1) Make sure you’ve reviewed VIP documentation
This site features documentation and a guide for developing sites on WordPress.com VIP. We share best practices, helpful tips and share information on custom modifications other VIP clients have implemented to help you code better, faster, and stronger. We highly recommend going through the Getting Started and Best Practices sections. In particular, make sure you’ve reviewed the Anatomy of a VIP Theme.
2) Make sure your local environment is set up correctly as described here:
3) Work with an existing theme that’s available on WordPress.com
If you’re looking for a barebones theme, to start from, check out _s, which is built and maintained our own Theme Team.
If you’re interested in working with a Premium theme, let us know and we can provide access to the code. When starting with a premium theme, we strongly recommend that you create a child theme based upon it and submit that. Modifying the code of the premium theme, itself, is something you simply shouldn’t do. Not to mention, the child theme approach will get you to the finish line a lot faster.
If you’re running a number of sites you’ll want to take the common theme approach – it’s a single theme used across multiple sites
If each site contains some unique functionality you can add that via Child Themes. Here’s an excellent walk-through.
4) Re-use and Recycle
5) Follow Standards
We recommend all developers follow the WordPress Coding Standards and observe our Anatomy of a VIP Theme. It helps ensure consistency and cleanliness in code and helps us review things much faster. The Underscores project will generate a starter theme that follows best practices for you to build on.
6) Avoid Common Issues
Please review the list of common issues we see in Theme Reviews.