Review: Professional WordPress Design and Development, 2nd Edition


Professional WordPress Design and Development 2nd Edition

Let’s start this review with an honest admission.

While in the 90s I collected (and read, mostly) tech books like they were going out of style. These days I barely get my hands around a book, let alone consume it.

Frankly, I don’t have the time. I have three kids (two are twins) and a wife. I have a mortgage. I co-organize WordPress meetups, and head up a WordCamp committee. That’s not including the remaining bits of time i form together to approximate a “life”.

But what’s the point of this admission? To prove to you that I only have time to devote to reading books that meet a certain level of quality and useful content – not to mention only those that age well. And I am confident in saying that Professional WordPress Design And Development is one of those books.

Great for budding developers

It’s difficult to understand why this book wouldn’t be on any WordPress developer’s shelf. If you haven’t installed WordPress before, for instance, the first chapter guides you through it pretty well. There’s not much to the infamous “5 minute install” but the authors do provide great screenshots and cover some of the potential problems that could arise even in that seemingly easy procedure.

Soon after that, the book jumps into file structure and covering important points like the precious wp-config.php. What I appreciated is that they didn’t gloss over this — and if you’ve seen any documentation online (especially from some hosting companies) you know glossing over wp-config.php is commonplace. They actually took the time to review almost every line of code and why you would want turn certain settings on or off.

“It’s difficult to understand why this book wouldn’t be on any WordPress developer’s shelf.”

For beginning developers, it’s nice the book discusses WP_DEBUG. It’s embarrasing how long it took for me to learn about that after I started developing with WordPress.

And being a more seasoned developer, it’s great that they include reminders of WP_POST_REVISONS and SAVEQUERIES. Thanks to this book, I can quickly skim over a few pages when a particular wp-config setting slips my mind. That will be my method, at least until I can find better memory medication.

I love that the book covers local WordPress environments so early on in the book — as early as Chapter 3. Many developers today still use the old fashioned “edit-save-upload via FTP-check the site-repeat” as their core development process. Why anyone would want to do this is insane to me. I like that Professional WordPress addresses the “why” and then talks about how to configure your stack and WordPress for local development.

The quality here is equal to that of some of the best WordCamp talks given on the same subject.

My favorite parts

I’ll admit, I‘ve yet to read the whole book from cover to cover. But the beauty is you don’t have to. Like most well written technical books that cover a wide range of information, you can jump directly into the section that you need to know on the spot.

I do, however, have some favorite parts. One of them is Chapter 7 which deals with custom post types, custom taxonomies, and metadata. There is plenty of information about these topics on the web today, but I liked how the book made understanding the concept and the use of custom post types a breeze.

Professional WordPress even reminds you to flush the rewrite rules in WordPress when registering new custom post types, which some miss. Often the “have you flushed your rewrite rules” question in WordPress development is, I think, equal to the “did you turn it off and then turn it on” from the greater IT support world.

Professional WordPress Design and Development authors

Brad Williams, David Damstra, and Hal Stern collaborated on Professional WordPress Design and Development.

I also liked Chapter 8, which focused on plugin development. Anyone eager to create WordPress plugins would benefit from this section immensely. If we could start all new plugin developers on the right path using nonces, validating and sanitization of content, and so on, then the world would be a better place.

I’m talking rainbows and unicorns. Or something like that.

Finally, I also appreciated that the book covers some popular filter and actions hooks, not to mention a little further in you’re walked through creating an example plugin yourself.

Going above and beyond

Finding a great hotel that’s clean, affordable, and reliable is always a plus for a traveler. But finding the same hotel that leaves a mint on your pillow is golden.

While Professional WordPress gives you the full course of WordPress development, it’s the “mint on the pillow” that shows they put some extra love and attention into it, and didn’t just stop with the more common development topics.

For example, in Chapter 11, there’s some great tips on advertising and monetizing your site. Chapter 12 covers principles of user experience, usability testing, and even how to optimize your site for search engines. Granted these subjects can be books in themselves, but the authors give you just enough practical tips and tricks to get you moving in the right direction. There’s so much misinformation on the web and in printed form, that I’m glad to see these smaller subjects were included.

