You want to build a website. It should look great, it should be easy to use and maintain, and keeping it up-to-date should be effortless. Changing the appearance of your site should take minutes, not hours. You don't want to manage it all by yourself, but you want to enable other people to log in and write new content without having to understand HTML or other coding languages. Also, when your site grows, it should be easy to extend it with new functionality—maybe adding a forum, or a newsletter. If that's what you're looking for, welcome to Joomla!.
When it comes to creating a great, professional-looking website that's straightforward to use, you really can't beat the power of a content management system (CMS) such as Joomla. Without writing a single line of code, you can create any kind of site that boasts a variety of cool and advanced features.
Maybe you have already built websites the traditional way. That basically meant creating HTML documents—web pages—one by one. As the site grew, you'd end up with a bunch of HTML documents, trying to keep all of them organized and making sure all menu links stayed up-to-date. You'd probably maintain the site by yourself, because it was hard for other people to learn their way around the structure of your particular site, or be proficient in the web editing software you use.
Let's learn about the Holy Grail of web building: CMS! CMS is an application that runs on a web server. It allows you to develop and maintain a website online using a web browser. It comes packed with features, ranging from basic features to add and modify content to advanced functionality such as user registration or site search capability. In short, CMS makes it possible to build sites that would normally involve a full team of web professionals with a massive amount of time, money, and expertise at their disposal.
All that magic is made possible because CMS is really an advanced set of scripts (written in a scripting language such as PHP) that uses a database to store the content of your website. From that database, it retrieves bits and pieces of content and presents them as web pages.
This dynamic way of storing and presenting content makes CMS very flexible. Do you want to show only a selection of articles from a specific category on a page? Do you want to display only the intro texts of the most recent articles on the home page? Do you want to add a list of links to the most popular contents? Do you want to limit access to registered users? It's all possible—just pick the right settings. Additionally, CMS allows you to integrate all sorts of extra features, such as contact forms, picture galleries, and much more.
The best part is that such CMSes are yours to download and deploy today. You can pick your CMS of choice from a range of freely available open source products. Your new CMS-powered site can be online tomorrow. Now how's that for a great deal?
What's open source software? The source code of this type of software is unlocked, unlike most software developed commercially. Everyone has access to the Joomla source code and software developers are encouraged to modify and help improve the software. The name Joomla stands for all together. It's as much a software product as it is an international community of people working together voluntarily to expand and improve that product. Most of the open source software is distributed free of charge, as is the case with Joomla and many of the extensions that have been developed for it. Some Joomla extensions are commercial—you have to pay for them. However, it's still open source (that is, you get access to the source code).
People tend to choose Joomla because they find it easy to use. It has a clear and friendly user interface that keeps getting better every year. Using the redesigned interface, it's even simpler to create and publish articles to keep your site updated. You can manage content anytime and anywhere, whether you're using a web browser on a PC, tablet computer, or smart phone.
Adding new features to your site takes just a few clicks. There are thousands of extensions available for Joomla, ranging from menu systems to commenting systems and forums.
It doesn't take much effort to change the site's appearance. There are abundant templates for Joomla and they can be installed within minutes, giving your site a fresh look and feel.
The current Joomla release adds many improvements and new features, making CMS both easier to work with and more powerful. It takes less steps to install the software, it's mobile ready (that is, it has an improved text editor screen for creating content such as the screen layout that automatically adapts itself for the device being used, whether it's a laptop, computer, tablet, or a smart phone), and it has tons of other new and improved features. One example is that it offers great support for multilingual sites.
Adding content and keeping it organized is a breeze (even if there's lots of it). Joomla allows you to categorize content using an unlimited number of multi-level categories, but you can also choose to use a really flexible new system of assigning tags to organize content.
Keeping hyperlinks to other content on the same site up-to-date is greatly automated. For example, you can add category overview pages without ever having to manually update them—on a category overview page, Joomla will automatically add links to all new pages you'll put in that category.
You don't have to maintain the website all by yourself. Other users can add content, add new menu items, and do much more.
The numbers seem to indicate that Joomla is the open source CMS of choice for web builders worldwide. It's been downloaded 35 million times since its start in 2006 and the number of sites powered by Joomla is still growing rapidly everyday. It's one of the biggest open source software projects around, it is supported by a large user community, and it is constantly being developed further by an international team of volunteers.
For an overview of Joomla, its capabilities, and examples of real-world sites using CMS, you should browse the Joomla site at http://www.joomla.org.
Let's have a look at some great real-world examples of sites built using Joomla. If you're anything like me, seeing inspirational examples is what makes you want to get started right away creating something equally cool (or preferably something even better). In this section, you'll see a few examples from the Web and from the Joomla site showcase (http://community.joomla.org/showcase). They are very diverse sites from very different organizations, each with their own goals and target groups. What they have in common is that they deploy Joomla in a way that you could too. They adapt CMS to their specific needs, making it perfectly suited for the content they present and the impression they want to make.
Here's an example from the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, (http://www.emro.who.int). The home page uses various ways to present highlights from the site's impressive amount of content.
The following example is the the Working Wonders website, a charity foundation (www.workingwonders.com.au):
Joomla can handle complex sites with thousands of pages. Here's an illustration of a content-rich site with a made-to-measure design: the Guggenheim Museum website (www.guggenheim.org).
