Professional WordPress
eBook - ePub

Professional WordPress

Design and Development

Brad Williams, David Damstra, Hal Stern

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eBook - ePub

Professional WordPress

Design and Development

Brad Williams, David Damstra, Hal Stern

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About This Book

The highest rated WordPress development and design book on the market is back with an all new third edition.

Professional WordPress is the only WordPress book targeted to developers, with advanced content that exploits the full functionality of the most popular CMS in the world. Fully updated to align with WordPress 4.1, this edition has updated examples with all new screenshots, and full exploration of additional tasks made possible by the latest tools and features. You will gain insight into real projects that currently use WordPress as an application framework, as well as the basic usage and functionality of the system from a developer's perspective. The book's key features include detailed information and real-world examples that illustrate the concepts and techniques at work, plus code downloads and examples accessible through the companion website. Written by practicing WordPress developers, the content of this edition focuses on real world application of WordPress concepts that extend beyond the current WordPress version.

WordPress started in 2003 with a single bit of code to enhance the typography of everyday writing, and has grown to be the largest self-hosted website platform in the world. This book helps you use WordPress efficiently, effectively, and professionally, with new ideas and expert perspectives on full system exploitation.

  • Get up to speed on the new features in WordPress 4.1
  • Learn cutting edge uses of WordPress, including real-world projects
  • Discover how to migrate existing websites to WordPress
  • Understand current best practices and tools in WordPress development

WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architected personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL, and has evolved to be used as a full content management system through thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes. Professional WordPress is the essential developer's guide to this multifunctional system.

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Web Design

First Post

  • Appreciating the provenance of the WordPress platform
  • Choosing a suitable platform for your WordPress installation
  • Downloading, installing, and performing basic configuration of WordPress
  • Diagnosing and resolving common installation problems
If displaying “Hello World” on an appropriate device defines minimum competence in a programming language, generating your first post is the equivalent in the online publishing world. This chapter provides a brief history of WordPress and then explores several options for hosting a WordPress installation. Common miscues and misperceptions along with their resolutions round out the chapter and put you on the edge of publishing your wit and wisdom.
Once you’ve installed, configured, and completed the barebones administration, you’re ready to take advantage of the code walk-throughs and detailed component descriptions in later chapters. Of course, if you already have a functional WordPress website, you can skip this chapter, and dive in headfirst to explore the core code in Chapter 2, “Code Overview.”


WordPress is one of the most popular open source content management systems available, with global and vibrant user, developer, and support communities. While it can be compared to Drupal and Joomla as a user-generated content workhorse, WordPress distinguishes itself with a broad array of hosting options, functional extensions (plugins), and aesthetic designs and elements (themes).
With the rise of self-publishing, low-cost web hosting, and freely available core components such as the MySQL database, blogging software followed the same trend as most other digital technologies, moving from high-end, high-cost products to widely available, low-cost consumer or “hobbyist” systems. WordPress isn’t simply about creating a blog so that you can have a digital diary attached to your vanity URL; it has evolved into a full-fledged content management system and burgeoning application development framework used by individuals and enterprises alike. This section takes a brief tour through the early history of WordPress and brings you up to speed on the current release and user community.
WordPress started similarly to many other popular open source software packages: Some talented developers saw a need to create a powerful, simple tool based on an existing project licensed under the GPL. Michel Valdrighi’s b2/cafelog system provided the starting point, and WordPress was built as a fork of that code base by developers Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. WordPress first appeared in 2003 and was also built on the MySQL open source database for persisting content with PHP as the development platform. Valdrighi remains a contributor to the project, which is thriving as it has a growing and interested community of users and developers.
As with other systems written in PHP, it is self-contained in the sense that installation, configuration, operation, and administration tasks are all contained in PHP modules. WordPress’s popularity has been driven in part by its simplicity, with the phrase “five-minute installation” making appearances in nearly every description or book about WordPress. Beyond getting to a first post, WordPress was designed to be extended and adaptable to the different needs of different people.
WordPress today is supported by a handful of core developers and many key contributors. Mike Little runs the WordPress specialty shop and he contributes the occasional patch to the code. Matt Mullenweg’s company, Automattic, continues to operate the hosting service as well as fund development of related content and site management tools, including Akismet, multi-site WordPress, Gravatar, and most recently plugins such as JetPack. Akismet is a robust, Automattic-hosted spam detection and protection service with a statistically (and incredibly) low failure-to-detect rate. Previously known as WordPress MU, multi-site WordPress functions are at the heart of the hosting system and are now merged into the main WordPress source tree. Gravatar dynamically serves images tied to e-mail addresses, providing a hosted icon with a variety of display options. Think of it as a service to make hot-linking your profile picture technically and socially acceptable. JetPack is a multifunction plugin offering a vast array of common needs for the website owner. The JetPack plugin is covered further in Chapter 16.
As a content management system, the WordPress system definition does not stop at time-serialized posts with comments. BuddyPress is a set of themes and plugins that extends WordPress into a functional social networking platform, allowing registered users to message and interact with each other, again with all content managed within the WordPress framework. Similarly, bbPress is a PHP- and MySQL-based system designed for forums (bulletin boards) that is distinct from WordPress but is commonly integrated with it.
Chapter 16 covers some of the WordPress adjunct systems in more detail, but they are included here to provide a sense of how WordPress has expanded beyond a basic single-user–oriented tool. At the same time, we are not endorsing or making a commercial for Automattic, but delving into the guts of WordPress without a spin of the propeller hat toward Mullenweg and Little is somewhere between incorrigible and bad community behavior.


