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Keywords: WordPress, CMS, PHP, web development
Title: Web Designer's Guide to WordPress: Plan, Theme, Build, Launch
Author: Jesse Friedman
Publisher: New Riders
Verdict: Good, but not without problems
This is the sort of glossy, good-looking book that makes you want to dive and get reading straight away. While it's not aimed at the hard core coder, there's a degree of technical content that puts it above the ranks of those 'become a WordPress guru in 10 minutes' books, of which there are plenty on the market. The pitch here is that this is the book that will help you move beyond the stage of merely using WordPress and take you into custom templates and detailed design. Unfortunately though, the book doesn't quite deliver all that it promises.
First the positives. The author walks the reader through the process of setting up a working development environment, meaning installing and running WordPress on a server, including the basic admin tasks. This is good for those who've never had to do this kind of thing before. There's some good material introducing templates and themes. And the author introduces a development style that uses HTML/CSS to build the design and then incrementally replaces these elements with templates and PHP calls. It's a good way of working, particularly for those who happier doing design using their existing HTML/CSS experience.
But these positives are counter-balanced by a number of negatives. Firstly the author breaks some fundamental rules (at least in this reader's opinion) in referring the reader to material on the accompanying web site and then not including the relevant information in the text itself. It means you can only make sense of some sections of the book when you're in front of a browser - which makes reading the book in the bath or on the train tricky. Secondly the source code in the book is colour coded (which is good), but the colours aren't always in the right place (which isn't good). Fine if you're confidently able to follow the code, but if you're not then it's just confusing. And finally the book includes a series of messages from different people extolling the virtues of WordPress - it's just padding that doesn't add anything to the book aside from page count.
Do the negatives outweigh the positives? This is one of those really personal things. Some people will be irritated by the negatives, particularly those who try and read the book away from a screen. But I have to say that in spite of the annoyances this was still a useful book. The approach to design and development was solid, and the incremental process makes it really easy to experiment as you go along. The internal workings of WordPress can be hard to grasp, but this is a book that helps you get to grips in a concrete way. Which is a roundabout way of saying this is still a book worth checking out.