Thursday, September 23, 2010

Head First WordPress (Book Review)

Head First Word Press
by Jeff Siarto
O'Reilly Media, 2010
Paperback (334 pages): $ 34.99
PDF ebook: $ 14.99
Visit the Book's Web page

[Reviewer's Note: is a content management system that lets you create blogs and websites, by first loading the Wordpress software onto your web host. This is different from, which, like Google's Blogger, provides the hosting for you. is more complicated, but offers many more features.]

"You had me at hello," is a famous line from the film, Jerry Maguire. Jerry begins a speech about how he loves Dorothy; and after only the first few words, Dorothy tells him: "Shut up, just shut up. You had me at 'hello'."

It took only a few minutes to realize that Head First Word Press was my perfect WordPress companion. "Had me at page one," I might have said.

First, I was able to read the book without using a computer. Of course, you should use your computer when you read these kinds of books, to follow along with the exercises. But there are so many illustrations, and each concept is so well explained, that I was able to get a much-needed break from the screen and just kick back and read.

Here's the second way the book hooked me: the book's first topic is the most challenging topic faced by every WordPress beginner: setting up WordPress. I have never had the pleasure of WordPress's famous "5-minute install". Installing WordPress has taken me up to eight hours — that was the first time, when I had to download something called "Putty" in order to move the files around. The fastest I've ever installed it was an hour and a half, when I had some tech support. HeadFirst WordPress tells you what is really happening during this installation, and how to manage it quickly and expertly.

The book started strong and it just got better. With the typical "Head First" series clarity, the book covers practical topics that you've probably been too busy to study on your own. You'll learn how WordPress organizes your files. Select the right FTP program and image editor. Design your own WordPress theme. How to make more than a blog — make a website — by using WordPress to create web pages. How to manage a blog with many people involved in the roles of owners, editors, authors, and contributors. How to add videos. And how to promote your blog.

An excellent chapter about WordPress security offers advice about how to prevent hacking, choose and use secure passwords, create a system of automatic backups, and restore your backups whenever needed.

One caution: the book is not written for absolute beginners. If you can answer "Yes" to these two questions, then the book might be for you:

Are you familiar with the concepts of web hosting, file transfer (FTP) and have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS? Do you want to learn how to build not just a blog, but a full-fledged WordPress site?

If you're using, or thinking about using it, putting this book on your desktop will make you a competent and confident user. Your brain will thank you, because all the learning happens without anxiety or confusion: all the learning is always simple and straightforward, and often fun.

—Michael Pastore
Epublishers Weekly