Saturday, June 07, 2008

Joomla - The Simple Way To Incredible Web Sites



Before you get freaked out about having to do something that a geek would be paid to do, let me show you something: http://demo.yootheme.com/apr08/ Nice webpage, eh? Looks sophisticated, has fancy interaction such as those accordion things, and check it out!!! When you Mouse-over the Home Button, it lets you choose X-ray (my fav), Gold, Black, Desktop, etc.. these are all the same page, but you control how it looks! Wouldn't you like a cool website like this, for free, and without having to pay some geek (like me) to set it up and (more imporantly) maintain it for you? Ok... great, I knew you would! Let me tell you about Joomla.

Websites are intimidating for many non-geeks (I got my geek certification. In fact, I remember in college hearing "Wow, you're cute for a nerd!"). You might think "Golly gee! What software do I need to set it up? Do I need to learn how to use that software? How do I upload the site? What's an ISP? I bet it's expensive to own a site! I should just pay some company!" Well... I'm here to tell you that you can do a lot of it yourself! No software other than a web browser is needed! Ok... I semi-lied... it might help to use FTP software as well (http://filezilla-project.org/download.php), but perhaps not. 

Here's the thing... Joomla is a CMS: Content Management System, a website that you login to, and have a control panel in that allows you to add and remove pages, pictures, etc... Joomla is FREE. It is OpenSource software, so you can customize it if you want. You can grab it from www.joomla.org - and while you're at it, go to extensions.joomla.org and browse around.... that will wet your lips for some of the functionality that you can get for (usually) free! You can add guestbooks, chatrooms, calendars, and much more absolutely free-- and easily! Joomla has a "installer".. so, let's say I want to add a guestbook. 

I just download one from extensions.joomla.org, save it to my harddrive, go to my joomla site's administration, install extension, and browse for that zip file. Joomla is very powerful, and has massive support (online forums, books, and community). If you grab a YooTheme template, you can find tutorials on customizing it on yootheme.com.

So, now you know that it's simple, and powerful, and you can get it for free. You need a few things to "develop" it - I like to use Xampp (www.apachefriends.org/en/xampp.html) - which just runs on your computer, and lets you play with your files without having to upload them. 

You see, traditional websites consisted of HTML files and images (say JPG's for example). That made it easier to design a site, but that was web 1.0, we are in web 2.0... CSS is the way to control your look and feel (but that's all done for you with these templates!), and there are many other benefits. 

Let's say I have an About page, Contact Page, and Photo-Gallery page, and I now want to add a Stories page. In HTML I would have to practically gut my site and start over sometimes to add one page. In a CMS, I just log in and click "new page", and it's there... not only that, but now all the pages that referenced it are automatically updated. This saves massive quantities of time. CMS systems also allow you to create RSS feeds (which help to bring the search engine to you, as well as keeping your readers up to date), change the look and feel of the site, and add massive functionality. 

As I was saying, something like XAMPP is cool, because unlike HTML files, you need a server to process the PHP code. Xampp is free, doesn't take up many resources, and can even run off a USB key (portableapps.com). 

The great thing is that often times you don't even have to set it up. Many websites (I use Bluehost.com -- I'll save you the grief ahead of time... GoDaddy.com is incompetent, and will cause you grief) have Fantastico or EasyScripts setup... so you just push a button, and Joomla is setup (kind of like setup.exe on PC apps). 

IF you do have to install it yourself, it is still extremely easy. You just need to have a MySQL Database/user/password. Your ISP will have a Database section (by the way, you want a webhost that runs on Linux, not windows), so you just click new database, give it a name, and assign a user to your database. You can install sample data with Joomla, which will let you disect how to create and position content.

The way it works - basically- is you set up a template for the look and feel of the site.
There are "modules" which you control from the modules section. A module gets assigned to a position. What the heck am I talking about? Let me show you: http://demo.yootheme.com



This is a YooTheme theme called "Ambient" This link shows you the "available positions" that you can place modules in. If you click on "home" you can see a bunch of modules/content. The accordion functionality, the "drawers" -- just click around, look around, mouse over stuff... get a feel for it. Each item is a module, and goes somewhere... i.e. a position. You can have multiple things in the same position, and control (very easily) which comes 1st. So the "right" position is a column, the "left" position is a column. If you click on "home" you can see all the functionalities and where they've been placed. Sub Menu, Yooaccordion, Yoospotlight, Yoolightbox, Yoologin -- those are in "left" position. "home" Ambient "Ambient! The latest Yoo....." is in "main" "That nifty set of moving images for showing you the different theme variations (that are all part of "Ambient") is in "Top1" -- get it? Great! I knew you would!

