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Customize Thesis 1.8.5 Like A Pro!

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This is a 17 lesson series intended to take a beginner from no knowledge of CSS and PHP to being fully capable of using these tools to customize Thesis. You’ll need no prior knowledge of CSS, HTML or PHP.  Not ready to tackle CSS, HTML and PHP? Check out our plugins. They let you implement your design work without knowing any CSS or programing.

These lessons build on the “Start Building Your Website Here” video tutorials but don’t assume that you have watched them.  If you already have Thesis activated on a WordPress site and are comfortable with the basics of WordPress then this is a great place to start.

Before you begin

  1. Have a hosting account with a domain name and WordPress 3.0+ installed
  2. Have a copy of  Thesis 1.8+ installed on the site and activated.

Lesson 1 – Managing the File Structure

  1. Understanding the Default WordPress and Thesis File Structure
  2. Create a Local “Mirror” Copy of Your Site’s File Structure
  3. Configure Filezilla for Synchronized Browsing
  4. Create a Local Copy of Thesis Customization Files
  5. Prepare the Site for Customization

Lesson 2 – Introduction to Customizing Thesis Using CSS

  1. Overview of CSS
  2. The CSS Files Thesis Uses
  3. Best Practices Rule #1 – Use Thesis Design Options when Possible
  4. Best Practices Rule #2 – Write the Minimum Code Necessary
  5. Best Practices Rule #3 – Use .custom Before All Modifications to Thesis CSS
  6. Best Practices Rule #4 – Use Descriptive and Unique Names for Your Custom CSS Selectors
  7. Best Practices Rule #5 – Never (almost) use display:none;
  8. Best Practices Rule #6 – Always Edit Your Local Copy, Never Edit a Live File

Lesson 3 – Tools of the Trade

  1. Install Netbeans
  2. Tour Netbeans Functionality
  3. Install and Tour MeasureIt Fuctionality
  4. Install and Tour CollorZilla Functionality
  5. Install Firebug and Web Developer
  6. Tour Firebug and Web Developer Functionality
  7. Use Firebug and Web Developer together
  8. Workflow Case Study – Styling a Submit Button

Lesson 4 – Customizing Backgrounds With Images and Color

  1. Adding a tileable background image
  2. Add additional background images to page elements
  3. Adding a fixed background image
  4. Add background color to various page elements

Lesson 5 – Thesis Custom Classes

  1. Understanding Thesis Custom Classes
  2. Case Study – Vary Header Image Using Automatic Custom Classes
  3. Case Study – Vary Header Image Using Your Own Custom Classes

Lesson 6 – Inheritance and Specificity in Thesis

  1. CSS Inheritance and Thesis
  2. CSS Specificity and Thesis
  3. CSS Specificity and the Thesis Custom Body Class System
  4. The Structure of the Thesis Navigation Menu
  5. Specificity and Inheritance in the Thesis Navigation Menu
  6. Specificity in the Structure of the Thesis Navigation Menu
  7. Classes Thesis Applies to the Navigation Menu
  8. Examples of Styling Elements of the Thesis Navigation Menu

Lesson 7 – Thesis Page Frameworks

  1. Understanding the Two Types of Page Frameworks
  2. The Thesis Page Framework
  3. The Thesis Full-Width Framework

Lesson 8 – Styling Inputs in Thesis

  1. How Thesis Styles Input Fields
  2. Styling input[type="text"]
  3. Styling input[type="radio"]
  4. Styling input[type="submit"]
  5. Styling input[type="button"]
  6. Styling text-area
  7. Styling select

Lesson 9 – Introduction to Customizing Thesis Using PHP

  1. How to Learn PHP
  2. Anatomy of the Thesis custom_functions.php file
  3. Introduction to Action Hooks
  4. Example #1 – The “Hello World” of action hooks
  5. Example #2 – Change the Thesis footer
  6. Example #3 – Refine our custom footer attribution with automatic copyright date and site title

Lesson 10 – Conditions, Variables, Arrays and Menus

  1. Example #1 – Add Slider to Thesis Feature Box
  2. WordPress Conditional Tags
  3. PHP if/else Statements
  4. Example #2 – Add different content to different feature boxes
  5. PHP Variables
  6. PHP Arrays
  7. WordPress Menus
  8. Example #2 – Add a 2nd Menu to Thesis
  9. Example #3 – Add Context Sensitive Menus to Thesis

Lesson 11 – Using Thesis Filters

  1. Understanding Thesis Filters
  2. Change the Default “Add Comment” Text
  3. Change the Default “Comments” Text
  4. Remove Post or Page Heading
  5. Remove Sidebar on Specific Posts
  6. Add Custom Body Class

Lesson 12 – Creating Custom Sidebars

  1. Understanding WordPress Sidebars
  2. Register the Sidebars
  3. Call the Sidebars
  4. Example #1 – Widgetize the Feature Box
  5. Example #2 – Create a “Fat Footer” with 3 Widget Columns
  6. Example #3- Create an “Alternate” Feature Box
  7. Example #4 – Create 2 Column Attention Boxes
  8. Create a Controlling Function

