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Nine Questions When Preparing Clients for Joomla 2.5

Written by | Monday, 01 August 2011 00:00 | Published in 2011 August
*On August 9, the name for the January 2012 Joomla release changed from Joomla 1.8 to 2.5. Joomla's release schedule has been described in its development strategy, and much analysis has been put forth as to whether one should upgrade websites or not to the next version of software.

This article has been translated to Russian, courtesy of Eugene Sivokon. Thank you!

The conventional wisdom, since the release of Joomla 1.7, has been as follows:

  • If your website is running in Joomla 1.5, and it's working well, keep it running in 1.5 for now. Move the site to Joomla 2.5 next year.
  • If you're building a new website, build it in 1.7 if possible, so you'll have an easy migration to 2.5 next year.

The reason Joomla 2.5 is so important is because it's a long-term release. By moving your website to this version of Joomla, you can keep Joomla's version constant for 18 months, without moving to new versions every 6 months or so. This long-term stability is important for most client businesses, who don't want to undergo a major upgrade and testing every 6 months. Since Joomla 1.5 will reach its end of life in April 2012, and since Joomla 2.5 is released in January 2012, it makes sense to move Joomla 1.5 sites directly to Joomla 2.5.

But what about moving those websites to Joomla 2.5? Have you stopped to consider a process for doing this, outside of the technical issues?

My company, 4Web, Inc., has roughly 80 sites we maintain which are currently running in Joomla 1.5. Most of these sites are quite complex, defined by several characteristics including third party extensions, custom templates, hundreds or thousands of pages, and custom extension development. We've recently discussed how we will manage moving these sites to Joomla 2.5 next year, and we've started to think about how the process might happen from a business perspective. Here are some of the questions we've been considering.

1. Why do I have to move my clients from Joomla 1.5?

The short answer is you don't. You can keep running your sites in Joomla 1.5, and they will continue to work as they do now.

The longer answer is you probably really want to move your sites. In my opinion, the sooner you move them, the less pain and risk you'll feel in the long run.

Joomla 1.5 reaches its end of life in April 2012. After this point, no more security releases for Joomla 1.5 will be available. If a security issue is found in Joomla 1.5, it will not be patched by the project.

There's also an issue of support. Shortly after Joomla 1.0 reached its end of life in July 2009, we saw many 3rd party developers stopped supporting extensions for Joomla 1.0. I expect we will see this same trend after Joomla 1.5 reaches its end of life, with most 3rd party developers dropping Joomla 1.5 support for their extensions within a year, probably by April 2013. This means if you need to add new functionality to your Joomla 1.5 website, you'll find that pretty difficult if you don't upgrade.

Security issues may be discovered in extensions, which can provide an entrance to your website for a hacker. If the extensions aren't supported, the security issues won't be addressed.

2. Will the client have to pay for this?

You'll have to answer this question for your own clients. In 4Web’s case, our clients will need to pay for moving their sites from 1.5 to 2.5. We simply can't migrate all sites for free.

But if you're going to charge clients to move their sites to 2.5, now is the time to tell them to plan for a site migration next year. January is still 6 months away, so there is time for them to budget for the work. If you can provide a rough estimate for moving the site, that would be ideal for your client. Be sure to provide a disclaimer that this is a rough estimate, not the final figure, and the actual cost may vary once Joomla 2.5 and the migration process is better defined.

3. How hard will it be to move a site?

We can make a few educated guesses based on what we've seen with Joomla 1.6 and 1.7.

