Creating Concrete5 themes
Although building new Concrete5 themes is not rocket science (there are free guides available online already which explain how to 'concretise' a basic HTML template in 10 minutes) if you want to achieve a strong and highly customisable theme, a guide like this is invaluable. Especially if you are building themes for clients or you are considering reselling themes via the Concrete5 marketplace. This book covers just about everything there is to know about building Concrete5 themes. But instead of just telling you in plain steps how to build a theme from start to finish, it delves right into all the details. Every component of a theme is fully explained, so you have a full understanding of exactly how themes work and interact between a user, content and Concrete5. Basically this book shows you the whole picture.
Unlike some other books and online guides, the information contained in this book it right up-to-date. So there is little danger of running into obsolete code or practices. That was one of the biggest frustrations I had when I first started to learn Concrete5. So everything contained in the book is currently totally relevant to Concrete5 in early 2013. Like many other Packt books, the content is well laid-out with plenty of illustrations and a wealth of easy-to-follow information. All the time, you are working towards building bigger and better custom Concrete5 themes, which you can use for real.
The book starts with a useful introduction to what Concrete5 is and how it works. Concepts like MVC and packages are explained, together with all the internal components of a theme. So even if you have not really used Concrete5 much before, the book brings you up to speed and teaches the essential basics. The section on blocks, stacks, areas and page management is especially helpful to novice users. Rightfully, the first couple of chapters build a simple theme using the Bootstrap toolkit. As the book progresses, you work towards building ever-more complex themes with emphasis on creating fully marketable themes. In each chapter, you duplicate the previous Bootstrap theme, so you can see your progression.
It was great to see topics like responsive web design discussed in the book - this is stuff all designers need to know about and apply at a theme level. You can't really sell any solution to clients or customers nowadays which is not responsive. Most people expect their website to look perfect on a desktop machine and a handheld device. This was valuable information for the book to include.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone considering Concrete5 as a publishing platform and wanting an expert insight into what's required to build a theme. The choice of themes available in the Concrete5 marketplace is not huge currently, so the ease of rolling your own themes is probably a deciding factor; in whether to use Concrete5 or another publishing platform. In my eyes, the book covers everything there is to know about theme development, and doesn't skimp on the important details. It was a very enjoyable read for someone (like myself) who rates their Concrete5 knowledge as 'average'.
I think if you are bringing basic Concrete5 knowledge to the table, and an average understanding of CSS and HTML, then you could probably follow this book through and create a decent theme within about ten hours. Certainly Concrete5 is easier to develop new themes for, than Wordpress ever is (the latter you do need a certain amount of PHP knowledge to master all the complicated loops, arrays and functions). So I'd conclude this review by saying that if you want to try Concrete5 and build custom themes, this is by far the best book on the subject to buy.
The book can be purchased direct from Pack Publishing in various formats, and is also available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Safari Books Online.
Book cover image kindly provided by Packt Publishing.