Review of WordPress Theme Development – Beginner’s Guide

WordPress, the ever-popular open source CMS, spawns hundreds of help guides and books from plugin development to general administration, so I was pretty excited to see Packt’s  WordPress Theme Development Beginner’s Guide book (and thanks to Ramon for the tip the book was out!).

WordPress Theme Development Beginners Guide book

Let’s start with the facts: WordPress Theme Development Beginner’s Guide (Third Edition) was written by Rachel McCollin and Tessa Blakeley Silver and is 252 pages long.

WordPress Theme Development: the good

As experienced technical writers, the books flow pretty well, and builds around a fairly believable case study as motivation for building and customising the WordPress theme.

Each task is organised in small numbered steps in Packt’s typical “Beginner’s Guide” format, and the frequent screens and code samples help guide you through things solidly. The book increases in complexity through chapters.

The book strays beyond theming in to basic set up and configuration (such as enabling search engine friendly permalinks), but I think this is likely to be useful for first-time or beginner-level WordPress developers/site owners.

WordPress Theme Development: the not-so-good

As with any technical book, it’s impossible to please everyone, though there were a few areas I felt could have been stronger, including developing WordPress child themes, and more could have been made of what can be done in functions.php (such as controlling the behaviour of the admin bar), but these were perhaps deemed to advanced for the book.

There was also some content I thought was unnecessary “fluff” for the book, such how to validate HTML and CSS as I think readers of the book should be at the stage to know that already, but perhaps I’m presuming too much; again, it’s very hard to judge what content is valid and not for beginners who are at a variety of levels.

How is WordPress Theme Development for a beginner?

I let Matthew, our office manager, read through the book; as someone with a basic grasp of CSS and HTML, and experience using WordPress as an administrator, he seemed like the type of reader that was the target demographic of the book. Here were his initial impressions:

  • “Easy to follow in most chapters, with helpful screenshots”
  • “Simple guides to WordPress settings I didn’t know about”
  • “I feel more confident about creating a theme in WordPress now”


So, how do I feel about this book? Overall, it’s fairly solid for a beginner’s guide if you’re looking to get in to WordPress theme development, and should get you up and developing simple custom WordPress themes in no time at all if you have a basic understanding of HTML, CSS and a little PHP. As with any technical book, it’s likely a useful addition to online documentation and tutorials, but not a sole resource.


I was gifted an ebook by Packt, the publishers, in return for this review.


123Reg’s MX records with your own custom nameservers

I recently had to set emails up for a client through 123Reg and had no luck finding 123Reg’s MX records if you wanted to use your own, custom nameservers.

For consistency across our hosting clients, I wanted to point the nameservers for the client’s domain name to our systems, and then alter the MX records for email at our end. There is a guide on for setting your MX records up using their nameservers, but not any guides if you want to use your own nameservers, so after quite a bit of digging I found them (in this thread on cPanel’s forums).

So, I wrote this quick tip up to prevent the hour of swearing and head-scratching I’ve just endured:

MX record Priority 10 20

Of course, there are a couple of caveats to using your own nameservers and pointing MX back to 123Reg this way:


3UK mobile broadband dongle payments on bank statements

Sorting out my expenses for Richard Carter Consultancy Ltd which launched last year, I was trying to track down payments to Three UK for mobile in my bank statements and couldn’t find any references to the (so I thought) obvious “THREE”, “THREEUK”, “3UK” or even “3” as a payee name in my online bank statements.

Three UK’s reference in my bank statements, as it turns out, appears as H3G appended by a customer reference number or similar, which stands for “Hutchison 3G”. In retrospect, fairly obvious when I think about it!

Hopefully this post will help someone wasting 20 minutes of their life looking like I did!


360 Champagne Bar, MetroCentre Platinum Mall

Being a Twitter addict pays off on occasion: Graham had a +1 for a press preview night at the new 360 Champagne Bar in MetroCentre’s Platinum Mall, and not wanting free champagne to go to waste, I was obliged to join him.

360 Champagne Bar, in platinum mall in the MetroCentre in Gateshead. Copyright Soult's Retail View

I think the cynical side of me (“a champagne bar? In Gateshead?” ) is now a convert: the incoming platinum mall changes – slightly more upmarket shops – and the open air feel to it really work; it’s much more relaxed in feeling than the sometimes raucous Ebony champagne bar in Durham, which can only really be described as a ‘zoo’ on a Saturday night. The staff, I was told, are all based on their ability to bring someone more than pouring champagne: one guy in particular was really quick with card tricks!

Part of my interest (aside from the free champagne, obviously) was in getting the champagne bar’s details on to our student directory websites; as such, 360 Champagne Bar is now online in our Newcastle Uni Students website. Of course, if you want a more sensible review, Graham has duly obliged, with his usual retail twist. (Note to self: link to Graham’s blog).

Photo courtesy of Soult’s Retail View, because I was too lazy to remember to take any whilst I was there.


Review of jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide book by Natalie MacLees

jQuery has become – rightly or wrongly – the defacto JavaScript library for web designers and developers these days, so I jumped at a chance to review the jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide book by Natalie MacLees.

jQuery for Beginners book by Natalie MacLees

The book is aimed at web designers with little knowledge of JavaScript; you won’t learn to write your own jQuery plug-in from the book, but the following topics are covered (taken from Packt’s page about the jQuery for Designers book):

  1. Designer, Meet jQuery
  2. Enhancing Links
  3. Making a Better FAQ Page
  4. Building Custom Scrollbars
  5. Creating Custom Tooltips
  6. Building an Interactive Navigation Menu
  7. Navigating Asynchronously
  8. Showing Content in Lightboxes
  9. Creating Slideshows
  10. Featuring Content in Carousels and Sliders
  11. Creating an Interactive Data Grid
  12. Improving Forms

The good

jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide is in Packt’s ‘cookbook’ format, with each ‘recipe’ being fairly self-contained. For designers who aren’t familiar with JavaScript, never mind jQuery, the book provides an excellent, gentle introduction to what JavaScript is, how it interacts with CSS and HTML, and what you can do with it.

There are some more involved recipes towards the end of the book including building asynchronous navigation alongside the usual suspects for any jQuery book (i.e., slideshows and carousels). Recipes are well explained throughout, with plenty of screenshots to help orientate the reader as to how much progress they should have made since the last step, and any common pitfalls seem to be mentioned with a remedy.

The not-so-good

There are a few recipes that replicate things you could achieve with good old CSS these days. For example, one recipe (Adding Icons To Links in chapter 2), guides the reader through using jQuery to add a class to links to certain file types. So, if a link in the page was to a PDF, this jQuery snippet adds a class of pdf to the link. In theory, fine, but in practice, you can do that with CSS (related guide on

a[href$='.pdf'] {
background-image: url("images/icon_pdf.png")

That’s fine as a case study to demonstrate the relevant principles in jQuery, but could be misleading to less experienced web designers; a note to point out that it could also be achieved through CSS would have been a nice touch!

jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide:  overall

As a guide to jQuery for designers, jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide is a great introduction, with plenty of recipes for common tasks a web designer might need jQuery to do to enhance a website.

Other reviews of the jQuery Beginner’s Guide


I was gifted jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide book in exchange for the review.