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How To Build Awesome Joomla Websites
This post was started as a response to a Facebook question on my wall. "Can you suggest any resources for a Joomla design beginner?" As my Joomla work was shared, other question and comments came up about them. In my attempt to help others maximize their experience with Joomla this post has been expanded.
Are You New To Joomla?
Why Use Joomla?
While there are other great open-source content management systems like Wordpress and Drupal, Joomla is my preferred CMS system. Shortly after it was released in 2005, I began constructing websites using this platform.
For seven years, a marketing company I owned built websites primarily using Joomla. In my experience of the platform, Joomla has been the most intuitive and friendly to how I prefer to create and build websites. Where the community is taking Joomla is also a path I am extremely confident in.
At the end of the day, it's best to discover each tool for ourselves and learn which will work best for our specific applications.
Why Use Joomla?
While there are other great open-source content management systems like Wordpress and Drupal, Joomla is my preferred CMS system. Shortly after it was released in 2005, I began constructing websites using this platform. It is way more intuitive to how I operate then Wordpress and my past experience of Drupal. If you are looking to get serious, it would be worth checking out all three platforms and discovering which works best for you and your purposes.
Joomla Website Hosting
The first step in working with Joomla is setting up a website host. Thankfully, for those of you who are new to Joomla, Siteground is now offering a 90 day free Joomla hosting package. This will give you more than enough time to discover this tool.
In 2006, I began using Hostgator.com as a reseller. My experience with Hostgator was initially positive, but as their support declined I migrated from them to a new hosting company call InMotion Hosting. Both Hostgator and Inmotion use CPANEL, which is a powerful website hosting tool. It has been invaluable in my troubleshooting scenarios.
Designing Joomla Websites
Joomla uses the term "template" for the designs on its platform. We have the option to either create our own templates or purchase ones we find online. It is my preference to find and alter templates instead of building them from scratch.
Existing templates are great resources for building excellent websites quickly and cost effectively. There are two methods I'll use when approaching design using templates.
Method one consists of picking a template similar to what I envision for the project. At that point, I will customize it to my and the client's liking.
In most cases, using a template and one of these two methods generates the results a client is looking for. There are some cases where a completely unique website is needed for a client and will require a different process. This methodology lies outside of my skill-set and preference of working.
Below, I have listed two great resources for excellent well built templates.
Yootheme is a great Joomla resource. yootheme.com They have great templates and extensions. They also have a free barebones template, Master 2, and some of their extensions are free as well.
Overall, I have come to prefer YooTheme templates primarily because of their integration of uikit. uikit includes a variety of preset design, layout and function presets which can be tapped into any aspect of the website. Simply put, I can do awesome things quickly and easily. Check out their core documentation here to see what it is capable of.
They also have video tutorials on how to use their toolkit. You can find it here.
RocketTheme is a great Joomla resource. They have great free Joomla extensions to make Joomla websites better. They also have great templates so I can find almost any look and feel I want. If you are interested in playing on Joomla without having to buy a template, they have a great free one called Afterburner 2, as mentioned above. The forums can be a great resource to look up answers to questions as well as posting new ones.
Great Templates (My Fav)
Gantry Framework Templates
Warp Framework Templates
Great Free Extensions
Great Free & Paid Extensions
$59 = 1 site license and 3 months membership
$63 = 1 site license and 3 months membership
What is your preferred Open-Source CMS?
Joomla Extension Directory
A great aspect of Joomla is its ability to become whatever you want it to. With numerous extensions, you can implement functionality for almost anything you would want with little to no coding experience. The place to find these extensions is the Joomla extension direction.
This directory is a great place to hang out. I have spent many hours looking through the extensions for achieving functionality I am looking for or to explore things I may not know much about.
Check out the great paid extensions as well as the many free ones.
How To Successfully Navigate Joomla
At the end of the day, 90% of any issues, questions or obstacles I run into can be resolved by Googling them. In the few instances I am unable to find an answer, I will post my situation on the RocketTheme or Joomla Forums and usually get helpful answers within a short period of time. For me, I am much more of a hands on learner but if you prefer to work through tutorials, Youtube has just about any Joomla tutorial you would want.
My New Install Procedure
When I launch and build a new Joomla website, there is a procedure I follow to setup my workbench. It includes configuring the settings and installing several key extensions listed below. Each of us is likely going to have a different process, but this can be a great system to help you get started.
Global Configuration Settings
In Joomla, there is an area called Global Configuration. This is a resource we tend to use when building the site but rarely use after it is finished. When setting up a new website, these are the two actions I take.
- Under templates in global configuration, Turn on module preview positions. This allows us to add "?TP=1" to our front-end url to see all of our module positions. This can be helpful when trying to discover where to place certain modular content.
- In Global Congifuration, turn SEF URL's to on. This will require we rename htaccess.txt to .htaccess. I will use the component we install below Profiles to do this. This will make our URL's friendly to the search engines and ultimately allow our site to rank higher.
New Install Extensions
The following are extensions I install right from the beginning.
Akeeba backup: Akeeba is a great tool for backing up your website. I won't go into everything it offers, but simply put use it to backup your site and as a tool to migrate your website to different servers.
- After this extension is installed, run the wizard. After I complete this task, I change the save format from JPA to ZIP. It is easier for me to use the zip file. If you are comfortable with JPA, stick with it.
JCE Editor: Joomla comes with a great Wysiwyg content editor, but I also like to install JCE. It is much better for managing photos than the built in Joomla media manager.
- After I install this component, I turn on allow iframes, in global configuration, I set JCE editor as my default editor. Click here for directions on how to enable iframes.
RokPad:is also a content editor, but is for coders. Sometimes wysiwyg editors can get in the way or slow us down. In these situations, Rokpad can be a great ally. Check it out and see for yourself. You will need to know html to use it proficiently.
Profiles: This great tool is a file manager. It allows us to edit our htaccess file, upload images and videos to the server, create folders and a variety of other tasks. If the Joomla media manager or JCE editor are limiting to what you want to be able to do, check out this tool.
RokSprocket & Widgetkit are both great tools for sprucing up your content. Create galleries, slideshows, accordions and a variety of other content display variants. Check out the links and see their galleries to get inspired.
Check For Updates
Once the extensions are installed, I will run a Joomla extension update check to see if any of the components need them. If they do, I'll update them before getting started.
Using Images To Bring The Site To Life
The more I have worked with websites, the more I have realized how much great images can transform the look of them in a positive and powerful way. Tapping into photo repositories can transform your websites and here are some great resources for both paid and free images.
Free To Use Images
- Unsplash (My favorite)
- Life Of Pix
- Startup Stock Photos
- Morgue File (Not the greatest quality, but a Good resource when you can't find what you are looking for in the other paid sites.)
- Little Visuals
Paid Image Repositories
When building Joomla websites, there are several tools I use to create graphics and help me do my job better.
Canva.com: This free tool and its many templates makes graphic creation a breeze. It is also easy to use. Merge this with the image resources above and you will have a powerful combo.
Colorzilla: This tool allows you to get the color code for any code you find online. Great resource for color matching or quickly grabbing color code numbers.
Developer Console: Every browser has some sort of developer console. This allows us to inspect the html code, style sheets when we are trying to troubleshoot.
CloudConvert: This great free tool makes converting files from and to any format easy and quick.
Building great Joomla websites is a collaborative effort. Great templates, great extensions, great photos and great tools help me bring great Joomla website to life.