WordPress is the most popular web software used for content management today. One of the reasons for this is the low barrier to getting started. WordPress is not only free, but it is easy to use and there are tons of resources available for theming and expanding a website. But, that ease of use and over abundance of resources can also work against the new user. While the first blog is quick to setup, where do you go from there? How do you make the site your site? How do you get people to visit, engage them once they are there, and get them to come back? And how do you even know about all this? These questions are what Paul Thewlis tries to answer in his book WordPress 3 For Business Bloggers. Note that this is a new and updated edition of his book that was published in 2008.
The publishers, Packt Publishing, sent me a copy of the book for review, and it had the honor of being the first book I read on my new Kindle. One of the things I really like about books from Packt is that they are available in multiple formats including print, PDF, ePUB, and Amazon’s MOBI format. But, back to the book itself.
WordPress 3 For Business Bloggers is well suited as an introduction to what can be done with a WordPress blog for most people. It succeeds in taking the new user beyond the initial install into the world of plug-ins and theme customization. While I am not really fond of the chapter on HTML and altering themes, I can see the necessity of familiarizing yourself with it. I just think that it is too much for most people and too prone to error. Seriously, you are better either in the hands of a real designer or finding a theme that doesn’t need behind the scenes tweaking.
I do find that the plug-ins covered hit most of the major ones most folks will need. From Akismet for spam to All-In-One SEO for search engine optimization, and many more, Thewlis walks you through not only how to install and setup the plug-in, but why you are doing so and what result should be achieved. That in itself is probably the strongest trait of the book – it goes into the “whys” behind the “whats” and “hows”. In fact, this is one of the only books I have seen that really asks you to think about why you are using a blog. Early on Thewlis says, “a successful business blog is achieved by identifying strategic goals and applying these to the type of blog you are publishing.” That is something a lot of people – even highly paid web developers – miss. What is your goal, and how is your website or blog supposed to help you achieve that goal?
Speaking of goals, there is also a very good introduction given to the analysis of traffic through tools such as Google Analytics, Alexa, and PageRank. These are all topics that can, and do, cover many books in themselves. But the introduction to the topics Thewlis gives here will allow you go on and do more research having a solid foundation beneath you. Or you will be able to talk intelligently with an expert or consultant if you chose to do so. Most people will never need to go beyond what is taught in this book, but if you do, it is nice to know you are prepared.
The one thing I would warn against is getting tied up in details, such as the aforementioned theming, where you really don’t need to. Just read through those chapters for the background knowledge and move on.
So, all in all I would recommend WordPress 3 For Business Bloggers for the people who want to take their blog or WordPress based website on to the next level but don’t know where to start. It can be intimidating when you don’t even know what questions to ask, and Thewlis gives solid exposure to almost all areas so you can know where you want to dive deeper.
Note: The publisher gave me a copy of this book for the purpose of. There were no strings attached, and that gratis review copy in no way swayed my opinions towards this work.