Installing Joomla is easy. Many website companies (I’m currently with Go-daddy) provide it as a built-in option that to install from their control panel. If not, download the package from joomla.org and transfer it to your server. I won’t get into specifics, as there are plenty of videos on-line with step-by-step instructions.
Since the framework is free, designers make money by selling templates, which provide professional formatting and graphics. Last time I checked, the prices were mostly around $75. See templatemonster.com for examples. There are also many free templates available, including a handful of standard templates that come with Joomla itself.
Commercial templates are usually optimized for a specific business, such as a travel agency, employment recruiter, etc. For personal use, a free template is usually fine, though I’d recommend using a standard one. The others are not always well supported. Even when building your own, I’d recommend browsing the template sites to get ideas.
Choosing a standard template doesn’t mean you’re stuck with one look. There are many factors you can customize, including colors, fonts, and effects. One of my favorite effects is the slideshow which provides variety in the images your site provides to the world. If the template doesn’t include this capability, you can use a plugin as described below.
Although Joomla is powerful, it can be maddening, because although it provides a common set of controls, the specific template determines which characteristics can be modified and how. For my main site (this blog uses WordPress, another framework which I’ll address in a later post), I recreated the look of a free template called Mystique-FJT in the standard Atomic template.
Another feature of Joomla is its ability to use plugin modules to provide specific functions such as file backup, event calendars, or managing customer input. If your site is for business, a paid, well-supported plugin is worth the investment. Make sure it works with your current Joomla version, and that it’s kept current, as you may need a new plugin version for the next Joomla update.
Working with Joomla requires patience and the ability to take detailed notes. For example, it took me several hours to figure out how to set my main page to the current article. When I wrote a new main-page article again after a few months’ hiatus I realized I hadn’t mode notes for the procedure and had to figure it out again. The Joomla user forum is a helpful resource, but you need to do your homework first. Learn the technical terms for Joomla’s features and gather information on your own setup before posting. Many forum exports are volunteers who understandably lose patience with “lazy” questioners.
Joomla is a powerful tool for creating a general purpose websites. It takes a bit of tech savvy, so you may need help if you’re a web design newbie.
If you like technology you’ll enjoy my novel Centrifugal Force, in which computer hackers plot to overthrow the government.