I started a blog recently. Currently I'm using a free theme and some plugins that are working well enough for now. And, my overall goal is to produce content and not become a WordPress developer, etc.

In the meantime, I do need to upgrade my technical skills. I have one goal of customizing my current theme within 1 -3 months and potentially developing a custom theme in 6 - 8 months.

I am looking for recommendations on books, ebooks, or websites to help me with the following:

  • CSS - beginning to intermediate level
  • PHP - beginning - I'm not interested in becoming a coder, but want to be able to tweak, troubleshoot and understand better.
  • XHTML - beginning to intermediate level - 10 years ago I did HTML coding, but then moved into management.

Obviously there is a huge amount of info on this via Google, etc. I'm hoping for some practical suggestions from the experts in order to avoid dead ends.

thanks. -wdypdx22

  • Does this question actually belong here?? It doesn't have anything specific to do with Wordpress...
    – User
    Aug 15, 2010 at 20:48
  • 2
    Agree, this question should not be here but instead over at Pro Webmasters: webmasters.stackexchange.com Aug 15, 2010 at 21:59
  • 1
    My question specifically relates to using WordPress.
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 15, 2010 at 22:20
  • And, my goal is to facilitate my understanding and use of WordPress. I am not a Pro Webmaster and this is a WordPress forum. So pardon me if I've come to the wrong place.
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 15, 2010 at 23:24
  • I think this should be fine here. It is a WP specific question.
    – thunderror
    Aug 16, 2010 at 11:34

7 Answers 7


W3Schools http://www.w3schools.com/ is agreat site for learning about HTML, CSS, PHP etc..

  • Is there anything specific to wordpress there, though?
    – Bobby Jack
    Aug 20, 2010 at 9:06
  • 2
    w3schools.com is not a good source. please check w3fools.com for my reasons Jun 10, 2011 at 9:28

You might want to look into a Think Vitamin membership (full disclosure: affiliate link). That home page heavily promotes their conferences and Q&A sessions, but they have a pretty good library of training videos, including HTML, CSS, and PHP (among other topics).

  • -1 for affiliate link...
    – User
    Aug 15, 2010 at 20:47
  • 1
    Are affiliate links appropriate?
    – nobody
    Aug 15, 2010 at 21:31
  • 1
    The main stackoverflow FAQ says that affiliate links are fine if disclosed, which mine is. Aug 15, 2010 at 22:57
  • +1 to support the affiliate link (simply since you disclosed it)
    – Tal Galili
    Aug 15, 2010 at 23:08
  • Thanks. Didn't mean to stir anything up, and like I (later) said, I did look for guidelines on the issue, and followed what I found :/ Aug 16, 2010 at 15:12

If you really want a book, I would recommend the Visual QuickStart series, especially if you learn best from seeing illustrations and doing examples.

Since you mentioned you're explicitly looking to build these skills to help you with your WordPress blog, I would start with the book WordPress: Visual QuickStart Guide from Peachpit. (You may be able to find a cheap used copy on Amazon.com too.)

If you need to extra help, you can consider their other books on XHTML, CSS, and PHP, though it's possible you won't need them.

There is also, of course, the ever popular Dummies series. WordPress for Dummies seems to be fairly nice.

  • I've already outgrown the basic WordPress specific books. But thanks though. I'd like to improve upon my knowledge of PHP and CSS so that I can understand the background better and also potentially building a theme at some point. Another thing is that I got an error message with one of my plugins recently. So in searching around I found that a change needed to be made to a php file of the plugin. I was able to make the edit, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable with at least some php knowledge under my belt. thanks again
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 17, 2010 at 0:58
  • Ah, in that case, have you considered one of O'Reilly's books? They have "Learning PHP 5", "Programming PHP", "JavaScript: The Definitive Guide", and "CSS: The Definitive Guide", all of whom I consider must-haves for developers. I'm not sure if those are overkill for your needs, but perhaps Learning PHP 5 could be a good start.
    – Mike Lee
    Aug 18, 2010 at 7:35
  • Yes! In fact I did. I was at the Open Source Conference here in Portland last month and discovered that I had an O'Reilly coupon among the conference goodies. And picked up Head First PHP and MySQL. Thank you for the tips.
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 19, 2010 at 15:28

If you want to learn the specifics of WordPress then http://codex.wordpress.org/Main_Page is a good resource. There are plenty of blogs around on WordPress tweaks and development.

Here's an OPML excerpt from my blog feeds that are WordPress specific. Just import them into a folder in Google reader and see if any of them appeal.

