The Joomla! Community Magazine™

Teaching Joomla! to the Masses

Written by | Wednesday, 01 August 2012 00:00 | Published in 2012 August
A lot of people hear Joomla and say, "What?...what is Joomla?", but when people hear Wordpress they say, "Oh, the blogging software?". It is a common practice to use something like Wordpress when trying to build a website. Why not, there are tons of themes and plugins out there and Joomla seems hard, difficult, and too complex. Yet, when you sit down and actually use Joomla and learn all of its eloquent intricacies, there is no turning back.
Teaching Joomla! to the Masses Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I get a lot of questions about why would I want to learn web design. The first question I ask a person is, “What is your major?” or “What do you do at work?” All I have to say to the artist is, "Don’t you want the world to see all your paintings?" And to the cook, "Don't you wish you had the ability to sell your homemade pasta sauce online?" "How about making that community soccer website to organize the games online?" The next comment I make is that the ability to share your ideas is free and no programming is necessary. Instantly everyone is sold. The only problem is how to give someone the knowledge to use a platform that seems so complex at first.

I faced this very dilemma at 14. I was getting into web design and knew that CMS’s where the future. So I naturally gravitated toward the popular platform that everyone knew about, WordPress. I was enticed by WordPress’s easy-to-use interface and beginner-friendly attitude. But when I needed greater functionality and a more robust system I moved over to Joomla. Before deciding on Joomla I played around with Drupal and some other rare CMS’s. I eventually chose to settle on Joomla based on a few main principles. The first was the community: it is robust, growing, and friendly. Functionality came second, you can possess great functionality but without the community you become one of those niche CMS’s that slowly fade away. Lastly is its extreme customizability. I can decide to position a module within a template, choose a menu item to put it on, and a special way to style it; a main area where others fell short.

I said I worked with WordPress based on the fact of it was so easy to learn and use. Joomla on the other hand is a whole different animal. When you upload and install your first Joomla site it’s intimidating. You’re not exactly sure how the system works, and why modules are displaying in certain locations. Why an article is featured, and the reason some articles have a created date and others don’t. You get so caught up in questioning what process drives what, and you ultimately look back at WordPress and contemplate switching back. Then you take a look at the extension directory and realize I can make that community site, sell my homemade pasta sauce, and distribute my paintings. Yet I am still turned off by the unfamiliar nature.

The beauty of being young and still in college is that I’ve had immense amounts of time to throw at the platform. I’ve learned it forwards and back. I’ve also done tons of free lancing work for a plethora of clients. I am even teaching a class at James Madison University (JMU) on it. I learned once you break down Joomla and teach things in a logical progression, it becomes one of the simplest platforms to learn. Everything is so brilliantly laid out that using any other system seems off. I then looked at the possibility of bringing those same classes I teach to the online community. Looking through the community I found a component that could deliver those lessons. I found a component to build the community, and found a component to give support. Now it’s time to put that all together and give to the community what it has given me: a way to express my ideas to the world.

I’ve started developing a tutorial site that will be free to everyone. There are two main philosophies around the site. The first is the community, as Joomla enticed me by the vast community I knew it would have to be an important part of this site. I may not be able to answer every question nor claim to be a subject matter expert on everything regarding it but someone out there might be able to chime in on various topics. The other is the way I will be teaching on the site. It will be screen cast driven. I will walk you step by step, talking to you as you watch what happens on my screen. You may then go ahead and end the lesson (it will record what lesson you left off at) go try it then go to the next lesson. With something like Joomla you have to try it to get the hang of it, you can’t just watch or read how to use it. The site will also go over the basics of hosting, how to use CPanel or Plesk. It also goes into other CMS’s that might be interesting to people. When my site is up and running I'll be back with an update.

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Matt Carnali

Matt Carnali

Is a founding partner and the lead web designer for AandCmediaConsulting.com. Over the past several years, Matt has developed multiple websites. One of the first websites he designed was for a local soccer club for a community service project in high school. After designing the site, he fell in love with web design and server hosting. This led him to build a server at his house from an older computer. Eventually he brought the server online and hosted a web redirect to provide more open access to various websites. He then continued to develop his skills by building additional and more complex websites that include: CollegeOutlet, HitTheRack and one for his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order. He also designed several sites for smaller companies. His passion is to take a person’s vision and develop it into a complete website. Matt is currently pursuing computer related courses at JMU to help him further enhance his career in web design. He later partnered with Steven Aquino to form A&C Media Consulting. He is now teaching a 1 credit web design class at JMU. He is also interning at Capital One's technical development program.

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The site will be live at the end of september, with easy step by step video walkthroughs. So stay tuned to opensourcefor.me
Thanks,
Matt

PS. Remember it will be free!
VOTES:3
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One of the major points that kept me away from Joomla and is still something of a drag, is the word 'Joomla'. Even normal, non-technical folk have an idea that Wordpress means something and I'm not trying to blind them with too much geek-speak, but Joomla? It doesn't even sound like jargon. It sounds like someone's pathetic attempt to emulate Google.

I'm now building my first site with Joomla to find out what it's all about but I would feel much more comfortable telling the client I was using Wordpress rather than trying to convince him that something called Joomla is not just something his kids should be playing with.
VOTES:1
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Great post Matt

Ive had these discussions many times with people and with myself actually. Why did i choose Joomla, and why do i want to stay there.

