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Book Review: WordPress: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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O’Reilly Media has carved out a bit of a niche with their Missing Manual technical books in competition with the For Dummies series. But where the For Dummies books range in a variety of topics, the Missing Manual books are exclusively tech related and have a solid reputation. Newly released from O’Reilly media is WordPress: The Missing Manual and as a WordPress user myself, I was curious about what could be gleaned from Matthew MacDonald’s new book.  He is pretty well known for his books about building websites along with a couple of books about human biology.

WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system that was first released in 2003. WordPress is currently the most popular blogging system in use on the Internet. As of 2012 it is reportedly used by over 16% of Alexa’s top one million websites and since 2011 it manages 22% of all new websites. While WordPress does have many features, including a plug-in architecture and a template system, one of the most appealing aspects of the software is that it makes it very easy to have a good looking website up pretty quickly. The more tech savvy users also appreciate the extensive customization that can be done.

What complicates what should be a fairly straightforward discussion of WordPress is the fact there are two separate WordPresses. WordPress.org is a free tool and framework and WordPress.com is a commercial blog hosting service with tiered levels of service that utilizes the WordPress architecture. On WordPress.com, however, many of the WordPress.org customization features are not available. Usually though, when people say WordPress, they mean the WordPress.org tool.  WordPress: The Missing Manual does cover both and alternates between the two which may cause some confusion to some readers, particularly if you’re not reading the book from the beginning.

If you’re just getting your feet wet with web design, WordPress: The Missing Manual will teach you how to create a blog by getting a free WordPress.com account, choose the right theme, and start publishing content.  It is worth noting, however, that other hosting services like GoDaddy.com will allow you to set up a blog utilizing the WordPress system fairly easily.  If your hosting service doesn’t make it easy for you, the book does cover a couple different methods for installing it on your website yourself. Once you’re in the WordPress dashboard there is quite a bit you can figure out for yourself though this book can save first-time users quite a bit of time and aggravation.

WordPress: The Missing Manual doesn’t end with just getting something up online. There are tips that even those with more experience can use. The book recommends a variety of useful plug-ins for adding slideshows, video clips, webcasts, podcasts, and music players. It does also cover SEO or search-engine optimization, how to publicize your site, and tips for creating a community. While there are a variety of plug-ins that install social media tools such as “Like” and sharing buttons, and provide RSS feeds of your posts, The Missing Manual recommends a few and explains how to utilize them.

A good chunk of WordPress: The Missing Manual is for the beginner but there are some nuggets to be gleaned by those of us a little more experienced with the system. It can’t be stressed enough though that there are huge differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com and if you’re only going to skim the books for hints, make sure that you understand which platform the book is talking about. If you’re new to website design, WordPress is an invaluable tool and the 558-page The Missing Manual can help you get a functional and professional looking website up fairly quickly. 

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.
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