Book Review: WordPress 3.7 Complete

WordPress 3.7 Complete link to publisher siteWordPress 3.7 Complete
Authors: Karol Krol, Aaron Hodge Silver
Packt Publishing: http://bit.ly/1iLUPME

WordPress 3.7 Complete offers, well, a complete explanation of WordPress. The first chapters, directed at WordPress users, is a patient but not “for dummies” walk through what you need to know if you own a WordPress site.

Chapters 1 through 5 are a great introduction to users of WordPress. If you’re a professional WordPress developer, buy your clients a copy of this book and do their training only after they’ve read those chapters.

There is one unfortunate aspect to this book. Almost as soon as it was published, WordPress 3.8 was released. All of the information is still current and directly applicable; the book has lost no value with the update. The only real affect is that some of the illustrations of the WordPress dashboard are no longer what the site’s owner will see. The value is still there. There are also enough links to the WordPress Codex and other the publisher’s own site that the content should be current through the life of 3.8.

The book starts off where we all start off: Terminology and “What is WordPress,” and what’s the deal with WordPress.com and WordPress.org? As it gets more into the creation of your first site, I like that it starts with content and worries about theming later. I see way too may people picking a theme then worrying about content. The step by step instructions for posting content will get the most technophobic user posting content fairly quickly.

Differentiating pages and posts waits until Chapter 4, as do menus, headers, and other customization options provided in most themes. This chapter also includes the media library and image galleries. It would be nice if this chapter also included discussion of the video shortcodes; users often seem confused about embedding YouTube and other video content.

Chapter 6 talks about choosing and installing themes and offers some good advice about choosing safe themes and the purpose of themes. “The trick of choosing a theme for your site is to understand its purpose and make your decision …. on the thing you need the theme for…” Excellent advice!

Chapter 7 gets into theme development. It’s a high level view that occasionally swoops down into code. This isn’t the book I’d recommend for serious theme developers, but it offers a good overview for people who want more insight into how WordPress works and why hiring a developer to create a custom theme is not inexpensive. The development focuses on building themes from scratch. I’d have preferred a discussion that talked a bit more about building from starter themes like Underscores (http://underscores.me) or one of the standard WP themes like TwentyTwelve. Nonetheless, by the end of the chapter, the reader (who may have glazed over at all the code) has a pretty good idea about the division of work and why things in WordPress work the way they do.

Chapters 8 is a catchall, talking about using WordPress as a podcasting platform, RSS feeds, and offline site tools. I’m not sure why that last bit is in this chapter; it seems to me that it might have fit better earlier when adding content was the topic.

Chapter 9 follows in the path of Chapter 7, getting back to areas of interest to developers. This chapter deals with developing plugins and widgets. It’s a decent overview but the widget development section lacks a discussion of what I think are two essential areas for widgeteers: Managing and storing options “the WordPress way” and providing a clean uninstall for your widget.

Chapter 10 is back to operational considerations: Running a multi-user site and multisite. I think the multi-user discussion is something that more readers will find valuable; the authors delve into questions of process and user management. These are critical areas for multi-user sites and need to be considered sooner rather than later in the development of the site.

Chapters 11 and 12 talk about my bread and butter, “Creating a non-blog website.” WordPress may have started off as a blogging platform. It’s evolving into a fully featured content management system (CMS) that can present any content on the web. The chapters also covers e-commerce, community sites, membership sites, etc. These topics are worth mention but a probably deserving of their own books. Custom post types make their appearances here. I think they might have fit better in Chapter 7 or 9.

In summary: A good book for those just getting into WordPress as users or those wondering about becoming site-builders and developers. An excellent training source for those handed a working site and told “OK, it’s yours. Start adding your content.”

Full Disclosure: I received a free epub copy of the book in exchange for writing this review. The publisher did not review or approve its contents.