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