   <outline title="WordPress" text="WordPress">
        <outline text="Blog Oh Blog" title="Blog Oh Blog" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://www.blogohblog.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://www.blogohblog.com"/>
        <outline text="BraveNewCode Inc." title="BraveNewCode Inc."
            type="rss" xmlUrl="http://www.bravenewcode.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://www.bravenewcode.com/"/>
        <outline text="CatsWhoCode.com" title="CatsWhoCode.com"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/Catswhocode" htmlUrl="http://www.catswhocode.com/blog"/>
        <outline text="Fun with WordPress"
            title="Fun with WordPress" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/wp-fun" htmlUrl="http://wp-fun.co.uk"/>
            text="Graphic and Web Design Blog - Inspiration, Resources and Tools » Wordpress"
            title="Graphic and Web Design Blog - Inspiration, Resources and Tools » Wordpress"
            xmlUrl="http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/category/wordpress/feed/" htmlUrl="http://www.1stwebdesigner.com"/>
        <outline text="Holy Shmoly!" title="Holy Shmoly!" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://ocaoimh.ie/feed/" htmlUrl="http://ocaoimh.ie"/>
        <outline text="Justin Tadlock" title="Justin Tadlock"
            type="rss" xmlUrl="http://justintadlock.com/feed" htmlUrl="http://justintadlock.com"/>
        <outline text="Lorelle on WordPress"
            title="Lorelle on WordPress" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://lorelle.wordpress.com"/>
        <outline text="Nathan Rice" title="Nathan Rice" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/nathanricenet" htmlUrl="http://www.nathanrice.net"/>
        <outline text="News Magazine" title="News Magazine"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/WpProject" htmlUrl="http://www.wpproject.com"/>
        <outline text="OMNINOGGIN" title="OMNINOGGIN" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/omninoggin" htmlUrl="http://omninoggin.com"/>
        <outline text="Perishable Press" title="Perishable Press"
            xmlUrl="http://perishablepress.com/press/feed/" htmlUrl="http://perishablepress.com/press"/>
        <outline text="Pro Blog Design" title="Pro Blog Design"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/ProBlogDesign" htmlUrl="http://www.problogdesign.com"/>
        <outline text="Simple:Press Forum"
            title="Simple:Press Forum" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://simplepressforum.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://simple-press.com"/>
        <outline text="StylizedWeb.com" title="StylizedWeb.com"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/stylizedweb" htmlUrl="http://stylizedweb.com"/>
        <outline text="Theme Hybrid" title="Theme Hybrid" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/themehybrid" htmlUrl="http://themehybrid.com"/>
        <outline text="Theme Playground" title="Theme Playground"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/themeplayground" htmlUrl="http://themeplayground.com"/>
        <outline text="Vladimir Prelovac" title="Vladimir Prelovac"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/VladimirPrelovac" htmlUrl="http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir"/>
        <outline text="whateverblog." title="whateverblog."
            type="rss" xmlUrl="http://jcheng.wordpress.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://jcheng.wordpress.com"/>
        <outline text="WordCamp Association"
            title="WordCamp Association" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://wordcamp.org.au/feed/" htmlUrl="http://wordcamp.org.au"/>
        <outline text="WordPress Development Blog"
            title="WordPress Development Blog" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://wordpress.org/development/feed/" htmlUrl="http://wordpress.org/news"/>
        <outline text="WordPress for Beginners"
            title="WordPress for Beginners" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://www.wpbeginner.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://www.wpbeginner.com"/>
        <outline text="WordPress Hacker" title="WordPress Hacker"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/WordpressHacker" htmlUrl="http://wphackr.com"/>
        <outline text="WordPress Tavern" title="WordPress Tavern"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/WordpressTavern" htmlUrl="http://www.wptavern.com"/>
            text="WordPress › Support » User Favorites: cadbloke"
            title="WordPress › Support » User Favorites: cadbloke"
            xmlUrl="http://wordpress.org/support/rss/profile/cadbloke" htmlUrl="http://wordpress.org/support/profile/"/>
        <outline text="WordPress.com News"
            title="WordPress.com News" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://en.blog.wordpress.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://en.blog.wordpress.com"/>
        <outline text="WP Engineer" title="WP Engineer" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://wpengineer.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://wpengineer.com"/>
        <outline text="WP Engineer" title="WP Engineer" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/WpEngineer" htmlUrl="http://wpengineer.com"/>
        <outline text="wplover" title="wplover" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/wplover" htmlUrl="http://www.wplover.com"/>
        <outline text="WpRecipes.com" title="WpRecipes.com"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/wprecipes" htmlUrl="http://www.wprecipes.com"/>
        <outline text="WPWebHost" title="WPWebHost" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://wpwebhost.com/feed/" htmlUrl="http://www.wpwebhost.com"/>
        <outline text="Yoast»  - Yoast - Tweaking Websites"
            title="Yoast»  - Yoast - Tweaking Websites" type="rss"
            xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/joostdevalk?format=xml" htmlUrl="http://yoast.com/feed/"/>

I'd suggest reading Beginning WordPress 3 and Professional WordPress. I would not be concerned about the poor initial reviews on the first book - they are people complaining that it's too advanced, and based on your description of your knowledge level, I don't think that would be a concern. I have both books and like them both (although I have not finished them - I just purchased them).


Practical PHP is an O'Reilly book about PHP that is available in its entirety online. It's not a fun read but it is a full reference and covers all major aspects of PHP.

  • Thanks for the O'Reilly suggestion. I found Head First PHP and MySQL for a start. Turns out that I have a coupon from the Open Source Conference.
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 20, 2010 at 17:34

Please take a look at http://wordpress.org/about/books/ and Documentation.

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