Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide: Building a Successful Joomla! Powered Website

Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide: Building a Successful Joomla! Powered Website

by Barrie M. North

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The Best Easy-to-Use Guide to Joomla!TM--The World’s #1 Open Source Content Management System

If you want to build sophisticated websites that can be easily edited and updated, you need to master Joomla. Now there’s an easy-to-read, easy-to-use guide to Joomla! for every site manager, administrator, and developer. Leading Joomla!

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The Best Easy-to-Use Guide to Joomla!TM--The World’s #1 Open Source Content Management System

If you want to build sophisticated websites that can be easily edited and updated, you need to master Joomla. Now there’s an easy-to-read, easy-to-use guide to Joomla! for every site manager, administrator, and developer. Leading Joomla! consultant Barrie North covers all you need to get results: installation, administration, site organization, template development, content updates, and a whole lot more. You’ll find tips, tricks, and troubleshooting solutions, as well as three start-to-finish case studies.


New to Joomla? No problem! This book starts with the simplest design and system concepts and builds your expertise step-by-step. You’ll rapidly master Joomla!’s power, even if you have no content management, scripting, or CSS expertise. Experienced with Joomla!? You’ll turn to this book constantly for its authoritative, plain-English, example-rich Joomla! 1.5 reference content.


  • Understand content management, what Joomla! does, and how its components fit together
  • Build Joomla! sites from scratch and systematically customize them to your needs
  • Organize content with sections, categories, blogs, and tables
  • Create dynamic pages and effective navigation
  • Work with Joomla! modules and components
  • Learn how to optimize your Joomla! sites for search engines
  • Follow three start-to-finish case studies: building a school website, a small business site, and a blog
  • Identify the most valuable Joomla! extensions and add-ons: find them and use them


About the Website

The accompanying site,, provides five fully functional Joomla! sites with live follow-along examples from the book and up-to-date information on Joomla!.


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Preface Preface

Joomla! is an open source content management system (CMS) that anyone can download for free (see This makes it an ideal choice for small businesses. Don't let the price tag fool you, though; Joomla! is powerful and robust, and more big organizations are choosing to use open source software solutions all the time. Its universal appeal has made Joomla! hugely popular as a CMS.

As Joomla! matures, it is being adopted by more and more organizations, from corporations to schools and universities to government organizations to newspapers and magazines to small businesses. Its greatest advantage is its flexibility. You can see it on a huge variety of sites. The Purpose of This Book

This book is about Joomla!, a popular and award-winning ("Best Linux/Open Source Project" for 2005) open source CMS. This book walks, step-by-step, through everything you need to develop a successful website powered by Joomla!. The book gives a general overview of management of a CMS and teaches you key concepts regarding content organization, editing, and templates. Finally, this book examines some more general topics, such as how to maximize search engine optimization (SEO) with Joomla! and what resources are available in the Joomla! web community.

This book focuses on the most current release of Joomla!, Joomla! 1.5, which is a significant update to this CMS. This Book's Target Audience

This book primarily targets people using Joomla! 1.5 to create a website, either for themselves or their clients. It's easy to read and low on technical jargon. It doesn't assume that you know PHP or CSS.

All the conceptsin this book are explained with step-by-step contextual examples. If you follow all the steps in all the chapters, you will build seven separate Joomla! websites! How to Use This Book

You can use this book in several ways. You can start at the beginning and go chapter-by-chapter, as you develop your own site. The book is carefully laid out so that introductory ideas in the earlier chapters are developed and built on to help you understand more advanced concepts later on. You can also use the book as a reference. If you need some quick ideas of what newsletter extensions are available, for example, head to Chapter 6, "Extending Joomla!" Finally, the appendixes contain valuable information about various aspects of Joomla!. Chapter 1: Content Management Systems and an Introduction to Joomla!

In today’s fast-moving web, if you have a website that doesn’t have rich functionality or fresh content, you will find yourself at a disadvantage to those who do. The idea of powering websites with a CMS has been around for some time, but it is only recently with the advent of high quality open source CMS scripts like Joomla! that we have seen these powerful CMS tools coming into our hands.

