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Trivial Wordpress Theme for HIS455 Exercise

This trivial theme highlights some of the basic features of Wordpress and is so simple that you should be able to get started very quickly.

Using this theme

This theme is intended to showcase the most basic possible elements of Wordpress theme development. The theme contains only a bare minimum of files (styles.css, index.php, header.php, footer.php, and sidebar.php). All of them are extremely simple and should be readable even by beginners.

This theme is not intended to be used in production, but instead to serve as an introduction to Wordpress themes for absolute beginners.

Installation for Students. Read Carefully!

Normally it is somewhat tricky and confusing to try to edit Wordpress themes. In order to see your changes, you will need to look at them on a running Wordpress site; but it is much easier to edit theme files on an editor at home. This theme has been set up to allow you to edit your files at home in Atom, using the git commit; git push workflow we have been working on thus far (though there’s a new twist, actually; see below). I’m hoping this workflow will also make sense for the class project, when the time comes. But the process for getting started has several stages.

Clone the theme repository to your local computer

Unlike last time, this time you will not make a fork of the main repository. Instead, we will all be working off of the same repository, but with a separate branch for each student.

Start by cloning the repository as usual: go to the repo page and click the “clone or download” button, then open in Github Desktop.

Background: using Git branches

We have talked a little bit about the use of branches in git and Github, but you haven’t used them much. I have created 10 new branches on this repository, one with each of your names. You will want to work in the branch with your name. You can switch branches easily in Github Desktop by clicking on the “Current Branch” tab and choosing “origin/YOURNAME” as the branch you want to check out.

Background: organization privileges

You will need special privileges to edit this repository. I have tried to add all of you to the “Hacking History” organization and given you write privileges to the repository, but you might need to accept the membership request. check your email or your online Github notifications

Make Sure Everything’s Working

You should now be working on your personal branch. Open any of the theme files in Atom, open the git tab using Packages --> Github --> Toggle Git Tab and check to see that the little branch icon in the bottom right corner says your name (and not, say, “master”)

Install the theme in your Wordpress site using the github-updater plugin

I did this for you semi-automatically. But see troubleshooting, below

You may need to change the branch your theme pulls from. By default, it’s set to pull from master. I hope that I’ve automagically set it to pull from YOURNAME instead. You may still want to check, though, and maybe do it manually.

First navigate to the github-updater settings page in Wordpress:

Settings --> Github Updater


make sure that the Enable Branch Switching box is checked, and save your settings.

Now you can navigate to Themes --> Appearance and look at the theme settings. You should be able to see an option to switch branches there.

If a theme is available in the Wordpress theme collection we would normally install it using the standard installer. But this theme is terrible - -it will never make it into the Wordpress repositories! And anyway, you want to have it update itself continuously. So instead we will install it using the amazing github-updater plugin. All we need to do is navigate to the Github Updater Settings (Settings --> Github Updater in the admin interface. Or you can get there directly by pasting https://YOURNAME.hackinghistory.ca/wp-admin/options-general.php?page=github-updater&tab=github_updater_install_theme into the browser (but replace YOURNAME with your actual first name!).

Add your site to the theme repository “webhook”

A webhook is a special signal that Github sends out when a push or other event is received. So, whenever you push a commit to github you can ask github to tell your website what’s happened. Github-updater will then update your theme for you automatically.

Please follow these directions carefully – there are some fiddly steps and you need to get them exactly right.

For this you need to find the “Remote Management” tab of the github Updater settings, under Settings --> Github Updater --> Remote Management i n the Wordpress admin interface. It will show you a fancy URL that looks something like this:


Copy that whole URL and then navigate to this page: https://github.com/HackingHistory/wordpress-learning-theme/settings/hooks

You will need to Add a Webhook (click that button), then paste the URL into the Payload URL field. However, you’re not quite done! You need to add this text to the end of the URL before it will work:

&theme=wordpress-learning-theme&committish=YOURNAME (again, replace YOURNAME with your actual first name (lowercase))

Change Content Type to application/json, then scroll down and click Add Webhook, and you should be done. the next time you push a change to your branch, the theme will update on your site.


It may be that your

Syntax Errors

I’ve also set up automated testing for syntax errors… but right now I’m not sure you can see the tests. Maybe this link will show them to you.

You can also install the php-linter plugin for Atom, which will show you any syntax errors while you’re typing.

Let me know

I know this is a bit complex. I’m eager to hear whether you ucna make this work! Let me know over Slack!

Installation (for teachers and the curious)

To install this theme in your Wordpress installation, simply

# replace $WORDPRESS_ROOT with the actual path to your Wordpress installation
cd $WORDPRESS_ROOT/wp-content/themes/
git clone https://github.com/titaniumbones/wordpress-learning-theme.git

or, if you have wp-cli and github-updater installed,

wp theme install-git titaniumbones/wordpress-learning-theme

Server-side mass deployment & auto-update (for teachers)

This very simple theme uses `gulp` and the plugins `gulp-git` and `gulp-repository-watch` to auto-update whenever changes are pushed to the master branch of the repository. To activate this feature, you will need access to the command line. Make your way to the theme directory (cd $WORDPRESS_ROOT/wp-content/themes/) and start gulp with:

gulp repo-watch

gulp-git will update your files automatically.

This is only a start, though, since the main purpose of the setup is to allow students to use Github to code without the normal friction associated with coding in Wordpress. Right now gulpfile.js has to be customized for every installation (to point to the student’s repository instead of this central repo). something like a config.env file, or similar could instead be used to set the repository address parameters, and could be written by a bash script on install. Alternatively, the upstream repo parameters could be read by gulp-git instead of hard-coded in the gulpfile. In any case, some kind of mechanism needs to be developed for writing these repos via a students.csv or similar file, which contains information about student github handles. Thisi s still to be written.

An alternative approach is to use a Github webhook to trigger an update via github-updater. This requires some user intervention but is much simpler, and we are using this process currently. Students will need to add the github-updater API endpoint URL to the webhook for push events as descripbed here. This is a url of the form http://website.full.url/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=github-updater-update&key=76bb2b7c819c36ee37292b6978a4ad61

and can be found in the github-updater plugin settings.

Further discussion of various options can be found in #9 and to some extent in #3.