This book is based on the WordPress 4.1 major release, but really focuses on foundational WordPress tactics. Each successive release of WordPress has included improvements in the administration and control functions (Dashboard); backup, export, and import functions; and installation and upgrade features. Even if you start with a slightly down-rev version of WordPress, you will be able to bring it up to the current release and maintain the freshness of your install. Install and upgrade paths are touched on later in this chapter. But just how popular is WordPress?

Current State

Interest in WordPress and WordPress usage is booming. You’re holding in your hands a testament to that. Just four years ago, very few WordPress books were available. Now this third edition has been published. “Popular” is always a subjective metric, but statistics add some weight to those perceptions. According to Automattic, as of 2014, tens of thousands of new WordPress sites are created every day ( not including standalone self-hosted WordPress sites. That includes sites using WordPress for content management, blogging, and personal rants, and has to be discounted by those of you who have multiple WordPress installations to their names, but even with that estimate of the order of magnitude, WordPress is immensely popular. Automattic no longer discloses how many sites they host on, but in 2012 they reported nearly 74 million WordPress websites globally with about half of them hosted at, and in 2010 that number was at only 5 million sites. In 2008, the official WordPress plugin repository hosted over 6,300 plugins, double the number from 2007. In 2012, the second edition of this book cited 19,000 plugins in the repository, and at the time of this writing, the number of plugins is nearing 32,000 ( Since the last publication of this book, the community has contributed over 1,000 unique themes to the official WordPress theme repository, which now has more than 2,500 listed. This does not include all the commercial theme vendors and independent developers creating their own custom themes.
The combinations of plugins and themes require scientific notation to represent in complexity, but at the same time, they are all equally simple to locate, integrate, and use. That’s the result of a solid architecture and an equally solid community using it. In short, the ecosystem surrounding WordPress is alive and thriving—even booming.
Today, WordPress powers many large media companies’ websites or portions thereof, including CNN’s blogs, the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D, Reuters, and Forbes. Fortune 500 companies such as GM, UPS, and Sony use WordPress. WordPress is a viable choice for a range of users, from international conglomerates to major recording artists to huge media publishing companies. Some need reassurance before choosing WordPress and focus on which big boys are using it; you can find a list online at the WordPress Notable Users showcase (
But the simplicity, ease of use, and ultimately the power of the plugins and themes also makes WordPress suitable for your mom’s family information website, your local elementary school teacher’s classroom newsletter, and the hobbyist. These are truly some of the WordPress success stories of today and these widely accessible, more narrowly popular websites are what makes WordPress popular. WordPress is adaptable and will be as simple or comple...

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