Thord Daniel Hendengren has released the third update for the excellent book Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog. The five part and 14 chapter book is a bible for anyone wishing to work with WordPress as a platform. This is my third WordPress book review but I found myself coming back to the first two editions so I was anxious to review the third which is 350 pages.
Thord presumes a basic understanding of HTML, CSS and PHP. He starts the book with understanding a performing installs in the first section moving on to designing themes. Most people often look for free themes to begin and go from there. I was happy to see an entire section around plugins in section three before he covers some additional features and functions in the final section. I should mention there is also an appendix where he lists some plugins and themes to help you get started.
Even with all the WordPress sites I have installed and currently run (like this one ) there are always tips. Such things as configuring the server to use an external MySQL database are covered right away. I also learned how to adjust the default autosave and revision history amounts. An awesome tip for everyone.
Chapter two digs right into the core of WordPress including template files, themes and template tags (not t be confused with tags in posts describing content). Once you get a crash course on how those work he takes you right into the loop.
If you are going to do more than just apply a free template them knowing how PHP queries aka the loop work is a key to doing cool stuff. For example almost every theme has a loop that shows the latest blog posts. Without this code you would have static pages instead of ones showing the most recent updates. Chapter three does a great job of giving code samples for 25 pages.
Once you master some code Thord takes you into the design section of the book for theme creation basics, template files, loop usage, widgets and pages and pages of code samples.
The next two chapters deal with child themes and advanced theme usage taking WordPress to yet another level of functionality. I like how the author gives good design rules as well as the technical side. It is easy to make a junky looking theme. RSS feed building is a hidden gem inside chapter 6 so if you aren’t going to do advanced work make sure to find those pages to understand WordPress and RSS better.
Chapter 7 is not like other WordPress books that cover plugins. The author is not telling you the best ones of use. Instead he teaches how and why to build plugins. He finishes with using widgets to utilize the built plugins and extend WordPress functionality in chapter 8.
Section four starts with how WordPress can be a multiple author and strong content management system or CMS. I know I mentioned learning how to make WordPress fluid was a key of earlier chapters but he does cover how to use it best as a static site.
Everyone is all about social right now ans chapter 10 is built around his showing how to integrate Facebook, Twitter, URL shorteners, Google+ and even third party comment solutions. I actually use Disqus on all my sites.
Chapter 11 is cool design tricks and tips for proper 404 error pages. Media is becoming a must have feature and chapter 12 dogs into embedding and techniques for best presentation.
Chapters 13 and 14 deal with extra and uncommon usage with WordPress. It gives a great idea of the power of the platform and all the things you can make it do. He also points out things you shouldn’t use it for.
Finally the appendix is a great starter list of plugins and starter themes to get you moving quickly without developing your own. The author gives a reason why you would want to use them and a link (at the time of writing) where to grab them.
I know this is a much longer book review but anything less would not do this book justice. The third revision only strengthens why this is the go to source for More advanced WordPress understanding and examples.
Disclosure: the links for Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog are Amazon affiliate links but no compensation was given for the review, ever.