WordPress 2.8 Theme Design – Book Review

WordPress 2.8 Theme Design

I seem to be reading quite a few WordPress books of late, and there are certainly a few to choose from. Packt Publishing’s WordPress 2.8 Theme Design’s tagline is ‘Create flexible, powerful, and professional themes for your WordPress blogs and websites’.

WordPress themes are of interest to me since they fuse a visual aspect with PHP code, and there’s no doubt that they appeal to many other people too. In this review, I examine how appealing the book is to theme beginners and more advanced users.

WordPress 2.8 Theme Design

I seem to be reading quite a few WordPress books of late, and there are certainly a few to choose from. Packt Publishing‘s WordPress 2.8 Theme Design‘s tagline is ‘Create flexible, powerful, and professional themes for your WordPress blogs and websites’.

WordPress themes are of interest to me since they fuse a visual aspect with PHP code, and there’s no doubt that they appeal to many other people too. In this review, I examine how appealing the book is to theme beginners and more advanced users.

Chapter Overview

  1. Getting Started as a WordPress Theme Designer
  2. Theme Design and Approach
  3. Coding it Up
  4. Debugging and Validation
  5. Putting Your Theme into Action
  6. WordPress Template Tag, Function, and CSS Reference
  7. AJAX/Dynamic Content and Interactive Forms
  8. Dynamic Menus and Interactive Elements
  9. Design Tips for Working with WordPress

Book overview

WordPress 2.8 Theme Design

The book’s author Tessa Blakely Silver starts very gently with an introduction to WordPress themes and why downloading a theme that’s already been coded and designed may not always be the best solution. Subsequently, the book develops a theme from scratch and examines core technologies such as WordPress, CSS, XHTML and PHP.

The second chapter starts with a discussion of theme design in general, followed by the beginnings of the theme that’s developed throughout the book. There are further discussions on semantic markup, typography, fonts and layout.

The following chapter focuses on the code aspect of theme design, and suggests a workflow strategy as well as template tags, hooks, and the WordPress loop. Comments are then discussed in some detail, the topic including pagination and threaded comments.

Chapter four examines the process of debugging and validating. A thorough chapter includes references to the W3C validation services, Firefox’s JavaScript/Error console, Firebug and some of the issues that the budding theme developer will face when dealing with IE6.

Chapter five looks at the style.css file, which provides descriptive information about a theme, together with packaging the theme into a ZIP for distribution and running test installations of the theme package.

Chapter six adopts a more reference based approach, with an in depth examination of WordPress template tags, the WordPress template hierarchy, the loop and shortcodes.

The following chapter looks at AJAX and JavaScript, as well as preparing your theme for plugins and widgets.

Chapter eight builds on Chapter 7’s JavaScript discussion by developing a drop-down menu for the theme. There is also a discussion of Flash and how that can be used with WordPress themes.

Chapter nine rounds off the book with a number of design tips that apply not just to WordPress theme design, but web design in general.

The book’s about 250 pages in length, and is generally well written. I did, however, notice a few errors in code samples (mostly misplaced quotes), and a couple of examples in the prose itself. Another minor niggle was that the author talks about semantic markup, and then introduces ‘sidebarLT’ (sidebar left) and ‘sidebarRT’ (sidebar right) IDs into the markup.

Who will get most out of the book?

The back of the book states:

This book can be used by WordPress users or visual designers (with no server-side scripting or programming experience) who are used to working with the common industry-standard tools such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver or other popular graphic, HTML, and text editors.
Regardless of your web development skill set or level, you’ll be walked through the clear, step-by-step instructions. But familiarity with a broad range of web development skills and WordPress know-how will allow you to gain maximum benefit from this book.

It seems as through Packt have tried to convince the potential reader that this is the book for them, regardless of whether they’re fairly inexperienced in some areas, or a a highly skilled developer. I’d say that the book covers a lot of ground, and that it does so at a pace that would be suitable for an inexperienced developer. Much of the content, however, would already be familiar to a skilled web developer, and so I feel that they’d think that the really useful content is a little thinly spread.

Verdict

Overall, it’s encouraging to see more books about WordPress; although the internet is a fantastic resource, books still have a very important role in my opinion. The content of this one is great for beginner-medium level web developers, but more experienced readers will be left wanting more.

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