WordPress is an incredible success story. The first version of what is today the de facto premiere blogging platform and CMS system, was released a little over 10 years ago, in May 2003. Today it runs on more than one of six of the top 1 million web sites. It totally dominates the CMS market, with over 50% market share. The latest WordPress, 3.5, has been downloaded over 5 million times. WordPress is everywhere – good and very popular software. In fact, you are reading a WordPress blog right now!
WordPress is a powerful blogging and CMS platform based on CSS, PHP and MySQL. It is distributed at no cost, and is extremely modular and very easy to use. Even users without any knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP or MySQL can install a WordPress blog and upgrade it with free themes and plugins and write and publish blog posts. They don’t need to know that paragraphs start with «<p>» in HTML or what «float:left» means, much less write code like «<?php elseif .. ?» or know how to do queries in MySQL. That, of course, is one of the major reasons why WordPress is so dominant.
However, even though it is possible to use WordPress without knowing any of the major languages of the Web, familiarity with them and the smart logic and code that makes WordPress work, will allow you to fully unleash the power of the beast that is WordPress. You can use your own HTML and CSS to customize your site – to improve the user experience and set your site apart from the crowd. And if you know PHP and MySQL you can write your own plugins or additions to accomplish some fancy things that will make your site über-cool.
Professional WordPress: Design and Development by Brad Williams, David Damstra and Hal Stern, has recently been published in its second edition. It has been brought completely up to date. It contains a very comprehensive presentation of the various elements of the complex software that is WordPress, and shows in detail how it is built and what the logic is. If you don’t know what the core or the loop is, how plugins and themes are built, how to deploy a multi-site blog or similar things, and feel you need to know or ought to know, then this is the book for you.
I have worked with many versions of WordPress and followed its development over many years. By now, I feel I know this software very well. Along the way I have read many books about it, but now I find that the very useful ones are few and far between. However, Professional WordPress is one of the most useful volumes I’ve come across. It is sufficiently detailed to be of value to me, and I think that applies to a large number of advanced users. Personally I found the chapters on plugin development, theme development and multi-site most helpful.
In my opinion, this is a very solid and useful book. Perhaps the book could have been a little more explicit on some issues, a little more critical and naughty; for example how to avoid bad plugins or how to get the best possible performance out of WordPress – issues that are important to advanced users. In my opinion it is also a bit thin in its discussion of caching and scalability – the CDN solution is important, but there are other well-known ways to achieve these goals. That said, this is a high quality book that is full of interesting code examples that really manages to de-mystify WordPress and provide a deep understanding of its inner workings and data flows, as well as illustrate how to use it for a multitude of purposes. Extremely useful!