Since I haven’t ventured off into the world of WordPress MU yet, I was quite anxious to get my hands on Lesley A. Harrison’s WordPress MU 2.8 (Beginner’s Guide) book. I have finished reading this book and I would like to share some of my thoughts about the book.
This isn’t much of an introduction to WordPress MU, but more so a guide on how to build your own blog network, social network, or community using WordPress MU. There are also chapters with good techniques that can also be used on any other platforms (in other words, non-WordPress-MU-specific tips).
The book walks you step-by-step through how to create a mythical community site called “SlayerCafe”. During the process, it shows you everything from finding the right host, installing/customizing WordPress MU to driving traffic to your site and monetizing your site.
What do I love about the book?
The first thing I love about this book is that it is quite detailed. It’s detailed enough that a person who’s not familiar with WordPress can pickup this book and build a basic community site without finding help anywhere else.
The next thing I love about this book is its organization. The writing convention is quite intuitive and geared for easy learning. Being a semi-technical book, it does a great job at keeping instructions organized and understandable. The book also has plenty of screenshots so it’s harder for you to get lost in WordPress MU settings. Each instruction set (“Time for action”) section is followed by a “What just happened?” section that let’s you take a breather to understand what you just did and why you did it. I believe that this pause for explanation is the key reason why it is so easy to learn from this book.
What I love most about the WordPress MU 2.8 book is that it touches on many aspects of creating a community site, not just WordPress MU features. Some topics covered are:
- Finding the right host and hosting platform
- Installing/customizing WordPress MU
- Securing your site
- Increasing traffic to your site
- Keeping users on your site longer (making site sticky)
- Adding forum or social network to WordPress MU
- Monetizing your site
- Optimizing your site
Learning about these topics will definitely help you to build a community site properly from the start. I personally found the chapters “Customizing the Appearance of Your Site” and “Letting Users Manage Their Blogs” most helpful at helping me understand more about WordPress and its capabilities. I can now use this knowledge to expand my horizons when starting a new project.
What are some drawbacks?
No product is perfect, so I do see a few drawbacks with this book.
First, because the title of the book I expected to read a book that talked more about WordPress MU and less about everything else. Things like driving traffic to your site, making your site sticky and monetizing are really not WordPress MU topics.
Second, this book talks too much about plugins and how a combination of plugins can make up a good community site. Some of the plugin choices the book mentions is also not good. For example, the plugin suggests that users install WWSGD instead of WP Greet Box. Later on, the book recommends that you use WP Super Cache for optmization, but WWSGD doesn’t work with WP Super Cache. WP Greet Box works with WP Super Cache and is much more powerful than WWSGD. There are definitely some inconsistencies here which makes me seconds-guess some advice that this book gives me.
Last, WordPress MU is constantly changing with new functionality added and old ones deprecated. This mean that this book can easily become outdated after a few major WordPress version releases.
If you are at all interested in building a community site, you should definitely get a copy of WordPress MU 2.8 (Beginner’s Guide). The step-by-step nature of this book has me convinced that anybody can build a community site using WordPress MU and this book. Also after reading this book you will have a pretty good idea if WordPress MU is the right platform for your community site or not. I wouldn’t recommend this book if you are more advanced and want to learn about the nuts and bolts of WordPress MU. The book is just what it was written to be, a beginner’s guide [to building a community site].