Joomla Rocks, Or How To Build A Professional Web Site For No Money Down - InformationWeek

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5/27/2008
06:00 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Joomla Rocks, Or How To Build A Professional Web Site For No Money Down

Working in a garage-based company that's looking to create its first killer Web site? Or maybe you're toiling in the bowels of a behemoth corporation, wondering why you're mired in an old-fashioned, "waterfall" software-development process when all you wanna do is board that Web 2.0 train, and quickly. Well, I've got the answer for you, and it's called Joomla.

Working in a garage-based company that's looking to create its first killer Web site? Or maybe you're toiling in the bowels of a behemoth corporation, wondering why you're mired in an old-fashioned, "waterfall" software-development process when all you wanna do is board that Web 2.0 train, and quickly. Well, I've got the answer for you, and it's called Joomla.Joomla is technically an open source content management system (CMS), but it's much for than that. For those of us who've been conditioned to think that running a Web site means you're locked into a hard-to-change, difficult-to-use platform, working with Joomla is a real eye-opener.

That's because Joomla is part of a new wave of lightweight content management systems that allow you to set up the look and feel of your front page, decide what content your site will host -- news stories, blog posts, videos, polls -- and manage the whole thing from a lightweight admin console. (You can also register new users, handle banner ads and Google AdSense, do backups, and moderate user-created content.)

Playing around with Joomla made the awesome possibilities of Web 2.0 really come alive for me, for the first time. (It was also a heck of a lot of fun.) Here's what I threw together, in not too many hours of playing:

Go to alexwolfe.net/joomla to check out my test site. (If you register as a user via the "register" button next to the login, once I validate you, you'll be able to submit moderated content to the site.)

Along with posting up a bunch of existing stories and videos from my blog, to test out Joomla's content management features, I was able to easily add Joomla modules to allow reader comments, and to make the blog section more blog-like (Joomla comes with a deficient built-in blog platform).

OK, a couple of caveats. First, Joomla isn't the only lightweight CMS out there. Drupal, WordPress, Plone, and Easy Publisher are just a few of the other popular open source systems.

Also, while you should try this at home, you might not want to try it at work, at least not if you're running a really heavy-duty installation. That is, Joomla is most appropriate for fairly lightweight sites -- say, those that don't garner more than 300,000 page views per month, and thus don't need sophisticated load-sharing among multiple servers and automated backup functions. You also don't want Joomla if you're plugging into a humungous back-end database with tens of thousands of pieces of content.

However, for lightweight, Web 2.0-style small- and midsize sites, it's perfect. (If you're at a big company, try getting them to give you a sandboxed installation of Joomla on one of their servers, or see if you can go to an outside hosting provider for your skunk-works Joomla project.)

Now that I've sold you on Joomla, you're probably wondering: How do I get started? I'd recommend the following free docs:

  • Absolute Beginners Guide to Joomla

  • Joomla Quick Start Guide [pdf download]

  • Collection of Joomla tutorial videos

    I also found O'Reilly's 81-page Up and Running with Joomla very helpful, but you should be aware it costs $10.

    One other important point: All of the documentation will tell you that you have to have both MySQL and Perl installed before you can run Joomla. That's true, but it also makes the process of getting things up and running sound much more intimidating than it really is. Many Web hosting companies offer one-click Joomla installs.

    So what are you waiting for? Joomla away!

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