In this chapter, I explain in detail the difference between a “traditional” website and one using a CMS. We also look at the history of Joomla! and an overview of some of its features. Chapter 2: Downloading and Installing Joomla!

Joomla! is one of the most popular open source CMS on the planet. The first step in becoming part of the “Joomla!sphere,” the vibrant community that exists around the Joomla! Project, is to download Joomla! and install it on your web server.

This chapter shows you how to get up and running with a Joomla! site. The two steps are to download the latest files and to install them on a web server. This chapter describes both a local (your home computer) installation to use as you read this book (if you don’t have a hosting account or have a slow Internet connection) and real web server installations. Chapter 3: Joomla! Administration Basics

The term “site administration” usually means the day-to-day tasks of adding content, managing users, and making sure installed components and modules are running correctly. With a properly configured Joomla! site, the administration burden is relatively low. Most of the effort can be dedicated to generating that all important content.

In this chapter, we go on a whirlwind tour of the core administrative functions you need. I won’t be going step by step, explaining every last button in the admin backend, but rather picking out key functions, tips, and tricks that you’ll need to know to keep your site humming. Chapter 4: Content Is King: Organizing Your Content

As a CMS, Joomla!’s primary function is to organize and present all the content in your site. It does this through content articles. These discrete pieces of content must be organized into a two-level hierarchy called sections and categories.

This chapter provides an in-depth tutorial that explains how Joomla! displays its content articles and how you can organize the hierarchical structure of them. It details how to plan and organize the content and user experience for the site. It also explains the hierarchy structure currently used in Joomla!, sections and categories, and how to best structure content into them for small and large sites. Chapter 5: Creating Menus and Navigation

Menus are perhaps the core of a Joomla! site. In a static HTML site, they merely serve as navigation. In a Joomla! site, they serve that purpose, but they also determine the layout of what a dynamic page will look like and what content will appear on that page. The relationship between menus, menu items, pages, and modules is perhaps one of the most confusing in Joomla!. This chapter explains this relationship so that you can create a navigation scheme that works for your site.

Chapter 5 examines how the navigation (menus and links) is built for a Joomla! website and how the different aspects interact to produce a coherent navigation structure. Chapter 6: Extending Joomla!

It’s hard to find a Joomla! powered website that has not added functionality beyond the basics with some sort of extension. The word extension collectively describes components, modules, plugins, and languages. There are many hundreds available both free and commercially from third-party providers.

In this chapter, we look at some examples of core and third-party Joomla! extensions. We also examine how they are installed and managed in Joomla!. Chapter 7: Expanding Your Content: Articles and Editors

There are two main ways to add and manage content to a Joomla! site: through the frontend or backend. Part of the biggest attraction of Joomla! is to easily add and edit content through a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor.

In this chapter, we start out looking at WYSIWYG and how it functions in the backend with Managers, Administrators, and Super Administrators. We then examine how authors, editors, and publishers manage content through the frontend. Chapter 8: Getting Traffic to Your Site

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) might be one of the most maligned subjects on the web. From talk to black hat SEO, people who use unethical methods to gain rank in search engines, to their counterparts of white hat SEO, the good guys, how best to get traffic to your site is loaded with opinion and myth.

Trying to learn about SEO is difficult, to say the least. In this chapter, I emphasize Search Engine Marketing (SEM). I point out some obvious SEO tips and how they apply to Joomla!, but I’ll also discuss a more holistic marketing plan including such strategies as Pay Per Click and blogging. Chapter 9: Creating a Pure CSS Template

In this chapter, we go through the steps of creating a Joomla! template. Specifically, we create a template that uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to produce a layout without use of tables. This is a desirable goal as it means that the template code is easier to validate to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards. It also tends to load faster, be easier to maintain and perform better in search engines. We discuss these issues in detail later in the chapter. Chapter 10: Creating a School Site with Joomla!

