Spring Forward Web Design
Build your own Site... Control your own Future!
Joomla is now the world’s most popular website Content Management System (CMS). There are literally hundreds of millions of Joomla websites with thousands more being built every day. Joomla’s easy installation along with its intuitive administration panel makes it very popular with users who want a website they can control – without the need to know any computer programming - while also being packed with thousands of optional features. Although the current version of Joomla (Joomla 1.5) did not even get started until January 2008, it passed Dreamweaver as the world’s most popular website building platform later that same year.
From the beginning, Joomla sites offered several advantages over other web building platforms –especially in the area of Content Management. The one criticism of Joomla websites was the difficulty in controlling the appearance of a website. Thankfully, in the past year, Joomla has made several breakthroughs which have moved it significantly ahead of every other web building tool in the ease of controlling not only the content, but also the appearance and structure of your website.
In particular, the release of the free Cloud Access Cloudbase 2 template for Joomla has for the first time given users the ability to control the appearance of their website with just a few clicks of a button.
In addition, the release of the free Rocket Themes Fusion Expandable Menu gives web owners much greater options for controlling the structure of their website menu.
The one remaining drawback of this template (and all other Joomla templates) was that it was still quite difficult and time consuming to modify the header. However, in this website, we present a very simple solution to this problem – a solution which allows you to replace the header with your own custom header in a matter of minutes – and change the header to any other header design in a matter of seconds. Thus, we have overcome the final obstacle standing between you and complete control over the appearance and content of your website.
Below is a summary of several reasons for building your website on a Joomla platform.
Joomla sites offer several important advantages over other web building platforms:
1. Joomla offers a user friendly “Graphic User Interface” or GUI Control Panel which allows the general public to build, update and control their own website quickly and easily without any special knowledge of computer programming. You can have your own fully functioning website up in less than one day. There is no need to know HTML, CSS, JS or PHP… although it is useful to learn a few basic CSS commands.
2. Joomla is a free website building platform. Other web design platforms, such as Microsoft Expressions or Adobe Dreamweaver, can cost several hundred dollars per person or per computer. So if you have ten people in a team all working on a website, they would each need to spend $400 to have Dreamweaver on their computers - meaning a cost to the team of $4,000. Such a cost is a significant roadblock to a small business just getting started or a small non-profit trying to serve a public good.
3. Joomla is Open Source (OS). This means that anyone can help improve the project. There are over 100,000 programmers working to improve Joomla. It is therefore advancing at a rapid rate. You are also free to change Joomla to meet the needs of your own website, or share your changes with others, without any fear of patent infringement.
3. Joomla is a Content Management System (CMS). This means that if you have a very complex, hundred page website, Joomla will help you organize all of your pages so that they all work together as an integrated whole.
4. Joomla websites are built on line. Because Joomla websites are built “in the cloud”, you do not even need to own a computer to build your own website. You can go to your local library and build your website directly on line. Just click APPLY and your updates can happen in seconds.
5. Joomla offers thousands of free “extensions” to customize and greatly expand the capabilities of your website. The most popular extensions include programs for slide shows, video shows, commercial shopping carts, blogging and social networking, forums, special graphics effects, interactive forms and a host of other options. These are all listed complete with user reviews on the Joomla Extension directory (JED) see extensions.joomla.org. We will discuss how to add many of these extensions in the articles below.
6. Joomla includes a hidden database. If you want to organize data sent to you by users, such as an email newsletter sign up list, you do not need to set up a separate data base. One of the most common uses of this database is coordinating an email signup list for a Email Newsletter. Joomla offers an Extension called Acymailing which is similar to Constant Contact, only FREE. This extension allows you to set up multiple mailing lists and send out custom newsletters with just the click of a button:
7. Joomla websites now allow much easier control over the appearance of your website. With modern Cloudbase 2 template, you can change the appearance of almost every aspect of your website with just the click of a button.
8. Joomla websites are easy to update over time. Because of the Joomla GUI and because changes are made directly in the cloud (to the server or host), it is easy to make changes to your website over time. There is no need to FTP files from a local host to a remote host.
