Archive for June 26, 2011

Do You Need Special Hosting For Joomla?

June 26, 2011

Do you need special hosting for Joomla? No, not really. Most of your hosting companies will offer hosting for Joomla accounts on a monthly basis. The price per month can start as low as $16 up to $50+ depending upon what package you buy with the company. You just need to make sure that they offer hosting for Joomla, as some companies favor Drupal and so on.

With Joomla hosting, usually they can get your account up and running on the same day you purchase their services and they could even offer you the download of the Joomla core software. So, before you do anything, check with the hosting company and you may be able to kill two birds with one stone.

Most hosting companies also offer the access to free software templates. You can judge your desired hosting company not only by price but also by the type of “extras” that they can offer you. How well are their templates designed? Do they have a large selection? What version of Joomla are they offering you?

Having the availability of free templates can save you money in the long run. Templates can be found all over the internet for free, but the quality may be lacking. Finding a quality template for free can be a little time consuming and difficult. Most of the time you may have to purchase the templates and even though they can start at as low as $25 they can also become very expensive. Having access to free templates can save you time and money in the long run. The quality of their templates can help you to make your decision a little better.

When trying to find a hosting company you should also look at their service packs. Do they offer support on their service? Do they offer support for the Joomla software? These can be very important questions, especially if down the road you run into some problems with the hosting or with the software.

Some hosting companies also offer this program optimized servers and SEO. This can prove to be very valuable to your company and to your website. Search Engine Optimization can be very important when it comes to your website’s rankings. Of course, we all want our websites to be highly visited and popular; however, getting the traffic that we desire can be difficult without some sort of help. Optimization is the key in helping to get your site recognized and visited to the extent that you desire.

No matter who you choose as your Joomla host, try to make sure that with the hosting comes more service and support that will help you in the future. You will want to take advantage of any aspect that can better your business, your website and your rankings on the internet. This will all be beneficial in making sure that your business and website is a success in the virtual world. Go ahead and get started with Joomla; it’ll be your best decision yet.
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Joomla Template Types

June 21, 2011

Joomla is an open source content management system. This means that anyone can write an extension of the core Joomla software program and the extension will work with it as if it was an original aspect of the software. With this being said, there are a wide variety of extensions available on the market today that can take the basic Joomla programming and extend it to unlimited possibilities.

Extensions include components, modules, plugins and templates. We will focus on the themes. Joomla designs are what will define the style and layout of your website. There is a large variety of templates available on the market because of the open source concept. You will just need to know about the different types of templates that are available before you make your decision.

There are two different types of Joomla templates. There are the back end templates and these templates define the style and layout of the website as the Administrator, editors, webmaster, and so on will see whenever they log into their accounts. This is the “back side” of the website. Very few people will have access to the back end. Then there are the front end templates. These templates will define the style and layout of the front end side of the website. This is the side that the visitors will see whenever they either log on to the page or just stop by for a visit.

Back end designs will help you to arrange your information, access and controls to make your life much easier. With the initial Joomla download, you will receive one back end template; however, back end themes are available all over the internet for either free or for purchase. You could even write your own if you can find no other back end template that will suit your needs. Back end themes are designed to help you and to help you be more organized. Finding a good back end template is just a personal preference, as your needs may not be the same as someone else’s.

Front end designs will give the feel to the website, the side that your visitors will see. When searching the web and visiting websites that is the front end of the site that you are seeing. There are literally thousands of Joomla templates available for the front end. You can choose literally anything that you want. If you can dream a design up in your head, it can be made and it probably already has. It may take you awhile to find the perfect one after you sift through the thousands that are available. If you still can’t find it, you can either have one modified or one made specifically to meet your needs.

