Open Question: How much CSS and PHP to put in an intro WordPress book?

It’s coming down to the wire here with Using WordPress. This month’s project is round one of author review of all 18 chapters, followed next month by second author review of all 18 chapters again. This means that I get to go through all the chapters and fix errors (not too many) and bring the entire book in line with WordPress 3.0. I feel pretty damn lucky that I’ll be able to write the book with (nearly) all the changes to WordPress that version 3.0 will bring (I’m hoping there won’t be any big surprises between beta 2, release candidate, and final). Now, as I’m working on Chapter 7, All About Themes, I’m faced with a challenge: how much to include about editing CSS stylesheets and PHP.

As I was beefing up the section on Widgets and writing the entirely new section on the new WordPress 3.0 Menus system, it occurred to me that we need to know less and less CSS and PHP to customize our themes.

The new default Twenty Ten theme not only syncs in with the new Menus, but also easy custom headers and custom backgrounds. More and more themes I’m running into allow you to change sidebar widths, link colors, even the fonts in the page. So, what level of CSS and PHP knowledge should the novice WP user have after finishing an intro WordPress book.

I know I want to cover how to add the function for the new WordPress Menus in the book (this WordPress 3.0: Ultimate Guide to New Features has great code samples), but how much CSS?

There is the “I want you to know what the parts are, how they work, and what they do” side where the average user will know what is in styles.css and what, generally, to look for and the “here are some awesome code samples you can copy and paste right now!” side. Right now I’m having trouble finding the right balance.

So, fair readers and WordPress junkies, what say ye?

Oh and don’t even get me started on the whole theme frameworks and parent-child theme thing. That’s giving me a headache already (and that section of the chapter is still to come).


Comments

  1. Cecily Walker says

    Writing, like design, should be tailored to an audience. Are you aiming for budding developers? People who just want to get up and running? If you teach people enough PHP and/or CSS to be dangerous, what happens when they get stuck and they come calling?

    I know you want to be as helpful as possible, and I think knowing a little PHP might be helpful in a WordPress book, but I’m thinking that CSS might be a little bit out of scope. You’re not teaching people how to be designers, and there are many other resources that people can turn to for learning CSS.

    Don’t make more work for yourself than is absolutely necessary.

  2. says

    Writing, like design, should be tailored to an audience. Are you aiming for budding developers? People who just want to get up and running? If you teach people enough PHP and/or CSS to be dangerous, what happens when they get stuck and they come calling?

    I know you want to be as helpful as possible, and I think knowing a little PHP might be helpful in a WordPress book, but I’m thinking that CSS might be a little bit out of scope. You’re not teaching people how to be designers, and there are many other resources that people can turn to for learning CSS.

    Don’t make more work for yourself than is absolutely necessary.

  3. says

    I’d think I’d want to learn enough to change all colours & fonts, add footer and create one or two custom pages. I’m super excited about trying out the new Twenty Ten theme… and reading your book! Crank it out Tris :)

    • says

      Hey Michelle, Well…the footer and custom pages is pretty easy. Those I’ll cover. I do talk about where the colors and fonts are fount, just the mechanics of doing it. The thing is that more and more often themes are giving you the ability to make these changes without needing to delve into the code (and be able to go “oops, reset please”).

      It’s a fine line.

  4. says

    I’d think I’d want to learn enough to change all colours & fonts, add footer and create one or two custom pages. I’m super excited about trying out the new Twenty Ten theme… and reading your book! Crank it out Tris :)

    • says

      Hey Michelle, Well…the footer and custom pages is pretty easy. Those I’ll cover. I do talk about where the colors and fonts are fount, just the mechanics of doing it. The thing is that more and more often themes are giving you the ability to make these changes without needing to delve into the code (and be able to go “oops, reset please”).

      It’s a fine line.

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