School websites tend to be medium to large in size. One of the defining characteristics of Joomla! is that it is very powerful and flexible but can be quite time intensive to set up. This leads us of course to this chapter, an extensive guide to creating and setting up a school website using the Joomla! CMS. Chapter 11: Creating a Restaurant Site with Joomla!

The chapter looks at the entire process of creating a restaurant website from scratch. We examine how to build a small business website, in this case a restaurant. Starting from an analysis of needs, this chapter shows you how to organize possible content all the way through to adding photos and considering further extensions. Chapter 12: Creating a Blog Site with Joomla!

It seems like everyone has a blog these days. Many people still think of blogs as personal diaries, but more and more organizations and companies are using blogs as a way to shape perceptions of who they are and what they do. Chances are, if you go to a website today, you will find a link to the owner's blog somewhere on the site. What is becoming more common on websites now is a section of the site that is dedicated to the blog.

This chapter talks about blogs in a more general sense: a dynamic communication medium for a person or organization to interact with stakeholders. We look at creating a blog site from scratch using Joomla!. Appendix A: Getting Help

Stuck with Joomla!? There is a tremendous amount of information on the web, as well as many active communities to ask for help. Appendix B: Joomla! Case Studies

Six real sites that are using Joomla!, taken from a wide range of industries and types of sites. Appendix C: A Quick Start to SEO

Need some quick tips to help your Search Engine Ranking? Implement these. Appendix D: Install WAMP5

A quick guide to installing WAMP5 on your home computer. This package is important so you can follow along with all the site examples in the book. What Is a Content Management System?

A CMS is a collection of scripts that separates content from its presentation. Its main features are the ease of creation and editing of content and dynamic web pages. CMSs are usually very sophisticated and can have newsfeeds, forums, and online stores. They are also easily edited. More and more websites are moving toward being powered by CMSs.

Most CMSs are expensive—in the range of $50,000 to $300,000—but there an increasing number of open source alternatives are becoming available. Open source CMSs have become increasingly more reliable and are now being used for important projects in many companies, nonprofits, and other organizations.

A CMS separates out the responsibilities involved in developing a website. A web designer can be concerned with the design, and non-technical people can be responsible for the content.

A modern CMS is usually defined by its capability to manage and publish content. Most CMSs do far more, taking advantage of a wide range of extensions and add-ons that add functionality. What Is Open Source Software?

Joomla! is an example of open source software; its nonprofit copyright holder is Open Source Matters (see An open source project is developed by a community of developers around the world, all volunteering their time. Some examples of open source software you might have heard of are Firefox, Apache, Wiki, Linux, and OpenOffice. All these projects have challenged and even surpassed their commercial equivalents. If you are curious about how and why people should create powerful software for free, look for more information on these sites:

Things to Look For

The following are specific elements to look for when reading:


TIP - The tip boxes give more advanced ideas about an aspect of Joomla!. You will usually be able to find more details at about the tip.


Note - The notes box denotes a caution about an aspect of the topic. It sometimes won’t be applicable to all situations, but you should check if it would apply to your site.

The Least You Need to Know

THE LEAST YOU NEED TO KNOW - The key critical concepts explained can be found in the LYNTK box. These are worth circling in a big red pen or writing out for yourself on a cheat sheet.


The full and proper name of the Joomla! CMS includes an exclamation point, as shown here. For the sake of readability, and a tree or too, I've kept the exclamation point in heads but dropped it in the rest of the book text.

You can find more information about this book, including complete browsable and downloadable versions of all the sites created in the chapters, at Writing About Open Source Products

As with many open source products, Joomla! changes on a very short release cycle. New versions with slight changes can often be released in as little as 6 weeks, and usually the changes are difficult to find out about. This makes writing for open source challenging. If you find minor inconsistencies in this book, chances are it was because of these minor updates. To stay informed of recent changes to Joomla!, there is a forum at where you can find discussions of Joomla! versions.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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