Picture the scene –
You are a consultant who has managed development teams previously, and you are asked to be part of a bid team. You know the lingo, you know what websites (and talented web designers) can do, and you put together a fabulous architecture for a multi-national portal, using purely open-source products. All good so far. You win the bid, things are looking good, even better, the project manager wants you on board as part of a very exciting project.
The bad news – because of all the good words, you are now viewed as the expert, and there are no developers assigned to the project. Essentially, you are being relied on to develop the portal you specified, yet you have no direct programming experience. Do you a) run away b) assign a developer and miss out on the project of a lifetime or c) bluff your way through, relying on the excellence of the products you specified?
Ok, this isn’t quite how it happened, but it is a rough translation of how I found myself designing a Portal for a multi-national project with next to no programming (or Joomla!) experience. In short, it works. Yes, there is a limit to what you can do, but the good news is that if you are prepared to research, consult the community and make use of the extensions directory, you can achieve great things without writing complex code.
The Portal that was (and continues to be) developed encompasses communication, collaboration, database retrieval, surveys, project information and reporting. All of these areas are available as extensions, to a greater or lesser degree. One of the things I learnt quickly was Joomla versioning! Some of the extensions that looked perfect were only Joomla 1.5, and we were using 1.7. However, with more research other extensions were used to great success.
So, if extensions cater for what is required, where does the programming come in?
Well, to be fair, the only programming that has been required so far was for Chronoforms to enable dropdowns populated by the database table (this is in no way a negative reflection on Chronoforms! Rather, the ease of which this was written and deployed is credit to the extension).
However, how much further can a non-programmer get? To be honest, one of the downsides of this situation is that because of the ease of development and deployment, there is an expectation of delivering better and better websites, and this is where things get tricky. Yes, it is perfectly possible to develop a good website using Joomla, Joomla extensions and little or no programming. Once the client see this, however, they want more! So, the honest answer is, I’m not sure, I’ll tell you when I get there!
However, be assured that if you are starting out on web design, Joomla is the place to be. The ease of use, as well as the support offered by the forums, are a great place to begin. It makes you want to learn more, as you get to the point of thinking that it would be even cooler to do x, y and z. So, you research, and before you know it, you are writing your first piece of working code.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how programmers are born....