The front end guides are uploaded and installed through the back end of your website. You can install several different ones (2 actually come with the initial Joomla software) and keep them available. You can assign a different guide to every page or you can use just one. Guides can only be used for one website, so if you own more than one website, you will have to download the templates more than once, if you want to use the same one. The options are limitless, so have fun!
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How to Use the Random Image Module Within Your Joomla Content Management System

June 20, 2011

1. The first step in inserting random images into your Joomla website is to upload the relevant graphics ie PNG, GIF AND JPEGS (JPEGS are the default images for the random image module), so to keep it simple upload a JPEG because this image type is automatically filled in for you within the Joomla random image module (MODULE PARAMETERS: image type = jpg)

2. To upload your images click on media or media manager within your Joomla administration panel. Now click on stories. This stories folder can cause a bit of confusion but forget about its name and remember that all your normal images must go within this stories folder (not only your random images). They probably should have named it pictures but thats programmers for you. You will see the file path within the stories folder and it will look something like the following:

/yourwebsite.com/images/stories

You will also notice a space where you can insert something to the right of the above file path. This is where you can insert the folder name that you want for your random images. This name for your folder is not that important here but as your website grows this is important for organizational purposes so as you will know what folder contains which images. So put in a name for your folder and click on create folder.

3.Make sure that you click on your newly created folder and use the Browse button to browse your computer for the image that you want to upload.When you have located the image just click on start upload. Repeat the above steps to upload more images. (There can be permission problems here if you are on a Linux based platform, so we suggest for learning purposes that you host your website on a windows based platform – no permission problems – all 777)

4.When your finished uploading your JPEGS, click on Extensions and choose Module Manager within your Joomla administration panel. Now click on New and choose random image from the list of modules. This will bring you to the random image module panel itself.

TITLE = Fill in anything you want here.

ENABLED = It must be enabled for you to view it.

POSITION = Choose where you want it on your website eg left or right etc.

ACCESS LEVEL = Public

MENU ASSIGNMENT = Choose which pages you want the random images on.

NOW WE COME TO THE MODULE PARAMETERS:

IMAGES TYPE = jpg will be filled in by default,so just leave it as it is.

IMAGE FOLDER = images/stories/the name of your folder. This is where problems can arise. You must insert the following yourself everytime images/stories/ (This folder path will never change) followed by the name of the folder that you created eg if you created a folder called random, well then, you must insert the following here images/stories/random

LINK = You can insert any link you want here and when somebody clicks on the image it will take you to that link.

WIDTH = This is also important. Keep your images at the same width and height when you create them. So if all your images are 200pxs by 200pxs well then but in for width 200pxs and for height 200pxs. Now just click on save above and you are finished.
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Content Management Systems and Search Engine Optimization

June 18, 2011

Content Management Systems (CMS) are fantastic because they allow web designers and web developers to pass a project to their customers in the knowledge that the users will be able to update their own web pages. But there is a trade off. Many of the CMS solutions that are available does not produce clean xhtml and css code. I’ve even come across some CMS solutions that still create tables for non-tabular data. This adversely affects Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

So what is the solution to the CMS/SEO problem? Some web designers and web developers opt to update websites entirely themselves and do not incorporate CMS solutions into their designs. This solution is not always practical and is less cost effective to the customer in the long term (though it is more cost effective in the short term to pay for support rather than a CMS).

Another solution is to provide a decent CMS which doesn’t produce clean enough code and let the developer clean up the user’s code afterwards.

Another solution is to find a CMS that does support xhtml and css. The problem with CMS solutions that support the latest technologies is that, in practice, they are usually more complex in design because xhtml is stricter than deprecated versions of html.

The latter solution is more complex in design, more difficult to setup and, unless time is taken to modify it, is more difficult to use for the end user. Afterall, adding all of the extra detail that is required for SEO requires more fields to be inputted in the CMS.
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Why Use Joomla! For Web Design

June 12, 2011

I was recently asked by a potential client why I recommended Joomla! to be used for building their website.

Let me explain the benefits of using Joomla versus using anything else, and by anything else I mean comparing building a website using some type of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, such as Frontpage or Dreamweaver, or building a website with a comparative type of software package.

1. Joomla! is a Content Management system, which means that it is built to ensure that website pages can easily be maintained and updated. This includes for example, adding new pages or removing pages. This is the main advantage above building a website in straight forward HTML that would normally be the end product of using some type of HTML editor.