  • Some kind of method will be available to move from 1.5 to 2.5. For 1.6 and 1.7, there is a third party extension available for this process. However, this migration method works only for Joomla's core functionality (i.e. what you see when Joomla is first installed). It does not move data for any 3rd party extensions.
  • We know that Joomla's core HTML output changed significantly from Joomla 1.5 to 1.6. For example, there are no more table-based layouts in com_content (YAY!). This can potentially impact custom templates when moving them from Joomla 1.5 to 1.6 or 1.7. CSS styles, and specifically names of classes and IDs, have changed, HTML tags have changed, and consequently, your CSS selectors in your custom style sheet will also need to change to preserve the look of your site.
  • For custom templates, you may need to re-evaluate which browsers you're supporting for your template. We have templates we built in 2008, before the rise of Chrome and IE 9, so this is an opportunity to update templates to take advantage of features of modern browsers.
  • If you are running 3rd party extensions containing lots of data — CCK's like K2, Zoo, and Mighty Resources; shopping carts like VirtueMart, Tienda, and redSHOP; or social media extensions like JomSocial and Community Builder come to mind immediately — you will need to be sure you can migrate your data quickly and easily from Joomla 1.5 to 2.5. Frequently, a migration tool, similar to the tool that moves data between versions of Joomla, will be required to make this move easily.
  • Some parts of the site may need to be rebuilt, despite your best attempts to move the site between versions. It's possible other 3rd party extensions will not be developed for Joomla 2.5, so you will need to find replacement extensions and configure them according to your client's needs. For example, the poll component/module that was available in Joomla 1.5 is no longer include in Joomla 1.6 and higher. You may need to find a poll component to replace this.

In general, if you're moving core Joomla data (that means standard Joomla content plus extensions that come with Joomla), you should be just fine and find the move to be straightforward.

If you're moving lots of data, lots of 3rd party extensions, or anything custom, expect a longer process and much more work along the way.

If you are working with a commercially available template, check with the template provider to find out if the template has been moved to the next version of Joomla. Most of the major template providers have been moving their templates from 1.5 to 1.6 and 1.7. If you have an older template, you may want to check to find out if there are plans to move it to 2.5. If not, you may need to find a new template for your client.

If you're working with a free template, you may not find a new version of it, and it's possible you won't find any support to move the template either. In this case, you'd have to replace the template with a new one.

4. How much will it cost to move a site?

If you know me, you know my favorite consulting answer... It Depends. Is it a simple 10 page site with nothing outside of core Joomla functionality? Or is the site over 2000 pages in size, running a CCK, a custom template, and custom extensions?

Cost is directly related to the difficulty of making the move. It's likely the first site you move will be very difficult, because you are learning the process. However, as you get to your 10th or 20th or 100th site, the process should become more straightforward, and you have fewer new problems to solve. Therefore, you might lose money on your first site move, but you might make up for it on the last move.

Cost is always tricky to estimate, but if you track hours spent to complete each site move, you will get better at estimating moving costs of future sites. It may seem odd to track time spent for a fixed-rate project, but it's worth doing to improve your ability to estimate costs of future projects.

Alternatively, you could price the site move on an hourly basis. My experience is that clients like this less, because they aren't sure how much something will cost in the end. Typically, we estimate a task at "up to X hours for a cost of $XYZ", so that they will have an idea of a top end of the range.

5. What if my client wants to redesign as part of the migration process?

It's highly likely that many clients will want to redesign their sites as they are moved to new versions of Joomla. This is particularly true if the client must pick a new template for their site, due to lack of support of that template in Joomla 2.5. The move should also present an opportunity for clients to review the content on their sites and make updates. (I find when clients view old content in a new template, they will read it and want to update it.)

However, keep in mind any redesign work may slow you down if you're trying to move many clients to a new version of Joomla, on a schedule. How will you handle clients who are late in delivering their content?

6. How do I sell my client on this move?

If you tell your client that a big move is coming next year, and you provide them with a rough estimate of the cost, the client may wish to look around for other alternatives to moving their website to Joomla 2.5. This makes business sense for the client. They need to prove to themselves that they are spending their money in the most cost-effective way possible.

Your job is to keep your client. Hopefully, you've been providing great service to them since you launched their site. If you have, they might just choose to stay with you, because they like you and they don't want to work with anyone else.

However, it's likely some clients will want to explore their options. You need to have a response ready for these clients, when they ask, why should I move my site, and why should I move it with you? I could spend an entire article on this question alone, and I hope the Joomla Project will prepare some good arguments for this as part of the Joomla 2.5 release as well.

I really urge you not to cave, and say, "OK, I'll do it for half price then!" Charge what you're worth and stick to it! The only clients you lose are the ones who ask for everything for nothing, and do you really want them as clients in the first place?