This example demonstrates that Joomla sites don't have to look anything like a typical CMS-powered site. You can use quite a different design and still take advantage of the default functionality of Joomla to power the site. This site presents a Dutch events company (www.puurspecialevents.nl).
One final example: the personal portfolio site of an Argentinian artist Angie Villé (www.angieville.com.ar).
If you're looking for some more inspiration, browse the official Joomla showcase at http://community.joomla.org/showcase or go to www.bestofjoomla.com and have a look around in the Best of Sites section.
It may sound too good to be true. Does Joomla really make creating state-of-the-art websites easy as learning ABC? Let's be honest—of course, learning to work with CMS does require you to invest some time and effort. After all, working with Joomla (or any CMS) is very different from building websites the traditional way. You'll notice this as soon as you start installing the system. Compared to setting up a simple static website that consists of a few HTML pages, building a site powered by Joomla takes a bit more preparation. You'll need hosting space that meets specific requirements and you'll need to set up a database. It's very doable, and this book will run you through the process step by step.
Once you've got Joomla set up, you'll soon get the hang of creating a basic site. The next challenge is to get things just right for your particular goals. After all, you don't want just any Joomla site—you want to build a specific site, aimed at your specific target audience. This book will help you to go beyond a basic site and make the choices that fit your goals.
Even if you are using CMS, it will take time and effort to create and maintain great websites. However, Joomla will make it both easier and much more fun for you (and your web team members) to get your site started and keep it evolving.
The Joomla! 3 Beginner's Guide Second Edition isn't just about Joomla—it's about making websites, and it shows you how to use Joomla to make the best website you can. After all, you can get a reasonable impression of the capabilities of Joomla by exploring the interface and trying out the menus and options. However, even a user-friendly interface doesn't tell you how to deploy it in the best way in real-life circumstances. What's the best and fastest way to get started, what features and options are particularly useful, and what are the ones you probably don't have to bother using at all? I want to help you tame the beast that's called Joomla to find your own way around it and get things done—creating a great looking, user-friendly website as the result.
That's what this book is about. It is focused on learning by doing—the structure of the book reflects the process of building a website.
Feel free to skip chapters!
Don't worry, to learn using Joomla you don't have to follow all the chapters of this book and the exercises in them step by step. After you've gone through the introductory chapters, maybe you feel comfortable to skip to changing the design of your site or adding extensions. That's okay—you can jump straight into most of the further chapters and follow the exercises there, as long as you have a working version of Joomla and a some dummy content available.
On the Joomla website, two versions are available for download: 2.5 and 3 (3.3 or a higher version). Joomla 2.5 is supported until the end of 2014. It's still used, especially by experienced web developers who need a mature CMS and want to able to use extensions, developed specifically for 2.5. Joomla 3.x, however, is the next generation and it's definitely the way to go when you start using the software.
In the past, Joomla used fixed version numbers—Joomla 1.5 and 2.5 were the long term releases of the 1 and 2 series. However, in 2014, the creators of Joomla chose a new release strategy. There won't be a final Joomla 3.x version—after Joomla 3.3 and Joomla 3.4, updates will be released if required. These minor releases (3.5, 3.6 and so on) may introduce new features, but they will always be backwards compatible with previous 3.x versions. Only major new releases (Joomla 4.x) can introduce new features that may break backwards-compatibility.
It may seem confusing that there's no fixed long term release, but the advantage is that Joomla development isn't frozen at any particular point. This way, Joomla 3.x users can use the built-in automatic update function and continually benefit from minor new features and improvements.
In the course of this book, you'll learn how to build a realistic example site step-by-step. Instead of just learning about the capabilities of Joomla in general terms, you'll meet real-world web building challenges. Throughout the book, you'll achieve all the goals of your fictitious client (such as "I want a website that my web team members can update themselves" or "I want a website that makes it easy to navigate through a large amount of content").
Now, who's that client of yours? It's CORBA, a club of Collectors Of Really Bad Art. They just love bad paintings and ugly sculpture. They argue it can be valuable art—in its own, ugly way. The CORBA people need a website to inform the public about their goals, informing the public about all sorts of bad art, showcasing fine examples of ugly art, and encouraging people to join and participate.
Then, you'll add advanced features and shape the site's contents and design to meet the changing needs of your client.
The CORBA site is a good example of what you can accomplish with Joomla. You start out with a basic website and add sophisticated features as you go. Of course, you can follow along in this book without having to actually perform all of the actions described. However, you'll find that it's a good and fun way to learn building a site and honing your skills step-by-step.
In this chapter, you've been introduced to the wonderful world of the Joomla CMS. You've learned about the difference between building a website the traditional way and using CMS. You don't have to create HTML documents (web pages) one by one. Instead, you can use a web application to develop and maintain your site. Using CMS such as Joomla, you can create more powerful sites that are easier to maintain. You've also been introduced to the benefits of using Joomla, such as its user friendly interface, the ability to add extra features, and the ability to change the look and feel of the site fast. In the rest of this book, you'll learn how to build a realistic example site with Joomla step-by-step.
However, that's enough background information for now—let's get started! In the next chapter, you'll get the Joomla software up and running. After that, you'll get familiar with the way Joomla works and start building.