribe to their feeds. Read them regularly and give feedback to the authors. A few of my favorite blogs are WordPress on Smashing Magazine, WP Tuts+, and WP Candy.
4. Read “Make WordPress”
5. Explore the Codebase
Take time to explore the WordPress codebase on Trac and on Xref. Read through the documentation to understand how things work. Look up what doesn’t make sense to you and ask questions. Familiarize yourself with how WordPress is structured.
Sharing Your Work For Free through WordPress Repositories
You can share your theme or plugin through WordPress repositories. Note that your work must be released under a GPL (General Public Licence) compatible license, which grants users certain rights of your work when downloading and using them.
Right now, WordPress recommend developers to use the GNU General Public License version 3 or later. All files in your work must conform to this license, including any third-party libraries you use. You must also have the right to distribute any third-party libraries if included.
Generally, GNU ensures you retain appropriate copyrights to the original work. It allows users to modify your work and redistribute it in whole or in part. They must keep the original copyright notices intact and pass along a copy of the license you chose.
Users must make it clear that no warranty is provided with the software. If the user modifies then distributes the software, it must be clear that they have made changes and are not spreading the original work.
For a full list of rules regarding the WordPress.org repositories, visit the developer’s handbook page.
Monetizing Your Work by Finding Clients
WordPress is a top-rated web platform. A lot of individuals and small business owners are looking for developers that can build custom websites with specific functionality.
That being said, nothing sells you more than practical experience. The stronger your portfolio, the more likely you are to find work. Luckily, as a new developer, there are lots of web developer portfolios you can use as a reference.
You should also have a good understanding of what expectations your future clients may have, as well as what skill set you should develop to be a successful professional. Therefore, it would be a good idea to see what kind of WordPress developers people are searching for.
Airtasker – The best person for the job isn’t always who you think
Dealing with Contracts and Invoices
Creating a written contract with a client is a must. The agreement must clearly state the pay rate and the extent of the work.
It should also indicate whether you are charging a flat fee or an hourly rate, and an agreed deadline or time frame.
When a project is complete, you should send the client an invoice that lists your work, the date it was delivered, the final price, etc. You can create one using invoice generators, such as Cashboard, Zoho, and Invoices.
Counting Taxes and Income
The rules regarding taxes and income differ for each country. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to understand your tax obligation.
In the UK, for example, if your income from self-employment is more than $2782 per year, you must pay taxes on it. While if your income is as high as $94,592 per year, you must also pay VAT. Failing to know the law can lead to a lot of legal problems.
Let’s recap everything you need to know to be a WordPress developer.
First, what can you create as a WordPress developer? While it can virtually be anything related to the platform, basically, there are five main creations — themes, plugins, widgets, a whole WordPress site, and web applications.
Finally, you need to know how to share and monetize your work. Since finding clients with higher-paying rates often requires a bright portfolio, you should start by sharing your work for free via the WordPress repository. Alternatively, you can also look for a freelance job via freelancing platforms like Upwork and PeoplePerHour.
Besides, you also need to take care of the non-technical aspects, such as creating invoices and professional contracts. Luckily, there are multiple tools that can help you create digital invoices and contracts, such as Entire Contract Generator and Cashboard.
Hopefully, this tutorial is helpful. Kindly share your thoughts and opinions about the topic through the comment section below!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a WordPress developer?
How much do WordPress developers make?
The Average WordPress Developer Salary Per Hour The average salary per hour in the USA is about $30 an hour. And most freelancing platforms range from $10 to $90. Well, being a developer is a versatile profession, you always have an option to have a few side projects or do freelance work.
How long does it take to build a WordPress website?
Time required to build an entirely custom website: Weeks-to-months, depending on the complexity of the project and your coding skills. One web-design blog estimates that it takes approximately 14 weeks
What programming language should I learn for WordPress?
Is WordPress developer a good career?
WordPress is a leading platform for building websites, hence jobs for WordPress developers are on the rise. … If you are a good WordPress developer, the client will be happy to pay higher rates. Another option for WordPress development career is to start an own business of plugins and themes.
Who made WordPress?
WordPress was released on May 27, 2003, by its founders, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, as a fork of b2/cafelog.
Should I learn PHP before WordPress?
A WordPress user does not need to learn PHP in order to use, run, or manage a WordPress powered website. … However, if a user wants to develop WordPress themes, plugins, or modify default behavior of WordPress by using actions and filters, then they would need to learn the basic syntax of PHP along with HTML and CSS.
Is it worth to learn WordPress in 2021?
If you don’t have any designing or programming knowledge and still looking for ways to add multiple features to your website. You shouldn’t worry. WordPress allows you to use different themes and plugins to add design and features to your website.
Is WordPress still popular 2021?
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system powering 34% of all websites on the internet. On top of that: WordPress has a 60.8% market share in the CMS market. … WooCommerce powers 22% of the top 1 million ecommerce sites in the world
Can I move my website from Wix to WordPress?
There are two ways you can migrate your content from Wix to WordPress. You can use the RSS feed to quickly import all your posts and then manually migrate your pages and images, or you can use an automated migration plugin. … Other site owners can use an automated migration plugin by CMS2CMS
How much does it cost to host a website on WordPress?
The main cost associated with WordPress is hosting, which starts at around $3.95/month. Other common costs include domains, themes, and plugins. Realistically, WordPress pricing falls between $11 and $40 per month, after a one-off cost of $200.