7. How long do I have to move all of my client's sites?

The correct technical answer is April, 2012, when Joomla 1.5 reaches end of life.

My company, 4Web, Inc., has 5 employees and 80 websites to move. That's a really tall order to accomplish in 4 months, in addition to carrying out any new work. (Quick math says that's one site per employee per week in that 4 month timeline!)

For our timeline, we are planning to move all sites by October 2012. That is after the death of Joomla 1.5, but hopefully it's quickly enough that we move sites before security problems occur, and before much support is discontinued for 3rd party extensions. You'll have to do the math for your organization to figure out what timeline will work best for you.

8. What if my clients don't want to move or if they can't afford to move?

This is a tough question, and one you'll have to consider carefully. From your perspective:

  • Do you want to continue to support Joomla 1.5, potentially past its end of life? (I know how cranky I get when I log into a Joomla 1.0 site and feel like I have one hand tied behind my back!)
  • If a client calls you saying their site has been hacked, what will your response be? (Keep in mind if they didn't have money to move, will they have money to fix a hacked site?)
  • If you are hosting this client, do you want to keep potentially insecure sites on your server?

If the client doesn't want to move, you could push their site move out a bit further in the migration process, rather than addressing them first. Give them time to get used to the idea, and give them a demo of how Joomla 2.5 works. Some clients resist change because they don't want to learn new ways of doing things now that they've mastered Joomla 1.5. You might also mention key functionalities that are possible in Joomla 2.5 which are not possible in 1.5 (like ACL, nested categories, or the redirect component). They may also be struck by similarities between the admin templates. (Or the admin template could change entirely in 2.5! Unfortunately, we don't know what will be in 2.5 at this time.)

If the client still does not want to move, you'll need to consider your own questions above about whether you'll want to continue to support this client or not.

If your client can't afford to move, there are ways to address this. In some cases, it may be appropriate to move the site for free, such as if the site is for a non-profit you particularly admire. You could also explore putting your client on a payment plan, having them make smaller monthly payments to you over time. This evens your cash flow a bit, and it gives your client the ability to fit the site move in their budget.

9. Which templates and extensions will be ready for Joomla 2.5?

When you finally plan the timeline for migrating your client’s sites, knowing approximately when templates and extensions will be ready for Joomla 2.5 is very important. There are some well-known and heavily used extensions which do not discuss any plans for the future on their websites, beyond Joomla 1.5. It’s time to push extension and template developers along, so they will say more about their plans for Joomla 2.5 and so you can plan appropriately for your clients.

Extension developers are encouraged to post plans for Joomla 2.5 support in an easy-to-locate area on their website. Will a migration tool be available for moving data? Do you have an expected timeline for releasing your 2.5-compatible extension? You can always change dates later, if needed, but if you commit to a 2.5 version, people will be relying on you to deliver.

Likewise, template developers should also post their plans for Joomla 2.5 support. If there are Joomla 1.5 templates which will definitely not be moved to 2.5, it would be nice to know which of those are affected.

What other suggestions do you have for making our Joomla 1.5 to 2.5 migrations go more smoothly for your clients?

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Many of the bigger names in the third party community are already moving to support both J! 1.5 and 1.6/1.7 in their own ways, and it does help with the migration.

I moved my own site from 1.5 to 1.7, starting work on it just as the Alpha release was published. jUpgrade made life easy for the core components, but as you said, that's all it handles on its own (support is there for third party migrations, but it's on those devs to make it happen). Most of my extensions were already compatible, either with a single package for multiple versions or upgrading to the latest version. So my suite of extensions from Akeeba (who's been 1.6 compatible since before it was cool ;-)) and AcyMailing were ready to go, and ChronoForms had a new version just for 1.6/1.7. Of course, my own Twitter module was already 1.6 compatible. But, there were a couple of extensions I needed that weren't there, so I had to either find a replacement or migrate those extensions myself.

I think by the time 1.8/2.5 comes out in January, most of the big name developers will be ready for the influx of 1.5 migrations. Yes, it has taken a while for some of them, but it is equally as important for the developer to make sure their extension works as expected than to rush a release.

