Organizing your Content Effectively using Joomla 1.5- A Sequel

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Build and maintain impressive user-friendly web sites the fast and easy way with Joomla! 1.5

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by Eric Tiggeler | March 2010 | Joomla!

In this article series by Eric Tiggeler, author of Joomla! 1.5: Beginner's Guide, you'll:

  • Understand how to translate a basic site map to a workable blueprint for a Joomla!-based site
  • Design a clear, scalable framework for your content, grouping your content with sections and categories
  • Use uncategorized pages to build sites that don't require a multi-level content

Read Organizing your Content Effectively using Joomla 1.5 here.

Time for action - move content from one category to another

The Activities section contains some articles that you might want to move to the News section. Let's clean up the Activities - Meetings category and move anything topical into the News - General News category:

  1. Navigate to Content | Article Manager. From the list, select the items you want to move from the Meetings category to the General News category. In this example, we've selected two articles:

  2. Click on Move on the toolbar. You'll be taken to the Move Articles screen:

  3. In the Move to Section/Category list, select News/General News. At the far right-hand side, you can check which articles are being moved.
  4. Click on Save. In the Article Manager screen, the three articles are now part of the News section. You can check this by clicking on the News link on the frontend Main Menu.

What just happened?

You've stood the real life challenge of content management! Now, you're not only able to create a sound content structure for your website, but you also know how to improve on it. By adding a new container for all news items and moving existing news content there you've now made room for growth on the SRUP site.

Have a go hero - moving entire categories

Sometimes you might want to move an entire category and all its contents to another section. Try this out for yourself-it's not much different from moving articles. Imagine you'd like to move the Reviews category from the Ugly Paintings section to another section. In the Category Manager, select the category you want to move and click on the Move button. Select the section you want to move things to, and click on Save. It's just as straightforward to move the entire categoryincluding all of its article contentsback again. This flexibility is great when you're setting up or rearranging your site.

Renaming sections or categories

As we've just seen, Joomla! allows you to easily rearrange your site structure and its contents. You can also rename sections and categories that already contain articles; no content will be lost.

Time for action - rename a section

On your client's website there's an Activities section. Your client wants to make it clear this section is not about activities organized by other art societies-it's only about SRUP. Could you please change the name of the section to SRUP Activities? It's a breeze.

  1. Navigate to Content | Section Manager and click on the title of the Activities section to open it for editing.

  2. In the Section: [Edit] screen, change the Title to SRUP Activities.
  3. In the Alias: field, remove the existing alias (remember, the Alias is Joomla!'s internal name for the article used when creating user-friendly URLs). Leave this box blank; Joomla! will fill it with srup-activities when you apply or save your changes. You can check that now by clicking on Apply. You'll notice the Alias box is filled out automatically.
  4. Click on Save.

What just happened?

By changing a section or category name, all of Joomla!'s internal references to the name are updated automatically. All articles and categories in the renamed section will reflect the changes you made. In the Article Manager, for example, all items that belonged to the Activities section are now updated to show they are in the SRUP Activities section. No manual labor hereand more importantly, nothing is lost!

On the frontend, the new section name shows up on the section overview page when the user clicks on the Activities link:

Have a go hero - name and rename!

Using appropriate, short, and descriptive labels for sections and categories (and for the menu links pointing to them) is really essential. After all, these are the words that guide your visitors to the content you want them to discover. It's a good idea to tweak these labels until you're perfectly happy with them. To modify the names of categories, navigate to the Category Manager; it's similar to changing section names. Maybe you would like to change menu link labels too, as these don't automatically change with the category or section name. Try to find short and appropriate menu link labels. To change menu link labels, navigate to the Main Menu, select any of the menu items and change what's in the Title field (that is, SRUP Activities).

When changing Titles (of Sections/Categories/Menu Link Items) make sure to clear the contents of the Alias box. Joomla! will automatically create an Alias for the new Title.

Changing section and category settings

You've already created a good deal of sections and categories without altering any of the default settings. In some cases, however, you might want some more control over the section or category you're editing. In the table below you can see the options that are available in the Section/Category: [New] or Section/Category: [Edit] screen.

Basically, you can customize these settings for two purposes:

  • To determine whether a section or category is visible (and which user groups can see it)
  • To add a short descriptive text whenever the section or category contents are displayed.

