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Books Programming The Internet Book Reviews

Book Review: Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress 31

MassDosage writes "At the the risk of exposing my age I remember building my first website using a rudimentary Unix text editor (Joe) and carefully handcrafting the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) while directly logged on to the web server it was being served from. Back then Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) weren't even a glint in the eyes of their creators. A lot has changed and there's now a world of fancy WYSIWYG web page editors to choose from as well as Content Management Systems that allow you to create websites without looking at the underlying code at all. While this is all very useful and allows less technical people to create websites I still feel that having at least some knowledge of how everything works under the hood is empowering — especially in situations where you want to go beyond the limits placed on you by a certain tool. This is where Build Your Own Website: A comic guide to HTML, CSS and Wordpress comes into the picture. Its aim is to enable people new to web development to learn the subject by teaching the fundamentals of HTML and CSS first and only then describing how to use a Content Management System (CMS) — in this case Wordpress. While Wordpress might not be everyone's kettle of fish it's a good choice as an example of a modern CMS that is easily accessible and very popular. The concepts presented are simple enough that it should be easy enough for a reader to apply them to a different CMS should they want to. Read below for The rest of MassDosage's review.
Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress
author Nate Cooper and Kim Gee
pages 264
publisher No Starch Press
rating 7.5/10
reviewer MassDosage
ISBN 1593275226
summary An illustrated introduction to the basics of creating a website
To be clear, this book is intended for people who have little to no experience building websites and it is appropriately written in a non-formal, fun and non-threatening manner. Each chapter has the same format where a topic is initially covered at a high level in the form of a cartoon that is really easy to grasp. This is then followed by a more in-depth repetition of the same content using more "traditional" text and diagrams. Most chapters then end with a summary of the key points which can be used as a simple reference. This layout means that if you're a quick learner or are familiar with some of the concepts you can just read the comic section and then try implementing the material covered on your own. On the other hand if you want more information and depth you can read the text that follows.The material is presented in such a way that it should be easy for the reader to "learn by doing" as they copy or modify what the main character in the cartoon does (in this case building a website for her photography portfolio). All that's needed to get started is a browser, a text editor and some knowledge of how to organize files on a file system. This coverage of raw HTML and CSS may sound off-putting to non-technical people but it's presented in such a simple manner that pretty much anyone should be able to follow along. The benefit of this "back to the basics" approach is that one is not limited to using only a certain piece of software and instead the fundamentals can be applied to other tools later.

The book provides a good introduction to HTML and describes some useful tags that can be used to start creating a simple website. CSS are explained in a similar manner and the reader is shown how they can be used to easily change the look of a website. These two technologies are the bedrock on top of which pretty much all web development rests and thus understanding them is a prerequisite for anyone wanting to create their own websites. The book also does a good job of showing how a content management system like Wordpress builds on top of these foundations and how you can still get to the underlying HTML and CSS should you want to (as well as why this might be useful if you want to modify something that Wordpress does or doesn't do). On the Wordpress front the basics are covered — from creating pages and page hierarchies to how these can be categorized and grouped. Unfortunately when going into more detail on this topic things lose a bit of coherence. Wordpress is obviously a big beast which has entire books devoted to it and cramming in a summary of it means having to leave out a lot. It seems as if the author might have had to trim these sections down and this has resulted in the text feeling a bit rushed and confusing which is in contrast with the rest of the book where the topics are covered in a slower and more detailed manner. Any book that describes using a piece of software like Wordpress to the level of explaining how to point and click one's way through certain step risks becoming outdated as the software changes in future. For the most part this shouldn't be too much of an issue as Wordpress isn't covered in too much detail but it does mean that this book probably won't be a reference you still use in five year's time.

On the whole Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress succeeds in its goal of presenting a gentle learning curve and guiding people through what is needed to create a website from scratch. It is just technical enough that readers should be able to understand the fundamentals of what they are doing while being non-intimidating and introducing concepts at a relaxed and fun pace via the comic format. By the end of this book readers should have a solid grasp of the basics of website creation and be able to set up a simple site themselves, either by coding this up in HTML and CSS directly or by using Wordpress. For anything more advanced one would need to move on to other books or self-teaching but this book is a great starting point if you're new to the subject.

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Book Review: Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    please let me get an opinion!

  • Ugh, WordPress (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @05:33PM (#48621145)

    WordPress is garbage. People need to realize that its superficial ease of use should not be a heavily weighted factor in choosing a CMS (for the record, WP is not a CMS, it's a blog script playing dress up). Making technical product decisions by argumentum ad populum is similarly dangerous. Pointing beginners at WP is to do them a great disservice in the long run.

    Why is WP garbage?

    • Horrible architecture
    • Laughable database schema
    • Terrible coding practices, even for PHP
    • It is a relic from the days of PHP 4, because the development team refuse to break compatibility
    • A large community of self-described "developers" who learned all the PHP they know from the rest of the WP community that only knows how to write terrible PHP, because they mostly learn from WP itself.

    All of these are contributing factors to the regular parade of WP exploits.