9. Joomla is so easy that, after it is set up, it can be maintained by lots of volunteers. This makes Joomla perfect for non-profit organizations which may suffer a large turn over from year to year. Novices can make changes to their own sites including adding articles, menu items, links and videos.
10. It is easy to change the appearance of your website without changing the content. Because Joomla templates are completely separate from the content, the appearance of the website can be changed very easily without any change to the content. Since appearance is handled almost entirely with CSS sheets, if you know CSS you can change the appearance of your website without even changing the template.
11. Joomla also offers a free DEMO site where you can practice using the Joomla User Interface and learning Joomla even if you do not have your own domain name or web hosting service yet. Simply go to demo.joomla.org and enter demo for the user name and password.
12. Joomla also offers several ways to get answers to questions. These include their HELP website help.joomla.org and their FORUM forum.joomla.org.
Because of these and several other advantages, the Joomla web building platform is now the most popular web building platform in the world. Although the current version of Joomla (Joomla 1.5) did not even get started until about 2007, it passed Dreamweaver as the world’s most popular website building platform in 2008. (Note: Some would argue that Word Press is the world’s most popular platform. But since Word Press is primarily a blogging platform and lacks many of the commercial applications of Joomla and Dreamweaver, we will sidestep the numbers debate for the moment).
Joomla Drawbacks… Past and Present
Joomla does suffer from a few shortcomings. The biggest shortcoming, in the past, was that while it is relatively easy to control the CONTENT of a Joomla website, it was harder to control the APPEARANCE of a Joomla website. There are thousands of free Joomla templates available for download on the Internet. But every one of these has a difficult process for changing simple things like the image in the header, or the page background color, or the font type and size.
Thankfully, this has all changed with the release in 2011 of the Cloud Access Cloudbase 2 template. This new template allows complete and easy control over the appearance of nearly every aspect of your web page.
A second drawback of Joomla in the past was that the instructions on how to build a Joomla website have not been very clear. Folks learned mainly by trial and error. One of the goals of this springforwardwebdesign.com website is to offer you better step by step instructions for building a dynamic and interactive Joomla website.
The biggest current Joomla headache is trying to keep up with all the changes within Joomla versions. Joomla version 1.5 had 23 releases with version 23 being very reliable with thousands of extensions available for it. In the past few months, Joomla just released version 1.6 which died quickly and was replaced by version 1.7 – which is also expected to die quickly – to be replaced by version 1.8 in 2012. God only knows what will happen with that. But my advice is to stay with version 1.5.23 in order to get maximum options for extensions and to wait 6 months to a year before jumping on any of the newer versions of Joomla.
A second ongoing drawback is that, because a Joomla website contains over 4,000 separate files, it is difficult to build and transfer a Joomla website via FTP. I therefore recommend seeking out a webhost who offers a free single click pre-formatted auto- install of Joomla version 1.5.23. This eliminates most web hosts. But it insures that the database which runs Joomla has been set up correctly.
A third drawback of all websites is that you MUST keep up with the updates and upgrades to keep the site secure. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your website taken down by hackers.
A fourth drawback of Joomla is that many of the extensions are loaded with bugs and have very poor instructions. Research extensions carefully and use only ones with a good track record and clear documentation. We will review how to add the best here on the springforwardwebdesign.com website in the articles to follow.
A final drawback of Joomla is that there is very limited personal training available at high schools and colleges. Hopefully this will change as Joomla gains in popularity.
The thought once was that if a person only wanted a very small and simple website that consisted of no more than a blog, Wordpress or Blogger were good options. However, Wordpress has very limited templates and very limited extensions.
With the release of the new Cloudbase 2 template, which we discuss in detail in this website, and with this website which will provide clearer instructions on how to build a Joomla website than has been available in the past, there is no longer any excuse not to begin your first website as a Joomla website. Joomla can behave like a blog. But it now offers the ability to do much more. Not the least of which is the ability to create a modern dynamic and interactive website.
In the long run, as you want to expand your website far beyond your initial dreams, you will be glad you chose Joomla as the foundation upon which you built your virtual house.
Now that you know the benefits of Joomla websites, turn to the next Article and let the fun begin! You very own website is only a couple of hours away.