2. But why Joomla? Why not something else like a Microsoft based product or another commercial product?

– Joomla is Open Source, which means that there are no licensing fees payable, that you have often pay for a Microsoft product or a commercial product

– Because Joomla is Open Source, there is a huge pool of community resources available to provide support. The Joomla community is huge worldwide as well as in local countries, there are often local user groups which are very well supported often even in small countries such as South Africa. There is an enormous pool of people supporting the product. The forum on the Joomla.org site has over 200 000 members all providing support and input into making Joomla! a better product.

– There are millions of sites worldwide (about 10 Million if you do a guestimate using Google) that runs on Joomla. It is therefore extremely popular and widely used which also means that it will never be difficult to find developers and people to support it.

– Because it is so popular, it also means that by now there have been quite a few books written about Joomla! from various perspectives to assist both the developer as well as the end-user.

3. Some other good reasons to use Joomla!
One of the most attractive features of using Joomla! is the fact that is so very easy to extend its functionality. You can build anything from a brochure website to a full-featured shopping cart or interactive membership site. This is because there are over 3500 add-ons and plugins available to extend its functionality. This ranges from shopping carts, image galleries, video plugins, forums, blogs, project management tools, etc etc

The Joomla templating system also makes it easy to change the look and feel of your site without having to redo the whole site from scratch. You can literally change the whole graphic design/look of the site in a matter of seconds while retaining the content. There are also over 2000 templates, most of them free, available to change the look and feel of your site.

4. But again, why Joomla! Why not WordPress, for example?
I have to admit, WordPress is also extremely popular and WordPress also makes it extremely easy to add new pages. WordPress also has numerous free templates available and it makes WordPress an extremely attractive option to build websites quickly and easily but it must always be kept in mind that WordPress is essentially a blogging platform. Although it also has numerous plugins available to extend its functionality, it just does not have the raw power with regards to its underlying infrastructure to allow it to easily plug in something like a shopping cart, for example.

So what is the catch? It can’t be all roses?

Having worked with Joomla! for a couple of years (and before that, with its predecessor, Mambo) I can tell you exactly what the shortcomings are:

Joomla’s membership capabilities fall far short of what they could be. There is very limited support for various access groups and access levels. Because it is so popular, it attracts a lot of attention and Joomla! sites get hacked quite often. The only solution for this is to be aware of your server security settings and to upgrade regularly to stay abreast of the latest Joomla! security updates. Joomla! might be a bit top-heavy for smaller sites, although it still remains the tool of choice for even my smaller sites – it does leave room for expansion later without having to upgrade to a different tool or product! Joomla!’s native search engine friendliness in the older versions leave a lot to be desired, although this has received attention in the latest upgrade. Despite this drawback, most of my Joomla! sites perform well in the search engines due to judicious use of various plugins to rectify this shortcoming.

Altogether, Joomla! is an excellent tool to build websites that are easy to create, easy on the eye and easily extendable.
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Problems with making menus on Joomla Optimus template?

June 8, 2011

Hi I recently started using Joomla at school and I chosen the Optimus template. I made up a main menu and when I previewed it the menu only showed up on the left side and the category links that I have set up as children to the section options don’t pull out or even indent when on their parent’s page. Then I changed the menu to the top, the child links don’t drop down at all when hovering or clicking on them. I also tried adding a side bar main menu that has the same options and it doesn’t even show up, just the menu title showed up. Yet when I did a class tutorial on the milky way template it automatically added a top menu and left menu when I entered each link in the module mgr. How can I fix this or do I have to upgrade and purchase the advanced version to get the proper drop-downs to work? If so, where can I get a very simple template that will do what the Optimus would do if I paid for the premium package? I don’t want to use any of joomla’s 3 default templates since the assignment requires us to download a free working 3rd party template from here at the shack or Joomla24 where most of them aren’t free. This project is due in 2 days. I’m really hoping that someone can help me out here since I’m in a jam considering that I’m swamped with 4 other large projects to complete by week’s end.

