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Smashing WordPress Themes: Making WordPress Beautiful Paperback – Jan 31 2011
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'Discover the gentle art of hacking WordPress Themes to make them look and work the way you want.' (Web Designer, April 2011). '...definitely a good one for theme development starters'. (Theme.fm, June 2011).
From the Back Cover
Making WordPress Beautiful
From the world’s most popular resource for Web designers and developers comes ultimate guide to WordPress themes. WordPress is so much more than a bogging platform, and Smashing WordPress Themes teaches you how to make it look any way like – from a corporate site, to a photo gallery, to an online magazine, and more.
WordPress expert, Thord Daniel Hedengren, author of Smahsing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, takes you through what really makes themes tick, what you can do with themes, and techniques for getting the best results. Starting with the WordPress Twenty Ten default theme, you’ll learn to work with template tags and create option pages for your themes. Next you’ll explore the child theme concept and create a variety of theme styles – fully customizing the look and feel of your WordPress-powered site.
You will Learn:
- The Anatomy of the Default Twenty Ten Theme
- Ways to Hack the Default Theme to Modify Features, Graphics, and Colors
- How to Work with Theme Frameworks
- The Best Way to Use Child Themes
- How to Integrate Theme Options
- How to Build a Media Theme
- How to Build a Newspaper or Magazine Theme
- Tips for Building a Semi-Static Corporate Theme
- Ways to Integrate Advanced Loop Tricks and Themes
Smashing Magazine (smashingmagazine.con) is one of the world’s most popular Web-design online magazines. True to the Smashing mission, the Smashing Magazine book series delivers useful and innovative information to Web designers and developers.See all Product Description
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By giving several worked examples, Hedengren really makes the process of theme development clear. I highly endorse/recommend this book.
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Now, mind you, if your already a wordpress expert this might not be a problem for you. But coming to it "cold" will simply frustrate the heck out you (or at least it does for me). One minute were working off the twentyten theme (editing sidebar.php etc), the next he is telling us to go get his own notes theme. Oh great. So what happens with the half-coded twentyten theme you just told me to edit? Just leave it? Way too many assumptions.
I'm used to training which basically does this:
1. In this chapter were going to learn how to [x].
2. Using [x] allows you to achieve [y,z]
3. Now, lets code an example, create a new page [a] and add the following code...
4. Now, lets walk through the code, so as to explain it (mostly) line-by-line.
5. We coded this because [explanation]...
6. Now run the page to see the result(s)
7. To recap, in this chapter we learned how to [x].
That aint happening in this book.
Don't get me wrong, his explanations are great, but his execution (by way of a step-by-step method of completing a task) are sorely lacking.
Be warned none of the examples this book will work if you follow instructions. The chapter about creating a media theme omits the necessary loop files altogether.
There is also a ton of duplicate/filler content. The book is around 360 pages, much of this is spent repeating entire scripts just to show the addition of a couple lines of code.
Also note, there really isn't any instruction about design principles or building a beautiful theme as the title implies. It's mostly about how to create and place widgets, menus and a couple other WP tools.
Now that I'm done bashing on this book, I will say it does have some value. After my second read through I've learned a good bit. If you don't mind tracking down the bugs yourself and doing your own research you might benefit from reading it.
The term "Child Themes" is very misleading in WordPress. Hedegren's "Beyond the Blog" says, "If child themes are in wp-content/themes/ just like ordinary themes, then how do you use them and what do you need? Basically, all you need is a style.css file to tell WordPress that it is a theme, and in fact a child theme, as well as point to the mother theme. Whenever a template file is called for, WordPress will look for it within the child theme, and if it isn't there, it'll load up the one in the original mother template theme. The lingo may be a bit hard to follow, by the way, because the community really hasn't decided on what to call this relationship between themes yet."
Ok. So what did that say. It said, the benefit of Child Themes is the functionality of the template. WordPress looks for functionality in the Child first and if it does not find it there it resorts back to the Parent theme.(At least in my brain, it would be better to call it 'Child Functionality' instead of Theme. I think of the Theme as the skin). But this is the essence of the problem. You need the CSS, you need the HTML, and you need the Theme functionality. If you don't know how the Theme functionality works, then that is why you buy this book.
The book, "Making WordPress Beautiful" essentially starts with that paragraph and tells you how to build your own themes. You begin with Twenty Ten and grok the details until you are ready to build your own themes. (Really, your own templates with template tags.) And the book does it very, very well. Saving countless hours of downloading code, making flow diagrams, and in general staying in front of a computer for a week figuring out your own strategy.
Just buy the book. Save some time. However don't expect magic.I've already invested about 3 weeks reading the book. Of course I am reading other books at the same time and keep coming back. But it is an investment of time. Set up a MAMP, WAMP or LAMP development environment. And do multiple blogs for clients without colliding all of your projects together. (The book tells you how to set up a MAMP or a WAMP development environment on the localhost.) The first three chapters are the hard read. At different points, little light bulbs go off in your head. I will say, at some point (at least for me) the romance with WordPress ends. It is just programming with PHP template tags. But the payoff is competence with the subject and the confidence that comes therein to use WordPress as a CMS for lots of projects.
Thord, provides excellent resources on his site and at Wylie to complement the book. The only other resource that I would suggest is the excellent video by Chris Coyier (the CSS-tricks Chris Coyier). His WordPress video on Lynda provides an alternative view of the subject. I have found that I need both resources to stretch my mind around the subject.
So finale warning. "Beyond the Blog" is not a beginner book. And this book, "WordPress Themes" is the book that you read after you understand the importance of the "Child Themes" paragraph in "Beyond the Blog". If you are at the right stage in your WordPress career (building multiple WordPress sites), both book together form the cannonical book for WordPress that you have at your desk.
I would also like to say, that the layout of the book, quality of typography and depth of writing are refreshingly appreciated. This is a quality book.
At the beginning of January, I needed a text for my new class called Beyond the WordPress Dashboard. Needless to say, that means files, database, CSS and PHP. Scary, scary stuff! We decided to run this course at the last minute and I was hoping to run it without a text. But, students were emailing me for a book and this was the best book I could find on short notice.
What made me choose this book?
First the publisher didn't give me a bunch of run-around when I told them of my rush. I tried getting a hold of another textbook company, but their online system is a total pain.
Second, I liked the flow of the topics of the book.
Third, I liked the fact that the book uses Twenty-Ten as the first example. While we are creating our child themes from the Zenlite theme, I like the fact that we have a comparison right there in the book.
Fourth, I like the fact that the book discusses how important it is to start with the right theme. Oh, the horror stories I could tell!
At this point, I think that the book is perfect for me to use as a reference and a stretch for my students. There are areas where I would put things in more simple terms for the sake of my students' mental health. But, I also think that it will be a great resource when they leave class and get stuck in some project. Then, when they send me a frantic Facebook message, I can refer them to a specific page!
The book probably isn't appropriate for folks who are not comfortable programming php. If you are halfway there this should get you the rest of the way.
The book is very nicely printed in paperback, but does not hold up well in Kindle format. Go for the physical.
So, for insight into how the Wordpress theme system works for php programmers this book is a good choice.
For content this is 5 stars, but one star knocked off for poor kindle presentation.
Hope this helps someone