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WordPress Books Reviewed

As someone who is quite well versed in the reviewing world, I thought it’d be nice to do some reviews of WordPress books. In this post I’ll look at Digging into WordPress and How To Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer. Not to point fingers at anyone, but I’m going to be perfectly honest about what I think of the books and not just try and get affiliate sales (although I’ll use said affiliate links).

Digging into WordPress

I had high expectations for this book. I’ve been very impressed with Chris and Jeff’s blog and so expected the book to be more of the same. It’s not really. Whilst the blog looks at specific topics in some detail, the book takes a much wider look at things, starting at ‘what’s WordPress?’ (which presumably you know as you’ve found and bought the book…), through to setting it up, creating themes, optimising themes and then managing and optimising a site. The theming is more development, not designing, which could be an important factor as the Rockable book looks design as well.

The book starts with the very basics of WordPress which I think is a mistake. The readers of DigWP, are (probably) people who know what WordPress is and how to install a theme and like me, they’ll probably see little or no value in first few chapters. I’d have preferred more of the later on stuff and less of the beginning stuff – towards the end of the book things start to get interesting with optimisation and security.

But can’t I has all this on teh interwebs fur freee? Probably. But having everything in a single place and in more detail is something you’ll never find on the web. Digging into WordPress, for the WordPress user wanting to educate themselves about developing WordPress themes, it’s very good. For those who can already design themes, it’s still got enough material of relevance and interest to justify the $27 asking price. Just a pity it doesn’t take the more advanced topics further. Four stars.

How to be a Rockstar WordPress Designer

As the name suggests, the focus of the book is much more on designing rather than development. Coming from Collis and Harley Alexander  you’d expect the quality to be very high and it is. What it covers it covers very well; I just don’t think that it goes quite far enough on the development side. However, it covers design and development very well (as far as it goes, it’s very good) and guides you through the creation of three [themes], with each one getting progressively more advanced.

It’s not as easy to read as Digging into WordPress – pages aren’t designed to fit on a screen for a start – but it’s very well written and I’d recommend How To Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer to someone wanting to get started with both design and development. Four stars.

Between the two? Digging into WordPress is much more of a development book than a design book and the Rockstar book is both but only looks at themes whereas Digging into WordPress looks at site maintainence and optimisation etc. However, it spends the majority of the book talking about themes and theme development, something that Rockstar does better and in more depth.  If you want to learn how to make themes, go for Rockstar. If you want to learn more about theme development in a book that is very well laid out, get Digging into WordPress. For someone looking to top up their already accomplished skillset (in the theming field), neither is ideal but if you had to make a choice then go for Digging into WordPress.


Both are excellent reads but fall down in starting with the very basics which someone who has bought the book will already know. Digging into WordPress is more of a development book whereas How To Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer looks at development and design. Grab the sample chapters for each and see which writing style you prefer – that might just clinch it if you’re on the fence. They both do what they do very well; just depends what you want from your book.

Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
Alex Denning

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Matt Kreiling
July 23, 2010 2:08 am

Thank you for your comparison – exactly what I was looking for.

Comment Name Violation
December 25, 2009 10:09 am

Great reviews. Thanks for sharing! Now I know which to get my girlfriend.

Jean-Baptiste Jung
December 23, 2009 6:06 pm

Nice reviews Alex! You should review my WP book as well 😉

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