There are numerous websites on the Internet and many of them have been designed by a wide variety of talent from the absolute beginner to the hearty and staunch do-it-yourself soldier who insists on designing their site from start to finish - even if it takes far too long or proves to be beyond their level of expertise. Something being seen today in the web development arena are web designers who are able to develop sites in what seems to be record time in comparison to just a few years ago and with far more functionality than previously. Thanks to a Content Management System (CMS) known as Joomla, the ability for almost anyone to design not only their own site but others, is not only easier but also more accessible and economical.
In the early days of website design, if you had access to Notepad and weren't afraid of a little HTML you could be your own website designer. Often the sites that provided free web space by the early 90's also usually provided very basic tools that allowed people to plug in the very basic (and often gaudy) layouts. Remember those blue background/yellow type sites reminiscent of DOS? Very prominent in the latter part of the 80's and into the early 90's.
As we moved along in progress so too did tools which allowed us to design our sites with a little more "drop and drag" ingenuity but still, for the most part, websites held a very bland look and the few that were actually done well, were few and far between.
Then along came several companies touting WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) tools but eventually professional designers moved toward such work horses as Dreamweaver and Photoshop usually used in unison and thus began the division of "real Designers" vs. the "non-coding Designers". Along with these programs though also came a more demanding learning curve for many of the usual D-I-Y'ers and suddenly websites began taking on a badly operating site or one that was cluttered, overly colorful or claustrophobic in appearance. As more designers proved they didn't really "get design", there came along yet another breed of designer - the CMS oriented designer.
Today, website development has access to a flexible, no cost tool that is allowing more and more people the opportunity to control the look and function of their own sites or of their clients sites. If you are someone who is interested in designing your own website or a client's on a server of your own or on a hosted server, Joomla offers you more than a few reasons to extend your reach and explore Joomla's power for yourself.
Joomla is a CMS that has been around for a number of years now and as an Open Source system there is no cost to download, install or use this program. There is also no limit as to the number of installations and sites that you can create. Installation for those who are on hosted servers is usually relatively simple due to the fact that almost all hosting companies have included this CMS within their set of tools which they offer to their clients. Installation on your own server requires you to have a working knowledge of Mysql and other back end tools such as PHPMyAdmin. Despite this, Joomla is overall, a well designed and intuitive solution that offers:
** Simplified installation and setup of the program on a hosting server.
** Open source offers no initial expense layout while providing users with literally hundreds upon hundreds of Components and Modules. Developed by the Open Source community, many of these tools are free and rival or exceed the quality and purpose of even some of the top brand programs designed to do similar work such as contact forms, payment gateways, image galleries and much more.
** A wide and varied array of free and Commercial templates (themes) ranging from Photoshop/Dreamweaver-ready to Flash and Ajax enhanced. All types of sites from personal to E-commerce and everything in between can be created using Joomla. For those who aren't interested in tinkering with templates, most templates are polished enough that they can be used just as is and by just adding the content necessary.
** The ability to set up an E-commerce site is as simple as choosing the open source program that works with Joomla (Virtuemart is one example) and in almost all cases the installation is straightforward and intuitive.
** The open source community is extremely helpful and there are tutorials, forums and help sites galore easily targeted via a simple Google search for Joomla help or by visiting any one of a dozen sites dedicated to Joomla.
Now with that said, Joomla is without a doubt, a CMS with powerful possibilities but for those individuals who are not computer savvy or who are hesitant to work with a bit of coding or tweaking of components at times, there are a number of drawbacks and cautions you should be aware of:
** A novice user will be easily intimidated if they are not comfortable working with databases (even minimally) or with the installation of various components, some of which require some "under the hood" tweaking.
** It can be somewhat confusing early on to determine where your content will actually show up on your site, particularly if you install the recommended Joomla example site which comes with a wide range of content accessible in numerous ways and in various areas of the site via the Administrator back-end.
** There are a number of older Joomla templates that are still not forward compatible with the latest version of Joomla and this can cause difficulty for those who are not well versed in template code because a badly coded template or one not compatible with the version of Joomla you are using can result in the inability to see your site at all. Other templates don't always operate as promised and if the template is one you really want to use, timidness with digging in to rectify issues is not a possibility unless of course your site is being developed by an experienced user.
Joomla is a terrific CMS for web designers/developers who enjoy rolling up their shirt sleeves and taking the time necessary to understand how Joomla works, how it can be expanded and developed and just how versatile, powerful and extensible it can be.
There are numerous ways though that one can create havoc with this CMS though, especially if they aren't certain of what they are doing or they are unwilling to seek assistance when they require it.
The nice thing about Joomla however, is that for those who enjoy doing things on their own and who learn best by doing, this CMS is one of the better ones to get your feet wet with if for no other reason than the community is only a search away.
Today there are courses offered that run upwards of $4000 or more, teaching web developers the ins and outs of Joomla in a matter of days rather than weeks or months. A great thing about Joomla is that it is an opportunity for Webmasters to hand over certain areas of the site they have designed to their clients while safekeeping areas that could literally bring the site down if the individual didn't know what they were doing. By allowing clients even the smallest amount of responsibility such as being able to update their own content, it allows web developers and designers the opportunity to expand their business reach and do so more efficiently while empowering their clients. The need for web developers and designers to be "on call" is greatly reduced with Joomla.
I've worked with Joomla since 2005 and with the latest incarnation on the horizon (1.6), I can only imagine the improvements that are bound to be available. Always check to see which is the latest version of this actively updated CMS in order to always ensure you are working with the latest and most secure development.
As web developers, Joomla is an excellent way to increase productivity and functionality without a lengthy session of coding or needing to climb a steep learning curve before you can accomplish a great looking site that functions with amazing professionalism.