The way i always explain it is :
-- WORDPRESS is like a Toys'R'Us plastic guitar.
Granted, you'll pick it quickly.. but then you run into the limits.
-- The obscure CMS'es (with DRUPAL as their leader) are like a Mad Professor university project. A musical monster.. Promising, but not ready to apply in the real world.
-- JOOMLA is like a Fender guitar.. oh yes it has a learning curve in the beginning.. but at least you'll get to blow everyone away if you persevere

good luck with the new site.
I think i know which extension you're talking about. Its gonna rock
VOTES:-1
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Mike wrote:
One of the major points that kept me away from Joomla and is still something of a drag, is the word 'Joomla'. Even normal, non-technical folk have an idea that Wordpress means something and I'm not trying to blind them with too much geek-speak, but Joomla? It doesn't even sound like jargon. It sounds like someone's pathetic attempt to emulate Google.

I'm now building my first site with Joomla to find out what it's all about but I would feel much more comfortable telling the client I was using Wordpress rather than trying to convince him that something called Joomla is not just something his kids should be playing with.

Outside the realm of web-designers its hard to find people that really know what it is. Its interesting working with a dev. team at Capital One and most are like ...? Once I explain and show it off they all are seemingly impressed.
Jasperisu wrote:
Great post Matt

Ive had these discussions many times with people and with myself actually. Why did i choose Joomla, and why do i want to stay there.

The way i always explain it is :
-- WORDPRESS is like a Toys'R'Us plastic guitar.
Granted, you'll pick it quickly.. but then you run into the limits.
-- The obscure CMS'es (with DRUPAL as their leader) are like a Mad Professor university project. A musical monster.. Promising, but not ready to apply in the real world.
-- JOOMLA is like a Fender guitar.. oh yes it has a learning curve in the beginning.. but at least you'll get to blow everyone away if you persevere

good luck with the new site.
I think i know which extension you're talking about. Its gonna rock

Very interesting analogy. I used to be big in Guitar (had a fender strat) have since dropped it unfortunately. The analogy I most use is:
Wordpress: a Honda
Joomla: a BMW
Sure they can get you places but the refined nature of the BMW is just beyond anything a honda can compete with.
VOTES:1
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The thing is with CMS platforms, there is a big difference now between "web design" and "web development."

You not only have to know "how" to do it, but also "why" certain methods or paths would be the best way to reach your end goal.

That is a pitfall for anyone who gets stuck on a certain platform versus looking at the end goal and matching what will be the best fit.

That just takes experience. But yes, there is a huge need to teach end users how to use their site.
VOTES:-1
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You are right about Joomla being more robust than wordpress. I am a wordpress and joomla developer. For any complex project i would choose joomla anyday!
VOTES:-1
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Carla wrote:
The thing is with CMS platforms, there is a big difference now between "web design" and "web development."

You not only have to know "how" to do it, but also "why" certain methods or paths would be the best way to reach your end goal.

That is a pitfall for anyone who gets stuck on a certain platform versus looking at the end goal and matching what will be the best fit.

That just takes experience. But yes, there is a huge need to teach end users how to use their site.

I tend to agree but I think web design falls under the bucket of web development. In a few years time you will see 2 avenues appear. The first will be platforms that are stupid simple and let you drag and drop and customize. Although they are available they are not quite up to speed with what is necessary. The other avenue are your CMS platforms. Everyone will be using the drag and drop editors and you will see more specialization use of CMS's. You will see the enterprise world and people who like the power to tailor to their needs turn directly to the use of CMS's.
Maston Mbewe wrote:
You are right about Joomla being more robust than wordpress. I am a wordpress and joomla developer. For any complex project i would choose joomla anyday!

Yes I agree the age old debate with a few of my friends is Drupal vs. Joomla. I always argue Joomla and my friend drupal. Wordpress to me just doesn't cut it. I also have been toying around with some of the more unique CMS's out there.
VOTES:-1
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Great article, love Joomla, by the the name "Joomla" really don't boring me at all, I like the way works for the web-designer and the clients, the both when the project is done are happy almost 99 % of the time. This is a system super powerful, I using for standard sites or ecomerce with Virtuemart, without any problem and hundreds of items online.

When I start my own web-design business, I didn't now anything about HTML, CSS, PHP or coding in general, I asked one of my Code expert friend, to a open source system I can use with my Dreamweaver skills, he refer to me " Joomla", like the system maybe I can use without Coding expertise, he was right I learn HTML, CSS and PHP with joomla, because the system is open to customize everything, maybe I broke many times joomla 1.5, but in the end I make the site working like my clients wants. Now I use the 1.7 and I fell like heaven.

Workpress, Magento, Drupal, etc. I trying all of those CMS's, but in the real business world, Joomla is the real one, no regrets to spend almost 5 years in this relation with Joomla.
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I loved to teach Joomla 1.5, because it was simple and easy.. (even though some lazy students always were complaining about how difficult was).. now with Joomla 2.5 I see a more robust ( for me) for a much mor complex system ( for students) to use and learn, that´s my point of view.. and yes.. It`s much better than wordpress.
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Joomla is great. I'm an addict since 1 year or so. If clients ask for WordPress I strongly recommend Joomla, but if they insist on using WordPress, so be it. Good luck with your tutorials! Cheers :)
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I've been around various web design tools, platforms from whysiwyg and ever since i met joomla! about 2 years ago, i keep on shouting. Where have you been all my life? Great platform, great community and oh! the JED. Tried out WordPress and was awed by its simplicity of use but soon ran back to the comfortable enclosures of joomla. I teach and encourage people to use Joomla and tell them, try, experiment, it all there!...My catch phrase: ...'its just like taking icecream from a baby!'

Good luck with your project.
VOTES:-1