We'll cover both the Section and Category edit screen in the overview next, as all settings and options are identical. The only difference is that when adding a category, Joomla! wants you to specify the section that holds the new category.

This is what the Section: [New] and the Category: [New] screen look like:

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Adding or editing sections and categories: An overview of the settings

Title:

The section or category title as it will be displayed. You can use lowercase, uppercase, and spaces.

Alias:

Leave the Alias: box blank. The Alias is the internal name of the item. When you save the section, Joomla! will automatically fill in the section name in lowercase letters, without spaces or special characters. If the the Title is About SRUP, the alias will be about-srup. The Alias will be shown in the page URL (www.example.com/about-srup.html) when you activate Joomla!'s special search engine friendly URLs.

Published:

Published: Select Yes to show the section, No if you want to hide it for your visitors. The latter can be useful when your site is live, and you're preparing a new section. That way, your site visitors won't know the section is there, until you publish it. When you have finished the section, click on Published: Yes.

Section:

This drop-down select box appears in the Category screen only. Select the Section it belongs to.

Order:

The Order setting determines the place of this item in the list of sections in the Section Manager or the list of categories in the Category Manager. Setting a specific order is only relevant when a list of sections or categories is displayed as a list of hyperlinks. You can't change the Order value until you have saved the section.

Access Level:

 

Select an option in the Access level to determine who has access to this section: all users (Public), registered users (Registered), or users with administrator permissions (Special). The default value, Public, should be okay. When you start working with different user types on your site, you can change settings.

Image:

Image Position:

These last three options affect how overview pages of section or category contents are displayed. At the top of these pages, an image and a short description can be shown.

 

Description:

If you want to select an Image, it has to be in the default Joomla! images folder: images/stories. The Image Position determines where the image is displayed, relative to the description text.

In the Description text editor area, you can enter and format a short descriptive text, introducing the subject of the section or category. Section and Category descriptions can be displayed at the top of pages showing content overviews.

 

 

Building a site without sections or categories

When organizing your site content you might end up with articles that do not belong in any category. These you can add as Uncategorized articles. Usually, uncategorized articles contain static content, such as a mission statement or some legal information. Uncategorized pages are the odd ones out in a site that's for the main part organized through sections and categories. If you've got more than a handful of uncategorized pages, that might be a reason to rethink your content organization.

What sites can you build with uncategorized content only?

Sometimes, Joomla!'s powerful multi-level site organization capabilities are just too much. Very small sites—"brochure sites" of some five to ten pages—without secondary page levels, can consist of uncategorized articles only.

Let's say your local yoga teacher asks you to develop a website. She probably wouldn't need much more content than shown in the following diagram:

 

In this case, there are no layers of content below the menu link level. There will probably be five menu links: Home, About Yoga, About Me, Class Schedules, and Contact. Three of these will each point to an article (About Yoga, About Me, and Class Schedules). The Contact Page could also be a plain article, but let's assume this is—just like we've seen before—a contact form generated by Joomla!'s Contacts component. This is how we could translate the above site map in Joomla! terms:

 

 

The boxes with grey dotted outlines represent uncategorized articles; the box with a grey background represents a special functionality page (in this case a contact form).

This same simple one-level structure would be appropriate for all kinds of small sites with a dedicated subject matter, i.e. a portfolio site for a one man company or an event site. A copy writing company would have a Joomla! site structure similar to the following:

 

 

For an event site—such as a site for a congress or seminar—a structure like the one shown in the following diagram would be fine:

 

 

Although you'll leave much of the built-in functionality for managing big, content-rich sites untouched, it's still worthwhile to use Joomla! for sites like these. All the other advantages of Joomla! still hold, such as the ability to add any extra functionality you like. If your client wants a registration form for his seminar site, or a photo gallery for his portfolio site, you can add these using Joomla! extensions. And, of course, your client will be able to manage and update content easily.

How do you go about building a small site?

Creating a small site like the examples previously shown simply means you'll skip a few steps, as there's no need to create any sections or categories. These are the actions it takes:

  1. Create the uncategorized content pages you need.
  2. Add menu links to the Main Menu. In this case, you'll link directly to articles instead of sections or categories.

