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Book Review: WordPress: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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WordPress, the leading blogging platform, claims to be incredibly easy to use. “You can start a blog in seconds without any technical knowledge,” WordPress.com proudly proclaims. But when you actually visit WordPress’s hosted site or self-hosted service, the process can be daunting. Sure, WordPress: The Missing ManualWordPress provides online help and tutorials, but sometimes you need easy-to-understand technical information in one place. O’Reilly, publisher of the popular Missing Manual series, has just issued WordPress: The Missing Manual, a comprehensive guide to the blogging platform. Author Matthew MacDonald guides the reader through a full tour, providing a sometimes overwhelming amount of information for the novice and expert user.

Like most of the Missing Manual books, MacDonald’s WordPress is not meant to be read cover-to-cover. Instead, it serves as an essential reference, something to keep near your computer for when you need it. Numerous screenshots demonstrate how to set up a site, from installation to design. The self-hosted and WordPress-hosted versions can be extremely confusing, and MacDonald explains the differences as well as the pros and cons of each. Often the manual fills in many knowledge gaps, such as which type of site may best suit your requirements. Should you create a blog, or a so-called “brochure” site that contains unchanging information?

In addition, MacDonald defines terms that are often unclear, such as permalinks or gravatars. A separate glossary would have been a welcome addition here, as it would simplify looking up individual terms. He does provide a complete guide to Jetpack,a plugin that WordPress promotes but fails to adequately explain. His step-by-step directions for setting up Jetpack and taking full advantage of its numerous features proves particularly useful.

One especially interesting aspect of the Missing Manual is its thorough description of commenting—how to monitor a discussion, filter out spam, and otherwise manage comments. This is an often overlooked issue that can present a challenge for the novice. MacDonald leads readers through the “life cycle” of a comment, from creation to publication. He also guides readers through various moderation options, and how one can manage comments through mobile devices or the WordPress dashboard. For anyone who has been inundated with comments on his or her blog, this is a crucial issue.

While novice users will find WordPress: The Missing Manual invaluable, experienced designers may deem it too repetitive. The last two chapters address what he calls “advanced” issues, such as editing the code of a theme or setting up an e-commerce site. Those wanting to learn CSS may want to look elsewhere, as MacDonald clearly targets newcomers to WordPress. However, if an expert wants a easy reference tool, this book serves that purpose well.

To achieve maximum results from WordPress: The Missing Manual, read only the sections you need when you require them. The sheer amount of information MacDonald covers would intimidate novices and possibly deter them from using the blogging platform. Through organization and the easy-to-read tabs on the pages’ edges—enabling the reader to skip directly to specific parts of the book—MacDonald provides readers with all the basics of WordPress in one convenient package.   

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About Kit O'Toole

  • Ada

    I found “WordPress the missing manual” great. Its good to setup your own site so you know how everything works. But there were a few issues I needed help on that were not there for WordPress beginners. Such as how to use /format such plug-ins as “Emails Before Downloads”. Bloggers want to know who downloaded their eBook, etc.You Tube video didn’t explain the plugin-in very well either. Maybe the experts forget novices have to learn new jargon and fill-in the missing instructions (proceedures to make the plug-in work). It’s so easy to overlook the links between facts when you are an expert. Maybe the next edition will fill in the blanks.