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Keywords: PHP, web site, templating systems, community sites
Title: Building Web Sites With PHP-Nuke
Author: Douglas Paterson
Publisher: Packt Publishing
Verdict: An excellent tutorial
Building a configurable, flexible and highly interactive community web site from scratch is no mean feat. Get the technical implementation right and you might have a vibrant and active community coalesce around your site. Get it wrong and you're left with dead web real-estate that's dressed right but is going nowhere. However, thanks to PHP-Nuke, most of the hard work has been done up front. And, for the would-be community site developer who doesn't have the time to read manuals, Packt Publishing has even taken the hard work out of figuring what to do post-installation.
Although PHP-Nuke supplies the infrastructure code, admin modules and configuration files, there's still a lot to be done to give a new site some character and personality. What's more there are users and admins to set up, content to create and manage, patches to apply, code to tweak and extend. Yes, just because the hard work's been done doesn't mean that there's nothing left to do.
Douglas Paterson has written this book as an extensive and useful tutorial aimed at getting the reader up and running with a site that works and works well. He assumes that the reader does have some prior knowledge of HTML and at least some idea of web infrastructure (the difference between a web server and a browser, for example). While PHP-Nuke is coded in PHP (don't look so surprised at the back there), knowledge of PHP isn't a requirement except for the final chapter of the book, which looks at extending PHP-Nuke with additional modules.
As with many such tutorials, this one is structured around an imaginary project ? in this case the development of the 'Dinosaur' portal. This provides both a convenient hook around which to build the tutorial, and a chance to wheel out some fairly prehistoric puns. So, once the introduction and installation chapters are out of the way, it's straight into building the first Dinosaur-related pages, showing how the system is used to piece together pages out of blocks and modules.
Site management, user administration, content management, forums, using themes, backup and more are all covered. The author does a good job of covering all of the key areas of activity required to build a successful and interactive site. The material proceeds in a logical sequence so that by the final chapter the attentive reader who has followed along will have created a fully functional 'Dinosaur'portal all of his or her own. However, if there's one area that could have done with a whole chapter devoted to it that would be security. There is mention of security, but the risks of running a site are such that it warrants an entire chapter ? as it is, anyone wanting to go live with a PHP-Nuke site needs to do some research on the security side of things first.
The book features plenty of diagrams and screen shots (which are of the monochrome variety). While the author doesn't assume a programmer audience, he doesn't make the mistake of talking down either. The writing is friendly and commendably clear.