Create React WP Theme


Feb. 9, 2020
Be sure to check out the new features (and bug fixes!) that Facebook added to v3.3.1 of Create-React-App.

Good to Know!

Create-React-App is more than just React. Create-React-App is a full stack of tested and battle-hardened tools, guaranteed to be configured correctly to work together to make your job easier.

No need for weird CORS setups or server proxies. Why in the world would you want to maintain two servers anyway? No need for that, just use Create-React-WPTheme instead. The biggest difference between Create-React-WPTheme and Create-React-App is that this project here uses your WordPress server as the development server instead of the Webpack Dev Server.

Don't Forget!

If you used an earlier version of create-react-wptheme to create a theme, you can easily update it as well. See the Updating Existing Themes section of the README below.

Getting Started

Michael Soriano is writing a tutorial for creating a theme using React. He uses create-react-wptheme for the initial setup. He provides a lot more detail than this readme and the screen shots are really helpful.

Check it out:
Let's build a WordPress theme with React: Part 1 (Setup)

Readme Contents

For more details check out the rest of this document.

Creating a New Theme

To create a WordPress theme using create-react-wptheme, follow these steps.

  • Make sure your WordPress server is up and running.
  • Change dir into your WordPress themes folder (this is just an example, use your real themes folder).
    • Windows: cd C:\xampp\htdocs\wordpress\wp-content\themes
    • Mac or *nix: cd /xampp/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes
  • Use npx create-react-wptheme to make a new theme
    • For example: (replace "my_react_theme" with whatever you want your theme to be named):
    • npx create-react-wptheme my_react_theme
      • If you want to use TypeScript, then the command would be:
      • npx create-react-wptheme my_react_theme --typescript
  • When it finishes it'll tell you to change into your new theme's folder and run the Nodejs watcher (replace "my_react_theme" with the same name you used in the previous step):
    • cd my_react_theme/react-src
    • npm run start
  • That sets up the theme so that it can be seen in the WordPress admin area.
    • Go there now and set your WordPress site to use this theme.
  • View the site in your browser with the new theme.
    • You must do this as it does some extra setup via PHP.
    • If you get PHP errors, most likely your web server doesn't have write access to your theme.
      • Write access for your web server is only needed during this setup step.
      • You can revoke write access after the setup has completed.
      • Interested (paranoid?) about what it's doing? Check out the file: <Your Theme's Root Folder>/index.php
    • When that's done you'll see: Now, back in your command prompt, rerun the "start" script again...
    • To do that, go back to your command prompt where you first ran npm run start and rerun that same command again.
  • In a few seconds you should see your browser load with the standard create-react-app page, but it's running as a WordPress theme!

Updating Existing Themes

When new versions of Create-React-WPTheme are released, you can easily upgrade an existing theme using a single command.

  • At a command prompt, navigate to your theme's react-src folder.
    • e.g. <Your Theme's Root Folder>/react-src
  • If you use npm then run this command:
    • npm install @devloco/react-scripts-wptheme@latest
  • If you use yarn then run this command:
    • yarn add @devloco/react-scripts-wptheme@latest

Updating TypeScript Types

If your theme uses TypeScript, you'll need to modify the theme's react-app-env.d.ts file:

  • Navigate to the <Your Theme's Root Folder>/react-src/src folder.
  • Open the react-app-env.d.ts file in your editor of choice.
  • Change the line in there to read (be sure to include the leading three slashes):
    • /// <reference types="@devloco/react-scripts-wptheme" />
  • Save the change and you should be all set.

Developing Your Theme

React Tutorials

If you're looking at a React tutorial on the web, you can use create-react-wptheme in place of create-react-app.
But you do have to remember that the React app code is one extra folder down inside your theme folder.
Notice that the final folder in this path is react-src:

/xampp/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes/<Your Theme's Root Folder>/react-src

So for example, if the tutorial instructs you to edit the src/App.js file, then for you, that file would actually be located at:

<Your Theme's Root Folder>/react-src/src/App.js

The Public Folder

The authors of the original create-react-app say that using the "Public" folder (found at react-src/public in your new theme's folder) is a last ditch "escape hatch" for adding otherwise-hard-to-deal-with files.

But for this project, I've decided to use it for all things that you'd put into a normal WordPress theme (e.g. functions.php, etc.). So any PHP, hard-coded CSS, and/or hard-coded JS (like other JS libraries that you'd like to reference globally (I don't judge)), can go into the public folder.

In addition, any changes made to CSS, JS, and PHP files in the Public folder will cause a rebuild to happen. Which is unlike create-react-app which ignores most of the files in the Public folder.

