Since WordPress is an online thing, it seems somewhat counterintuitive to talk about it in the realm of books. But wouldn’t you know it that those printed-on-paper things have some really valuable information in them on the subject?
I’ve put together a list here of the top 12 WordPress books you should definitely check out if you want to improve your development skills and generally get more familiar with the CMS. It’s a diverse mix here of books for true-blue beginners, the intermediate set, and those with advanced skills. I’m presenting them in no particular order because I think they all have something to offer — whether it’s distilling WordPress into the simplest terms or delving into the nitty-gritty of PHP.
And be sure to leave your favorite book suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear them!
- 1 WordPress: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald
- 2 Web Designer’s Guide to WordPress by Jesse Friedman
- 3 WordPress All-in-One for Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson
- 4 Digging Into WordPress by Jeff Starr and Chris Coyier
- 5 Professional WordPress Design and Development by Brad Williams, David Damstra and Hal Stern
- 6 Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog by Thord Daniel Hedengren
- 7 Professional WordPress Plugin Development by Brad Williams, Ozh Richard, and Justin Tadlock
- 8 SEO for WordPress by Kent Mauresmo and Anastasiya Petrova
- 9 WordPress Websites Step-by-Step by Caiman Jones
- 10 WordPress for Beginners: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own WordPress Site in Record Time, Starting from Zero! by Dr. Andy Williams
- 11 How to Build a Website with WordPress…Fast by Kent Mauresmo
- 12 WordPress 3.7 Complete: Third Edition by Karol Król and Aaron Hodge Silver
- 13 Wrapping Up
The second edition of this must-have WordPress resource is even better than the first, offering an in-depth look at how to build a website from the ground up. I say this one’s a “must-have” because it’s laid out in such an intuitive way that even an experienced developer would find it a handy reference to have on his shelf.
The book provides you with instructions for building a variety of websites, walking you through WordPress installation and setup, all the way through writing high-quality, serch engine optimized content. It covers media, mobile, plugins, themes, widgets, and more. Plus, it’s completely up-to-date to version 3.9, which is kind of a rarity for printed materials.
Price: $18.22; Publisher: O’Reilly Media
This book isn’t designed for web development beginners but it is targeted toward those who aren’t so familiar with using WordPress. So, it makes some assumptions about your skill level: you know HTML and CSS already — you just need a friendly hand to point you in the right direction with WordPress.
After reading this Friedman selection, you should have a handle on WordPress theme development from using a development server to building WordPress-specific site architecture to actually creating a theme. It also offers insights on how to implement responsive design, makes plugin suggestions, and includes a step-by-step guide for converting a regular site into a WordPress one. Seriously, I love it and you should too.
Price: $28.51; Publisher: New Riders
Another selection designed for beginners, this addition to the “For Dummies” series is comprehensive and can act as a nice reference for even experienced developers. What I particularly like about this one is it’s actually 8 mini-books in one that cover all the broad topics you need to be familiar with if you want to get competent with WordPress quickly.
Topics covered include the basics, theme design, plugin development, social media, SEO, customization, and managing multi-sites. And since it’s written by an experienced WordPress author, you get a well-rounded view of how to use WordPress and the tools that surround it. It’s pretty current, too, having been published in May 2013, so you won’t run into too much outdated information.
Price: $21.35; Publisher: For Dummies
Now, this is a book that’s seriously handy. The spiral-bound format makes it easy to flip through (and lay flat when trying to copy code snippets), and the entire book is color coded to make finding what you’re looking for a snap. The PDF version of the book includes hyperlinked URLs, code that can be easily copy and pasted, and text that can be searched. Purchase of the print version includes the PDF, by the way, along with a supplemental PDF that includes bonus tips and tricks.
The book itself contains 400 pages of valuable information about WordPress. It walks you through initial setup, design, security, and long-term maintenance. It also includes code snippets you can put into practice right away. Purchase comes with a lifetime subscription to the book—that means free updates—and free themes.
Price: $27 for PDF; $75 for Print
It also offers insights into how to make the best use of plugins and how to customize themes and includes details on how to improve performance and security. Code samples and downloads are included.
Price: $30; Publisher: Wrox
Published in March 2014, Smashing WordPress is about as up-to-date as you’re going to get in the realm of books. As the title suggests, this selection goes beyond the blog to provide information for building any kind of site with WordPress — not just blogs. Types of sites it covers include e-commerce, photo galleries, forums, and business sites. It has everything you need to know to build a site from scratch and even build a plugin to extend functionality.