So far as older release support goes, I think that we shouldn't expect devs to keep fixing bugs 6-8 months after EOL, but I don't think there will be a rush to drop support.
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Alireza Zolfaghar Tuesday, 02 August 2011
thank's
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Wow! Great job, Jen! You did an excellent job and explained things very well! :)

FYI, for question #3, there are several extensions that could be used other than jUpgrade (assuming you're referring to jUpgrade):
extensions.joomla.org/extensions/migrati...ion/joomla-migration

Also, jUpgrade can migrate 3rd party extensions and does for 2 already (Kunena and Admin Praise). Other developers can also do the same so that their extensions can be automatically updated via jUpgrade as well:
matware.com.ar/jfiles/Developers-Documentation-for-jUpgrade.pdf

Kind regards,
Nick
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Jen - amazingly well done article. Thank you!
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I agree with the sentiments above. With the business climate at the moment, everyone is penny-pinching so the cost for the migration has to be strategized per client. You will need a competent programing staff that knows Joomla inside and out for those more complicated migrations. Right now is tough to suggest which way to go when a client wants a site done yesterday and some of the key extensions they want to use are not ready yet, so the talk of migration has to happen.
Thanks for the post Jen!
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Very interesting post.
I think I will try to convince my customers about a redesign process. It is the only good thing about this update issues that it gives projects the possibility to overthink the whole website and make things better.
Regards
Markus
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Thanks everyone, glad you are taking away some things to think about in your own businesses!

Jen
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One website of mine is in J 1,0 yet
Would it possible to update J1,0 directly to J 1,8, or I should update to 1,5 at first ?
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If I understand what's happening with migration tools currently, you must move 1.0 to 1.5, then 1.5 to 1.7 (or 1.8).

It's possible you could hire a Joomla developer to move much of your data manually, rather than using the migration tools.

It might be easier to rebuild the site, depending on size and structure.
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Thank you for answer

Yes, that site isn't large to rebuild in J.1,8
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I hope it will be easy to move from 1.5 to 1.8 with a single click. And of course no more errors after the upgrade (like the ones you get when you upgrade from 1.5 to 1.6).
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Joomla 1.5 to 2.5 migrations are not single-click. They will be similar to Joomla 1.5 to 1.6 migrations.

Joomla 1.8 is now Joomla 2.5.

thanks!
Jen
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Great article! I suspect it will be invaluable as I prepare for the future of my own site. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge & insights.
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Hi everyone -- after yesterday's announcement, I have updated this article to say "Joomla 2.5" instead of Joomla 1.8. The information is exactly the same, but it now reflects the correct version number for the January 2012 release.
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Wish I could stick up with wordpress back then when starting building sites, non of my clients will be able to pay migration and I will spend ton's of time and effort to work on it.

"""If the client still does not want to move, you'll need to consider your own questions above about whether you'll want to continue to support this client or not.""""
This is also bit ridiculous, if we're into tough competition times and no one can afford thinking like this, then noone will have profit... I know I'll do for free for all my clients without saying them anything about that, because it's not their thing, they don't need new options of joomla 1.8, but still tey have to move...
Thank you joomla for making my life difficult, could be I'll migrate to something else platform not on you any more.
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i have just finished a website 1.5 for a client i preffered work with this version cause i had some problems with 1.7 such as templates and other the whole probleme here is time i prefer run a 1.5 site as i'm used to cause i know all the process changing will take u aulways some time to get used to it.
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Joomla 1.5 is supported through April 2012. Just remember if you build in 1.5 now, you'll need to move your client sometime in the future. Clients are not happy to pay for sites twice, so be sure to consider that when choosing 1.5 for new sites.
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Joomla has become a goldmine for developpers and programmers. Upgrades, migrations,... The can afford to ask $100 hourly rates, there's plenty of work to do. I really consider to move from Joomla to wordpress.
My 2 cents,

Ilse
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Hello, I have an important website in joomla 1.5.23. My client doesn't want change the template (not compatible with j1.6/1.7 and also fully customized) - but I was trying joomla 1.7 on another website and I have to say that is completely better than 1.5...

