Category Archives: WordPress

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.

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.


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.

Digging into WordPress – Book Review

Digging into WordPress

There are a huge number of books out there for WordPress, but ‘Digging into WordPress’, written by WordPress ‘veterans’ Chris Coyier and Jeff Starr stands out for a number of reasons.

The book’s been in development for a while, and the finished 400 pages are very polished and generally well written. The book is available from the Digging into WordPress website, and the site features a PDF Sample and containing the contents and Chapter 3 – ‘Anatomy of a WordPress Theme’.

To reproduce here, the main chapters of the book are:

  1. Welcome to WordPress – an introduction to WordPress, this chapter is suitable for absolute beginners to WordPress, so if you’ve never used it before, this chapter will get you up and running.
  2. Setting up WordPress – installing, categories, tags, user administration, as well as an introduction to using themes and plugins.
  3. Anatomy of a WordPress theme – a more detailed examination of WordPress themes, covering theme files, the header, the WordPress loop, comments, theme functions and other theme fundamentals.
  4. Theme Design and Development – further examination of themes, including loop customisation, menus, styling and widgets.
  5. Extending Functionality – a detailed look at plugins, including custom functions and using WordPress as a CMS.
  6. Working with RSS Feeds – a comprehensive chapter featuring many facets of RSS, including using FeedBurner for feed devivery, and tracking and displaying of Feed Statistics.
  7. Working with Comments – great chapter that examines one of the most important areas of WordPress.
  8. Search Engine Optimisation – this is a great example of something that you wouldn’t normally find in a typical WordPress book, and features many items that are of great interest to many bloggers.
  9. Maintaining a Healthy Site – reminds the reader that there are a few things that they can and should do to protect their WordPress installation against hacking and comment spam.

The book’s absolutely jam-packed with useful information, and I learned a few things, despite having used WordPress for a while myself. That said, it starts off very gently, and is suitable to WordPress beginners, too. The written style is very easy to read, and the prose is complemented beautifully by helpful diagrams, screenshots and sidenotes.

Much of the content is standard stuff, taking the reader through core WordPress concepts, but that’s not a criticism, it’s a necessary requirement for this type of book. It’s the additions to this that really make the difference; things like integrating your site with Twitter, FeedBurner and Delicious. It has a real-world feel about it, owing to Chris and Jeff’s experience and usage of WordPress. In fact, it’s a great advertisement for WordPress itself, since it gives a holistic view of using WordPress for real-world sites.

Initially the book was only available as a PDF download, but has recently been made available as a printed book. It looks fantastic, and its spiral-bounding means you can lay it flat on a desk. The only downside is that it is a little pricey, but might be worth considering if you crave a printed page version.

Overall, this is the best WordPress book that I’ve read, and will help you get more out of it, whether you’re a beginner or more seasoned user. Go get it!