    Now before you immediately mod this as flamebait, know that I have worked with WP in the past. I'm currently in the process of migrating a WP site to Drupal. I've read the codebase... it's one of the messiest plates of spaghetti I've ever seen. Just for kicks I grep'd the WP codebase for the global keyword... 2122 instances found. There's simply no excuse for that.

    WordPress is a scourge. PHP's reputation (whatever you may think of it) is lessened by the mere existence of WP, even if PHP is the only language that could spawn such a shoddy product, much less allow it to thrive.

    • Why did you decide on Drupal instead of one of the many other CMS out there?

      P.S.: if you want to see a real nightmare, check out ExpressionEngine and its templating and parsing order system from Hell. They even have something called "Global variables" that aren't even variables and cannot even be used as constants for if/else logic because they're supposed to only hold static content added to their last "parsing" stage before sending the generated page to the browser. They can't even get semantics rights!

      • by Dracos ( 107777 )

        Originally I started porting the site to PyroCMS, hoping I would have a clean upgrade path to a Laravel based solution. It later became apparent that Pyro lacked some features and functionality I considered critical, so I pulled out the big gun: Drupal.

        • No love for Joomla?
          • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

            No love for Joomla?

            +1 Funny

            • Seriously, though: aren't WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal the three free open source CMSs? I think Joomla is far more powerful than WordPress in many ways, avoids at least some of the failings of WordPress listed by the OP, and is easier to use than Drupal. I'd like to hear what you and others have to say about the three of them.
              • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

                There are two open source php CMSs worth considering for a web site: Drupal and eZ Publish.

                Since its version 5.0, eZ Publish is based on symfony. It is really powerful but its content structure is somewhat rigid, it is less customisable than Drupal.

                Drupal uses some symfony components as well for its latest versions, but it is not a real symfony application like ezpublish. Its power is its versatility: It can do anything and everything.
                It has a big community and some great modules and some horrible ones. You

                • Thanks for the info. However, Joomla is up to version 3.x now, and I'm pretty sure the restrictions you saw in 1.5 no longer apply. E.g., core Joomla allows grouping users and defining their permissions.
    • newsflash: nobody gives a shit.

    • No need for elaborate argumentation.
      Just tail -f the httpd logs and see an endless stream wp- exploits running through.
      At least Joomla isn't popular anymore ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I do work for the top 100 or so comic sites out there (not including DC/Marvel you nerds) , and Wordpress is the worst thing to ever happen to online comics.
      1) Insecure, a day doesn't go by without a comic reader claiming the site is hacked/serving malware (really, a third party ad network, but some WP plugins/themes are unsafe)
      2) Uses an insane amount of memory to serve a single page uncached. The most "popular" Jetpack plugin adds adds more code bloat than WP itself is.
      3) The thin CMS's I handcode/tuned u

      • I make comics [], and I am curious where one can find the thin CMS you have made that you say beats WP for comics. I'm pretty happy with WP+CP for serving my comics after tossing in a security plugin; I also use it for my blog, and my image gallery.

    • But it works in IE 6?!!

    • I recently moved from hand-written HTML for my personal site to Jekyll, which is the engine that powers GitHub pages. It does exactly what I want from a CMS:
      • Cleanly separate content and presentation.
      • Provide easy-to-edit templates.
      • Allows all of the content to be stored in a VCS.
      • Generates entirely static content, so none of its code is in the TCB for the site.

      The one thing that it doesn't provide is a comment system, but I'd be quite happy for that to be provided by a separate package if I need one. I

  • I still use it today. It is an awesome editor. It is modeless (because I shouldn't need to go into a mode to edit a document in an editor...), it isn't clunky like nano, and isn't an desktop environment like Emacs. Don't get me wrong, I can and have used all three of those extensively but to this day, I request joe on any machine I am working on more than once.

    • by s.petry ( 762400 )

      No self respecting old timer would admit to using Joe as their editor. How the hell do you plan on getting the VI vs. EMACS flames fanned with such a claim you insensitive clod?

      • No self respecting old timer would admit to using Joe as their editor. How the hell do you plan on getting the VI vs. EMACS flames fanned with such a claim you insensitive clod?

        Ed is the standard text editor.
        Ed, the greatest WYGIWYG editor of all.

        Ed is for those who can remember what they are working on. If you are an idiot, you should use Emacs. If you are an Emacs, you should not be vi. If you use ED, you are on THE PATH TO REDEMPTION. THE SO-CALLED “VISUAL” EDITORS HAVE BEEN PLACED HERE BY ED TO TEMPT THE FAITHLESS. DO NOT GIVE IN!!! THE MIGHTY ED HAS SPOKEN!!!

  • Back in the late 1990's, I learned HTML and CSS using Notepad on Windows. These days I use Notepad++ (PC) or Text Wangler (Mac) for editing HTML code.
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki.cox@net> on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:00PM (#48622489)

    I haven't read the book but I do find it fitting that comics are the best way to describe and teach WordPress. The whole thing is literally comical so...

  • I feel like I'm always tricking WP into doing what I need it to do. It tries to imitate functionality of real CMSs, but does so about as well as my 2-year-old can do brain surgery. It's gotten to the point I refuse to work with it. I'd rather take the loss of business. Sure it's what the "cool kids use," (cool kids that smoke) but it's not worth taking years off my life.

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