Get started with WordPress Development

Someone asked how to get started developing with WordPress. Here’s my take on it. You gotta learn to use it first. These are steps to getting power-user skills.


Buy an account on a budget hosting service. ~US$10 per month is a reasonable cost.

  • It MUST support multiple WordPress sites. Sometimes these are called “subdomains” or “add-on domains” . (If you don’t do this you’ll have to buy more accounts to set up more sites. That can get expensive.)
  • It MUST offer recent versions of the WordPress tech stack: MySQL v8 or better or MariaDb v10.3 or better. php v7.4 or better with an option to switch to php v8 or better. (GoDaddy’s budget hosting service only offers obsolete versions of the tech stack, FYI.)
  • It MUST let you register a domain, like, I dunno, . You MUST be able to use it to set up subdomains like
  • It MUST let you use free https certificates from

The service lets you publish content, but doesn’t let you develop anything. Avoid it.

First site

Set up your first WordPress site using the “famous five minute install” from It will take you a bit more (!!) than five minutes to get the first one running . Just bull through it. You can ask your hosting service for support, but don’t let them do it all for you.

Get it set up so you can use https to access it. This involves configuring an https certificate for the site. Hosting services’ self-service portals let you do this. (You did buy an account that supports, didn’t you?)

On the WordPress backend (“dashboard”) go through the Settings pages, studying each one.

Add a few posts and pages to that site.

  • Include images in some posts.
  • Look at your site without being logged in. “Incognito mode” in your browser is good for this.


Figure out the basics of the theme thing (the Appearance panel on the dashboard). WordPress ships with a few default themes. Try switching them. Always look at the site without being logged in to see how the various themes affect the look and feel of your site.

Look at the Themes Directory, and try downloading and testing one or two. You’ll learn about the vast variety of themes out there.


Install a couple of free plugins. Yoast SEO and Code Snippets are good starting choices (in my opinion). If you have a digital marketing background, Yoast SEO’s concepts will be familiar to you.

Fiddle around with their configuration screens.

Then go through Settings pages again and try changing things like “permalinks”.

Look at the Plugins Directory. Get a feel for the vast variety of features available through plugins.


Read to keep up with news about the platform.

Developer possibilities

Look at the Themes and Plugins sections of There you’ll find instructions for developing your own themes and plugins.

Rig up a development environment on your personal machine. I like to use Linux Ubuntu virtual machines to develop, because I can delete them and start over when I trash something and can’t fix it. (I have a Windows laptop, and I find the WAMP — Windows, Apache, MariaDB, php — package to be obtuse. But that’s just me.)

You’ll need a decent php and Javascript integrated development environment (IDE). Phpstorm is a reasonably good choice, and is available to individual developers for short money.

That should get you started.

Leave a Comment