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What is this Joomla! thingamabob?

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Joomla! Content Management System
If you are a moderate user of the internet and have any interest in web design and development whatsoever, chances are you have, at some time or another, heard of Joomla! If you aren't the most tech-savvy person alive, you probably haven't got the foggiest clue of what Joomla! actually is!

I am constantly explaining to my clients what Joomla! is, how it works, what the benefits of using it are, and why many web developers are actually preferring the Joomla! system over traditional web development techniques. It gets quite tedious after a while so I have decided to write an article detailing the answers to the questions above.

What is it?

Joomla! is an open source (free!) Content Management System (CMS) which is being adopted by many web developers as the preferred method of producing websites. It is the most popular CMS available today, though, with the exception of blog creators, who tend to prefer Wordpress.

It allows a user to create dynamic websites with very limited knowledge of HTML, CSS and all those other acronyms that make you think OMG, WTF. This is great for users with very limited budgets who need a website. A user can simply install Joomla! on their web servers, download a cool-looking template (free or commercial) and begin adding content!

So it's a free lunch for lazy web developers then?

Definitely not. The amazing thing about Joomla! is that it's extremely customizable, to the point that it can be as flexible as your skillset and budget allow. Website designers and programmers can create their own templates, extensions and components (using HTML, PHP and CSS) in order to implement just about any functionality required by a client.

Although a person with limited know-how can create a decent site using Joomla, it won't be without encountering much frustration and overcoming a relatively steep learning curve. In order to create a really professional looking website, despite how good the template may be, there will always be some degree of customization which needs to be done in order for the site's look and feel to match the corporate image of that business.

You can spot a Joomla! site developed by a user with no technical knowledge from a mile away. Likewise, a well-designed Joomla! website can hardly be told apart from a non-CMS website.

What are the benefits?

The advantages of Joomla! lie in the ease with which one can add content to a website and create new web pages on a site, as well as with the fantastic community and support base for Joomla! users.

Click-Click maintenance and updates.

Once your template is set up and customized to your liking, creating a new page is only a few clicks away. Articles, Polls, News feeds etc. are all ridiculously easy to add. I am biased, of course, because I've been using Joomla! for years now. Again, adding content yourself won't look as good as when it's done professionally and you may encounter a few issues along the way, but it is still far easier than coding a custom HTML pages yourself.

When I design a site for a client using Joomla!, I train them to use the control panel so that they can maintain most things themselves. Where they have problems, they give me a call. This is a great solution for clients with lower budgets, as they don't have to continually pay a developer to update and maintain their websites.

Amazing support

The Joomla! community and support base is by far my favourite thing about the popular CMS. is the home of Joomla! and on the site you will find an ever-growing extensions directory and one of the best forums on the internet.

The extensions database currently consists of 7299 extensions and counting! Here you will find almost any extension you are looking for, together with documentation, ratings and comments. Some of them are commercial, but you can usually find non-commercial alternatives that are just as good. If you're looking for a component to perform a particular function on your site, without coding one yourself, this is the Joomla! equivalent of a toy shop for 5 year olds.

The Joomla! forum is really a fantastic resource for developers. It boasts over 470 000 members. If you are having any problem whatsoever with Joomla!, post a thread on your site and you are bound to receive a lot of useful advice from many extremely knowledgeable Joomla! experts. I have had some really complex issues which were solved within a couple hours after posting a thread thanks to the friendly, helpful people on the forum!

Templates Galore

There are thousands of beautiful, functional templates available on the internet. One of them is bound to suit your needs! I suggest paying for a great template (even though free ones are available) as it is the core component of your Joomla! site, and commercial templates usually boast fantastic continuing support and updates. This is not to say that you canít find decent free templates, though. Itís just that they are diamonds in the rough.

Joomla! really is a dream for web developers. It allows us to add incredible functionality to a website with relative ease. The result is a great looking, functional, easy to maintain website thatís easy on the pocket. With such a supportive community and with the Joomla! platform constantly being improved, itís bound to be a leading force in Content Management Systems and website development for a long time to come.

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  1. Dave A's Avatar
    Mark, it would be cool if you did a blog on what you consider as the must-have Joomla! extensions.
  2. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    Thanks for the suggestion Dave. I will definitely put that down on my list of to-do blog posts.
  3. Upstairs's Avatar
    I started to learn more about joomla. Great stuff. Problem is most geeks have no idea on how to write a decent instructional manual. Learning curve worth it for tech newbies like myself. Awaiting your regular posts on joomla. R
  4. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    Hi Upstairs, thanks for commenting. Joomla does involve a bit of a steep learning curve and I think this is why many critics (*cough* Wordpress users) have so much to say about it. Once you know your way around Joomla the possibilities really are just about endless.

    What would you like to see in future blog posts? I have been extremely busy just recently so haven't put out any blog posts. Next month should bring more free time though, so feel free to suggest some topics and I'll try to tackle them for you.