My question is... Shall I have to wait and migrate (ehm... I should better say rebuild the website from scratch) in 2.5 or I can start now rebuilding the site (from scratch) in joomla 1.7 and then migrate to 2.5 hopefully without problems? It will be easier 1.7 to 2.5? Or I have to wait? Thank you!
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Great question.

Migrating the template may be tricky because Joomla's core output changed between 1.5 and 1.7. You will certainly have some CSS work to do.

You could certainly migrate over content, then rebuild the template (if that's really necessary) in 1.7. My guess is all you need to fix is the CSS, and most of your code will be reusable.

You could move your client to 1.7 now. The upgrade to 2.5 should be "one click", the same as the 1.6 to 1.7 update. It will definitely be easier to go from 1.7 to 2.5.

It's probably the same level of difficulty to go from 1.5 to 2.5 or 1.5 to 1.7.

Good luck!
Jen
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I'm excited that the next upgrade will be a 2.x one instead of 1.8. Expecting a lot of big changes. Although it does bum me out a bit because I'll have to upgrade a lot of client sites and I've been so used to the 1.5, 1.6 and 1.7 so I will have to set some time aside to learn more about the 2.5 in order to successfully migrate the clients.
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Actually, Joomla 2.5 is Joomla 1.8. There will be no major changes between 1.7 and 2.5. The numbering is just a new method that Joomla is putting in place now.

Moving from 1.7 to 2.5 should be easy.

Good luck!
Jen
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I've loads of modules, plugins and components to move as well as the Joomla core and a bunch of custom coding as well:

Here is how I'm managing the move:

1. In my opinion the movement of technology is an opportunity to improve so just like upgrading from a PS2 to a PS3 it is optional. So I will be informing my customers that the move is happening and I will be extolling the virtues of the upgrade to them and treating the whole scenario like any other software upgrade.

2. Joomla 1.5 has been not had a security upgrade in a while so I assume it is either pretty airtight currently or there are easier targets (J1.6 for instance), I expect this will change when the support stops. I'll make sure my customers know this.

3. For customers who buy in to the upgrade I'll upsell a redesign and all the other potential work that can fall out of that. I consider every contact with my customers an opportunity.

4. For those who don't want to upgrade, I'll make sure they know I'll be dropping support as well at the same time. If they get hacked I'll try to deal with it as best I can but this is a paid service, if they get hacked they pay to have it repaired, I offer no guarantees.

I do have one saving grace though which will take some of the strain off my move. I override all of Joomla's rendering and have my own HTML and CSS coding standards which I keep up to date. This strategy means that when 3rd party support for upgrades becomes better supported I can quietly move all my other sites who didn't buy in to the upgrade and not need to touch the front end of the site to much.

So a variety of free moves and upgrades depending on the client. At the end of the day I like to support as little tech as I can get away with.
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As always, Jen got it right in the target...

Those question will help us a lot, on how to talk to our customer when 2.5 arrives... Thanks Jen to the awesome post...
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Jen, thank you for the link to Russian translation of your article that have published on our blog! I'm happy to see how Joomla people can easily communicate and get in touch with each other!

Cheers!
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Thanks for this analysis.
The cost of the migration is always the hard point to explain. For old websites, 3-4 years it's fine but for new one (less than 2 years), it's quite impossible to sell this upgrade.
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I understand the migration to 2.5 is gonna be a nightmare for the webs working with 3rd party extensions (99.99% of the joomla sites). I guess it is time to move to drupal or other CMS ...
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Knowledge gap well and truly filled!

Thank you Jen!

Ray
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Francesco Carzedda Sunday, 06 November 2011
I think the Community should support 1.5 for a longer period (my wish would be forever...).
I spent months developing an accessible template for Joomla 1.5 ( please see it at www.elements.4elementi.info ) with lots of overrides and I find incredible I have to throw it away because earlier versions are not compatible.
I wish a Community within the Community for this inconvenient might grow up.
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Great article Jen! Mirrors my basic approach with a lot more helpful details. Thanks!

