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Book Review: Smashing WordPress: Beyond The Blog By Thord Daniel Hedengren

Smashing Magazine was founded in September 2006 for the purpose of delivering innovative information for designers and Web developers. The goal of the site is to inform their readers about the latest trends in Web development. In Smashing WordPress: Beyond The Blog, Thord Daniel Hedengren takes on the task of showing you how to build sites that go beyond the obvious.

The goal of Smashing WordPress: Beyond The Blog is to present the core concepts that will let you utilize the power of the WordPress platform while providing you with creative spark to help you build just about any site imaginable. This book is 322 pages divided into 15 chapters and five parts.

The WordPress Essentials

Chapter One, "Anatomy of a WordPress Install," dives into how to properly install and set up your WordPress system. Topics cover database setup, security, backing up, and even how to switch from one host to another.

Chapter Two, "The WordPress Syntax," examines how WordPress, written in the PHP language, is built on themes which consist of template files that contain tags. You will get very familiar with all of these concepts in this chapter.

Chapter Three, "The Loop," is a snippet of PHP code that is at the heart of WordPress. While it may feel tricky to work with at first, if you want to become an expert WordPress developer, learning the loop will put you in control.

Designing and Developing WordPress Themes

Chapter Four, "The WordPress Theme Essentials," begins the building process part of this book. This chapter gets you started with working with themes so that you will see how they work and learn how to alter them to fit your needs.

Chapter Five, "The Child Theme Concept," gives you the ability to build upon a theme without actually altering the theme. These child themes contain mostly visual enhancements so that you can update the core theme without breaking anything.

Chapter Six, "Advanced Theme Usage," shows you how to take themes to the next level. Topics in this chapter include individual styling techniques, working with hooks, using taxonomies, multiple language support, and SEO implementations

Developing WordPress Plugins

Chapter Seven, "Anatomy of a WordPress Plugin," examines what a plugin is and how they work in WordPress. A plugin is basically a way for you to add whatever feature that you want to WordPress.

Chapter Eight, "Plugins and Functions.php," looks at how the use of the function.php file can create situations where a plugin causes a problem if used without caution. Here you will see how best to avoid these potential problems.

Beyond the Blog

Chapter Nine, "WordPress as a CMS," describes how to use WordPress more as a content management system than a traditional blog. While it may feel different to do this, it is a perfectly appropriate solution, and this chapter examines what you can do to make this run smoothly.

Chapter 10, "Uncommon WordPress Usage," takes what can be done with WordPress beyond even the CMS and looks at what else it can be used for. Topics include a job board, a knowledge base, e-commerce, a portfolio site, and more.

Chapter 11, "Essential WordPress Plugins," only covers a small amount of all of the WordPress Plugins that are available, but even this is a lot. These include Plugins for handing content, media, Administrative, comment management, social networking, search engine optimization, and more.

WordPress Toolbox

Chapter 12, "Design Trickery," is about making your theme more interesting. In this chapter you will work with JavaScript, customizing the login form, improving the menu system, and placing ads into the loop.

Chapter 13, "Extra Functionality," will examine some of the functionality you may consider adding to a site. These include adding tabbed boxes, displaying RSS feeds, sending email, adding a login form, and adding print capabilities.

Chapter 14, "Fun with Images," is about showing how to display images in a WordPress site in a way that goes beyond the traditional display. This is more about galleries, image presentation, and photo-sharing in a way that makes sense.

Chapter 15, "Integrating the Social Web," now looks at how you can display your entries to your favorite social network outlets. Here you will see how to show off your Twitter, work with Lifestream, add social web submit buttons to your site, and pimp your comments.

Smashing WordPress: Beyond The Blog is geared for the developer who has a good understanding of PHP, HTML, and CSS. There is not a lot of time introducing language elements and you pretty much hit the ground running. You should also be somewhat familiar with the fundamentals of WordPress as well. This is not an introductory book on how to use WordPress; it is a more advanced book on developing your site to be unique through creating themes and plugins for WordPress.

That said, if you want to learn to design themes and plugins, this is a phenomenal book. Smashing WordPress gets down and dirty in to the bowels of the system and shows you how everything works. It is written in an easy-to-understand, not too technical form that will allow you to absorb everything you read.

I like the fact that Smashing WordPress takes you into the core functionalities of WordPress, provides information about creating themes and plugins, and also shows what else that this framework can do beyond the blog. If you are a mid to upper level developer and you want really learn WordPress, then I very highly recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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