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My experiences with Joomla

I have previously spoken of my intention to use, learn and work with Joomla in one of my previous posts. I’ve since used it quite a bit, gotten to play with it fairly in depth.

I set up a working environment using my Vista desktop, along with MySQL and PHP of course. I’m not a fan of Apache, so I decided to go the “hard” route and use Windows IIS. Setting up IIS was easy enough, all I had to do was install the various components available. According to an IIS.net article I read on how to set up Joomla, I needed to get an update for the FastCGI module, which I duly got.

Setting up MySQL was next. It was probably the easiest part, though there seems to be a problem in the installer when it comes time to start the service under Vista, Server 2008 and Windows 7. Apart from that it’s a fairly straight forward procedure. For my testing, it was pretty much accept the defaults.

PHP was next. I went against conventional wisdom and used the MSI installer, it just was less fuss than setting up everything manually. A nice side effect is that the FastCGI mapping in IIS is automatically set up for you if use the installer. One small step saved.

The installations of Joomla went well enough until I started hitting some problem as I came to the last screen. It turned out that my PHP config was not set up ideally, as it wasn’t logging errors anywhere. Due to that it basically would just hang. Letting it log to a file sorted that problem out. I also increased the rights onto the folder where it was being installed, just in case.

Once Joomla was working, I set myself to learning how to use it, front and back end. Various modules and plugins were added, tested, learnt from. Some stayed, some went. I found a nice template (Optimus by Joomlashack) and started using that. Random content was generated and uploaded. A nice skeleton website was the end result, enough more or less for demonstration purposes.

I really like what Joomla is capable of and it is easy enough to use fairly quickly. The real challenges start coming in when you try to move your site to another computer and things suddenly stop working so well. File permissions on other operating systems can cause things to stop working, which can be extremely baffling as well. That’s when your time goes down the drain as you start to try and troubleshoot. In my case it was caused by my new host systems not having PHP error logging on for one, and the other due to some URL shortening service in IIS not working quite right.

The more I work with Joomla, the more I appreciate what an amazing platform it is, and then even more so since it’s completely free. As time goes on and it gets more polished and core feature laden, the reasons for not building a website though a CMS becomes less and less important.

I can’t wait to get my jobs website relaunced using Joomla.

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