I also found the sections on caching, scaling, and securing your WordPress site to be equally as informative. Seasoned WordPress developers would also appreciate their coverage, however brief, of the WordPress community.


“My only complaint is that they didn’t mention BuddyPress enough.”

What? There are complaints? Does this mean I’ll have to hide from Brad Williams at all future WordCamps?

Easy now, brothers and sisters. My only complaint is that, as a BuddyPress developer, they didn’t mention BuddyPress enough. And I know, you can’t fit everything into the book. I get that. But I figured I would throw that bone out there for consideration.

And if you think that’s bad, you haven’t heard the moaning from those dedicated bbPress developers. Oh boy.

In conclusion…

Brad Williams, David Damstra, and Hal Stern are all excellent developers. You can tell they put a lot of blood, sweat, and spilled beer into this book.

If my house was on fire — assuming my family is safe, duh — and I had to save one book, it wouldn’t be this book. It would be the book filled with my life’s memories, photos, and cash. Maybe if I could take two books. Okay, If I could grab three books, then Professional WordPress would definitely make it out of the fire with me.

I highly recommend Professional WordPress for any WordPress developer – new or experienced. It’s worth having on your shelf.

WPCandy rated this 5 mints

This review was completed using a copy of the book provided by the publisher.

12 thoughts on “Review: Professional WordPress Design and Development, 2nd Edition

  1. I disagree on the “local development” bit – cPanel has a fairly robust code editor, with support for HTML, CSS, and PHP. I’ve used it to develop a plugin, and I’m currently developing a theme with it.

    I use 2 different computers, and using cPanel on my host allows me to write on either, without having to transfer files. I can also work on a friend’s computer, should the need ever arise.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by version control. For my plugin, I have older versions saved in the SVN repository (admittedly, I can’t do that in cPanel), and I’m keeping build versions of my theme as .zip files in Google Drive (it’s not publicly released, so this is for my own use).

        How is editing by cPanel dangerous? If it is, I’ll stop doing it, but I haven’t actually heard of a reason why it is.

        • I’m sorry to be that guy, but dude… you gotta stop. Editing in cPanel is wrong for so many reasons. I could spend an hour talking about why, but take the advice of seasoned professionals: You’re doing it wrong.

          • Elaborate on 5 points. You shouldn’t tell people not to do things simply because they shouldn’t. After all if it’s working….

  2. A very nice review and it will be very helpful for me as I am new to WordPress, this book will help me alot. Once again thanks for such a nice share. Cheers

  3. Pingback: A review of Professional WordPress Design and Development : Post Status

  4. Thanks for the heads up on this book, I’ll get it today. I have created a child theme from Twentytwelve, and need some ideas on how and where to implement colors and images to create the design – can you recommend a book or source on theme development?

  5. This is a must have book for any WordPress devs, along with Brad’s other book “Professional WordPress Plugin Development.” With both of these on your shelf, and as I’ve tweeted, it’s all you’ll ever need to become a 1st class developer in all areas of WP development from installation to core to themes to plugins.

    My only complaint with both books isn’t the content but rather a standing complaint with Wrox (a Wiley imprint) in that the editing always, always is sub-standard.

    If you look closely in any of Wrox/Wiley books (including these 2) the presentation of code is many times inconsistent and error prone (step-by-step chunks in many cases is mangled when they are finally put together in a single example) that can cause confusion to a less astute reader or a beginner. It takes away from the excellent work of authors that take a complex subject and reduce it to intelligent, easily understood material as Brad and his co-authors have.

    Well done Brad and crew! (Wrox, get your act together.)

  6. A good and funny review.

    Does sound like it gets into any corner of WordPress — except of course BuddyPress.

    I did take a look at the table of contents and I need it to fill in some blanks. The fact that the book is relatively new is also a selling point, besides that those “Professional Development” books from Wrox normally rocks.

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