An example is as follows, a three page site based on a "clean" Joomla! installation (without sample data). Creating the basic setup of a tiny site like this takes just a few minutes.

 

In this example, in our new and empty Joomla! site we've created three uncategorized articles. We've set them all to display on the Front Page, too.

 

 

 

For each of the articles, we've added a menu link in the Main Menu (via Menus | Main Menu | New).

 

 

 

 

This is what the visitor sees. The Main Menu contains three links; the Front Page shows intro texts to the three articles with Read more links.

 

 

 

When the visitor clicks on a link, the full article is shown.

 

 

 

That's all there is to setting up a tiny one-level website in Joomla!. You can write a few articles, and create links pointing to them. After that, you can focus on the extras you want to add and the design.

Downsize the home page, too.For a very small site, you can still build the home page with Joomla!'s default Front Page tools. Just select a few articles to display (fully, or only as intro text) on the Front Page. However, you may want something simpler for this type of site. You might want to consider showing just one article as your own, customized home page content.

Have a go hero - organize a site!

Imagine you've been asked to build an informative website for a small company you know. How would you go about this? Think of what you want to achieve, create an outline of the main and secondary sections, and translate this outline to Joomla!. What would be your sections and categories, where would you put uncategorized articles?

And how about creating a small website about yourself? Using the site structuring skills you've acquired in this article, go ahead and create a great structure that would be both realizable in Joomla! and appeal to your visitors.

Pop quiz - test your site organization knowledge

  1. What's the best order in which to build Joomla!-based sites?
    • Start with extensions, add content, add menu links, add content containers.
    • Start with menu links, add content containers, add content, add extensions.
    • Start with content containers, add content, add menu links, add extensions.
  2. What can you use uncategorized articles for?
    • To display articles that have not yet been authorized.
    • To display articles that do not belong to categories.
    • To display articles that belong to a section, but not to a category.
  3. How can you get categories to display in the frontend?
    • Categories are backend stuff; they're only displayed in the Category Manager.
    • A category can be displayed by adding a specific menu link that points to a category overview page.
    • Categories are automatically displayed on overview pages when added to the Category Manager.

Summary

In this article, you've learned that Joomla! retrieves content from a database, block by block. Together these blocks form a web page. That's why you start building a site creating categories; you actually build a well-organized content database. In this article, we've learned what it takes to create content categories and to build a future proof framework for site content.

Specifically, you've learned:

  • Every website, big or small, requires planning. It all starts with creating a logical site map reflecting the structure of the content you have in mind. Keep it lean and clean. Bear in mind that visitors will want to get to the content they're looking for as fast as possible.
  • To transfer your hand drawn site map to a working Joomla! site, first identify the different Joomla! content elements in it. This will help you build the site step by step.
  • The main content containers are sections and categories. You'll create these first. Sections hold at least one category, categories hold articles.
  • To show section and category contents on the site, you add menu links pointing to sections or categories.
  • At any time, you can rearrange and rename sections and categories or move their contents.
  • Small sites, with just a few content pages, can consist of uncategorized articles only.

If you have read this article you may be interested to view :

Joomla! 1.5: Beginner's Guide Build and maintain impressive user-friendly web sites the fast and easy way with Joomla! 1.5
Published: March 2010
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
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About the Author :


Eric Tiggeler

Eric Tiggeler has authored several books on Joomla!, such as the highly successful Joomla! 2.5 Beginner's Guideand Joomla! 3 Beginner's Guide, both by Packt Publishing. He has also written several Joomla! guides in Dutch. His books have received excellent reader reviews. He also writes tutorials for several computer magazines and Joomla! community websites. Over the last ten years, he has developed numerous websites, big and small, using Joomla!.

He is fascinated by the Web as a powerful, creative, and ever-changing means of communication, as well as by the revolutionary software Joomla!, which enables anybody to create beautiful and user-friendly websites.

On a daily basis, he works as a consultant and copywriter at a communication consultancy company affiliated to the Free University of Amsterdam. Over the last few years, he has written more than 20 books in Dutch on writing and communication. His passion lies in making complex things easy to understand.

He is married, has two daughters, and lives and works in Hilversum, the Netherlands. On the Web, you'll find him at www.joomla.erictiggeler.nl(in Dutch) and www.joomm.net(in English).

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