Dev Configuration

After you've created a new theme, and all the setup is done, you'll find a file named react-src/ that has some configuration options that you can mess with if you need to.


If you develop using SSL (i.e. HTTPS), then you might want to run the Browser Refresh Server under SSL as well. Especially if you use Firefox, see here: Firefox Websocket security issue.

To configure the Browser Refresh Server to use SSL, follow these steps:

  • Assuming you've already created a theme using create-react-wptheme, change directory into the react-src folder in your theme's folder
    • Be sure to follow all the instructions under the Usage section at the top of this document. You need to complete the PHP portion of the setup before you can configure SSL.
    • Windows example: cd C:\xampp\htdocs\wordpress\wp-content\themes\<Your Theme's Root Folder>\react-src
    • Mac or *nix example: cd /xampp/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes/<Your Theme's Root Folder>/react-src
  • Create a new folder to hold you're development SSL certificate and key.
    • All OSes: mkdir ssl
  • Change directory into the ssl folder
    • All OSes cd ssl
  • Then create the SSL certificate and key.
  • Depending on which process you use to create the certificate and key, the files you created might have different extensions than those mentioned below.
    • That's OK.
    • Sometimes both files have a .pem extension, or each file has a different extension like .crt and .key.
    • Just be sure you know which file is the certificate and which is the key.
  • There is a file named in the folder named react-src in your theme.
    • Open that file in your favorite text editor.
    • Change the "wpThemeServer" section to look like this (make sure it is proper JSON):
    • "wpThemeServer": { "enable": true, "host": "", "port": 8090, "sslCert": "ssl/localhost.crt", "sslKey": "ssl/localhost.key", "watchFile": "../index.php" },
    • NOTE the sslCert and sslKey items. Make sure the values point to your SSL certificate and key files.
    • The paths to those files can be full paths or relative paths from the react-src folder (as shown above).
    • I like to set the host to instead of "localhost". Supposedly the numeric address gets special treatment at the OS level as being mostly safe.
  • Back in your command prompt, change dir back to the react-src folder.
    • All OSes: cd ..
  • Start Node/Webpack JS watcher as you normally would:
    • All OSes: npm run start
    • Your theme should open in a new browser tab
  • If you need to add an SSL exception to your browser for your new certificate, there is a page running over HTTPS at the "host" and "port" you set in above.
    • For example, if you're using host and port 8090 as shown above, then open your browser to:
    • From there you'll get the standard browser warning about self-signed certificates and get the option to add an exception.
    • Once you've finished adding an exception to your browser, you'll need to refresh the tab with your development theme to force a reconnect to the Browser Refresh Server.

Deploying Your Theme

While you're actively developing your theme, the files are not optimized for production. Before you put your theme into production, you need to run the build command.

Open a command prompt and change into the react-src folder of you theme and run this command: npm run build

When that command finishes, your optimized files are located in a folder that can be deployed to your production server.

Here's an example showing which folder to deploy to your server:

  • ...wp-content
    • themes
      • my-theme
        • my-theme <- deploy this folder to your production server's themes folder
        • react-src
        • !READY_TO_DEPLOY!.txt

If you need to continue developing your theme, simply:

  • cd react-src
  • npm run start

And all your theme files will reappear.

Dealing With Differing Paths Between DEV and PROD

The react-src/ configuration file is read when you run npm run build. The only option in there is setting the "homepage" which controls the relative linking to files in your theme. The "homepage" setting in your main package.json file is used during development (and build by default).

During development, this is probably what you want. But if you know your production server has a different root, then you can set the homepage to be different during a production build.

For example:

  • Your WordPress dev server is running at http://localhost/wordpress
    • the homepage setting in your main package.json file will probably work just fine.
    • The homepage line in your main package.json will be something like: "homepage": "/wordpress/wp-content/themes/<Your Theme's Root Folder>"
  • But you know that your production server runs WordPress from the root:
    • In this case you want to remove the /wordpress part, so set the "homepage" line in your file to: "homepage": "/wp-content/themes/<Your Theme's Root Folder>"
    • Then run npm run build
    • Note at this point, your theme will appear broken on your dev server. But it should look as expected on your production server.


  • Remove WebPackDevServer and use your WordPress dev server instead.
    • Also, do not proxy the WordPress server.
    • Thus removing CORS as a concern.
  • Maintain feature parity(ish) with create-react-app
  • Touch the original react-scripts as little as possible.
    • Add new files where possible.
    • This will make merges easier.


I'm grateful to the authors of existing related projects for their ideas and collaboration:


Create React WP Theme is open source software licensed as MIT.