Lesson 13 – Creating Custom Templates

  1. Custom Templates in WordPress
  2. Understanding the Structure of a Custom Template in Thesis
  3. Creating a Basic Custom Template
  4. Adding Thesis Functionality to the Custom Template
  5. Create a 2 Column Template in a 3 Column Layout
  6. Create a 3 Column Template in a 2 Column Layout

Lesson 14 – Creating Custom Secondary Loops

  1. What is a WordPress Loop?
  2. Anatomy of a Secondary WordPress Loop
  3. Example #1 – Add a List of Post Teasers From a Single Category
  4. Example #2 – Create a Shortcode for the List
  5. Example #3 – Create a grid of Thesis Post Thumbnails
  6. Example #4 – Make the Loop Shortcode Configurable

Lesson 15 – Using Shortcodes for Placing Dynamic Content

Lesson 16 – Thesis Custom Loop API

  1. Introduction to the Thesis Custom Loop API
  2. Anatomy of the Custom Loop API
  3. Example #1 – Display 1 Teaser Per Row on the Home Page
  4. Example #2 – Display 3 Teasers Per Row for Specific Categories
  5. Example #3  – Display a Grid of Post Thumbnails for Specific Categories
  6. Example #4 – Create a Custom Teaser Configuration

Lesson 17 – Creating and Using Custom Post Meta

  1. What is Custom Post Meta?
  2. The Typical WordPress Way of Creating Custom Meta Boxes
  3. Initial Setup of the WPAlchemy Class
  4. Using the WPAlchemy Class
  5. Example #1 – Add Custom Page Specific Content to the Sidebar
  6. Example #2 – Add Sidebar Configuration Options

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13 Comments… add one
13 comments… add one
  • Terry Lamb June 7, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I don’t understand why lessons are showing above yet there is no content – help!

    • Rick Anderson June 9, 2012, 9:55 am

      Terry Some of the courses are works in progress. (Really, all of them are) However each course does clearly show which parts of the course are completed. Customize Thesis Like a Pro has 7 completed lessons – currently. However, all of the material advertised in this course is available on the site as seminars or withing case studies. Use the links in the sidebar to find that content.

  • amember July 20, 2012, 11:30 am

    Any ETA when all the lessons are completed? Thought you might to know this, all the links under “Other Customizing Thesis Videos” sidebar point to Could you please update the links so it’s easier to find the videos? Thanks in advance.

    • Rick Anderson July 23, 2012, 7:30 am

      I’ll be completing these lessons late summer and early fall. Thanks for the heads up on the sidebar. I’ll get that fixed today.

      • Alex Vasilev December 1, 2012, 11:58 am

        Hi Rick,

        Just following up re: your estimated completion date for the remaining lessons.


        • Rick Anderson December 5, 2012, 11:33 am

          I will be working on a complete redux for Thesis 2 after the first of the year. The course will change considerably.

          • Alex Vasilev December 7, 2012, 12:57 pm

            Do you anticipate completing Lessons 7, 8, 10, 11, 13 and 15 for those of us still using Thesis 1.8? Also, when can we expect the full Thesis 2 course? Will it be released lesson-by-lesson or all at once? Thanks, Rick!

          • Rick Anderson December 10, 2012, 6:00 am

            Alex, The remaining lessons for 1.85 may be completed sometime in the future. I’m not actually sure. However, all of the material that they will cover is already taught elsewhere on the site. The Customize Thesis 2 like a Pro course will be substantially revamped, will certainly be taught live – thus lessons will be available week by week. However, don’t expect that to start before February.

  • John Burns May 17, 2013, 8:25 pm

    Rick i am currently doing this course, i only have Thesis 2, i cannot find a custom-sample folder. What is happening?

  • Amik Khero February 14, 2014, 12:51 am

    I am wondering, will these early incarnations of hooks be implemented into the Thesis dashboard as a drag and drop? I ask because while it seems simple, I am the guy still trying to get his arms around html, so it should go without saying that I am no coder. Which brings me back to the Thesis conceptual selling point, less coding.


    • Rick Anderson February 16, 2014, 9:02 am

      Amik, there is almost never any need for custom php code in Thesis 2.1. Which means there is virtually no need for the hooks. However various skins do provide hooks in various places that do allow a certain amount of drag and drop. Obviously you wouldn’t drag the header to the footer but….

      If you think you need a hook it probably means you don’t understand how Thesis 2.1 works.

  • Scott May 19, 2017, 6:47 pm

    Hi Rick,

    This course is for Thesis 1.8.5 I have 1.8 will this course work or should upgrade to 1.8.5 first.

    • Rick Anderson May 22, 2017, 2:53 pm

      Scott – If you are going to stay with Thesis 1.x – then you should upgrade to 1.8.9. It is the only version of Thesis 1.x that is compatible with WordPress 4.7.

      Otherwise – go modern and use Thesis 2.3. There is another version of the class that works with it.