Thanks
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Content Management Systems As a Software Service – How to Use it to Succeed in the Web 2.0 Era

June 4, 2011

With a rapidly changing world , an abundance of information, it is a common knowledge that all websites require constant updates as static content simply isn’t useful to visitors and customers.

It is also forcing organizations to find creative ways of leveraging this information or content to create a competitive advantage. These organizations can look towards adopting a software as a service model to manage their multiple digital assets from a single centralized interface.

Content is king these days and websites need to be managed and driven by the business people, far less by the underlying technology that is needed to build up the content.

New and neat content is driving people and customers to websites and it clearly builds a long term relationships with viewers and visitors of the site.

A modern business or organization needs therefore an engine to streamline all its digital content from one single interface and needs an engine that is scalable and manageable by different types of content contribution. An engine that can be used as a service, rather then as a software product, whether it is custom build or open source software. A content management system provided to you as a service guarantees an end-to-end responsibility of the vendor that the software will work according to specifications and that your content will be on-line in a timely manner and will remain there.

Adopting a software service model for building up web or digitized content, is also choosing a fast deployment model, a low cost deployment model, a fast adoption cycle within the organization, a fast proof of concept and transparent updates and upgrades, as you will always be running on the latest available release of the software without additional costs.

Important as well, is that in the cycle from proof of concept to launch of your digital platform, Help will be available to you in order to guide you through the process. Although open source CMS system play a role in the content management market place, they quite often lack the support resources to build up a feature rich and function-rich environment. Other hidden costs coming from development, maintenance, upgrades and hosting that are common for the open source CMS systems, are completely transparent for CMS systems sold as a service.

The service delivery guarantee plays is an important plus for CMS vendors that have adopted a service model, as all payments are predicated upon service delivery. Because the risk of canceling the service when it does not meet specifications or SLA’s, the vendors with a service model become more accountable and are certainly driven to make your site a success for the business.

By using a service model, organizations can cut down on their own risks, and choose different functionality as they grow their digital presence. Also the vendors are scrutinized and evaluated on a permanent basis, because one can shift to another competing vendor almost overnight. Vendors are billing monthly, quarterly or annually, but the costs are spread over the lifetime of the usage of the service. In a traditional product model, the entire cost is paid upfront and the risk of product implementation, adoption and continuity is on the shoulders of the customer.

There are serious productivity gains to a service model. Any business user or any user if allowed can contribute to the content of the website, and this from any location and at any time of the day and by simply using a web browser. The entire rights can be managed and changed depending on the needs of the business and the organization. Different people can be given different editing rights, depending on their contribution. Templates will guide content contributors through the editing cycle. It allows basically anyone with editing or admin rights to quickly and easily create, edit, manage and publish unique content to the digital content of your website.

And not least, there are significant reductions possible in the cost of ownership of your digital content. And it start with your proof of concept, that can now be done in a matter of weeks, rather then months. Then the price of the service, whether billed monthly or quarterly is substantially lower then comparable custom made software and hardware. There is a substantial costs, hidden in the case of open source CMS system, open in the case of custom build CMS systems that goes to upgrades, support, Helpdesk and trouble shooting. All those services are included in your monthly subscription if you choose the CMS service model.

And all the above is available without having to compromise on functionality, because most of the CMS systems delivered as a service have come to market quite recently and have a full set of modern features and often include capturing, editing and managing more digital content then equivalent custom build content management systems. And the functionality is growing by the day, it is adapted to the latest demands in the marketplace and that functionality is made available to the entire customer base as soon as it launched. Traditional software vendors can very often have big disruptions in their releases and come up with a completely new technology. Service models can and will never be able to do that.

In conclusion, in the web 2.0 world there are thousands of reasons to move your digital content to a content management system. Other then the obvious cost of chance, there is no reason not to do it. About 40% of all businesses have adopted some sort of CMS system and by 2011 that number will be at 60%. For small and medium sized businesses and for all non-profit organization the choice remains difficult and to a certain extend risky. The risk can be diminished and the cost can be well controlled by choosing a Software service model for managing your digital content. You can enter the modern digital era without having to do a major upfront investment.
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