I have to say that while I appreciate the hard work of the core team on improving and maintaining Joomla!, and that the new versions are really looking good... I have to wonder if there isn't some other way whereby we could build Joomla! sites with an architecture that wouldn't require complete migrations every few years.

I've been contemplating how to be upfront with old and especially new clients about long-term realistic costs involved in building, maintaining, and upgrading/migrating Joomla! sites without being a buzzkill when discussing the costs of migrations like this.

How do you tell someone that is paying maybe $3,500 to $6,000 for a site that in 1.5 years they should plan to spend upwards of another $800 to $3,000 to migrate it?

Being truthful to them makes it a hard upfront sell for me to land the project. And then when they don't want to pay for the migration, I have to tell them that they assume the risk for any security breaches? I'm starting to feel like I'm strong-arming them and not offering any other acceptable options, which I think they are entitled to. If I hide the migration cost issue, then I'd think they would feel burned later on.

Clients tend to think of a Web site as a product that they buy and once it's built they just manage their content, maybe add a new feature from time to time, but not practically rebuild it, which some times a migration involves.

I haven't actually done the math to compare what it might cost to build and maintain a proprietary CMS, in terms of finding holes and providing security patches longterm, but I'm fairly sure it would be substantial. Maybe you, or others would care to comment?

I guess somehow covering that concept in layman's terms with the client as justification for migration costs would need to be a part of the conversation when discussing future costs.

A couple of comments here mentioned going back to Wordpress. I've only built a few sites in Wordpress and on earlier versions, so I'm not an expert, but I would think that other CMS software would be subject to similar upgrades and migrations, too.

I'll close on that and look forward to other comments on this article.

Thanks again!

Cheers!
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Joomla would be so much better if their developers didn't put us through all these headaches with contstant major overhauls and compatibility issues.. Countless time and expense spent on templates and module licenses are now going to the wasteside.. Joomla used to be my favorite CMS and web builder, however myself and many clients are switching back to Wordpress and Drupal as the constant changes in their software are too much of a headache. These major releases should only have 5 years or so at the most, I've never had so much headaches with Wordpress, Xsitepro, or Drupal and clients don't like having to worry about compatibility issues and completely re-overhauling their websites ever 6 to 12 months. If it wasn't for this, Joomla would probably be a lot more popular.
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if i will move joomla 1.5 to joomla 2.5 what are the challenges i will be faced ? what happen about templates, components, modules and plugins
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I completely agree with Danny, I specialize in Joomla sites, but am seriously having second thoughts about going to another CMS. Joomla sites for clients are becoming less practical, and in my opinion to only offer support for LTR's for short periods of time, are making Joomla less desirable for the web designer, and a hard sell to good clients. I love Joomla, but may have to break off the love affair. Really having to rethink the whole notion of selling clients these sites, as it is going to do nothing but make a good client disgruntled.
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I am wondering is there is anything better in Jomla 2.5 from 1.5. I mean outside of having to do a ton of work to get my components to work will the system run faster ? If Joomla is going to continue down this path it might be time to switch to Drupal or wordpress.
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Hey there,
I know that it's a pain to do a major upgrade, but don't think that Drupal and Wordpress are immune (Check out this link: drupal.org/upgrade ). On top of learning how to handle their upgrades, you'll have a huge learning curve. No matter how you look at it, you're going to spend time on this stuff if you choose this as your line of business. We have to learn how to deal with it and the hope is that the Joomla! team will find ways to help us out and make these transitions smoother/easier.

I'll add another thing... It almost seems better to stick with the joomla core as much as possible and learn php. The huge and indispensable 3rd party extensions will find ways to migrate and keep their customers, us, happy.

That's my 2 cents..
Keep up the good work Joomla! team.
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Good post Jen. I just upgraded one simple client site (5 pages) using SP Upgrade, a paid component. It was reasonably straightforward but even then, there were glitches to look out for, not least of which was the fact that the site meta didn't (Global Options) didn't come across. Easy to fix but could have easily been missed!
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When will Joomla 3.0 be released and how much work will all of us be forced to perform at that point?
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Great article!! Thanks!
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