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Working with Joomla

My next big thing I need to tackle is the open source content management system Joomla. My new job has required me to do some web design and maintenance, which has been challenging. I was never very keen on learning HTML and other web technologies, as my passion was always hardware and networking. The only time I ever did anything majow was when I was in grade 12 and I had to design a website as part of my computer studies project. I used Microsoft Frontpage back then, and although I no longer have a copy of that site, I can recall that it was pretty horrible. What I thought made a good site was just plain wrong. I had tried to use Dreamweaver 3/4 to build the site, but I was instantly lost, I couldn’t work out what to do.

Since then I haven’t bothered, but since learning Dreamweaver slightly and using it to maintain my new job’s website, I’ve begun to realise just how powerful, but un-user friendly Dreamweaver is. I’m still using the old MX2004 version, but apart from the very basics, I am lost in its interface. The tables and formatting of text really irritates me when it doesn’t work, often requiring lots of manually hacking the source code to bring it back into line. This costs me time, and delays updates sometimes.

It was said to me that I would need to learn how to use Joomla as the school wanted to migrate to that. After things settled down a bit at the job, I’ve managed to play around a bit with the software, and to realise that it is very powerful, yet potentially simple enough for people to use. Getting it set up has proved to my main nightmare, as setting it up to run under Windows Server is not simple. After lots of struggling I got my first test site running, but then I had to leave it due to time. Later I tried again, and my install didn’t work. This led to plenty of searching on their forums as well through seearch engines. Eventually I came across a rather helpful tutorial on the IIS.net website.  

I haven’t palyed much with it since then, too many other things need my attention. However, the host where we will eventually upload Joomla to is running FreeBSD as the OS, with Apache as the web server. Still, once it’s installed, Joomla pretty much behaves the same no matter what platform it’s on. That is why I’m not going to try and emulate the environment 100%, it’s not worth it right now.

I’ve visited a number of school websites as part of my research, and I’ve seen a wide variety of things. Some sites are really great, others eye jarring. One site I saw really impressed me though and sort of gave me the idea of what I’d like to see the eventual new site look like. Take a look here and I’m sure you’ll agree that the Pope John school got it right.  I guess not many schools have the budget to have a really decent site done, yet it is probably the first thing people will look for when doing research. Done right, the website can become your first tool to impress potential parents and learners.

Hopefully I will get more time soon to fully learn this powerful piece of software. I’m excited to delve into it, and a whole world of plug-ins and extensions await me too.

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  1. May 12, 2009 at 17:24

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