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I have a friend who is interested in starting a side business where she would freelance websites. I have recommended for her Wordpress as probably the best choice where she could most quickly start making useful, customized websites for clients.

While I have done a decent amount with Wordpress I am not really plugged into that community so I don't know what the go-to learning tools are. From personal experience I know that reading the wrong thing can be worse than reading nothing at all and I simply don't know what the community-accepted recommendations are. What websites/screencasts/books are the must-haves for a complete novice who is trying to get started with the platform?

I would like to point out that she is not so interested in using it as a blogging platform so much as a simple CMS and site-builder that will allow her to build custom websites so the question is more: what are the best resources for a complete programming novice to learn Wordpress theme development?

PS, if you feel like Wordpress is not appropriate for this either please let me know and I'll change my recommendation.

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One of the sites I have used and sometimes still reference if i forget ... is http://www.wpdesigner.com/2007/02/19/so-you-want-to-create-wordpress-themes-huh/

This tutorial is a little old but is great for a beginner to get their feet wet as it takes you step by step on how to build a theme and how to test locally before you upload.

Other things to check out are WordPress' updated Codex pages on various customizations and updated functions.

You can view it here: http://codex.wordpress.org/

A good learning tool too is to download a theme or crack open the default theme that comes with WordPress and tinker with it to learn the functions as well.

I hope this helps. :)

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Might I add that WordPress is great to us just as a CMS. In fact most people who use it as a developing platform do not develop it as a blog. With things added such as custom post types and taxonomies it has become much more than just a blogging platform and can be used for both small and large websites. – Nicole Nov 22 '11 at 19:34
Yeah, I'm still worried that these are too advanced. I'm having trouble finding something that fills the gap between the "Learn How to Use" section and the "Working With Themes" section – George Mauer Nov 22 '11 at 20:40
@George Mauer The tutorial I have mentioned above pretty much does take you by the hand. It is a complete walkthrough. The books Christopher Davis mentioned above are really good ones too. I did not think about them even though I own both. lol – Nicole Nov 23 '11 at 14:12

The codex is a good place to start. Looking at the actual code (or via PHP xref) is going to do more for you than reading documentation IMO.

You should also sign up for wpMail.me, which contains a lot of great WordPress news and tutorials information. A few of those emails will point in the direction of some great WordPress blogs.

Two great books:

  1. Professional WordPress
  2. Professional WordPress Plugin Development
share|improve this answer
Thanks a lot. I had looked at the codex and it looked pretty good for someone at my level of development knowledge - not necessarily at hers. When I point someone to learn Ruby on Rails there's railstutorial.org and Ruby Koans to help with bottom-up screencasts and hand-holding, does Wordpress have anything like that? – George Mauer Nov 22 '11 at 20:38

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