A few concepts to understand are positions (which I sort of covered for you), articles, sections, and categories. Articles are controled from the article manager (duh!). Create a new article, you have a WYSIWYG editor (basically, you have something that resembles MS Word.. Press the Bold button to make things go bold... italics for italics... insert image to insert image... and so on) - which you can replace with a different one.. lots to choose from on extensions.joomla.org -- Write what you want, add pictures, insert columns / rows / tables, and even other modules in your content.

You hit save, and it's live. You can have it be live (published) or not (draft). You can have an article be a whole page (just choose article layout from the menu controller, and select that article. So.. new page "About" links to your "About article" with your "About slideshow" module embedded into it). Sections are parents of Categories.

I recently made a website for some clients... they have a lot of content that falls under "Babes" "Cars" and "Events" - So if they are trying to find an article they wrote, they can filter the list to just show them the ones from the "Babes" section.

To summarize, Joomla is a free and (mostly) simple software that you can easily set up and maintain. It allows you to add a lot of power to your site without being a programmer. It allows you to be search-engine friendly, and it allows you to change the look and feel at will. It is also such a prevalent platform, that you can easily find people on elance or rentacoder to outsource your Joomla site to if it becomes too difficult. Joomla is the future! In case you've heard of other CMS, or were wondering about them, let me throw in a quick addon paragraph:

A CMS is basically a self-controlling website that's expandable. There are a few major ones, for various uses. Wordpress is probably the easiest to use. Wordpress is great if you're a blogger. Drupal is extremely powerful, but requires you to make so much stuff from scratch... basically, you need to be a nerd to use this one. Joomla is powerful, and simple. It has the largest number of extensions/plugins. There's a bunch that are always coming and going... I've heard good things about ExpressionEngine... then there' s a powerful new one called Ruby On Rails... They all have their uses, but as I said... Joomla seems to be the most prevalant. You can check out a bunch of them side by side on: http://www.cmsreview.com/

8 comments:

Samsara said...

I've installed so many Joomla's but have never actually USED it due to ...well...I easily get flustered over choosing themes but personally I would choose Joomla if I needed a "ready to go CMS."

True. One can use Wordpress as CMS with all the right plugins but out of the box CMS? Joomla is definitely heads and shoulders above.

I installed Drupal once...just to play with it...? It's not very intuitive to me. [Although I do hear good things about it too.]

Joomla...Has an awesome support forum with many knowledgable folks in case one gets stuck.

Jetro said...

I use drupal most of the time, but I recently found one which is simple and sweet. It's called cmsimple. It's similar to having an online editor and you can take any html template on the internet and just integrate it easily with this one: www.cmsimple.dk

Jeremy said...

Concerning CMS, I only use Wordpress, even if it isn't a full featured CMS (it's a blog platform), I have found that it suits all my need, I only have to add some plug-ins to make it look like an CMS website. I have no previous experience with Joomla.

Anthony said...

CMS is if you don't care much about templating (you get one template and you're happy with it) and you don't want to deal with certain "glitches" in the template itself. Otherwise it's a really great option if you just want to take time to write articles.

Donald Hearn said...

I wanted to put Joomla on my website. Let me tell you this:
It's useless. Unless you know what you are doing, can get a good template and have a lot of time to figure it out, there is simply no use.
The way I have gone - I am just starting out here too - I have created a simple page in dreamweaver and uploaded it. Next step is to get a nice simple design and make templates and save them somewhere so I can write it all in html myself. I believe that is the easiest way to go if you don't know what you're doing.

Gus said...

Right now, I'm still using / trying to figure out Joomla (there was a cool e-book explaining how Joomla works). It seems to be very cool.
I might be doing an error using this, and maybe I should use another CMS like Wordpress, which might be easier to use. But for now I'm going to stick with Joomla and try to do something cool with it.

Tyler said...

I decided to use wordpress. Joomla was really cool, but there were just TOO MUCH features. I didn't need all of them!
I might go back to Joomla (or maybe Drupal) later on, if I have a project that needs a more powerful CMS

Coder said...

I've used Joomla and WordPress, and I have to say WordPress is GREAT, but I'm proabably moving away from it back to Joomla, but with WordPress for the blogs.

I'm currently migrating my main website to Joomla with wordpress (still working on integrating them together) for the blog and Virtumart for the ecommerce portion. Joom!Fish for multilanguage support.

I sugest WordPress for the beginer definatly... And for a strickly blog website it's GREAT!
Even for a personal website its great! But when you need multilanguage support, ecommerce, etc... I would switch to something else... The good thing about WordPress is you can make it work in conjunction with Joomla very easily.

The worst thing is search engine optimization. the one that comes with Joomla sucks, never works right, and there are a couple aftermarket plugin seo friendly link aditions for it. I'm still deciding which one I want to use.

It's a great CMS, and you can make it look/feel like whatever you want. Someone write that all Joomla sites look the same, they just don't know how to modify or buy good looking unique looking templates for joomla.