I have several criteria in choosing the software I work with. Really good software should work “out of the box” and not require an instruction manual. It should be customizable (which may require some instruction) to meet the end user’s expectations and requirements. Finally, it should be free (gratis), and if it’s open source (libre), I’ll give it an extra point. The primary example of this is the operating system itself. Any popular GNU/Linux distribution will meet all of the criteria.
As a blogging platform WordPress will work right out of the box with no instruction needed. In fact, with a free account at wordpress.com you can publish articles immediately just by typing them in. With a little encouragement you may be motivated to have your blog hosted. A hosting service will install the latest version of WordPress and its default theme. You can start publishing articles immediately. However, you will need some education if you want a different theme, install plugins or widgets, or take advantage of the many capabilities enabled in the WordPress software. It is a fact that everything you will ever need to know is published somewhere on the Internet. But it’s often more convenient to have the printed word in front of you. And so, we trot off to the bookstore and buy the instruction manual.
The first “instruction manual” that I purchased to get this blog up and running was “Building a WORDPRESS BLOG People Want to Read”, authored by Scott McNulty, published by Peachpit press (2009). This volume may be all you’ll ever need to create and maintain your blog. It’s an easy read and it gets the job done.
Yes, the two books, do overlap in some ways but I would still recommend both at he same time. I am not listing either as a used book for sale on Amazon.
The potential blogger should be aware of two facts that neither of these books cover. First, WordPress is updated from time to time by it’s developers. This is good for users but often updates cause plugins to break. For example, the xMark theme used for this site has built-in support for the ShareThis plugin and worked fine for WordPress version 2.6 that was current when the book was published. But the plugin does not work in the current version (2.8) of WordPress! I substituted a similar plugin (Sociable) and some code insertion was necessary to get it working.
The second fact that is not addressed in either book is that code is displayed differently by different browsers. I use Firefox. The Sociable plugin did not display in Firefox until I injected some code in the right place. Meanwhile, without any modification, the plugin DID display correctly with Opera and, in fact, Opera displayed the first few lines of posts as snippets with a “…more” tag to view the entire post! I really liked this very much but I had nothing to do do with it.
Summary: I like WordPress. While it can be used out of the box, some instruction is necessary to use it to it’s full potential. I recommend two books to help you achieve this goal.