Specific topics included here include custom headers and backgrounds, custom login forms and white labeling, theme options, widgets, SEO, social media, navigation menus, responsive design, theme development, custom posts, and more. Yeah, pretty much everything you need to know is covered here.
Price: $30.96; Publisher: Wiley
Though not the most current selection in this list, it stills holds up as a reference for building plugins. It assumes you have the knowledge to build a WordPress site and even customize a theme so this definitely isn’t a choice for the total newbie. However, for the experienced developer, you can consider this your introductory course in theme development.
It starts out by discussing the tools and APIs available to you then delves into how you use them to build plugins and extend core WordPress functions. This book also includes a lot of code examples so you can get started coding right away. Other details covered include widgets, short code creation, user role customization, security best practices, multisite plugins, and more. I’d definitely recommend this book as a “next step” for developers looking to get deeper into the world of WordPress.
Price: $32.10; Publisher: Wrox
This self-published selection is surprisingly comprehensive, offering everything you need to know to get started with WordPress SEO. It covers the basics and then some from keyword research to keyword analysis; permalinks to tags. It also offers tips for writing search-engine optimized content and how to optimize your content within the WordPress platform.
Other information includes plugin settings, image optimizations, off-site optimization, YouTube optimization, how to analyze and fix SEO errors, and more. And for around $5, you can’t really go wrong here.
Price: $5.37; Publisher: CreateSpace
This is a really handy visual guide for creating a new WordPress website from scratch. It starts you out with the true blue basics like selecting a domain name and choosing hosting all the way up through solving common problems and selecting a security solution. This book also includes more than 55 images so you’ll always know exactly what you need to do next.
The Kindle version has been updated for Version 3.9 so it’s as up to date as you’re going to find out there right now. Both print and ebook versions include a bonus chapter as well that offer tips for getting your first site visitors and links to video tutorials. It also includes a hefty resources section that points you in the right direction for finding free themes, plugins, and more.
Price: $8.99; Publisher: CreateSpace
WordPress for Beginners: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own WordPress Site in Record Time, Starting from Zero! by Dr. Andy Williams
This guide was recently updated to include information on WordPress 3.9, so you’re certain to find the answers to all of your most pressing questions here. As its title suggests, this book is designed for beginners but it’s not dumbed down. Rather, it’s comprehensive and makes good and certain readers are up to speed before moving onto the next subject.
A lot of that is accomplished thanks to screenshots. Lots and lots of screenshots. There are text-based descriptions there, too, but you won’t have to rely on them to find what button to press or where on the screen to navigate. This book promises to take a real web development beginner and give them the knowledge and tools needed to build a decent site and I’ve got to say, it delivers on that front. I particularly enjoyed the “Tasks to Complete” at the end of each chapter, which leaves readers no question as to what to do next.
Price: $12.85; Publisher: CreateSpace
I’ve got a lot of self-published books on this list, but really, these are some of the best guides you could ever ask for. They’re written by real developers down in the trenches. They know the ins and outs of WordPress (and then some). That’s certainly the case at least with this selection, which promises to help you build your first WordPress site is less than 30 minutes.
That might sound like a tall order, but it’s really quite straightforward. And once you’ve mastered those basics, you can move onto social media integration, learning how to get more blog comments, and more. With tons of visuals and extra resources, you’re likely to reference this one for a long time.
Price: $5.37; Publisher: CreateSpace
WordPress 3.7 Complete is designed for WordPress beginners. It’s fairly up-to-date and helps developers build their first WordPress site from scratch. It walks you through all the details of installation, writing a blog post, writing pages, building custom menus, uploading and editing multimedia content, installing plugins, using widgets, and theme selection and installation.
It also walks you through how to build a website with WordPress that is not a blog. You don’t need any coding experience and can be a total web design newbie and still make sense of this book.
Price: $40.49; Publisher: Packt Publishing
Well, that’s it for this list. I hope you found the selections I picked helpful. They all offer a little something different, which is why I recommend checking them all out when you get a chance. Of course, with the full release of WordPress 4.0 on the horizon, a new list of books — or at least an update — will be in order as these titles incorporate details about the latest version.
Until that day comes, you can use this list to dive into WordPress for the first time, expand your skills, or keep on hand as reference should you need to look up something specific. But what I want to know now is what you think of the books listed above? Any of them particularly helpful to you? Perhaps more importantly, did I miss any books that you just can’t live without? I’d especially like to hear about those!
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