What i like most in cookbooks, is their problem/solution approach which comes really handy when you find yourself facing a task with no clues on how to complete it.
WordPress 3 Cookbook by Ric Shreves and Jean-Baptiste Jung is just like that.
Even if i think of myself as a experienced WordPress developer, i’ve found many hints on new plugins to check out and some good advices on website development. This sounds great in the messed up sea of WordPress resources.
But let’s dig into it.
The book is mainly meant for beginner to intermediate WordPress developers. It steps you through the most basic installation and customization tasks.
The same approach is taken to explore those areas beside core functionalities, involving the installation of one or more plugins to make it really simple, even from novice developers, to setup an advanced installation.
Marketing and SEO specialists may also be an interested audience, since last chapters of the book feature deep insights on SEO optimization and advertising (both with AdSense and custom ads systems).
During the last years WordPress development has become a huge subject, spanning from simple page-based websites to shopping, community and multisite. That said, the book covers most of the scenarios where WordPress get used, maybe even too many for the intended audience.
For example, I’ve really enjoyed the chapter about BuddyPress and social community building, but I think the plugin is so much more complex than how depicted by the author, and anyway it alters so much the theme and system behavior that novice users may get lost.
What i’ve found really interesting, instead, are those chapters about website marketing and SEO, covering features commonly requested by clients but still not provided by the WordPress’s core.
The author covers sitemaps, XML sitemaps and search engine related topics by providing excellent plugins and detailed howtos to 3rd party services (like AdSense).
Beside this, you’ll find detailed chapters on themes and widgets management which are main topics even if you prefer to buy themes from external providers instead of coding your owns.
There’s then an introduction to the WordPress’s loop system with basic informations on how to customize templates and lists of contents. It’s well done, but could have been more in-depth.
Again, I’m disappointed by the choice of the author to suggest plugins even for those little customizations which involve little coding, when the eccessive number of plugins is a known performance problem in WordPress.
Maybe reducing the number of topic, or reducing those chapters devoted to core functionalities (already covered by the official documentation) would have offered space to describe coded alternatives to plugins, in order to give a better development guideline to novice developers.
Despite this, WordPress 3 Cookbook is an interesting reading and a well crafted cookbook which may find a prime spot on many developer’s desk.