Book Review: Professional WordPress

I was a really big fan of Professional WordPress Design and Development when it came out in 2010. Instead of trying to teach people how to blog, like so many other books on the market, it got into the nitty-gritty of the software and walked you through how WordPress works and how you leverage it. A lot has changed since 2010, so it’s really nice to see a second edition of the book hit the market this year.

Professional WordPress Design and Development (2nd Edition)

Who is Professional WordPress For?

As the full title, Professional WordPress Design and Development suggests, this book is geared toward designers and developers who work with WordPress. Unlike a lot of other books on the subject, Professional WordPress doesn’t address specific issues, like theme development. Instead, it attempts to give readers a thorough understanding of the CMS, from the various options on setting it up, to how it works with databases, to developing plugins to expand on its functionality.

While the book is primarily geared toward designers and developers, site owners could also get a lot from it, although they might want to skip a few of the more technical chapters. Professional WordPress covers a lot of best practices that most site owners should be aware of and utilize.

What Professional WordPress Covers

The short answer is “a lot”, but let’s get a bit more detailed than that, shall we?

Professional WordPress follows a fairly linear progression, starting with a general overview and history of the CMS, continuing through installation (both in a production environment and locally), and a detailed look at the core and the loop.

After the introductory chapters, it gets a bit more technical by examining how WordPress uses data, which segues into custom post types/taxonomies/meta boxes, plugin development, and theme development.

Professional WordPress is an essential resource for designers and developers working with WordPress

Beyond that, Professional WordPress dives into a number of more specific discussions, ranging from using and developing for multisite, to search engine optimization (SEO), to embedding advertising.

The last few chapters of the book look at different ways of using WordPress (as a CMS, in an enterprise environment), as well as how you can give back to the community.

As you can see, Professional WordPress covers a lot of ground, but it’s extremely well organized, which allows you to jump back and forth into whatever topics you’re currently working on. The average site owner, for instance, can completely skip over discussions of database management and plugin development.

What Works:

  • The biggest strength of Professional WordPress is its comprehensiveness. I like reading online articles as much as the next guy, but having one tome that covers this much – and can introduce you to new topics – is invaluable.
  • Throughout the book the authors stress the importance of developing and testing on a local environment, and provided detailed instructions to set one up.
  • One thing I really love about this book is that all of the code samples (and there are a lot) are available online, which makes it much easier to use them. Simply copy and paste rather than retyping.
  • While the book’s tone is serious, I really enjoyed some of the sillier examples the authors pepper in throughout.

What Doesn’t:

  • The book (at least in print; I haven’t read the ebook) is black and white. Color copy might have been easier to read, especially for the code-heavy pages.
  • While most sections have detailed introductions to concepts (the chapter on The WordPress Loop is particularly good), sometimes concepts are introduced without enough context for people who aren’t familiar with this, such as the section on the various APIs WordPress uses. Of course, this is an “advanced” book, so this is to be expected to a point.


While I have a couple minor improvement suggestions for the book, you’d be hard pressed to find a better volume geared toward web professionals that covers as much ground as Professional WordPress Design and Development. If you work with the CMS in any capacity, this is an essential resource to have in your library.

I would love it if the authors behind this book put out a volume on theme development, like the similarly specialized Professional WordPress Plugin Development (which I’ll be reviewing in a few weeks).

Buy a copy of Professional WordPress: Design and Development

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