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Joomla is an extensive CMS, Content Management System, that is capable of creating multi-faceted websites. The many options and settings can be overwhelming and intimidating at first, so a methodical approach to learning the system will result in the least confusion and best results.

It is best to start with the simple concepts and then when those concepts are understood, go on to expand into other available features on an as needed basis.

Content and Navigation

The most basic things that you need on a web site is Content and an way to access that content with some sort of navigational menus.  Content is the words and images on the pages. You need to organize the content into logical sections so that the site makes sense to the visitor and you need to provide a way for the visitor to know about the content available and to get to it easily.

How long will it take to set up a basic Joomla website?

To set up a basic Joomla website you need to have a few things taken care of:

  • a registered domain name
  • a hosting service that meets the requirements for Joomla
  • basic content to fill a few pages
  • a concept of what you want the site to look like
  • basic navigational layout for where the pages should be located on the site

You can have a basic Joomla website up and running in a few hours, most of that time will be in creating the pages and menu system. What will take more time is any styling you want to do to the site or any changes to the layout.

Do you need to purchase a template to have a Joomla website?

For learning how Joomla works, no. You can use the templates that come with the standard installation.

If you want a website that meets certain design and functionality targets, then you may well consider purchasing a template that meets your needs. Also, you may likely find that you need functionality that goes beyond the basic Joomla setup, in which you will need to install 3rd party extensions that may be free or come at a cost.

Web Site Newbies

Q: Do you have to know HTML, JavaScript, PHP and MySQL Databases to use Joomla?

A: No.  

Q: Does it help to have a basic understanding of these things?

A: Yes, it helps, especially when it comes to troubleshooting and/or customizing.

Joomla can be used without extensive coding or knowledge of HTML.

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The beauty of Joomla is that you can put together a website and have it up and running fairly easily.  If you want to expand on it, increase the functionality, make it jump and sing, you can do that, too. 

Why should you use Joomla when Web Hosts offer so many free or low cost templates from which to choose?

There are two words for the answer Control and Ownership.  With Joomla, you have control of how your site looks, what the menu structure looks like, what extra features you want to add and you can easily pick it up and move it to a different hosting company if you want to. You own the site, you own the software, you own the database.  

Web Developers

Using a CMS can save you many many hours when it comes to developing a web site.  The functionality is built in, the database interaction is all set up, you can add Extensions for increased functionality at a fraction of the time and cost of what it would take for you to write the code yourself. Joomla's core files are free and open source. You can modify the styling how ever you wish.  You can modify the templates core files like the index.php to your liking and create your own custom module positions. 

Joomlal 3 has the responsive functionality of Bootstrap built right in.  If you use their system, you will see your website rearrange itself smoothly for the multiple mobile devices that are being used to access your website.

What is great about any CMS, it that you can design the site and develop the site, but then you can hand the basic content management of the site back to the client with a bit of Back End training.  Your client won't have to bother you with every small change. You may think that those small changes are a revenue source, but more and more clients want to have this kind of control of the contents on their sites.

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Joomla vs Drupal vs WordPress

WordPress is by far the most popular of CMS systems.  Joomla is the second and Drupal a very close third.

Wordpress started out as a blogging platform, and though it has greatly expanded beyond that basic premise, it still has limited functionality for more extensive sites as far as e-commerce and other specific tasks. The numbers are skewed a bit in favor of WordPress because it is used by so many bloggers, small sites, and people that are new to creating websites. When it comes to the CMS used on commercial sites, the percentages change a bit.  

Drupal is very powerful, but it is not for the average Joe. There is a great deal more knowledge of PHP and database management with Drupal and the back end is not as intuitive as WordPress or Joomla.  

Joomla fits nicely in between these two.  It can build anything from a very simple blogging website to a high end e-commerce site with shopping carts, subscriptions, memberships, newsfeeds, etc.  It is very simple to set up initially and the back end is user friendly.  

Security, Upgrades and Extensions

Joomla has built in web security. If you play by the rules, don't hack the core files, be cautious with which extensions you install, keep up with the upgrades and keep out a watchful eye, the site is relatively secure. WordPress sites are notorious for getting hacked. Part of this reason is that it is so popular, that if a hacker is going to practice hacking, WordPress is the best target. Another reason for WordPress vulnerabilities are all of the 3rd party plugins that create openings for hackability.

Joomla does have upgrades for security purposes, increased functionality and a better user interface. If the site is set up properly, the upgrades can be relatively painless, but there can be snags, as with any other CMS platform.

Extensions are the way to increase and fine tune the functionality of Joomla's core system. Extensions must be installed. Joomla has a list of Extensions on their website, extensions.joomla.org. The Extensions are either free or commercial are are rated by other users. You should only install Extensions that are necessary for your site. There are also extensions that have been found to have know vulnerabilities and are listed at  vel.joomla.org.